First of two oral histories with CNEJL. Senior staff member at LSC, headed its research institute, and oversaw its support centers. Key lobbyist and draftsman in efforts to enact the LSC Act.
Oral history details
|Date of interview:
|Oct 31, 1991
|Where relates to:
|Michigan and National
|Georgetown Law Library link (possible video):
Full text of transcriptDownload PDF: Transcript
Georgetown University Law Center
National Equal Justice Library Oral History
Interview with Alan Houseman (AH)
By Victor Geminiani (VG)
October 21, 1991
Victor Geminiani: This is an oral history of Alan Houseman. The date is October 21st, 1991. The oral history is being done in Portland, Oregon. The interviewer is Victor Geminiani; the subject of the interview will be Mr. Houseman’s background in legal services and, more specifically, his involvement in the creation of the Legal Services Corporation Act. Good morning.
Alan Houseman: Good morning.
Victor Geminiani: Could you tell me a little bit about your background prior to becoming involved in legal services?
Alan Houseman: I was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I was an only child; my parents were school teachers in the public school system and I grew up there. I spent some of my summers in Ohio with family, but, basically I grew up in Colorado Springs through high school. I was very active in the United Church of Christ, a congregational church both in Colorado Springs and statewide. That formed a framework for my values and beliefs that I think led me into legal services and to more substantial work with poor people. I went to Oberlin College in Ohio in 1961 after graduating from high school and was active there in social and political activities, such as the ACLU, civil rights efforts, student government and the Ohio Democratic Party. I might add there were a number of people at Oberlin in my class of 1965 that later went into legal services. Our formative stages were there. For example, Peter Anderson, who was actually head of the Young Republicans at Oberlin, was on Student Council and he and I ran for study body president against each, other among other things. After a year in East Harlem, Peter went to Yale Law School and worked at Mass Law Reform and then became director of Greater Boston Legal Services. Peter came from Ohio and into Oberlin as fairly conservative as I did, but politically came out much more involved in these kinds of issues. After graduating from Oberlin in 1965, I went to law school at New York University, which turned out to be a terrific choice. I went there thinking maybe I would be interested in international law, I wanted to go to New York City, live in the big city. A boy from the west and a small town in Ohio. It turned out to be a terrific experience there because I had real opportunities to work on some of the more interesting issues in a major way. I think these opportunities don’t exist in quite the same way today. My first year I volunteered to help at the ACLU and ended up working for Eleanor Norton (now DC’s congresswoman) who was then the assistant legal director of the ACLU. She had recently graduated from Yale Law School. It was fascinating to work with her as she was taking the ACLU into new areas of civil rights and equal opportunities; kinds of issues other than just first amendment issues. The first summer of law school I became involved in working in Cleveland, Ohio for welfare rights groups. I was a Law Student Civil Rights Research intern and was placed with a private lawyer who was representing some of the welfare right groups in Cleveland. We worked with the Legal Aid Society folks in Cleveland. A guy named Burt Griffin was director but Lionel Jones was running an office there. During that summer there was the first of a major civil disturbance in Cleveland. Lionel and I ended up being locked in the same office together out in the Hough area of Cleveland where people were rebelling against authority. Also, I became very much involved that summer with welfare rights groups. When I came back in the fall to law school I started working with Ed Sparer who started the Center on Social Welfare Law. My roommate in law school, Ron Pollack, Sylvia Law and another person formed a law students group to represent people at fair hearings. We put together a huge law school contingent from around New York City to represent people in fair hearings in New York. As a result of this work, I met George Wiley who was then organizer and director of the National Welfare Rights organization.
Victor Geminiani: Actually what year is this?
Alan Houseman: Oh this is the fall of ’66.
Victor Geminiani: So before Goldberg v. Kelly.
Alan Houseman: This is before Goldberg v. Kelly. There was a fair hearing system, there weren’t prior hearings. The welfare rights groups in New York had undertaken a major basic needs campaign. The law in New York provided recipients with basic needs but nobody knew about that and the Welfare Department didn’t tell recipients about it. Recipients started requesting certain items (such as school clothing) that the law said they could have and they were denied them. We had massive hearings and there were a series of demonstrations around the city. Through the fair hearing effort, I became friendly with George and Ed Sparer. They were both major influences on my life. That spring of 1967, I began work with Bill Robinson who had become director of the Law Students Civil Rights Research Council. I had known Bill vaguely at Oberlin, but Bill went to Columbia Law School. Bill later went on to be at NAACP Legal Defense Fund and directed the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights. He is now Dean of UDC Law School, which is an institution that replaced Antioch Law School. Bill hired me to be assistant director at LSCRRC. Working with George Wiley, we obtained funding to put together a student summer special LSCCRC program in five cities that poured law students into these cities to work with welfare rights groups that were organizing in these cities. This effort was separate and apart from the existing legal aid societies or programs in those cities. In many of those cities, there had not been substantial relationships or connections between the legal services program or the Legal Aid Society and the welfare rights movement. We tried to work with the Legal Aid Society and to get them much more involved in working with welfare rights groups as well as providing direct assistance to welfare rights groups. In ’67-’68, my last year in law school, I was a Field Fellow, part of the Hayes Civil Liberties Fellowship, a special program at NYU Law School. Each year 2-3 Hayes Fellows and Field Fellows worked with Norman Dorsen, who was a professor at NYU Law School, and chairman of the board and President of American Civil Liberties Union. You essentially worked 40 hours a week for Norman on a variety of issues that relate to civil liberties and social welfare. We worked on early stage of Goldberg v. Kelly. We got very much involved in Shapiro v. Thompson which was the welfare residency case and King v. Smith, all of which were either argued at the Supreme Court that year. One of the assignments that I had to work on was Hunger USA which Senator Robert Kennedy had started in ’67-’68 before he was assassinated he had been down to the south and had become very concerned about hunger in the south. The Field Foundation had given money to put out a report on Hunger USA. Ron Pollack, Sylvia Law, Steve Gillers and Chip Gray, who runs Brooklyn Legal Service Corporation, worked on this report. We did the drafting and the background work for this Hunger USA report. This report made a major PR splash. All the news programs picked it up and a documentary was made from this and it became one of the initial efforts that led to the tremendous expansion of the food stamp and school lunch programs. We were also working very closely with George Wiley and the national welfare rights movement. We were working very closely with another entity that was part of NYU at the time, the Social Welfare Project. We put out a journal on social welfare law that was ultimately merged into the Clearinghouse Review but started before the Clearinghouse Review began. At that time the only journal that was going to legal services people with any information about social welfare cases or other poverty law cases was this journal that was part of this Field Fellowship program. So that was my background essentially. I had a rich background at NYU and had warm close relationships with George Wiley and Ed Sparer and was involved doing legal research on some of the major cases in welfare as a law student. We were involved in some of the discussions around them, which, in itself, was quite interesting.
