Lloyd Meeds oral history, 2002

Among other topics, discusses his role as the Democratic Congressman who was prime sponsor of the Legal Services Corporation Act that passed Congress in 1974.

Oral history details

Storyteller: Lloyd Meeds
Interviewer: Rhudy, Robert
Date of interview: Jul 18, 2002
Where relates to: National and Washington
Topics: LSC: Creation and Public defense
Law type: Civil and Criminal
Collection: NEJL
Georgetown Law Library link (possible video): http://hdl.handle.net/10822/710423
Length: 0:56:58

Full text of transcript

Download PDF: Transcript

Georgetown University Law Center
National Equal Justice Library Oral History
Interview with Lloyd Meeds
By Robert H. Rhudy
July 18, 2002

Bob Rhudy: Good morning. I’m Bob Rhudy, executive director of the Maryland Legal Services Corporation, and I’m Chairman of the National Equal Justice Library’s Oral History Project. This is July 18th, 2002. We’re in the rear bookroom of the Washington College of Law American University’s Law School in Washington D.C.

Today, I have the honor to interview Congressman Lloyd Meeds, Congressman from Everett, Washington, Northwest Washington, from 1965 to 1977. Congressman Meeds was an outstanding supporter of the Legal Services Program within the Office of Economic Opportunity and was a prime sponsor of the Legal Services Corporation Bill that passed Congress in 1974.

Good morning, Congressman Meeds. How are you?

Lloyd Meeds: Fine, thank you.

Bob Rhudy: Congressman, tell us a little bit about your background before you entered Congress. What brought you to be an attorney and enter politics?

Lloyd Meeds: Well, I actually‑‑my first recollection of wanting to be an attorney was when I was a deckhand on a boat up in Alaska. I went to Kiana, Alaska when I was 16, and I recall lying on the deck of that boat while we were towing some scows and thinking gosh it sure would be nice to be an attorney. So a lot of good, hard work probably influenced me to want to become an attorney.

Bob Rhudy: That’s a good motivation. And politics?

Lloyd Meeds: Politics was a secondary thing, although from almost the time I became an attorney, I had a feeling that I wanted to do some public service of some kind. And my original decision, original issue, was whether I did it before I became really very active in practicing law or whether I did it after; whether I practiced law first or did it later. As fate would have it, I did it at the early part of my career.

Bob Rhudy: What’s the‑‑the area you grew up in is what, northwest of Seattle?

Lloyd Meeds: Yes. Everett, Washington is about 25 miles north of Seattle, and it’s in a beautiful coastal area of Washington State, and I represented that area in Congress. It had the beautiful San Juan Islands and along the coastline of Washington State the North Cascades. A very beautiful, beautiful area.

Bob Rhudy: I’ve gone around the peninsula and it’s lovely. And is that a big timber logging area?

Lloyd Meeds: It used to be bigger than it is now, but, yes, logging was one of the major industries in the district and still is a very important‑‑

Bob Rhudy: Fisheries?

Lloyd Meeds: Fishing is very important agriculture.

Bob Rhudy: What kind of contact did you have regarding legal aid and legal needs of low income people in your area before you entered Congress?

Lloyd Meeds: Well, I served as a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney for a number of years–some time in the Spokane County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, and some time‑‑for almost two years in the Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. When I got out of the Deputy Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, I went into private practice, and of course as a struggling young attorney, I got a lot of appointments by the court to defend people, and I did a lot of Pro bono work for people. I realized just how very important being able to have access to the courts was to people and how scarce it really was in many instances.

Bob Rhudy: There wasn’t‑‑you were elected in 1965. There wasn’t any organized legal aid program in your area before that time?

Lloyd Meeds: No, it was all pro bono stuff.

Bob Rhudy: You were elected in 1965‑‑in ’64, and you entered Congress in ’65. What was it like being a freshman Congressman at that time? That’s a pretty interesting period.

Lloyd Meeds: Oh, it was a very interesting period. I guess the 89th Congress could be classified as the “can do” Congress. We didn’t know what we couldn’t do, you know, everything was possible. We could fight in Vietnam and provide money for the OEO and, you know, it finally turned out that we couldn’t do everything we thought we could, but we were really on the crest of optimism for much of the period I was in the Congress.

Bob Rhudy: So that was in ’65 OEO was created, I believe. ’64, ’65?

Lloyd Meeds: ’64, I think or–well, it was created when the bill was passed which I think was ’65, but I’m not sure.

Bob Rhudy: The Voting Rights Act of 1965, historic legislation‑‑

Lloyd Meeds: All those tremendous things were happening: the Civil Rights Act, housing legislation, all those things that really began to make the society more accessible to underprivileged people.

Bob Rhudy: So the first Legal Services Program that was apart of the Office of Economic Opportunity started around 1965. What was your first contact in Congress with legal services?

