Allan Rodgers oral history, 1990

Oral history details

Storyteller: Allan Rodgers
Interviewer: Powers, Lonnie
Date of interview: Nov 14, 1990
Where relates to: Massachusetts
Topics: Support centers
Law type: Civil
Collection: NEJL
Georgetown Law Library link (possible video): http://hdl.handle.net/10822/712287
Length: 1:11:31

Full text of transcript

Download PDF: Transcript

National Equal Justice Library
Oral History Collection
Interview with Allan Rodgers
Conducted by Lonnie Powers
November 14,1990

Lonnie Powers: So why don’t you talk a minute, Allan, so we can check the sound.
Give us your name and your age and where you went to school.

Allan Rodgers: All right. I’m Allan Rodgers. I’m now fifty-five years of age. I went to school at Princeton University and Harvard Law School; graduated in 1962; went into private practice, because there were almost no public sector jobs at that point, with a Boston law firm and did mostly litigation for around six years. I found myself doing a lot of civil rights activities on the outside and enjoying that a lot. And the firm I was with previously had done a lot of litigation, had less and less litigation and more corporate work, which I did not enjoy, although I tried it.
So, I decided to make a move to — first to the Attorney General’s office, to do litigation, mostly appellate work. Did that for about six months. And then was recruited out of the Attorney General’s office to come run a new program which had just been started: the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, by Al Kramer, who was the first director of Mass. Law Reform, when they got the OEO grant. And Al was leaving Mass. Law Reform to become the chief policy advisor to a Republican governor in Massachusetts named Francis Sargent.

Lonnie Powers: Talk a little bit more about Al and his role in starting Mass. Law Reform.

Allan Rodgers: Al Kramer was a Democrat from Chelsea, grew up in Chelsea the hard way; became a state representative from Chelsea; and in the 1960s, served several terms in the legislature. And then came to what was then Voluntary Defenders Committee, which was a former public defender, a nonprofit organization started in the ’30s that had stopped doing public defender work when the state took over the public defender activities in the early 1960s. And during the 1960s, Voluntary Defenders got a number of foundation grants and did quite a lot of research on criminal and civil law justice issues, including issues of bail, juvenile justice, and the like. Al was part of a one-person, two-person staff that staffed the Voluntary Defenders Committee during the ’60s until it received the OEO grant in 1968. And Al was a very astute public policy person. I think it’s fair to say that under Governor Sargent, to whom he served as the chief policy advisor, he was one of the most influential insider policymakers.
During that period of time, state government experimented a lot on new approaches to various age-old problems. For example, Jerry Miller was brought in, in effect, to put out of business the state training schools and some of the institutions for juveniles, which had been big problems for a long time. And Al had a significant amount of policy influence under a governor who can be characterized as a moderate-to-liberal Republican but had a number of conservative advisors as well. Al remained a friend, to this day, of the program. He was nominated to be a District Court judge in Quincy District Court in Massachusetts; has been the presiding justice in that court for many years and is well known to be an innovator of new programs for the courts, particularly emphasizing restitution and civil and social services to defendants in criminal cases.

Lonnie Powers: So Al recruited you, you said, to take over for him?

Allan Rodgers: Yes.

Lonnie Powers: And when was that, when you started?

Allan Rodgers: That was early in 1969. I actually arrived in March. He had taken the job with Governor Sargent in January of 1979, when he and the board of the Voluntary Defenders Committee were recruiting, essentially, an executive director to take over.
I should go back to 1968, though, to the start of the OEO grant, which was for a state support center. And just briefly, before we get to describe that grant and the concept, Mass. Law Reform — or the Voluntary Defenders Committee, as it was then known — received this federal grant at almost the last minute in June of 1968. The federal fiscal year ran out, at that point, in June. And if money wasn’t committed to grants, it went back to the U.S. Treasury. So all of a sudden, without very much notice, Voluntary Defenders Committee became a state support center for Massachusetts with this grant.

Al hired about four or five new staff members during the course of that first half-year. And when I arrived in March of 1969, those staff members were all in place. They had started various kinds of activities. But it was up to us — those of us who were coming in — to really shape what the state support center was to do from then on.

Lonnie Powers: How many programs were there in Massachusetts’ Legal Services Programs at that time?

Allan Rodgers: There was a whole hodge-podge of programs. It’s a little hard to characterize them. They got started wherever OEO could come in and find a local bar association who would tolerate them.

Many of those programs were run through community action programs, and many of them covered the same service territories as community action. So, for example, you had a program in Brockton that covered the program territory of Self-Help, which was the CAP program there. But it covered parts of four counties. And numerous court systems — and so I know — I went down there a number of times to talk to the staff. And it turned out that they spent much of their time on the road, going between courthouses. They had four sets of probate courts and seven or eight sets of district courts to cover. And most of their activity was in court.

And so the service jurisdictions didn’t make a lot of sense, in many cases. There were programs, for example that covered only parts of the state. For example, there was a program in Springfield. There was one in Chicopee/Holyoke, but there was no program in the rest of the western part of the state. Similarly, in Worcester County, there was program in Worcester, which covered just the city, and a small program in Northern Worcester and Fitchburg, which covered really just Fitchburg and Leominster, but the whole rest of that county was uncovered. So it was very much a spotty thing. And there must have been something like fifteen different programs, at that point.