Victor Geminiani: Out of curiosity how many hours would you spend on these activities while you were also pursuing your legal education?
Alan Houseman: Well I think we were probably spending 50-60 hours a week on Field Fellowship work.
Victor Geminiani: In addition to your legal education?
Alan Houseman: Yes. We were working there all the time. Many were in the same class together; one would take notes except for a couple of courses where we all went because we all liked the teacher.
Victor Geminiani: Upon graduation in 1968 at NYU, can you tell me how you finally found yourself in a formal position with a legal aid office.
Alan Houseman: In the summer of ’67 before my third year in law school, my fiancé, Susan, was in medical school at the University of Michigan, and I decided to get married. That summer I worked in Cleveland again and she was working in Cleveland, and we lived together. Then we spent the next year apart. She was still in medical school at the University of Michigan and I was in law school in New York. I would come back to Ann Arbor on occasion and catch up on my reading from law school and to get a breather. She was working harder than I was working. I decided I wanted to spend the next year if possible near each other and so I was looking into jobs around Ann Arbor or Detroit. The Reginald Heber Smith Fellowship program was beginning the second year. I decided well maybe the way to be with Susan was to become a Reggie and see if I could get placed in Detroit. So, I applied for the Reggie program and got in and was placed in Detroit. That year they had two trainings, one in Ann Arbor and the other in Haverford. Half the Reggies were trained in Ann Arbor. We spent over four months in training.
Victor Geminiani: How large was the class?
Alan Houseman: 100 from which 50 trained in Ann Arbor and 50 trained in Haverford. I could stay in Ann Arbor and be trained there. Then I started off as a Reggie with Wayne County Neighborhood Legal Services that year. But there was a sort of a unique situation because Ed Sparer did the welfare law training at Ann Arbor for the Reggies, and I had been working with Ed on these cases, he asked me to help him put on the training of the Reggies. So I became sort of a co-trainer with him. He clearly was the person who knew more about it, but we did the training together of the Reggies. Because I had connections with George Wiley and there were some very active welfare rights groups in Detroit, when I went to Detroit I immediately became the lawyer for the welfare rights groups, They had heard about me and George had said Alan is coming to Detroit and you guys ought to hook up with him and we did. So I started in Detroit in the fall of ’68 at Wayne County Neighborhood Legal Services. You could sort of go do what you wanted within certain limits.
Victor Geminiani: You also had the benefit of youth not knowing exactly what the limits were.
Alan Houseman: That’s true. There weren’t many limits either so I immediately got very much involved with the welfare rights groups in Detroit, Westside Mothers WRO. We very quickly became the lawyers for them and helped them in organizing. There was a very vibrant strong group there, still is fairly strong, one of the few that exists any more. There is a very vibrant Detroit group and a statewide group that was very vibrant. The Detroit group had gotten some money from the Catholic Church and other sources. They were a stable organization and were big with over 1,000 active members. In addition to welfare rights, I got involved with some other matters including housing, consumer issues, and some education issues but primarily I was focusing on welfare. And then an opportunity came in the spring of ’69. Some people at Wayne State University Law School were thinking about trying to set up a program that was not a clinical program, but a program to provide training and support to legal aid and legal services programs in Michigan. I found out about it and had met the assistant dean at Wayne that was trying to get this program. I flew out to Washington with him and we sat down with two people at OEO, a woman named Connie Dupree who is now clerk of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and a woman named Kitty Chayes. She was the mother of Abe Chayes at Yale Law School who has written a lot around public interest law. In this meeting the dean was talking about a training program. One of the OEO folks asked me well, what do you think this program should be and I said I think it should be an aggressive advocacy program that does far more than training. It should represent groups all over the state and work with the Legal Aid Societies around the state to help them, but, also we ought to be doing our own independent kind of advocacy. This can be a much different entity than what we were originally talking about. The OEO folks got all excited even though the law school had not really thought in these terms. As a result, we started Michigan Legal Services, as one of the first state support centers that was an independent center, like Mass Law Reform, the Western Center on Law and Poverty and Ohio State Legal Assistance.
Victor Geminiani: There were five of them in those days as I recall.
Alan Houseman: Right, Legal Services of New Jersey started a little later but also in this era. So we started it and we became a statewide program that did advocacy. We represented a lot of the local welfare rights groups plus this Michigan welfare rights groups. We represented tenant unions in Ann Arbor.
Victor Geminiani: Were you director of the program?
Alan Houseman: Yes, I started the program and was director. The program was originally connected to Wayne in a funding sense, but our offices weren’t anywhere near Wayne and it wasn’t a clinical program. In the early 70s we moved the program to the Wayne Law School when they built a new building and housed it there and then we ran a little clinical component with it. We also connected to Michigan law School and we had students from both Wayne and Michigan working in our program on major litigation. We didn’t really call ourselves a state support center then; we were funded out of the research entity so OEO called us a state support center because they had to put a label on it. We didn’t see ourselves as support as much as advocacy, although we ran training programs and conferences and certainly provided support to local legal services people.
Victor Geminiani: The impetus for this came from Michigan not OEO in Washington although they were in the process of creating the concept of state support in three or four states.
Alan Houseman: That’s right they didn’t come to us. The Dean from Wayne Law School wanted to run this training thing and heard about some money, so we flew off to Washington to meet with them and in that conversation they asked me what I thought should be done. We had all been talking about training so far and I proposed this whole big advocacy kind of program that focused on group representation and major litigation. I didn’t see major litigation in isolation from working with groups and handling individual cases whether they are at the fair hearing level or whatever all the way up to major cases. I have trouble with the differentiation in roles. I was very comfortable with the model that said we would represent the welfare rights groups and their members on any kind of problem they had and if they joined welfare rights they got a lawyer from a divorce to an eviction problem to you name it, as well as working on their welfare problems. So that is the model we tried to put in place and that is the model they were excited about. Over time that model got shifted around to become more of a support entity.
Victor Geminiani: In 1969 as you were forming Michigan Legal Services, President Nixon was being elected president of the United States. That created dramatic changes in the legal services climate. Can you describe some of those feelings of what was occurring during that period of time, the shift of support from OEO under Lyndon Johnson to OEO under President Nixon?