Lloyd Meeds: I was a member of the subcommittee in the Education of Labor Committee which had jurisdiction of OEO. It was the Equal Opportunity Subcommittee, and so I was involved in it from the very outset. I was a co‑sponsor of the legislation and worked on all the programs in OEO. I became very interested in legal services almost instantly, and it was without a doubt one of the most successful and most used parts of the OEO legislation. It was almost instantly very, very popular.

Bob Rhudy: You said that you became very quickly interested and very interested in the legal services; why?

Lloyd Meeds: Well, of course with my law background, I represented a number of people and had seen the court system and really grabbed on to it as a way to satisfy my own desire for public service or for service to clients who couldn’t afford representation because that was the only thing they had.

Bob Rhudy: Who were‑‑you were a freshman on that committee in ’65. Who where some of the other members of the committee that were‑‑you worked with on legal services?

Lloyd Meeds: Oh, I recall Jim O’Hara of Michigan was very, very involved in it; Patsy Mink of Hawaii, Bill Ford of Michigan, Frank Thompson of New Jersey; and on the Republican side, Bill Steiger of Wisconsin was a very strong proponent and advocate, and I think Al Quie of Minnesota was also pretty good on it.

Bob Rhudy: Who was the Chair of that subcommittee?

Lloyd Meeds: Well, Carl Perkins‑‑well, when I first got there in ’65 it would have been Adam Clayton Powell, and after that it was Carl Perkins.

Bob Rhudy: What were some of the issues that you’d encountered in Congress regarding the OEO program? The program ran into some controversy pretty quickly.

Lloyd Meeds: Absolutely. In fact, I probably should have said this earlier, one of the problems with the Legal Services Program is it was too successful. I mean it initially took on some governmental functions, local government functions and ran into a buzz saw. The overriding thought at that time, initial thought, was that the federal government ought not to be sponsoring and paying for people who are fighting it or fighting other governments. So it was the concept that it shouldn’t have to pay for what was going to tear you down, which is just the opposite of what it should have been because that’s‑‑as the youth prevailed later, the fact was it was better to afford people recourse through the courts than the streets, and that function was served by legal services.

But every kind of thing which tended to be controversial at that time: bussing, housing, all the racial issues which were really boiling at that time, well, of course these young legal services people really wanted to get into them. It ended up that many of these things were curbed in the Congress, particularly in the House, by just absolutely banning them from doing certain things. We couldn’t get into bussing; couldn’t get into back up centers for a while, which was unfortunately one of the most successful things, but also was recognized by the folds of legal services as very essential to a good legal services program. So they went right after it.

Bob Rhudy: You indicated that there was a real backlash from some members of Congress on suits against state and local governments.

Lloyd Meeds: Yes, there were, yes. There was a big backlash, and again, it was part of that whole concept of you shouldn’t be furnishing money for an organization to fight with states or to fight with local governments. Yet this was an area in which there were some pretty strong problems like housing, which was a major problem, and in which the legal services did some of its best work for individuals.

Bob Rhudy: In many instances, we hear a lot of discussion about law reform: changing law, making law on behalf of the poor, and in a lot of the cases that were won, we’re simply enforcing the law that Congress had passed years before that nobody enforced before.

Lloyd Meeds: That’s correct.

Bob Rhudy: Yeah.

Lloyd Meeds: That’s correct.

Bob Rhudy: Senator George Murphy, California‑‑

Lloyd Meeds: Yes?

Bob Rhudy: He was close to Senator Reagan, Governor of California, and he led in some efforts to restrict legal services that I think you had a role in helping to prevent.

Lloyd Meeds: He did, indeed. The Murphy Amendment would have given the governors of states the right to veto any specific legal services program in their state and the director of legal services, nationally, could not override that veto. In other words, they had an absolute veto under the Murphy Amendment.

We fought that amendment and incidentally, one of the great things that happened to me in that is that I got a telegram from the Republican Governor of the State of Washington, Daniel Evans, who said this is a bad idea. He said first of all, these programs need to be carried on; and secondly, he says it’s a bad concept to allow governors to veto federal. So he was very perceptive even then and a very good governor.

Also, a very strong letter, which I found in my file later, from Bill Gates Sr., Bill Gates Jr.’s father, who was head of the Washington State Bar Association at the time–a very articulate and strong letter opposing the Murphy Amendment, which was very helpful in our efforts on it.

Bob Rhudy: Bill Gates Jr.’s father was a prominent lawyer in Washington‑‑

Lloyd Meeds: He’s a very, very fine lawyer and a very fine gentleman and was a partner of mine in the Preston Gates Law Firm, that’s where the name comes from. And at Preston Gates, he and I retired from the firm, or semi‑retired we’re both still involved, at about the same time. Well, in fact, the same time, 1998.

Bob Rhudy: Now, you pointed out that in a lot of its history, legal services has been a bipartisan program and became very polarized later on, but there was strong, good Republican support for the program at various times that diminished later.