Lonnie Powers: Whose idea was it to have a state support office in Massachusetts?

Allan Rodgers: This was a combination. I think probably the person who emanated the idea was Vaughan Gearan. Vaughan Gearan was in the New York office of OEO, at that point. He was a native of Fitchburg, Massachusetts, a former mayor of Fitchburg in his youth. He ran a community action program in Fitchburg when they first started in the early to mid-1960s. And then he went down to be in the regional office of OEO, which at that time served not only New York, but New England. And Vaughan was responsible for funding a lot of the legal services programs. He was a lawyer by training, and he had a strong interest in that. He, I think, looked at the hodge-podge of programs — very small programs with very little capacity to do major legal work — and said to himself, “We need some coordinative device to bring those programs together. And we need some program that will take a look at the bigger picture and will take a look at the statewide needs of clients and provide for statewide representation.” And so he, more than anybody, conceived of the idea of having a state support center. In addition to that, there were several other people who were heavily involved, all of whom are still around. One is Bob Spangenberg. Bob, at that point, was the director of the Boston program. He had just started the Boston program in the late ’60s. And he got together with a man named Bill Wells, who’s a lawyer by training, but newspaper reporter and advisor to presidents of colleges. He’s now retired. And Bill and Bob Spangenberg, and a couple of other people, sat down. And legend has it that they were out at a restaurant one night with Al Kramer, and they wrote down on a napkin the outlines of what was to become Mass. Law Reform. At our twentieth anniversary party in 1988, they denied that that was what really happened, and said they were a little more organized than that.

One of the things that happened when I came into Mass. Law Reform in 1968 — where it was in an office at 80 Boylston Street, I looked in the supply cupboard, and I saw on the shelves there these piles of documents. And I said, “What is this?” And so I took a look at them and they were all of the appendices that they had prepared for the original grant application for the state support center at Mass. Law Reform. And they must have been about six inches thick. What they did is they took every conceivable document that they could lay their hands on that illustrated what a state support center could do, including pleadings in litigation, and drafts of legislative bills, and other kinds of ideas. And they plopped them all into this application.

But basically the application — it’s very interesting — described what a state support center should do. And that was really drafted by Bill Wells and Bob Spangenberg, and several other people, with, of course, advice from Vaughan Gearan. And this was drafted during the spring of 1968. And if you look at that draft and that outline, it almost exactly mirrors what state support centers do these days. In other words, the kinds of functions that they describe, the value of having statewide coordination and sharing of information, sharing of activities to avoid duplication, and the necessity to have a statewide focus for advocacy for clients. It was all in there; very far-seeing.

And what happened — the process was that they had drafted this application because Vaughan Gearan showed an interest in this and had talked with them about it and had it available. And the story goes that about June 29, in 1968, a call came from Vaughn Gearan in New York, “Hey, we got some money: 220,000 dollars. You know, send me down an application, and we’ll fund it.” And so they — by whatever express mail they had then — they quickly sent down, by overnight mail, this pile of paper that they had accumulated. And Vaughan Gearan funded it the next day, before the five o’clock deadline.

I’ll also give you another story that’s somewhat amusing. At the same time, the same year, Vaughan Gearan tried to get a center started in Connecticut. And he contacted a lawyer — whose name I’m not going to tell you about — who was kind of a civil rights lawyer, and got that lawyer to agree to put together a similar application. And the lawyer was going to incorporate a nonprofit organization. Well, the lawyer didn’t quite get around to filing the papers on time, and so what happened was Vaughn Gearan funded a Connecticut state support center, but then what happened was somebody inquired about what this center was, and it turned out that they hadn’t filed the papers.

And so the headline in the local paper was: “OEO funds phantom center.” And immediately the game was up. They withdrew the grant. And to this day, Connecticut has never had a state support center. It has, now, a small amount of state support money. But once that chance was lost, no further funding was available to do something similar in Connecticut.

Lonnie Powers: I believe you said that the grant application was developed in the spring of ’69. You meant the spring of ’68?

Allan Rodgers: Yes, ’68.

Lonnie Powers: So Bob Spangenberg, that you mentioned, is now director of — or runs the Spangenberg program?

Allan Rodgers: That’s right. Bob was with the Boston program through the late ’70s. And then he went to Abt & Associates, a consulting firm, and did consulting mostly on criminal justice and court issues. And now he has his own consulting firm and is kind of the leader of legal needs studies across the country.

Lonnie Powers: Right.

Allan Rodgers: He’s done a lot of other work for NLADA. So he’s definitely kept his hand in it.

Lonnie Powers: And where is Vaughn Gearan now?

Allan Rodgers: Vaughn Gearan stayed with OEO and OEO Legal Services. Once the Legal Services Corporation was established in 1974 and ’75, he was in the regional office for many years there. And then when the new people came in, in the early ’80s, he left. And he turned up as the deputy director of Westchester Legal Services. And he was there for many years as the deputy. And he came up to our twentieth anniversary celebration in November of 1988.