Alan Houseman: Well, initially in the late 60s and early 70s, I was only beginning to get active in the national scene. At the national level, it as very unclear what OEO was going to become and there was some the original heads of OEO, actually the director that Nixon put in charge of OEO at one point was Frank Carlucci. Also Donald Rumsfeld who became Secretary of Defense. Was director of OEO. Initially there was not much change. Then the funding for legal services and other parts of OEO froze around 1971. It was about $79.1 million or something like that. There wasn’t much fundamental change going on at OEO that affected legal services. There was a fundamental change going on that affected other parts of the program. Both Rumsfeld and Carlucci were supportive of legal services and they brought in Terry Lenzner who had been a private attorney to run the legal services office at OEO. There were many hold-overs from the Johnson administration, good people who were working in the Legal Services Office at OEO but tried to keep things steady. Legal services at the early part of this era wasn’t viewed as a particular target. But then that began to slowly change as the right wing was gaining ascendancy in the Republican Party and began to snipe at legal services. Howard Phillips who started putting out a journal called Human Events and started forming something called the Conservative Caucus now, started taking pot shots at legal services and digging up “horror stories’. The administration lost people with stature like Carlucci and Rumsfeld who went on to bigger and better jobs in the government; people with much less stature were brought into OEO and people with much less stature were brought into legal services. There was a lot of ferment at the time but in early 1971, things began to fundamentally change. I mean they finally got around to legal services as it became a target. At the same time, Nixon had set up the Ash Commission which recommended that a government reorganization of legal services be moved out of the OEO into a non-profit separate corporation modeled after the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and that it become independent of the executive. The Ash Commission argued that only if it became independent from the executive would it be able to carry out a mission of providing legal services to poor people. So you had a recommendation at the highest levels of the administration to pull legal services out of OEO, and you had the right wing beginning to attack legal services and pressuring to control legal services from within that were finally starting to filter down. The new leaders of OEO tried to force the leadership of legal services of OEO, which was Terry Lenzner and Frank Jones. They both resigned in a swirl of publicity and Ted Tedslaff came in as the director and he tired to keep things sort of calm but nobody was sure how good he was. A number of other people came into that OEO legal services position, a guy named Terry McCarty. These latter directors got progressively more conservative and more beholden to the right wing. By the time of ’73 Nixon is re-elected, the right wing is badgering them for something, and they brought in Howard Phillips to run OEO. Phillips decides essentially to gut legal services. They start issuing regulations to ban lobbying and to essentially eliminate national support centers. So all of a sudden in 1973 the program is in complete turmoil. Some of this was led by a number of other events. Vice President Agnew wrote an article in the ABA Journal in ’72 using some strident rhetoric written by Pat Buchanan and talking about how legal services was out to fundamentally change society and not ever carrying out the original purpose to provide basic legal services to poor people. Instead, legal services was carrying out a social change agenda not representing clients’ interests but attorneys’ interests and they were left-wingers. This article in the ABA Journal by the Vice President of the United States called for the elimination or severe restriction on legal services. That of course produced a counter article in the ABA Journal for sure, but there was a climate being set by the right and Agnew was sort of the spokesperson at the highest levels and Pat Buchanan was the speech writer. Nixon was involved with some of this. So they were trying a high profile job of PR in trying to put into the agency people that would control and restrict legal services. And their view was they had to try to kill it before this Legal Services Corporation got off the ground and that is what they were trying to do in ’73. Another thing that was going on at the time Nixon comes out with the Ash Commission report, the ABA has its own study commission that comes out with a similar recommendation of pulling legal services out of the executive into a non-profit entity. And so there is sort of concordance of interest here. In 1971, Nixon introduces legislation that would create an independent Legal Services Corporation. Nixon actually introduced this. And in fact the legislation that ultimately passed was something similar to the legislation that he introduced. The ABA then has its proposal. Congressman Steiger who is a Republican (but has since died) from Wisconsin and Senator Mondale put together a bill called the Mondale Steiger bill which became the ABA’s bill and that of the legal services community. So you have the president introducing legislation which makes it possible to actually move on this agenda and you have the Mondale Steiger bill which proposes an independent corporation that doesn’t have restrictions. The Mondale- Steiger bill passes in ’71 and has in both the House and Senate fairly uniform support and no major controversies. The big controversy in that legislation was that the board would not be solely appointed by the president. It went through a number of different changes by the time the legislation was actually passed by the Congress, but the legislature had various other entities appointing some of the board members. The Chief Justice of the United States got an appointment of a board member, the National Legal Aid and Defender Association got an appointment of a board member, American Bar Association got an appointment of a board member and I think the Administrative Conference had one appointment. By the time the bill got through some of those appointment powers remained and in some cases the president had to choose from lists recommended by NLADA or the ABA. This issue was hotly contested but it passed the Congress in wide majorities. That bill in ’71 also did not have explicit restrictions on legislative and administrative advocacy, didn’t have restrictions on organizing or training. In fact it had very affirmative statements. Legal services should do the same kinds of representation that is done in the private sector. It had affirmative statements of powers in the bill. The bill however was part of the Economic Opportunity Act that was going through because we were still part of OEO at the time and the framework was part of the Economic Opportunity Act. In that act was a major piece of legislation that was also sponsored by Senator Mondale that would set up a federal child care program. That had passed the Congress but it was a massive federal child care program very similar in many ways to the program that was enacted two years ago by the Congress. When that bill got to the president, he vetoed the bill primarily because of this massive child care program. But in the veto message which was written by Pat Buchanan, he also said he was vetoing it because Legal Services Corporation doesn’t give the president power over the board and it doesn’t impose some restrictions that may be necessary. And there was some sort of vitriolic rhetoric, because Buchanan wrote it, in the veto message on legal services. There were not enough votes to override that in the House or Senate because of the child care section in it. There was stronger support for legal services but not for the child care
Victor Geminiani: This was 1971.
Alan Houseman: Yes, at the end of ’71. It was vetoed in December and they were still in session and they came back. It was very late in the year and the overrides were tried and failed.
Victor Geminiani: Can you tell me what the reaction of field programs across the country was during this period of time in response to what was going on the national political level.
Alan Houseman: You had this positive piece of legislation, you had OEO starting to be overtaken by the right wing, you had a freeze on funding and
so in 1971 people were very optimistic that whatever was beginning to happen in OEO was going to be getting off their backs, there was going to be a new era ahead and we weren’t in a siege mentality then. Some things had happened and there were fights being fought and most of the program leaders at least were in a very positive view. In Michigan it wasn’t fazing us much. We were doing very aggressive litigation. We were involved in all kinds of major suits. We were doing significant amount of legislative work and some of the local programs were getting much more into very aggressive litigation and even some rule-making and some legislative work and there wasn’t that big an impact down at that level in ’71. In 1972 after the bill was vetoed, a number of the very conservative elements started to take over OEO and OEO legal services; funding was stagnant for the first time in a number of years. It wasn’t very clear what was going to happen with this legislation. The Nixon imprint on OEO started to impact and beginning in ’72 people are getting very fearful of what is going on.
Victor Geminiani: Can you tell me when, you say people were getting very fearful, what was the vehicle for communication or were there several vehicles for communication among field programs?