Lloyd Meeds: It became, I think, very polarized much‑‑kind of late in my term, but even more so later under President Reagan. Actually, Nixon was always kind of ambivalent; President Nixon was always kind of ambivalent about it. You could never tell whether he really wanted the Legal Services Program. He said all the right things, but then things just didn’t get done down there and they had some pretty good people like Frank Carlucci headed up the program and OEO for a time and Rumsfeld headed up‑‑both very capable, and I think, fairly moderate people. But we got into people under Reagan like Phillips and some of those people, who were really hired to destroy the program.

Bob Rhudy: Howard Phillips, who later became the head of the Conservative Caucus.

Lloyd Meeds: That’s correct, that’s correct.

Bob Rhudy: You talked about how successful the program was and how it led to its own attacks. You mentioned Donald Rumsfeld a minute ago. He’s been quoted as saying that five percent of his budget, when he was head of OEO, went to legal services and 95 percent of his headaches came out of complaints from local politicians about legal services.

Lloyd Meeds: I’m sure that that’s probably accurate. As I look back on it, I can see that it really was a controversial program in the administration as I recall some of the instances and incidents that occurred.

First of all, the program attracted some very bright, capable, young people out of law schools who were ready to kind of set the world on fire, and, you know, if the government was giving you trouble you took government on, and, you know, they couldn’t understand why they couldn’t come in and solve a bussing problem, even though it was inflaming the nation, or some kind of a racial housing problem.

So the controversy that surrounded it was very high, and the thing that led eventually to my feeling and the other people’s feeling that it really needed to be insulated from governmental, total governmental interference–you can’t insulate anything totally and shouldn’t, but it had to have some insulation between these controversial actions, which really had to take place if the program was to be successful, and the reaction of government or conservative people in government against it. That was really what gave rise to the concept, at least in my mind, of the Legal Services Corporation.

Bob Rhudy: Let’s get into that in just a minute. Let’s do a little bit more work on the OEO Legal Services Program‑‑

Lloyd Meeds: Sure.

Bob Rhudy: ‑‑and its background work for the discussions that you were in the middle of and in leading the legislation that created LSC eventually. I think a couple of fights that you had a big role in over the OEO program was an effort to prohibit any suits against government by legal services’ attorneys, and that one was around 1967, I believe.

Lloyd Meeds: Yeah, it was one of the early ones and really one of the basic‑‑everytime we went to the floor, I’ll never forget, sometimes we’d be there until three or four o’clock in the morning debating the legal services part of OEO. If Rumsfeld had five percent of the funds and 90 percent of the problem, so did we on the floor of the House because these people basically felt that the government shouldn’t be funding efforts to tear it down or to disagree with it. So that was a fight that came up early and one that lasted and lasted and lasted through the thing.

I’ll never forget Edith Green who was from Oregon, a Democrat, and a tremendously skilled lady. I think probably the best single debater in the House of Representatives. She used to just give us fits on that aspect of government supplying money to an entity which in effect challenged it. She was very effective and beat us several times.

Bob Rhudy: It’s interesting how close those‑‑how passionate those debates are, going back and looking at the records, and how close the votes are.

Lloyd Meeds: Oh, yes. Always close and always a real cockpit of policy debate.

Bob Rhudy: I find it interesting how thick the thread is in American culture and democracy of the rights that people have against government. When it came to efforts to help poor people and enforce the rights and limit government and get the laws imposed and enforced that their legislators create for them, our Constitution creates, that becomes a different matter.

Lloyd Meeds: Yep. Well, in a kind of perverse way, and I haven’t thought about this before, but it may have well been that the Vietnam War, the demonstrations, the war on poverty, the Poor People’s March, and a lot of those things really gave proof to some of us who were saying it is better to take these people and let them exercise their rights in the courts than to have them out trying to exercise them on the streets. It may have well been a factor in getting some of these programs.

Bob Rhudy: You really helped to give me an understanding of‑‑to remind me of how much of a crisis we were in and how many scissions there were going on through the ’60s as the ’60s went on‑‑

Lloyd Meeds: Oh, yeah.

Bob Rhudy: ‑‑in terms of civil rights, in terms of the fight about the war, in terms of major changes in American society with strong support on one side, strong opposition‑‑we were in a whole range of issues.

Lloyd Meeds: Yeah, it was kind of a “riot-a-day” period.

Bob Rhudy: Times were changing, but they were pretty tumultuous‑‑

Lloyd Meeds: Yep.

Bob Rhudy: ‑‑for a lot people.

Lloyd Meeds: Yep.

Bob Rhudy: And Legal Services was in the middle of that.

Lloyd Meeds: Right in the middle of it, and one of the best responses to it.

Bob Rhudy: So the effort to prohibit the suits against government failed, and you were the leader in that. The effort to give the governors a veto, an absolute veto, also failed, and you were involved heavily in that, I know.

Lloyd Meeds: Right.

Bob Rhudy: There had been vetoes‑‑President Reagan had vetoed Legal Services in California on a couple of occasions.

Lloyd Meeds: Right.

Bob Rhudy: But the vetoes can be overridden by the director of OEO__+.

Lloyd Meeds: Which they were, which they were.