He now has left. And, as I understand it, does not have a fixed job. The Westchester Legal Services changed directors recently. And I understand it, Vaughan essentially was reorganized out of a job there because the new director wanted a litigation director instead of an administrative director. And so at the present time, I’m told Vaughan is looking around for new things to do. But —

Lonnie Powers: Well, I’m sure he’ll be successful. You said that the original application contemplated that state support would do essentially the same task that they’re doing now. It might be helpful if you talked a little bit about what those are, or what those were, in —

Allan Rodgers: Yes. First of all, the advocacy — there was strong push towards doing statewide advocacy, which would include legislative advocacy. After all, Al Kramer, who took part in this, was a former legislator. And he recognized the importance of being active in legislature. It included activities with state agencies, federal agencies whose policies affect clients. It included litigation coordination and major litigation, which could be undertaken by the state support center, most likely in coordination with, and sometimes as, co-counsel with the local programs.

It included the idea of task forces. That is, getting together people in certain subject areas or to perform certain functions and sharing information that way. It, of course, included all of the written materials that a state support center might do, such as manuals and practice materials and how to do it. It included a research component, so that the state support center would be able to do research and help local advocates with their cases. It included advice and training. Almost all of the activities that you can think of that we have now catalogued, ad nauseam, were contained in one way or another in that original proposal.

Lonnie Powers: You indicated that there were four or five staff people at the time you took over Mass. Law Reform. Are any of them still around?

Allan Rodgers: They’re still around. I can tell you pretty much who the major ones were. There was Mike Feldman. Mike Feldman was very much of a tiger on — particularly on — court misbehavior. Had a number of lawsuits against judges for misbehavior, including a famous case against Judge Jerome Troy, who was the scourge of the Dorchester District Court, who was later relieved of his duties because of corruption. Mike went from our office to be a staff attorney at Greater Boston Legal Services, under Bob Spangenberg. And then went to become the director of Pine Tree Legal Assistance in Maine in the late ’70s and early ’80s. And now still lives in Maine on a farm and practices law, as I understand it, privately. Larry Kotin was another lawyer, K-O-T-I-N. He came from New York. He was an education specialist. And he had a lot to do with the development of the special education law and regulations in Massachusetts, including — in our work, at that time, was a piece of litigation challenging the at-large election of the Boston School Committee on the grounds that it tended to disenfranchise minority voters. That case was never pursued to conclusion. The clients decided, after a number of years, that they had other avenues they wanted to pursue. Larry went from our office into private practice on his own, and now he heads a growing law firm called Kotin, Crabtree & Strong. One of his partners, Jim Wexler, who was formerly at the Boston program, is on our board now. And Larry and I still sit on the board of the Massachusetts Advocacy Center, which does educational and children’s advocacy. So Larry is still very much in the field and practicing in Boston. Let’s see. Alex Kovell did housing work. He left us and went to work for a state agency. And then to one of the Boston law firms. And I think he’s pretty much in practice on his own in Boston, right now. So we’ve kind of lost track of Alex. So those were the major new staff members, at that point. And we added to the staff quite a bit. We had lots of VISTA volunteers. We had people who came in on a shoestring, and we had very small funding at that point.

Another thing we did early on was that we attracted a very experienced litigator from New York named Mel Zarr. And he was with us — he was my co-director, actually, while he was there. That was the arrangement we did. And Mel did a lot of major litigation. He came from the Legal Defense Fund in New York. And then he left after about three years, to teach at the University of Maine Law School, and he still teaches there, constitutional law and federal courts, and the like. He’s living in Portland.

Just a year after I came, Tony Winsor came into Mass. Law Reform, and Tony is still there. Tony was a recruit from Hale and Dorr, one of the Boston law firms. He was a year after me in law school, and he did a lot of litigation. And he came in, and he took charge of areas like consumer, administrative law, litigation assistance, and the like. And more recently, he’s become a specialist in disability law. And he has spent a lot of time building up a very significant practice in that area. He still does a lot of work on privacy. And he’s also been heavily involved in representing drug addicts, who are having difficulties with their Methadone maintenance programs, and has gotten into the health area and mental health area very significantly. So his work has changed over time, but he stayed pretty much doing the same kind of aggressive work he’s been doing for years.

Lonnie Powers: How many other states had state support grants in ’68?

Allan Rodgers: At that point, there were about five. There was California, the Western Center was started. I don’t know a lot about Western Center beginnings, although I think it was started mainly as a litigation center for California, to do a lot of the major litigation, to coordinate it.
It’s since turned into doing a lot of other work. And the Western Center, early, got into legislative work, as well. People like Brian Paddock, for example, who is now back in California with the Northern California program, was one of the first legislative advocates for California. And I remember collaborating with Brian, particularly on a couple of national conferences on legislative advocacy in the early ’70s. That was before legal services was very heavily involved at all in legislative advocacy. It was the time when people thought that you went to court to cure everything. And so it was a little unusual, but people were starting to get together, even at that time, to say there are other forums where you can go to be useful, and you ought to be. And we ought to be helping legal services advocates to show that this is perfectly appropriate representation and that it’s real important to do that. There were also centers started in Ohio and Michigan and in New Jersey. And those were all independent centers.

Shortly after that, I think around 1971, the Greater Upstate Law Project was established. And that still runs through the Monroe County Legal Assistance, which is the legal services program. But it’s, for all intents and purposes, an independent center. That was pretty much all of the state support centers that were started at that time. And there was an effort nationally to see that this was an important possible link. At that point, also, many of the national support centers had already been established. Most of them connected with law schools, initially. And the thought was that the national centers had some major national work to do and had an enormous constituency to serve, but that there ought to be some intermediate link in the system to try to coordinate statewide advocacy. Particularly in those states that had large numbers of individual field programs.