Alan Houseman: Yes, the primary vehicle for communication was the Project Advisory Group and the Project Advisory Group was set up by OEO in the early, ’67 or ’68. What they originally did was they brought project directors together, Bob Spangenburg was one, from some of the bigger programs is what it was around the country and they formed this little advisory group to OEO. Well very soon the Project Advisory Group wasn’t just people brought in from a few large field programs whenever OEO wanted, but became its own independent kind of force, though it did not at that time have staff. Staffing for it it was done by NLADA. There wasn’t much communication, the programs did it themselves and the people paid their own way to go to things. One program would Xerox things and send it around to other programs. It wasn’t an organization that is at all similar to the organization we know today. But that was the primary vehicle and in the early 70s that expanded and other groups came into it. The support centers had formed an organization called the Organizational of Legal Services Backup Centers which really began to function around 1970. That organization included both state support centers, national support centers and the National Clearinghouse, the national training program and the national management training program which was at one point at NLADA. It was an entity of all the support entities that existed. So it wasn’t just the national backup centers which is what OLSBUC is today. Also, a third group called PLEA, Poverty Lawyers for Effective Action which was primarily staff attorneys.
Victor Geminiani: It was dues-paying organization as I recall.
Alan Houseman: Yes, it was and it was supposed to be a member-based unlike PAG or OLSBUC. Over time these structures evolved in certain ways. PLEA disappeared but PAG became this major entity that was representing the legal services programs views. There was a revolt of small project directors and they wanted and got more roles in PAG. PAG developed an election process which was set up among project directors and divided into regions that were the OEO regions.
Victor Geminiani: Did an organized reaction occur at that point in 1971-72 from the field?
Alan Houseman: NLADA and PAG were working together but unlike today, the PAG was the really sole voice of the field. The NLADA civil committee was really the same thing as PAG. The people on PAG were the NLADA civil committee. We would have NLADA civil committees at the end of the PAG meetings. Whoever was the head of the PAG was head of the NLADA civil committee. In 1974, you begin to get tremendous fear among the leadership of field programs and the American Bar Association and the supporters in the bar association of legal services. In some communities there was close ties with the bar and legal services and in others there weren’t. But in many communities and in a number of states, there was close relationships. People began to be very fearful of what was coming out of OEO including potential restrictions on advocacy, because new regulations were being proposed that would limit advocacy. The right wing was attacking legal services and some in Congress sought to eliminate the program. In 1971, we made another try at trying to get a bill through by creating Action for Legal Rights. Mickey Kantor, who had been at OEO Legal Services in fact, was really the person at OEO Legal Services that was responsible for developing many of the support centers, left OEO Legal Services and became executive director of Action for Legal Rights. Action for Legal Rights was funded by some program and individual contributions and raised some private money from a couple of foundations. It became the lobbying arm of the community. But Action for Legal Rights wasn’t separate from PAG or NLADA. Mickey worked out of the NLADA offices and there was a close relationship. Frank Jones after he had been fired by OEO went over to NLADA and became NLADA executive director. There was not any difference between PAG, ALR and NLADA. ALR was a broader umbrella including some client groups at the bar and Mickey Kantor was the main lobbyist. We tried to address what was going on in the administration at OEO, but we thought the best hope was to try to get the Legal Services Act through again. So we started in again in ’72 in the Congress and we got a bill through, both houses of the Congress. The bill was literally in the conference committee and we had made major compromises on the board. The president could appoint the board but some of the members he had to choose from lists submitted by various people but he had full appointment power. The Chief Justice didn’t have any role any more, for example, and other people didn’t have roles any more. We also added some mild form of restrictions on various activities. And some of the affirmative statements that appeared in the ’71 bill weren’t in the ’72 bill. But by and large it was an affirmative bill without restriction that gave the president the power to appoint the board. However, the president indicated when the bill was in conference that he couldn’t accept that, that he had to have the full presidential appointment power without restriction, without lists or he was going to veto the bill again. And then the legal services community made a decision which I think in hindsight was wrong by the way, but at the time we made a decision to kill the bill. There was a conference call among the leaders in each region, to decide what we do with this, because our sponsors Mondale and Steiger came to us and said we will do what you want us to do but we can’t override a veto. If we get the board issue resolved, we can get the rest of this thing through. What do you want to do? And we made a decision to not go with it. So Mondale and Steiger took legal services off the conference bill and passed the rest of the Economic Opportunity Act which didn’t have the child development program. Then in January of ’73 Nixon appointed Howard Phillips as the head of OEO and he immediately started to dismantle the whole OEO and Office of Legal Services programs. So then we were in a crisis. Phillips stops funding for programs, checks just stopped coming, no process, no nothing. Checks are delayed, checks don’t come. He says I’m going to eliminate all the national support centers and state support centers, I’m going to prohibit legislative advocacy, administrative advocacy other than adjudicatory advocacy, and more organizing. He attempted to close the Clearinghouse down because he sees it as an entity that builds cohesion. He stops any training efforts that they are funding.
Victor Geminiani: He sent a telegram to all field programs saying they had to contact Washington if they wanted to do travel outside their jurisdiction.