Bob Rhudy: And so that continued to be. There was also an effort, I think, to take the control for Legal Services out of Washington D.C., away from the director of the Office of Economic Opportunity, and regionalize it‑‑

Lloyd Meeds: Regionalize it.

Bob Rhudy: ‑‑with regional offices around the country.

Lloyd Meeds: That’s right. That was a big fight, and if we could have regionalized it, for instance, under the model of what was happening in Washington State–I was fairly well acquainted with what they were doing there–would have been all right. But you had some states, which were some regions, that were doing a great job. California had a great Legal Services Program, Ronald Reagan not withstanding, and some in the Northeast areas had them. But a lot of areas in the country through the South and even through the Mid‑west–some places they were not good programs.

In fact, in some instances, they were run by people who really didn’t want them, who didn’t sit‑‑who didn’t really philosophically agree with them. So it would have been a disaster in my view, and also it wouldn’t have been a very good idea from a standpoint of a federal program that was trying to treat a national problem.

Bob Rhudy: So that was an effort by, I think, Donald Rumsfeld to get the headaches off of his‑‑

Lloyd Meeds: Yep.

Bob Rhudy: ‑‑plate and over to the regional levels.

Lloyd Meeds: Yep.

Bob Rhudy: And that failed also.

Lloyd Meeds: Yep.

Bob Rhudy: Great. Did you have a lot of contact with Legal Services in Washington State? Greg Dallaire I think was‑‑

Lloyd Meeds: Greg was, as I recall, Evergreen Legal Services or–no, he was–

Bob Rhudy: That was created afterwards.

Lloyd Meeds: Yeah, that was afterwards. But he was the first state director or something, and I remember working with him, but I really started working with the Northwest Program which was centered in Everett and Bellingham and that way; I think they later combined and became Evergreen Legal Services, something like that. But they had a good legal services program from the outset in Washington State. We were very fortunate, and we also had good leadership from our governor, and there never was the big fights that they had in the South and other places on racial and housing and problems like that.

Bob Rhudy: What kind of issues are you aware of that Legal Services took a lead role in, in Washington State?

Lloyd Meeds: Well, my recollection is that they did a lot early on with women who were divorced and who weren’t getting any support, and we did have those areas in the Prosecuting Attorney’s Offices, but in addition to that, there were a lot of legal services actions which were brought by women who needed help against husbands who were doing fairly well, and these were brought by legal services’ attorneys and were very successful. They were very successful in disputes between landlords and tenants, and this was also a very controversial place, but one that was very necessary.

Another thing, and we always had big fights about this, was the backup centers. In my view, the backup centers were the‑‑really the place where Legal Services made great advances at scale. I mean the money that was spent on that‑‑on backup centers was well spent because it went down to all over the nation where people could use it. And of course in class actions it was almost indisputable and necessary, but also very controversial. The people who were after the backup centers were really after class actions.

Bob Rhudy: Good. Class actions and law reform‑‑

Lloyd Meeds: Yeah.

Bob Rhudy: ‑‑were big issues‑‑

Lloyd Meeds: Yeah.

Bob Rhudy: ‑‑and__+‑‑

Lloyd Meeds: At one point, and I’m not sure about this, but at one point, it seems to me that we lost to an amendment, at least on the House–I don’t know if it ever ended up in law–that legal services’ attorneys could not lobby, could not come in and try to change the law, which, of course, you know, that’s one of the‑‑I’m in a law firm where I do mostly public policy work and if I couldn’t try to influence law, I would really be very limited.

Bob Rhudy: That’s your role as a lawyer on behalf of your clients.

Lloyd Meeds: That’s right.

Bob Rhudy: And‑‑

Lloyd Meeds: Absolutely.

Bob Rhudy: ‑‑the poor people‑‑

Lloyd Meeds: Poor people were denied that, at least at one point.

Bob Rhudy: Did Greg Dallaire and‑‑was there much legislative advocacy in Washington State you’re aware of?

Lloyd Meeds: I don’t remember that specifically, but I do remember that the Washington State Program was well run and it was‑‑and whenever we went down to talk about funding for it, we never got from Rumsfeld and others the kind of static that came to a lot of programs.

Bob Rhudy: I think Greg is a good example of the role of leadership. He’s been known nationally for a long time, and the Evergreen Legal Services program‑‑

Lloyd Meeds: Yeah.

Bob Rhudy: ‑‑that was the merge program after‑‑

Lloyd Meeds: Yep.

Bob Rhudy: ‑‑LSC was created, has had a longstanding reputation as an outstanding program with Greg, Ada Shen‑Jaffe‑‑

Lloyd Meeds: Yes, absolutely.

Bob Rhudy: ‑‑__+ and it continues.

Lloyd Meeds: I remember Ada very fondly, yes.

Bob Rhudy: You, I think, had a major‑‑had some influence in the creation of the Northwest Legal Services Program up in your service‑‑up in your precinct.