Lonnie Powers: Was there a strong history of cooperation among the state support centers? You mentioned that you and Brian Paddock had worked on some things together.

Allan Rodgers: There was quite a lot, yes. We had a lot of sharing of information and ideas. I can remember going a couple of times, myself, to several other states that didn’t have state support centers, for example, to try to talk with them about what was involved and what you might do.

I remember going to Pennsylvania, when they first started up a state funded state support center there, funded through Title 20 money, back in the early ’70s, when they were first getting started. And they were a little different in that they were the funding conduit for Title 20 money, which is kind of a difficult act to pull off: to be, at the same time, a funder of local programs and a support center for them. There is, obviously, the potential for conflict there between the two sides.

At that point there was, particularly in the context of these legislative advocacy sessions, quite a lot of mutual sharing of ideas. And we never really had any organization of state support units at that point, that happened later, but I know we used to be on the phone constantly.
Alan Houseman was in Michigan at that point, at the state support center. And we used to have a lot of discussions with him on work. And the people at the Western Center, also; we shared a lot of work with, as well.

Lonnie Powers: So you started out in Massachusetts, and five or six other places, in ’68 and ’69. What was the relationship with OEO at that time?

Allan Rodgers: At that point, this was before Howard Phillips came in. Howard Phillips came in, in 1972, when President Nixon was elected. And — is that right? No, it was after. Yes, may
have been 1971, because Nixon was elected in ’68. At that point, in the early Nixon years, which is what we’re talking about, because Nixon was elected in 1968, there were some fairly neutral people who were in OEO Legal Services, which, at that point, was still part of OEO and still within the executive office of the presidency. So the people who came in were people like Terry Lenzner, who was the young lawyer out of Washington, D.C., who came in and turned out to be quite a strong advocate. Frank Jones, for example, who was with the OEO at that point — and is now living in Boston, active in civil rights there — was the deputy director. They were really quite strong supporters of vigorous legal services, but they clashed a lot with other people within the White House. That was the time when Spiro Agnew was mouthing off about legal services in various ways. Egged-on by some members of Congress and places like lower New Jersey, who were very upset about the activities of legal services on behalf of farm workers. Nothing new.
People in the middle of, for example, a place like Camden, which had been cleared out in urban renewal. Most of the minority community had been cleared out deliberately for it was not clear was going to replace it. And the program was very aggressive in trying to file some massive actions to try to combat that. As a result, there were quite a number of complaints that came into OEO, and pressure began to be put on Terry Lenzner and the other people who succeeded him, to really start clamping down on these lawyers. So even at that time, there were lots of complaints about legislative activity and class actions, in particular. The group that had established itself in Washington, D.C. had invited Howard Phillips of the Conservative Caucus. They started to gather examples of what they considered outrageous cases handled by legal services. So there was an awful lot of opposition and flak. And they had these outside conservative organizations feeding that, just the way they have ever since. So it all started back at that point. What then happened was that Howard Phillips, himself, was brought into OEO supposedly to clean up the program and get rid of it, both OEO and legal services. And his position was one that had to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. And, as you recall, what happened was that he came in, and he started taking some administrative steps, like stopping the checks from coming. And, you know, instituting some bureaucratic requirements that held up program funds and stuff like that. And there were a lot of complaints. And then he opened his mouth once too much, and he started mouthing off about legal services, something like that. He finally became an embarrassment to the administration, and they withdrew his nomination from OEO. And, thereafter, they decided to try to dispose of OEO in other ways, which they finally successfully did, as you know, when they eliminated OEO in the mid-’70s, and put it into — block granted the whole program in the late ’70s. And that was the start, of course, of the effort to try to get legal services free of the executive office of the presidency and the direct political pressures, which were put on the program at that point. I can remember that, as usual, state support, as well as national support, was very much the object of opposition to legal services. At various times, lists of supposed atrocities committed by legal services were circulated around by the new right. And, you know, our program was on every one, with at least two or three examples, all of them almost totally false. In fact, in a number of other national support centers and some of the other state support centers were the primary objects of that opposition. So even back then the opponents of legal services took out against the support centers, what they perceived to be the hub of the radical reform movement of legal services and clients.

Lonnie Powers: Well, what was Mass. Law Reform specifically being accused of by the far right? Give me a couple of examples.

Allan Rodgers: Well, this came a little later. But we were accused of taking part directly in a referendum on a graduated income tax in 1976. That was a little later on. We were accused of getting involved in a lawsuit involving the stopping of a highway, which we did. We had a piece of litigation trying to challenge under the Environmental Policy Act, the new one, a highway extension of Route 93, coming in from the north. There were a lot of people upset about that because they thought that was progress. We ultimately lost the case. That was a criticism, I remember. We were criticized for representing several groups of welfare recipients who were trying to demonstrate and/or hand out leaflets to local welfare offices. And we brought a couple of actions challenging the imposition of some criminal law statutes, which we thought were unduly vague, on the welfare recipients and accusing them of crimes. We were actually successful in both of those pieces of litigation, in getting the statutes narrowed but we were criticized for doing that, quite heavily. I can’t remember the other examples. But, anyway, we always got mentioned.