Alan Houseman: That’s right, that’s right. Travel restrictions, absolutely, a whole mess of things I can’t remember them all come down. So that led to obviously a serious crisis. The bar got very involved at the highest levels and got much more involved at the highest levels. Chesterfield Smith was the president of the ABA. He became very much involved in this. He was from Florida, and led a major fight and this became the highest sort of priority at the ABA. And the programs obviously organized and ALR got itself geared up again, and we got some more money. Mickey Kantor was at that time leaving for California so we brought in Mickey Bennett who had been executive director and the administrator of CRLA. Mickey is not a lawyer by the way and Mickey was brought in to Washington to re-establish ALR and to be our lobbyist. There was all this turmoil going on and many people were driven out of the programs. It wasn’t very clear that we were going to get through this period of time so there were a lot of people leaving and a lot of real concerns. In the spring of ’73 Nixon re-introduces his bill again. Steiger and Mondale sat down with us in a relatively formal way and said okay the fact is we’re never going to get a bill through that doesn’t have complete appointment power by the president. Instead of starting with the Mondale Steiger bill we’re going to have to start with the administration bill. That’s got to be the framework we work from. We’ve got to concede the board appointment power or we’ll never get anywhere in this fight. And we’ve got to start with the president’s framework. Well the president’s framework included restrictions in the legislation. There were bans on organizing, lobbying, administrative rule-making and a whole series of things that were in the president’s ’73 bill which was unlike the ’71 bill. The ’71 bill had presidential board control, but it didn’t have a lot of restrictions. And Mondale and Steiger said that the only way we’re going to get out from under this problem we’ve got is to move this legislation quickly. We’ve got to get it out of OEO, and we’ve got to work within the president’s framework or we’ll never get anywhere. Now this was just at the time Watergate was beginning to break. Nixon has just been re-elected in a landslide, and he’s got real power. And the Congress is slightly changed; it’s less Democratic but still Democratic and it wasn’t at all clear what was going to happen. So at that point we had to work within the administration’s framework for the LSC legislation. And we conceded right up front the board appointment issue. We began to work in committees to take out restrictions and then to create some provisions what would narrow to these restrictions. So the bill would start with a ban on legislative representation and any lobbying activities and then would provide that legal services would lobby when you are representing an eligible client and his rights and responsibilities required you to represent that person before a legislative body or an administrative agency. We got in committee a number of Republicans led by Congressman Steiger, who were moderate or liberal Republicans, there aren’t many in the House left, and who worked with the Democrats to carve out exceptions to some of the restrictions that existed in the bill and got rid of some of them altogether. The legislative process started in the House first and came out of the House committee in late May of 1973. At this time Phillips was going full steam ahead on trying to dismantle the program. There was tremendous turmoil down at the grassroots; money hasn’t shown up, all these new regs are being imposed. At that point in time, law suits are brought. A major law suit is brought against Howard Phillips by Senator Williams and some others because Howard Phillips has never been sent up for confirmation by Nixon. There were several law suits, but this was the major one that was filed by several D.C. law firms. The ABA was involved, legal services leaders were involved and others were involved. In late June, the judge holds that Phillips can’t function any more because he hasn’t been proposed for confirmation and he couldn’t get confirmed. There was no question he couldn’t get confirmed, particularly after what he just did, not only to us in legal services but to all OEO. At that point, the judge essentially enjoins him from acting and the president has to appoint somebody else into his place. They decide not to appeal. I’m not quite sure what led them not to appeal, but the courts were still good and the D.C. Circuit Court was the strongest most liberal court probably in the country. So it wasn’t exactly their playing field. You still had most of the Warren Court left at this time. Phillips was forced out by this law suit. While that was happening, the LSC legislation hit the House floor on June 21, 1973. We came into the House feeling very positive. We had never had big problems in the House in the past two years. The bill would be on the floor for five or six hours and it would be off. There would be a few proposed amendments and there would be some struggles, but we did not anticipate a huge major fight. Well the LSC bill
Comes on the floor in the early afternoon and the House starts on it. However, there is a group of Democratic and Republican congressmen led by Edith Green, a Democrat from Washington, who have put together an effective coalition silently and quietly. They purpose a series of amendments to the committee bill that would gut the entire committee bill in many respects. It wasn’t just one amendment. They had about 25.
Al Quie, who was a Republican on the committee, was the spokesman for the moderate forces among the Republicans on the committee who also had some amendments and he was working with the Edith Green coalition. This came out of the Education Labor Committee not the Judiciary Committee and Edith Green was on the Education Labor Committee. None of our key supporters knew the coalition existed, including Congressman Perkins, a Democrat who was head of the House Education Labor Committee, and Bill Steiger the Republican who was the chief supporter of legal services on the Republican side, and Jim O’Hara and Bill Ford from Michigan and numerous others. The bill goes on the floor and the first big amendment comes up and we lose 2-1. It was like a steam roller. By three o’clock it was totally out of control. Steiger and Perkins had totally lost control of the process as well as the leadership. People tried to adjourn and stop it, and the leadership was trying to pull it off the floor, but they couldn’t do it. The LSC bill went forward and they passed amendments which banned lobbying completely, no exceptions whatsoever; banned administrative rule-making completely, just like McCollum Stenholm; restrictions on organizing; and restrictions on training. Representative Quie got up on the House floor and said I’ve got a small amendment, this isn’t very significant. All this amendment does is make sure the same restrictions apply to private and non-LSC funds as apply to LSC funds. There is a voice vote on it and Steiger was running around saying no we can’t agree to that. He’s running out to us, and everybody is going nuts. [END OF SIDE ONE OF TAPE] . . . . Edith Green offers the backup center amendment which she thought killed backup centers and that passes overwhelmingly. Another amendment imposes the Hatch Act on people which wasn’t on before. Then the whole thing gets out of control so much so that at one point Congressman Wayne Hayes from Ohio offers an amendment as a joke that prohibits legal services program from representing indigent Watergate defendants and that passes. Somebody calls for a roll call vote on it and the goddamn thing passes. It was one of the most bizarre things people had ever seen. About midnight the process is over with but the bill is a total disaster. While we had gotten rid of Howard Phillips, the Congress is a mess. So we gear up again to try to deal with this. We sit down with our supporters and we try to figure out what are we going to do. We still had the Senate and the Senate was a more deliberative body. Things don’t get out of control in the Senate in quite the same way. We figured we really had to have two things to deal with the Senate effectively. One we had to somehow get the administration to back something that we were going to get out of the Senate. We had to try to figure out a way to get the administration to back something that wasn’t as bad as the House did which meant you couldn’t touch the board issue in the Senate. Originally, one of our strategies was to address the board appointment issue in the Senate and not deal with it in the House. The second thing was we had to develop real bipartisan support in the Senate. Now that was a lot easier in some sense. The Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee was the oversight committee then and still is. The ranking Republican was Jacob Javits who was a brilliant man and a brilliant parliamentarian. There was some other key Republicans we had to get and the most key was Senator Robert Taft from Ohio, son of the former Senator who had run for president and grandson of President Taft. We had to get somebody who was clearly viewed as a conservative Senator to be a chief supporter of our program. He hadn’t been bad on legal services, but he hadn’t been a leader on any of this either. So major efforts were made to get to Senator Taft. What ultimately happened was one of his chief aides happened to have worked at one time in Ohio in legal services, was very close friends with the director of the Ohio State Legal Services support center at the time. In fact, they had gone to law school together. Through that relationship we developed a closer relationship with Senator Taft. We had a relationship before, but it had never been so central to our efforts. Now we had to have Senator Taft playing a major role in this along with Senator Javits. It couldn’t be just Javits, he was too liberal. We had to have Senator Taft playing a major role to try to help us deliver the White House on this. Luckily for us, Jim Flug who used to work for Senator Kennedy left Senator Kennedy’s staff and became a new director of NLADA. Jim was a much different player than any of us including most of the bar people. He was a very well respected staff person when Senator Kennedy was essentially at the height of his legislative power. I believe he worked for Bobby Kennedy in the Justice Department. He joined Teddy’s staff and he was very well regarded and had tremendous connections on the Hill. When he came into NLADA, he had developed a close personal relationship with someone who became Secretary of Defense. Anyway, this person was chief of staff at the White House at the time; he later became Secretary of Defense
Victor Geminiani: Not Laird?