Lloyd Meeds: Well, I think that program was a beneficiary of my activity, which was not really intended as a quid pro quo, but genuinely felt on my part as needing to be done. But as often happens in politics, there were rewards beyond the satisfaction of having done what you thought was right.

Bob Rhudy: Congressmen have an opportunity to help with things in the district on occasion.

Lloyd Meeds: They do.

Bob Rhudy: I think that may have been the last Legal Services Program funded and created under OEO before money just sort of came to a‑‑was‑‑

Lloyd Meeds: Yep.

Bob Rhudy: ‑‑held flat for several years as the fight went on in the early ’70s.

You started talking a few minutes ago about an interest growing in providing some insulation to the program. Legal Services began under the Johnson Period; President Nixon was elected in 1968, took office in 1969; and there was a period in the early Nixon Administration, in which the conflict started escalating over the OEO Legal Services Program and discussion started around the creation of a separate organization. Let’s talk about that some.

Lloyd Meeds: Well, as I indicated earlier, at least my purpose and I think Bill Steiger’s and some of the other fellows that I worked‑‑incidentally Mundale was also very active in Legal Services, Mundale and others–was that because of these controversies and because of somebody being able to come in and say no can’t do that, that we had to provide some insulation. Legal Services to some was like lewd paintings. You know, you couldn’t‑‑an art center couldn’t buy a lewd painting because everybody would get up in arms about it and so Legal Services was like that. It really needed to be insulated, and so what we tried to‑‑and initially–set it up so that it was insulated, and that’s really where we ran into the basic problem with Nixon.

I really think Nixon wanted a Legal Services Program. In fact, when he first started talking about it, I was firmly convinced. But he wanted to be able to control it and we felt that if he controlled it then we really hadn’t insulated it and insulation was the main thing we were looking for.

So the early big fights took place on who was going to be on the board of director–not who was going to be on them, but who was going to appoint them and who was going to control the appointments. Our first proposal was that the president, I think, had maybe 7 out of 13 or something like that, I don’t know. He may not have even had a majority on the initial board of appointing them. They were appointed by the American Bar Association and other organizations, and he vetoed that bill. We passed a bill, and he vetoed it.

Bob Rhudy: That was 1971?

Lloyd Meeds: Yes, yes.

Bob Rhudy: And you were the‑‑you and Congressman Steiger were the prime sponsors of the House‑‑

Lloyd Meeds: Of the House Legislation, and Senator Mondale was the prime sponsor of the Senate Legislation and‑‑

Bob Rhudy: As companion bills? They were companion bills?

Lloyd Meeds: Yes, companion bills. I think they were identical, and we passed that legislation. President Nixon had proposed that he appoint all of them, and they tried by amendments to get that. I think the first time in ’71 we beat that bag, but later my recollection is they were successful in beating us on the issue of presidential appointments, but that was an ongoing, ongoing fight. In fact, ongoing till our point was proven that–I think under Reagan when‑‑oh, what was his name–Phillips. When Phillips, a sworn enemy of the program, went in and just started destroying it, and that proved our point. Unfortunately, the program got destroyed in the meantime or at least didn’t get funded the way it should of and wasn’t able to do many of the things it was.

Bob Rhudy: So the first bill that was passed by Congress in 1971 that had some appointments by–I think its list of names was submitted by: the American Bar Association‑‑

Lloyd Meeds: That’s right.

Bob Rhudy: ‑‑National Bar, and the National Legal Aid Defenders Association.

Lloyd Meeds: Yep.

Bob Rhudy: The President, as I recall, had the formal appointment, but he had to appoint off the list.

Lloyd Meeds: He had‑‑from that list, that’s correct.

Bob Rhudy: And then some were‑‑

Lloyd Meeds: And that was the big fight.

Bob Rhudy: And so he vetoed it and there wasn’t an ability to pass over the veto in ’71.

Lloyd Meeds: That’s right.

Bob Rhudy: Okay. And were there some other differences in philosophy between the House and between Congress and the President? I think that was the major one he pointed to in his veto.

Lloyd Meeds: Funding was always a problem, and I don’t recall specifically at that time it was, but I’m sure it was because it was an ongoing problem. Then, of course, all the political arguments, the political hot buttons in the society: bussing and racial relations and housing and voting rights and all those things were hot button issues. And we were really‑‑every time we came to the floor, we were a microcosm of the major, major ongoing debate over social issues in this country; every time we came to the floor.

Bob Rhudy: That’s funny how all these issues came to focus on the Legal Services Corporation Bill.

Lloyd Meeds: They really did.

Bob Rhudy: Yeah. I think you’re the‑‑what was called the Mondale‑Steiger bill, which you were the prime sponsor with Bill Steiger, Republican side over on the House side.

Lloyd Meeds: Right.

Bob Rhudy: In addition to having a board that had appointments with other groups; in addition to some limitation on the President’s appointment authority, it was a fairly unrestricted bill. It didn’t have a lot of restrictions, as I recall, in terms of what Legal Services could do on class actions and all these kinds of representation very serious. Whereas at least in some communication between the White House and Congress, the White House was interested in more restriction being shown; does that sound correct?