Lonnie Powers: So we’ve now gotten up until — about the time that I think that the Legal Services Corporation began to be discussed as a possibility. How many state support centers were there at that time? Were there still the six or seven?

Allan Rodgers: Still pretty much. But, at that point, there was an effort in a number of states to get the field programs together to talk about how they could set up some sort of state support unit. And I know this occurred in places like Kentucky and Tennessee, for example. At that point, some of the programs actually did decide that they would give some of their own money on a pro rata basis to establish some sort of unit. And one of the programs was to start performing some of the coordinative functions of state support. At that point — and these must have occurred in four or five or six states. There were these home-grown efforts to try to get some sort of capacity in state support in those states that had multiple legal services programs. At that point there was quite a lot of consolidation that was being done by LSC. This is before expansion.

In Massachusetts, for example, we consolidated and reduced the number of programs. In some states, like New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, and Rhode Island, in New England, programs were consolidated into statewide programs, so that one program covered the entire state. The statewide programs — I know we had a number of discussions with them about how they would, themselves, create the kind of support apparatus that they needed in their own program because they, in many ways, mirrored us. They have, you know, five, six, seven, eight different local offices in — of course, in one program. So there was quite a lot of discussion about that.

At that same time, Alan Houseman, among others, moved over to the Legal Services Corporation and the Research Institute. And the people in the Corporation began to be very interested in seeing whether the Corporation ought to have a policy on state support. At that point a number of people developed the policy. They put it to the new board. The board approved it. And as part of the expansion of funding, there gradually was money freed up in the general legal services appropriation for state support units. And the planning process for this took place largely right at the end of the ’70s and in the early ’80s. And what the Corporation did first was that they invited all states to go through a state support planning process. And they gave out small grants to each state to cover the costs. And they asked programs to get all of the field program advocates and clients together to go through an orderly process, discussing what the needs were for state support and then coming in with a plan to the Corporation.

All states, except for around eight, did that. There were around seven or eight that just didn’t get anything going. They, unfortunately, lost out and were not able to get state support grants because they didn’t apply but the rest of the states did. They all got together, and they came in with plans. And in the late ’70s and early ’80s, the Corporation deliberately expanded state support, which, at that point, had been funded somewhere around three or four million, up to around seven or eight or nine million dollars. So, it was a major expansion of state support.

It coincided pretty much with the expanded funding for legal services programs as a whole, in many cases coordinated with it. For example, in many states in the south and southwest — which were the least-funded states before because they just got into the cycle too late — when the field program expansion came along, with it came an effort to create a state support center of some kind. The differences, though, were pretty significant, and that is because of local conditions, because of the difficulty of trying to get started and fund an independent nonprofit that would be a state support program. Most of those state support program grants were run through field programs of one kind or another.

And what happened, as a result of that, was kind of a Jerry built system of funding with a real lack of clarity about what the accountability was, which board or which group of people that the state support center had to answer to. They, of course, had to answer to the board of the program that was their host program for the funding. But they also, in many cases, had advisory committees. In many cases, the project directors of the field programs wanted to have a strong say in what the state support center was going to do so that they would constitute a kind of advisory group or informal advisory group to try to control the project. So that — because of funding limitations, simply, at that time, many of the centers got started with very small grants.
I think what you see typically, today, is that the typical legal services state support center is funded through another field program, which sometimes works well but other times does not work well because the local program really just feels antsy about it, or has some problem with their work, or doesn’t exercise any oversight at all, practically speaking. And most of those centers are very small. They have, at most, three or four staff members –
[Break in recording]

Lonnie Powers: — states with programs that were self-funded by the programs, and that those didn’t — they had some special characteristics and difficulties. Talk about that a little more, if you would.

Allan Rodgers: Well, it was very interesting. Some of this has continued to this day. There have been arrangements, which have supplemented the eventual state support grant that was done originally. And that is programs, in effect, sharing some additional expenses or making sure that the state support center has enough money or a program fund to do such things as train.

That happened, I would say, in somewhere between six and ten states. There was a strong interest in trying to take advantage of sharing some facilities and activities. A realization that, you know, a significant number of states with a significant amount of programs, would find it difficult to do such things, as training and conferences and written materials, by themselves. Most of it focused on the non-advocacy parts of state support work, although, increasingly, there was interest in being active in the legislature, as well. That might be a typical thing. But these efforts got together largely through leadership of the project directors in the particular state.

And then a typical thing might be — Tennessee, as I recall it — Tennessee got started in, I would say, probably around ’77, ’78, ahead of the significant funding. It started through a sharing of funds from the programs. They hired, at that point, Leanna Gipson, who was only a couple of years out of law school, who had been an activist in a whole variety of fronts before that. And she took what was a fledgling state support program there and built it into, you know, a very active and aggressive but small unit in Tennessee that not only did a lot of training and coordination but also started a legislative program. And then that program also got a state support grant out of the state support planning process in the late — probably around ’79 or ’80.