Alan Houseman: Laird, Melvin Laird. That’s exactly who it was. And Jim Flug knew Melvin Laird personally and had been in Congress. They had a lot of interaction; however, I don’t know what the other interactions were. And Senator Taft and Melvin Laird were close friends. So we began to work a very quiet effort to get Laird bought in to supporting a bill in the Senate that Robert Taft, Javits, Mondale, Williams, Cranston, Kennedy, Nelson and other key senators could support. We were quietly putting together a Senate bill that certainly preserved the power of the president to appoint the board. It was written carefully with broad prohibitions and what looked like even narrower exceptions. We gave in on a couple of issues here and there, but we restructured it a bit and we did other things in the bill to change it in many respects from what the House bill looked like. We slowly worked with Taft and Laird and other people at the White House. We couldn’t make it public there because we didn’t want Pat Buchanan and some of those folks getting into this. I think he was still around or certainly on the fringes of power there. We ultimately developed a bill that Laird signed off on. Taft
then sold the bill to a number of moderate Republicans both in the committee and in the House and obviously Javits. This bill became a vehicle of the markup in the Senate which was totally non-controversial and over in a couple of hours. There were no major amendments. I mean there were some amendments by Senator Brock and some other folks. Brock later became a much more liberal guy. There were some amendments by Helms, Brock and Curtis, but they weren’t a big fray, particularly, at the committee level. In late December, the bill goes on the Senate floor and some conservatives decide that they have to filibuster. Helms and some other folks start filibustering. When the LSC bill went on the Senate floor we had heard rumors about a filibuster. Nobody really thought it would occur. It got huge bipartisan support. It becomes known as the Taft and Javits bill. We had Laird’s letter completely endorsing it without exception or reservation, speaking for the president. The Watergate crisis is just starting to heat up now, but Nixon was not yet weakened. This was not ’74, this was still ’73, and he hadn’t been weakened that badly yet. So we could claim that the administration fully supported this bill. The conservatives saw what was happening and saw that once this hit the floor this was just going to whip right through and it was going to become known as an administration bill. Helms and some others started a filibuster, literally a regular old style filibuster. So the Senate process began; they debated for awhile. We tried a cloture vote in early December and we failed. At that time people didn’t like to vote cloture. Our supporters all said let them have December and let’s take it up in January Let them talk a little bit, give them a month, see if they can turn the administration around. We were told that they won’t turn the administration around, so don’t worry about it. Let’s don’t fight over this. The leadership in the Senate was taking that position. Senator Dole and the assistant majority leader in the Senate, Senator Griffin from Michigan and other people who would vote with you openly on the merits didn’t want to block the filibuster. Then the bill came up in late January when they got back in session again and we beat the filibuster. It was clear by then that they couldn’t move the administration and they were just delaying.
Victor Geminiani: How close was the vote, do you remember?
Alan Houseman: We had three votes. We lost in December by five votes, we lost in January the first round by one, which surprised us and we did a little work and we won it big. The Senate was a longer process than the House, but it was a much more controlled process. You knew exactly what amendments were coming up; you knew who the players were and all the arguments. The playing field was much easier to understand and much more controlled setting. There was test vote and we won the test vote big and at that point the opposition capitulated. They didn’t walk away, they kept taking votes but it was quite clear they weren’t going to win their votes There was an alternative bill of Brock and a guy from Idaho, who is no longer in the Senate.
Victor Geminiani: Sims.
Alan Houseman: No I think it was the guy that Sims replaced, who was a Republican I can’t remember his name, but there was an alternative bill. It proposed a judiciary approach and we beat that back. We didn’t really lose any major vote in the Senate.
Victor Geminiani: What happened over in the House when it went over there?
Alan Houseman: That’s the end of the story. First, we had to go back to conference and the conference does not really get going until April. This is going to be a tough conference because the House had many restrictions and many of these were big votes. These weren’t two or three points different, but 50 or so big differences. It wasn’t just turning a few people around. You had major problems. I mean one of our problems initially was to prioritize what our issues were and it’s interesting what those issues were in light of where we are today. First issue, private funds, the House bill fully restricted all non-LSC funds not just private public. It was a broad restriction. Any money a program had was restricted to the same degree that LSC funds were, that was one of our top issues. A second of our top issues was legislative and administrative advocacy. A third was national support centers.
Victor Geminiani: Class actions?
Alan Houseman: No, they actually didn’t prohibit class actions in the House. Actually the House bill did not have a ban on class actions but the Senate put in some qualifications which is what we ultimately ended up with. There were a whole bunch of issues that were there but those were the biggies. Abortion was an issue. School desegregation was an issue and there was a ban on the House bill on that. The Senate bill set up a national advisory board and a project advisory board, and a national clients’ council in the legislation itself. But the big ones were really focused around the backup centers, legislative administrative advocacy and the private non-LSC funds issue. We had to prioritize those within the community which wasn’t that hard, but there was a lot of discussion about it. Meanwhile, this is all going on and while you didn’t have Howard Phillips there you had caretakers at OEO. No new money, no restrictions particularly, but no support for the program. It wasn’t very clear where this was all ending up, because of this horrible House vote. But legal services returned to a bit of normalcy. OEO got the checks back out and some of the pure harassment stopped, but nothing affirmative was happening.
Victor Geminiani: How did you relate to the field about the issues that were to be conferenced out?