Lloyd Meeds: Yes, that’s correct.

Bob Rhudy: So that was 1971–it took until 1974, July 25th, 1974, when we finally had a Legal Services Corporation.

Lloyd Meeds: The President signed a bill just before he left the White House, as a matter of fact.

Bob Rhudy: One of the last bills before he got on the helicopter. 1972, there was another effort I think to pass the bill.

Lloyd Meeds: I think ’72 was when we lost to the President’s‑‑I’m not sure that I’m right about this, but I know one of those years–and I think ’72 was when they came back and we tried to pass the bill that restricted his appointments. He beat us on it, and it seems to me we may have just killed the bill.

Bob Rhudy: The bill that passed more favor‑‑closer to what the President asked for‑‑

Lloyd Meeds: Yes.

Bob Rhudy: ‑‑as my research for this indicated, the support is the Legal Services, the Legal Services Program–the support is in Congress saying withdraw the bill and just pull back.

Lloyd Meeds: Might as well just leave it in OEO.

Bob Rhudy: Leave it in OEO.

Lloyd Meeds: Yeah.

Bob Rhudy: Some people thought that was a mistake, that the bill that could have been passed that year was probably‑‑had less restrictions and it would have ended up being passed a couple years later.

Lloyd Meeds: Well, as it turns out, that’s probably correct because the bill that we finally passed had pretty much Nixon’s imprimatur on the appointment process anyhow. I don’t remember all the other details but that may well be correct.

Bob Rhudy: 1972 was an election year. President Nixon was running hard and was‑‑and Legal Services had a lot of support from the American Bar and‑‑

Lloyd Meeds: Oh, yes. Yeah.

Bob Rhudy: So‑‑and then Nixon was re‑elected in ’72, 1973. There was a real tilt to the right in the Nixon Administration. There was already discussions of the problem of Watergate that came out not long after the election.

Lloyd Meeds: Yep.

Bob Rhudy: And the President had to play to his conservative Republican colleagues in Congress to try to hold on to his fingernails the next couple of‑‑

Lloyd Meeds: Yeah.

Bob Rhudy: So in 1973 there was an effort once again to move forward with‑‑

Lloyd Meeds: Right. And we, as I recall in Congress, kind of capitulated on the appointment process, and we passed a bill which the president later signed late in that session in ’73.

Bob Rhudy: You mentioned Congresswoman Edith Green from Oregon‑‑

Lloyd Meeds: Yes.

Bob Rhudy: ‑‑a few minutes ago. One of the big‑‑there was something called the Green Amendment what‑‑

Lloyd Meeds: I don’t know which one it would be. She always had‑‑she had several amendments. I’ll never forget one debate. There was some issue brought up about doing certain things to add to the bill, and some Southerner stood up and said that he was gonna oppose this amendment because it didn’t do such and such. And Bill Ford of Michigan got up and asked him to yield and he says if the gentleman really wants to do what he’s talking about, wait until the gentlelady from Oregon’s amendment comes up, it does that.

Bob Rhudy: Whatever you want.

Lloyd Meeds: Whatever it was.

Bob Rhudy: Whatever you want to take care of.

Lloyd Meeds: It was, yeah.

Bob Rhudy: Yeah. The one I think that she was‑‑

Lloyd Meeds: Skilled, skilled debater.

Bob Rhudy: Was she?

Lloyd Meeds: Yes.

Bob Rhudy: I think one of the major fights came down over the backup centers that you talked about before.

Lloyd Meeds: Yes.

Bob Rhudy: And she‑‑one of the prices for getting the‑‑a bill passed that the White House would agree to sign, I think, was the incorporation of her amendment to prohibit funding to the backup centers.

Lloyd Meeds: Yes, yes. I believe that she did prevail on that issue.

Bob Rhudy: National backup centers, you described pretty well, started out, in many instances, in law schools.

Lloyd Meeds: They were in law schools, yeah.

Bob Rhudy: I did research on how‑‑

Lloyd Meeds: And they were great for young “would be” lawyers who were in school and who were doing research and who were idealistic and, you know, they just poured out a lot of good stuff. What I considered to be good stuff anyhow.

Bob Rhudy: And so the‑‑there was a Green Amendment that was passed to get the presidential support. Do you remember very much about the process over the incorporation of that amendment? Its been a while.

Lloyd Meeds: The backup centers one? No, I don’t. Other than she was an implacable foe of backup centers and was successful at one time in taking them out, and I guess that’s probably it.

Bob Rhudy: So the 1970‑‑the bill that you worked on out of your committee and that was eventually signed had the entire board appointed by the President, confirmed by the Senate.

Lloyd Meeds: That’s right.

Bob Rhudy: And we had a lot of restrictions, or at least we had on some specific types of activity that you talked about before: bussing, desegregation‑‑

Lloyd Meeds: Oh, yes.

Bob Rhudy: ‑‑draft resistance, counseling, abortion.

Lloyd Meeds: Yep, yep.