So that was fairly typical of how these small centers built up, but I think probably to this day Tennessee only has a couple of hundred thousand dollars. Probably has very little funds from other sources. And that’s a real problem that we’re trying to deal with right now, is that you have tremendous inequalities in funding across the country because all of the funding efforts stopped, in essence, when we came to the early ’80s, and Congress cut twenty-five percent out of the LSC budget.

So the Corporation’s plan was gradually, over a period of time, to build up these state centers, to have a state center in every state, and to gradually increase the funding so that it would become a significant size and a real factor. And everything stopped around 1981, and it was only the first phase of that growth which could be completed. And so we’re — even at this point — left with a very much an unfinished agenda in state support growth.

Lonnie Powers: So OEO had, as I understand it, sort of a — except for maybe Vaughan Gearan and a few other people — a hands-off attitude towards state support. They funded a few programs where people wanted them. When the Legal Services Corporation actually started in business in — what? ’75? ’76?

Allan Rodgers: ’75, yeah.

Lonnie Powers: — ’75, was their attitude different towards state support?

Allan Rodgers: My recollection is that at first there was not a particular focus on that. As you probably know, in the debates over the LSC Act in 1974, it really was the national support centers was the focus of a lot of the opposition. And you’ll remember the Green amendment: Representative Green, from Oregon, put out an amendment that was designed to stop the advocacy activities of the national support centers. And, ultimately, because of, I think, appropriate interpretation of the language that she used, they did not quite accomplish that. And that was then changed in the ’77 act.

But the numbers of state support centers were so small. And even though they were visible to the opponents of legal services, there wasn’t a lot of specific attention on state support at the time that the Corporation came in. Of course, those places that had it continued to get increased grants and to compete for increased funds for various kinds of functions. The new Corporation spent a lot of time and emphasis on management and training issues. And, of course, worked with the small number of state support centers very closely in accomplishing that.

But until, I would say, ’76, ’77, when Alan Houseman and some of the new people came in, who specifically felt that we should have a direct focus on statewide activity, we didn’t get a lot of specific attention at first —

Lonnie Powers: So Alan Houseman had been the director of the state support center in Michigan and became director of the —

Allan Rodgers: — the Research Institute, which, ironically enough, was started because of the Green amendment. The notion was that certain kinds of research and activities which had been performed by the national support centers now had to be done in-house by the Corporation.
So Alan Houseman was hired, in essence, to head-up an effort to do that kind of work, and he did that kind of work. But he also, of course being a staff member there, you know, was involved in a lot of the studies that went on. The studies, for example, of — were required by Congress about reaching hard-to-reach clients, such as the elderly and, you know, prisoners and farm workers, and various things like that. He was responsible for that. The so-called 1007 study, I think it was. I’ve forgotten the number. And he was also responsible for developing new national support centers where needed, in certain substantive areas. And the Corporation later, in ’70, did fund several more new national support centers in areas that had not had a support center at that point. And then he also, of course, took a close look at the state support network.

At that point I think he anticipated, because of block granting that was occurring, for example, that Congress was approving in the mid-’70s, that the shift of responsibility for a lot of the programs that our clients depend upon was beginning to be shifted from the federal government to the state government, at that point. It was pretty clear to see that was the agenda of some people, who simply wanted to move some of the responsibility to the states.

So you could see that down the road there was going to become an increasing need for advocacy and coordination at the state level. So it seemed to make sense to try to beef up that level in legal services, as well.

Lonnie Powers: Was this effort to beef up state support part of the national agenda to move from national training events, and that sort of thing, to state and regional training?

Allan Rodgers: They were not necessarily linked, as I recall it, in the discussions. But because it was at that time, from 1975 to ’80, that was the peak of national training events. You’ll remember that there was a National Institute at Catholic University in Washington. Well, maybe that was a little earlier. But anyway, there were contracted programs, and there was an effort by the national office to try to put on a lot of events on a national basis. Most of what was going on — originally, there was national in character. Then there began to be some efforts to fund training efforts in the states. And then the intermediate status was the development of the training coordinators in the regional offices of LSC.

Each regional office — just about each one had at least one person who was hired specifically in order to focus on training for legal services in their own region. Those people had a lot to do with helping to put on and fund various training events. And at that point things were transferred down more to the regional level and less at the national level. It was at that point where there was a fair amount of criticism of relying so heavily on national events. There was criticism that it was unduly costly, that there were problems of programs paying for the heavy costs of getting to events that may be at distant locations. A criticism that a lot of the events took place over too long a period of time — consecutive time, and it was a real loss to offices, and a feeling that there ought to be ways of trying to deliver some of this training on a local basis more.

So the evolution of training started then, but it started, at first, from a very strong national effort. Then it was regionalized. And then finally, in the early ’80s, the corporation completed the cycle in what I think is a very logical way. Although, in part, it was motivated by trying to keep some of the training apparatus in place after the cuts in the early 1980s, and that is to establish the regional training centers and to put the emphasis on local: local state and regional training. That persists to this day. Although the amount of money that the Corporation actually directly devoted to training was cut from about six million dollars, or something like that, around 1980, down to around six — well, I think it was 600 or — 600,000, through the regional training centers. So there was a tremendous drop in the provision of resources for training by the Corporation.

Lonnie Powers: Are the regional training centers located in state support centers around the country?