Alan Houseman: After the ’73 vote, we brought everybody together. Mickey Bennett was now there. Mickey had asked me to work with him part-time and I came in from D.C. and worked part-time. And we went through a long series of meetings with PAG representatives which I think were three or four per region. We debated what the priorities should be, what we should do and we came out of that with some very clear sense of what those priorities were and a community agreement on them. Clearly there were some people who would just as soon get the thing through and weren’t worried about all these restrictions and there was some sentiment to get rid of the support centers if that was the price we had to pay. By and large everybody hung together on these critical issues and worked hard to do it. When we drafted the Senate bill, and I was involved with that quite a bit, we decided to figure out ways to protect the support center to the degree we could. If in fact we lost on the Green amendment that we still protected the support centers by the way we drafted the bill. What they were going after was the Green amendment which was an amendment that banned the Corporation from funding by grant or contract, research, training, technical assistance and Clearinghouse activities. That is what the original Green amendment was but the House bill wasn’t drafted in a way that eliminated the support centers. That House language was in the Senate bill, but we also created a definition of recipient that was separate from the research, training and technical language. A recipient was a program that delivered legal services. We wrote legislative history that said it could deliver them at the national level or at the state level or at the local level. So, we drafted language to protect the support center. In fact we lost the Green amendment down the road. This wasn’t a threat in the Senate, but it was a threat in conference and ultimately became a reality. In fact we didn’t concede the support center issue even though the House would think we did. That kind of drafting became critical once we lost the Green amendment and became critical with the new board, but that’s a whole other story. Anyway we’re now back in conference. The conference starts and it’s sort of rugged. There are a lot of easy issues that are dealt with but a lot of issues that aren’t dealt with and the big issues kept being put off and put off. The conference would go two hours one day and then we wouldn’t have it for three weeks. Then all of a sudden it would spring back up and we would have it. Unlike most conferences which usually start and end in a day or two, this one sort of it kept dragging on into May and the Watergate thing was now a major issue for the Congress and the country. This is spring of 1974, and the Watergate hearings were going on. And Nixon is increasingly getting in worse and worse political shape at his point in time. Finally in mid-May a conference agreement is worked out and that agreement by and large preserved the key elements of our position. It permitted administrative advocacy and administrative rule-making if you had a particular client you were dealing with that client’s rights and responsibilities. Let me tell you about what happened to private funds. This is a sort of interesting example of what shouldn’t happen I suppose. Private funds was one of the last remaining issues but it was all non-LSC funds. Our position was no restrictions on non-LSC funds. And at one point in the conference, Jim Flug, Mickey and I were sitting outside on the floor, there was no chair outside the conference room, it was under the Rotunda, a really weird scene. And Representative Perkins comes out and John Steinberg, who is Cranston’s chief aide, comes out and said we think we can carve a compromise. They think we can carve something that preserves public funds but not private funds. They asked us to draft some language on private funds that restricts it but that only restricts some and they need this in about a minute. So Jim and I sit there scratching out what became 1010(c). We created a public funds exception and we created an Indian exception on Indian tribal funds sort of off the top of our heads. We tried to figure out quickly some language that we hadn’t really worked on this, and we should have in hindsight, but we still thought we had a shot at the whole thing. It was a nice try that didn’t really succeed very well. We said only private funds that were given for the provisional legal assistance and they were only restricted to the degree there was a prohibition in the act. We just carved this up on a yellow sheet of paper and handed it back to Steinberg who did a little editing. Steinberg was a brilliant and smart guy and that became 1010c) and, of course, we had to try to develop legislative history to understand this language. That’s an illustration of an interesting issue that just sort of got of hand at the last second and led to some of the problems we’ve had with it. After conference the bill goes to the House floor and there is a major attack on the conference agreement by the right wing and by Edith Green, a significant attack and huge debate. Now it’s an up and down vote on conference, it’s not like amendments you know, you either take it or you don’t and Al Quie who had been the chief Republican negotiator bought into the conference report so he defended all of the provisions in the conference report against the attack by Edith Green and conservative Republicans. So you had the support of a moderate Republican and a highly-regarded person. He and Steiger and then the Democrats defended the committee position and there was all kinds of back and forth charges. The vote came up in the House and we won it by about 10 votes. It was a very close vote. This is after Quie is supporting this and pulling moderate Republicans with him and Democrats had control of the Congress. It was a very close vote and the issue that they focused on was the support centers. Because we put the support center language back in— training, research, technical assistance and the Clearinghouse— they wanted it out and that was the target. I mean they took pot shots at other things but that was the target of their efforts. We think we’re finally over this hurdle. The Senate will pass this so we’ll get up to the Senate and that will be that. All of a sudden, the right wing goes to Nixon and this is before he has decided to quit. It’s late June or early July, the hearings are over, it’s quite clear what’s going on and it’s quite clear he’s probably going to be impeached or at least there is going to be an impeachment trial and Republicans are trying to get him to resign. Tremendous pressure is put on him. The conservative caucus and a couple of key conservative members of Congress go to him and say we won’t support you any more unless you do three things. And the first thing on their list was that you veto the LSC bill if it has backup centers in it. This is like Legal Services, a $71 million program and these guys say this is their highest priority to continue to support the president. I couldn’t believe it; Jim Flug and others were telling me this. No, no, you’re making this up, it’s not possible, and this is ridiculous. So Nixon promised them he would do these three things. I can’t remember what the other two are. Laird came over to the conferees with a new letter from the president that says” I don’t support the bill any more. I didn’t realize what support centers do and I don’t support them and I’ll veto.” We didn’t know he was going to resign in August but that’s the situation. It’s clear that we didn’t have the votes to override the veto. We didn’t have the votes in the House, we had them in the Senate probably, but not in the House to override the veto. The bill is actually technically in the Senate. The House voted on conference it’s back in the Senate now. All they have to do to get it to the president is pass the conference report, which is more conservative then the bill they already passed so it’s not going to be a problem to pass that. The decision was made that we had to concede the support center issue to get the bill through. The Senate conferees agreed when the Senate bill that came up there, to agree to the Green Amendment and the House immediately concurred in that decision. The bill than passed the Senate with the Green Amendment in it which banned LSC from funding research, training, technical assistance and Clearinghouse by grant or contract but permitted these functions to be done in-house. That was the price that was paid and the president signed it. Right after he signed it he resigned. If we could have held on a little bit longer we wouldn’t have had to fight the support center fight, but that’s ultimately what happened.
Victor Geminiani: Do you remember your feeling when he finally signed it and it appeared to be all over?
Alan Houseman: Well I was relieved but very worried about the support centers. I was the head of OLSBUC at the time and much of my life had been devoted to entities that are now called support centers, I thought we had protected them by the drafting we did, but you never know what kind of a board you are going to get. The president was still going to appoint the board. So I was relieved to have this done. It was nice to get back to Michigan and spend some time with my wife and my program. Bob Reed, your old buddy, became acting director of Michigan Legal Services while I was focused in DC.
Victor Geminiani: You mentioned on a number of occasions Mickey Bennett and Mickey Kantor. Are there other people that you can include in that group? Can you tell me about some of the characters that were involved in this effort?