Bob Rhudy: Those were in there, but then there were also‑‑

Lloyd Meeds: All the hot button issues.

Bob Rhudy: All the hot button issues. But there was some‑‑there were absolute prohibitions on‑‑there was some limitations on lobbying and class actions, but, in fact, those activities were preserved. So that was critical. And I think we found that the amendment, so called Edith Green Amendment, to prohibit funding the backup centers was drafted and in fact, that it didn’t really have the affect that she intended.

Lloyd Meeds: Is that right?

Bob Rhudy: That’s correct.

Lloyd Meeds: I wasn’t aware of that. That’s poetic justice though.

Bob Rhudy: I found it interesting that after President Nixon left the White House and President Ford appointed the first Legal Services Corporation Board, Edith Green was named by President Ford to be on the board. She withdrew and it was clear she couldn’t get confirmation from the Senate.

Lloyd Meeds: Which she could not have.

Bob Rhudy: Could not have.

Lloyd Meeds: Well, as a matter of fact, I don’t know whether it was at that time, but I remember one time early on in the program when‑‑I forgotten what president it was. I doubt it was Edwards; maybe Reagan or maybe it was Ford, but I doubt it–the people he appointed like‑‑I don’t know how many it was, 13 or whatever–the majority of them did not get confirmation by the Senate. The Senate really took ’em on. That was under Reagan.

Bob Rhudy: That was President Reagan. He used recessed appointments.

Lloyd Meeds: I’m getting ahead of myself.

Bob Rhudy: We’ll catch up with that. Now you’re absolutely right. President Reagan used recessed appointments while Congress was out of session.

Lloyd Meeds: That’s right.

Bob Rhudy: And went through a succession of boards that weren’t confirmed and‑‑

Lloyd Meeds: And put Phillips in under that.

Bob Rhudy: He was never on the board, but he was sort of ideological‑‑

Lloyd Meeds: He was the director or‑‑

Bob Rhudy: ‑‑of the opposition‑‑

Lloyd Meeds: Yeah.

Bob Rhudy: ‑‑to Legal Services. You‑‑go ahead, sir.

Lloyd Meeds: (Smiles)

Bob Rhudy: Some of the‑‑in terms of the‑‑you mentioned Congressman Quie from Minnesota. He became‑‑he was‑‑he had a lot of problems with Legal Services later on, didn’t he, in terms of the LSC fight?

Lloyd Meeds: He may have, yeah.

Bob Rhudy: And Carl Perkins was actually in the House‑‑was the chair of your subcommittee, and he was the floor manager.

Lloyd Meeds: That’s right, and he had some problems with‑‑

Bob Rhudy: Did he?

Lloyd Meeds: ‑‑some of the programs, although the basic thrust of the program he was supporting of that. But some of the things like‑‑well, maybe abortion and some of those things, he really came down pretty hard on.

Bob Rhudy: So we’ve got the Legal Services Corporation Act that you and ABA and Senator Mondale and leaders in Congress and on the outside had been working on for nearly four years at this point, passed in ’74, and then came into effect in 1975 with then President Gerald Ford.

Lloyd Meeds: Gerald Ford.

Bob Rhudy: And you were in Congress through 1977. What are some of the issues and fights that you recall in your last few years when you were in Congress over Legal Services?

Lloyd Meeds: Well, I just remember the ongoing fight over funding. It was always a major problem. So we really had two debates every year. First of all, we tried to make the Legal Services prominent, and, you know, my recollection is that the first time or so we got it, it was restricted to one year or two years. So we had to come up for reauthorization every other year or whatever. And secondly, we had to come up for appropriations every year.

So we always had one or two fights on all these hot button issues every year when Legal Services came on, and it was funding. It was not paying for getting sued and states’ rights. They had the right to determine what federal programs were going to operate in their states, and they ought to have the right to veto them when they disagreed with them. That was always a continued fight, appropriations.

Backup centers was a big fight for a long time, but my recollection is that funding‑‑I was involved in a funding fight in 19‑‑must have been 1980 somewhere along in there.

Bob Rhudy: After you were out of Congress?

Lloyd Meeds: After I was out, when I was at Preston. I can remember we had meetings over there and as always, the American Bar Association was very helpful. We prevailed on it and got the funding back up but‑‑so as late as five years or–no. 10, 12 years ago that was an issue.

Bob Rhudy: Talked about states’ rights. Continued to be an issue under‑‑there was an effort in 1970‑‑’71, ’72 by Howard Phillips and Vice President Agnew‑‑

Lloyd Meeds: Yeah.

Bob Rhudy: ‑‑who had turned Legal Services into a revenue sharing program.

Lloyd Meeds: Yep.

Bob Rhudy: Turned the dollars over to the states.

Lloyd Meeds: Yep.

Bob Rhudy: Let the states run the program.

Lloyd Meeds: Yep.

Bob Rhudy: And LSC at least‑‑that did not prevail. So at least it continued to be a national‑‑

Lloyd Meeds: I remember Agnew being a terrific foe of the program. In fact, I think they used him as kind of a hatchet man out there attacking the program.