Allan Rodgers: It’s mixed. There are two state support centers: California Western Center and Mass. Law Reform, for the northeast. Two of them — another three are in field programs. Field program in Indiana, the one in Arkansas — and what’s the third one? Colorado training center, Western Regional Training Center. So I think what the Corporation did, I know we had some discussions with them. And what they looked around for was programs, not necessarily support centers or field programs, that looked like they were very stable and solid, were in communities that looked like they would, you know, do a good job and protect the functions, and that had the capacity to, they thought, to carry out the grant functions in the way they were intended. The same thing happened with computer-assisted legal research. We were also the host program for that. And, again, it’s a mixture of support centers. There are four support centers and one field program and then the Clearinghouse Review were selected for those grants, to be done on a regional basis.

Lonnie Powers: Do the programs in Massachusetts contribute to the funding for Mass. Law Reform?

Allan Rodgers: They do in several ways explicitly, and, of course, they do indirectly in many ways. The direct ways are that we have long had a very extensive legislative adequacy program: bills, budget, a group of items. And at one time that was funded wholly by Mass. Law Reform and Greater Boston Legal Services, through staff that we had on board.

In the early 1980s, the staff at both GBLS and Mass. Law Reform that had been involved in doing the legislative advocacy had left for other jobs. And we both sat down and decided, well, this is a time, maybe, to re-examine how we do our legislative advocacy. What we did is that we entertained, both of us, applications both from individuals who wanted full staff positions and applications from people who wanted to do it on a consultant basis. And what happened was Judy Meredith, who was a well-regarded, well-known human services lobbyist, decided to apply for her firm to do lobbying for both Mass. Law Reform and GBLS. And we both agreed to do that. And then we contracted with Meredith & Associates to do that, starting in the early ’80s.

In the middle 1980s, Greater Boston had a financial crisis and had to reduce its allocation. At that point, I went to the other field programs, and I said, “It’s too much for us to make up, under the circumstances.” We all were struggling at that point. And the program directors agreed to small assessments to make up part of the difference. At that point, the total amount was something like thirteen thousand dollars. Since then, at various times, we’ve increased the cost of that or the expenses have increased, and the programs have agreed to higher assessments; so they now contribute, I would say, roughly a quarter of the legislative advocacy expenses. In addition to that, programs do also pay by paying fees for training events. We have to charge for training events because of the high costs of — particularly where we have equipment or outside people we have to bring in. And typically programs will pay. We try to keep the fees down as much as possible and subsidize out of our funds as much as possible. But if we didn’t ask for fees, we would be able to put on far fewer events. And so the programs pay, in that way, directly by paying for staff members to attend the training conferences that we have. Some of the training events and conferences we put on for no charge; so it varies.

Indirectly, the programs really contribute a lot, and this is something that I think is really a wonderful feature of the work we do in Massachusetts. And I’m sure this is repeated in a number of other places, and that is, I’ve always looked on state support as a two-way street. We provide help. We’ve got lots of responsibilities to help the advocates and programs represent their clients better, and we do a wide range of activities. And I hope we’re very responsive and helpful to people, as we should be. But we also get a lot of help, in kind, from field program people. They contribute by attending coalition meetings, contributing their ideas, sending materials in, making calls, and alerting us to new things that are going on or new problems that they see clients having, so we can have an idea of what’s starting; we can get on top of it and try to discuss with everybody what to do. Co-counsel, in litigation — sometimes what happens is that a client problem comes in to us initially because of our warning system. And then we will call around, and programs will actively look at their client list to see whether they have clients who may be affected by the same thing. Or if clients come in, they will end up participating in litigation on a co-counsel basis. Sometimes we recruit people to come in, with the notion that maybe we, with some of our more-experienced people, can help get less-experienced people some experience in litigation. So we get a lot of time spent by staff members on a lot of the statewide advocacy. And this is true in the legislative sphere, where we ask people to respond to legislative alerts or get involved in one way or another in talking with their local legislators or other people in their community about certain kinds of client problems and how they can be addressed through legislation.

The same is true on administrative regulations, where there are new regulations that are put out, and we’ll put out an alert. A number of program people will look at those proposed regulations and then comment on them from the basis of their own client experiences and it goes on and on and on. In training events, we are able to do training events so cost-effectively because we get a lot of personal time by field program people, both as trainers and facilitators, at all of our training events. People are very willing to give their time, and we’ve got a lot of talented people in the field programs. So I always feel that it’s not just one side giving or taking. It really is very much a mutual thing and I think that’s a good way to get the most out of people. We press people for time. We convene a lot of meetings. We send out a lot of alerts to people saying, you know, “Please do this, please do that, if you have clients.” Sometimes people feel that we strain their time, and we probably do. Ultimately, they’ve got to decide what they can do and what their priorities are, but we get some great responsiveness in Massachusetts.

Lonnie Powers: Good. In terms of dealing with the Legal Services Corporation, you mentioned that Alan Houseman had gone to work for the Corporation and of course was interested in state support. Were there other people at the national level, and were there leaders among the directors of state support programs that worked on this missionary effort?