Alan Houseman: I think the person that made the major difference, and I think Mickey Bennett would agree with this was Jim Flug, Without Jim Flug we couldn’t have pulled off the White House support, we couldn’t have pulled off the Senate support among key Republicans and we couldn’t have won some of the things we won in conference. I mentioned Jim Flug before, but I would say Jim Flug was the most critical person to this effort. A lot of people helped out in a lot of different ways. We had an Action for Legal Rights, we had a network that Mickey and I ran. It was a different structure than today. There was a regional representative who became the executive committee of ALR. That regional representative communicated to states in the region and each state had a communication network within its state. When we had to make decisions, we would send the word out and people were supposed to communicate down to their state, back up to the region and we got each of the regional directors on the phone together and tried to make a joint decision. It wasn’t like we had one big meeting and then left it all up to whoever was there. When the legislation was moving forward, we would usually have conference calls literally every night with the regional representatives. In terms of helping I was there working with Mickey Bennett and Mickey was just superb. Dina Lassow at NLADA did a lot of good staff work. John Tracy who was the Washington equivalent of Bob Evans at the ABA did a lot of very good work. We had tremendous Hill staff work that made life easier. There were very, very experienced Hill staff aides that worked on this bill particularly in the Senate. Javits’ person, Senator Cranston’s person John Steinberg, Senator Mondale’s person, Jim (who essentially was Senator Kennedy’s person but there was another person that replaced Jim) and this Senator Nelson from Wisconsin, his chief staff person Ed Johnson, Senator Taft’s staff person. These were extremely good, hard working brilliant people. It was a much different kind of working relationship than we’ve had with some of the people over time. We would have long, three-four hour debates over drafting where we were sitting around the room together drafting. These people really did a lot of the staff kind of work that we do now, and we reacted to or helped them but they played a major role. At this Washington end it was a different ball game than today. Today I wrote virtually the entire House bill and Paul Drolet looks it over and makes changes and gets involved with it. I do a major draft committee report for him. He looks it over and gets involved and makes changes and cuts it back and rewrites. But that is not the way that was then. So they were critically important. The ABA presidents got actively involved in this in the kind of way that Reese Smith did in ’81. I mean they came in; you want them at a conference they would fly in and just talk to people in the hall of a conference committee. Chesterfield Smith was really key to this and made a personal sacrifice to be there every time you wanted him for anything. That made a major difference. Within the community we used the network to generate the back home support we needed; we had bar resolutions from virtually every state like we do today but at this time, there wasn’t that kind of local state bar support as easily achieved and as widespread as it is today. We had key people from state bars who would come in and talk to key members at the drop of a hat. But that was all due to this network. My view of the network was we had to communicate literally every day when we were in the middle of a fight to keep people up-to-date and they had to view this process as theirs. We were their representatives and yes we had to call some shots, but they were intimately involved in every major decision. They could energize other folks to go do what had to be done. It’s not dissimilar to today although it’s slightly different structure. A lot of those people were very important and when we would get in the crunches we would bring people in. I remember right at the House mark-up that Marty Glick, who was executive director of CRLA, came in, and he, Mickey and I just worked straight for two days on amendments and drafting, things like that. We hardly slept. I had a bunch of legal services folks come into town and write speeches. We had a speech-writing team before the bill went to the Senate floor and before the conference votes. We didn’t see the House bill but we weren’t going to be caught off guard this time. So we had written speeches prepared, The speech-writing team included Ron Pollack, Henry Freidman , Alan Rogers, some of the same old names, who came to town and spent three or four days writing speeches on every major issue. We wrote general speeches, and very specific speeches. Ronnie, Henry and Alan Rogers gave an immense amount of their working with me and helping me get ready for that sort of written stuff. So a lot of people contributed, I guess is what I’m saying. The key was Jim Flug in my view. I mean Mickey was superb but the key was Jim Flug. It wouldn’t have happened without Jim Flug in my view.
Victor Geminiani: Is there a particular memory a very strong memory you have during that period of time something that continues to recur to you?
Alan Houseman: Well I don’t know. I’m not sure I’m answering your question. I’ll give you a funny incident but it has little to do with the bill, but it changed my whole view of Teddy Kennedy. We were waiting outside of the conference committee. We didn’t get into a conference committee room. Near the last hour, when they were debating our fate, a woman with eight kids walked into the conference committee room. They knocked, the person comes out, says hello and these eight kids and this woman walked into the conference committee room. I’m sitting there wondering what is going on. Then out come the eight kids and the nanny and Teddy Kennedy. I want to go talk to Kennedy about what’s going on and Jim is pulling me back and says, “no Alan you can’t do that.” I said, “who are those kids, are those his kids.” “No those are Bobby’s kids. He takes them every day and walks with them every day that he can. He tries to do it five or six times a week and he tries to spend one day a weekend part of the time with them.” And it changed my whole image of Teddy Kennedy in a lot of ways. That doesn’t deal with the bill but it was a memory that sticks in my mind besides the 1010(c) memory.
Victor Geminiani: Do you have any thoughts about the current state of legal services and how the decisions that were made 17-18 years ago in this effort have affected our current state.
Alan Houseman: Well I think we’ve been very lucky in that clearly you see how that board decision has affected legal services. Now I don’t think we had a choice in ’73 but I think we were always right on trying to fight for the board, but by ’73 we had no choice. I think the mistake we made as I said earlier was not just giving in on the board in ’72 because it was a much stronger bill. If we would have accepted the 1972 bill, it would have started this program off without some of the controversy around backup centers and made the board fight less of an issue. We’re still having the board fight. We didn’t win that and because we haven’t won it it’s come back to plague us all during the 80s and today. I don’t think we can win it again. A second thing was some of the restrictions were written in a way, like legislative and administrative representation, where the Congress thought they had really banned this activity but we wrote a technical exception that looked small and narrow but was in fact not narrow and opened it up. The exception required legal services to have clients or to respond to requests. If you’re doing legislative work you represent the clients so it wasn’t like this huge big thing to us, but many in Congress thought that lobbying was banned completely. This has been a contention. Today you get people like McCollum and Stenholm saying well the original intent was to prohibit legislative and administrative work. It isn’t true, but they can say that and a lot of people believe them because they thought they had dealt with this in 1974. Administrative and legislative representation has been a constant struggle throughout the history of legal services. It’s one of the centerpieces of the fight today, I don’t know if there was a way around where we were, I’m not sure there was and we’ve done very well with it, but it’s also made it tougher at times. I think it was right to move the legal services program to a corporation. There was some dispute about that at the time. There was some debate about whether it should be part of an independent entity. I think it served us well to be an independent entity. In fact that was clear. It’s been problems but I don’t think we would have survived the Reagan administration if we were in Justice or HHS. I think we would have been killed because they could have zeroed us out in the budget. While the Congress may have kept legal services alone, the Reagan administration could have done much more damage than they did. They would have accomplished virtually everything they wanted to accomplish if we had been in DOJ. So I think that was a critical decision. People now raise questions about this independent corporation are usually the right but others as well. We just cannot concede the independence of the Corporation. It’s extremely important to fight for it. I was never as convinced as others that an independent corporation was correct, but in hindsight that was absolutely essential. We’ve learned in the 80s that the president can’t control LSC regardless of what he does with the board and that is because it’s an independent entity. I think the early days of the Corporation were important. I think the fact that it became this independent entity with a relatively prestigious board and hiring Tom Ehrlich and later Dan Bradley, made the Corporation much more the center of legal services activity than I thought it should be, but it was inevitable that that would initially happen. The focus of program activity was around the Corporation. I think that was probably a mistake. I think we went too far at the Corporation level and we should have been more concerned about NLADA and PAG and our institutions outside the Corporation, making sure that good people were in them and they were vibrant and doing well. But, in the end, during the 80s those institutions have been strengthened. I think if LSC had been formally in the administration, that wouldn’t have been a problem in the 70s but we would have been killed in the 80s. The down side of an independent corporation is that it becomes the be all and end all of legal services. However, after the experience of 1980, LSC is never going to really regain that kind of a role within the community. But the independence of LSC has preserved the funding and allowed us to stay alive. Those are some of my thoughts.
Victor Geminiani: Alan, you have been one of the most towering of figures in legal services for the last 20-25 years. You are admired by the entire community because of your leadership abilities and just as important your wisdom and your guidance on a whole variety of different issues. On behalf of the staff, boards, clients across this country I want to thank you for sharing your central role in the development and passage of the Legal Services Corporation Act in the early 70s. Thank you very much.