Bob Rhudy: The creation of the Legal Services Corporation, in terms of at least for a period of time of increasing funding, did have some real success though, I believe. When you‑‑when OEO‑‑the last year of the OEO Legal Services Program, the national funding was, I believe, $70 million a year, had been frozen for about four years‑‑

Lloyd Meeds: Yep.

Bob Rhudy: ‑‑over the fight. But in the next few years under the Ford Presidency, and in particular during the Reagan Presidency‑‑the Carter presidency, the funding expanded pretty substantially.

Lloyd Meeds: Yeah, it did. And then it went back down under Reagan.

Bob Rhudy: And then it came back down under Reagan.

Lloyd Meeds: Yeah.

Bob Rhudy: You left Congress in 1978. What have you been‑‑what’s your career been since then?

Lloyd Meeds: Actually, I left in February of 1979, and I immediately joined the Preston–it was then Preston Thorgrimson Ellis & Holman Seattle firm, and I moved back to Seattle. I was going to become a real lawyer again, you know, and I studied things and I was getting ready to get into the law business. I decided I probably was never going to be a real lawyer anymore and about the same time my firm probably decided that too. But they also decided no one knew the legislative process like I did. So it was decided I probably should come back to Washington D.C. for which my wife was eternally grateful.

Bob Rhudy: You spent quite a few years here at that point.

Lloyd Meeds: I’ve been here since‑‑with the same firm since 1979.

Bob Rhudy: It sounded like you continued to have contact with Legal Services and been a supporter with the ABA‑‑

Lloyd Meeds: I have and continued to work with them and taken on some pro bono activities on behalf of my law school, Gonzaga University, things like that. So I keep active on these things.

Bob Rhudy: In your opinion has‑‑in terms of the objectives of the creation of this independent Legal Services Corporation, has it been successful? What lessons should we learn from what’s happened since under Reagan and where we are today with the whole‑‑

Lloyd Meeds: Yeah, yeah.

Bob Rhudy: What are your thoughts?

Lloyd Meeds: Well, as I look back on it, it was created at a time of tremendous political debate over what I referred to earlier as the hot button issues, and they’re still debated on. So it hasn’t been all solved, and it was right in the cockpit of all those crosscurrents and hurricanes that were blowing against it, and to have survived it all, let alone flourished, has been, I think, a major accomplishment. I think it’s in a large part due to a kind of maturation of people, and I’m going to have to say in the states and regional offices that are running the programs that say here’s what we can do, here’s what we can’t do as a political fact of life.

You know, I recall visiting one Legal Services place way back in OEO days, and the director of it had a picture of Che Guevara over his desk, and that just inflamed people. I think there’s not so much of that going on, although the day‑to‑day efforts of Legal Services have been very effective and have really helped poor people, which is what it was set out to do. It hasn’t solved all the social ills of the world, which I guess it never really was intended for.

Bob Rhudy: It tried pretty valiantly for a while.

Lloyd Meeds: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. And did solve some of them, and some of them that people thought they couldn’t solve.

Bob Rhudy: We still find from studies done by the American‑‑so the program survived. We need to count that as a major success under efforts by President Reagan‑‑

Lloyd Meeds: Oh, yes.

Bob Rhudy: ‑‑Dick Cheney and Newt Gingrich, very recently, to try and eliminate the program. It’s institutionalized.

Lloyd Meeds: Since its creation in 1974, there have been only two Presidents that really supported it and that’s Carter and Clinton. The rest has been a stormy seed.

Bob Rhudy: The ABA and states’ studies still tell us that we’re only serving 20 to‑‑

Lloyd Meeds: That’s right.

Bob Rhudy: ‑‑25 percent of the need.

Lloyd Meeds: I believe that.

Bob Rhudy: Can we break out of that? Can we change that?

Lloyd Meeds: I hope so, and I think that the good action that they’re taking will be helpful in that. Incidentally, I got to say that before I started on this program, I was not a great proponent of the ABA. I became a strong proponent of the ABA during the period they really fought and they fought effectively on this program.

Bob Rhudy: It has been a real conscious issue for the ABA‑‑

Lloyd Meeds: Yeah, it really has.

Bob Rhudy: A real conscious issue, yep.

Lloyd Meeds: They were always there.

Bob Rhudy: Without the ABA’s leadership we wouldn’t be here.

Lloyd Meeds: Yep.

Bob Rhudy: Congressman, any other thoughts as we begin to wrap up our discussion this morning?

Lloyd Meeds: Well, just that it’s like so many things that we‑‑as we go along in life, we don’t have all the answers when we begin, but we’ve got to undertake things that are going to give people more faith in the system. It has given a lot of the people faith in the system because they’ve used it and they’ve used it successfully. Wish it could be a lot more.

Bob Rhudy: Appreciate your leadership, and I very much enjoyed our discussion this morning.

Lloyd Meeds: Thank you.


END