Allan Rodgers: Yes; although, I think it really pretty much came out of the Washington people. At that point, you had some people in regional offices. You had Clint Lyons who was down in Atlanta at that point and later came to the Corporation. And Clint was a fan of building up state support and supporting entities generally. Bucky Askew, same thing. There were a number of other staff members in the Washington office who seemed to feel this is very important. Particularly those people who had worked on legislative activities, for example, and worked with federal agencies at the federal level and saw the need to do this from the state level as equally important. When they first got together, they had the usual advisory committee that they set up for the process. And a number of us were on that, including some field program people as well, because obviously the whole legal services community, you know, was consulted on this new direction by the Corporation. But, generally speaking, there were some people in field programs who were a little apprehensive about the use of money for these purposes. There were some people who had been critical of some of the national centers because of their supposed lack of responsiveness or their remoteness.

There were some people — I remember one discussion in particular, where we talked about the need to have more of a presence in Washington, D.C., so that the national centers and our field people could be more active in commenting on administrative regulations and developments in Congress. And I remember a number of project directors of field programs being very uneasy about that. Thinking that, well, you get a lot of people who go to Washington, and they’ll get all heady. They’ll get all caught up in the Congressional stuff, and they’ll forget all of it, you know, out in the field programs. And, you know, what’s the real connection between what they’re going to do in Washington, you know, with the politicians, and what we really need in field programs.

So there were quite a lot of, you know, strong arguments made against that kind of activity. And in fact, at one point I remember Brian Paddock being brought in by the Corporation for a period of time to try to develop some sort of more coordinated national presence of legal services in Washington, and pretty much got shot down. I mean, there was enough opposition and uneasiness about it, so that the Corporation felt, for a variety of reasons, that it wouldn’t do that. Although it did encourage a number of national centers to set up Washington offices if they didn’t already have them. And a number of them did that, subsequently. But you still have, I think — and this is perhaps, in my experience, more true of project directors, maybe, than field program staff — some doubts about whether support centers are really doing the kinds of things that they feel they need as programs in legal services. Some feelings that maybe the support centers ought to be more the servants than the masters.

In our state, for example, there’s some uneasiness expressed by project directors from time to time about whether or not the coalition activity and all of the networking that we do unduly influences the views of staff members about what they should being doing — so that when they come back to their programs and start discussing priorities and allocation of work, that maybe the statewide agendas play too much of a part in the thinking of at least staff members of the programs. And we’ve had some discussions about that in Massachusetts. So the role of support centers has always been met with some ambivalence, I think it’s fair to say, by field people.

Over the years, it’s fair to say that the competent performance, by and large, by support center people, their accessibility, their willingness to do really what people want them to do and not to try to take over cases — I’ve always said, for example, that a support center is no place for somebody with an ego, and if you’re a loner, or somebody who likes to do their own thing and don’t like to work cooperatively with people and don’t have the attitude that it’s your job to serve people who call, and not just to kind of do your own thing — if we hire those kind of people who do have that kind of attitude, they will do effective support work, and they will get the confidence of the people and the staff. And that will really show, you know, the strength of the support centers. So I think over the years, the support centers have really gained a lot of confidence of people who were doubters. Some still are.

The most recent development that is a little disheartening to me, though, just to kind of bring us up to date a bit, is that in the competition for IOLTA funds in a lot of states, the field programs, whether knowingly or not — plus, I think, some of the hesitations of the IOLTA programs about funding things like legislative advocacy and class actions — have caused a lot of the smaller state support centers not to be able to participate in IOLTA funding in a lot of states.

Some of that has to do with rivalries between project directors and the state support center. Others have to do with local circumstances, where certain kinds of activities are kind of off-bounds with IOLTA funds. But the effect has been, ironically, that those states with the larger, older state support centers have managed to do very well in fund-raising for nonfederal funds. Those smaller state support centers that we talked about that were established in the late ’70s that only got to a certain size because the funds were cut off at the federal level, had not been able to grow, even with the significant growth of nonfederal funds over the last ten years and that is really distressing. I know we, in the National Organization of State Support Units, which is the national association which was established in the early ’80s and has been very active for state support since then, has got a study going. We’re going to try to see if we can come up with some recommendations to do something about that because we’d like to see significant state support activity in every state. And we think it makes sense, and we think it can work in cooperation with the programs.

Lonnie Powers: Let me shift just a little bit to look at, more specifically, at some of the work you’ve been doing. What would you say are the two or three biggest disappointments and triumphs that you’ve seen with Mass. Law Reform and state support, generally, in the twenty years or plus you’ve been doing this?

Allan Rodgers: I think probably the largest gains had been over a period of time, transforming various areas of law for clients from areas where clients had very few rights and very few chances to avoid some serious consequences, to places where clients have really got a serious shot, even without representation, but especially with representation. And the areas you have to look at are utility law. We always laugh in Massachusetts, when we first came in, utilities could turn off services to people for any reason. No regulations, no rights, no nothing. They had their own internal kind of modest notice periods, but that was it. And we started at Mass. Law Reform, when I first arrived. Mike Feldman was the one who started it, and then we all carried it on, some rule-making proceedings at the Department of Public Utilities. And gradually, we got significant changes and protections for clients, for certain vulnerable groups of clients. We got security deposits for gas and electric eliminated. We’re the only state in the country, I think still, that has done that. We got that done administratively. And we all like to say now that there is in effect a right to utility service, except in certain circumstances, in Massachusetts. The companies have come around from a point where they were very resistant because of more traditional collections attitude that they had. They’ve now come around — and we’ve promoted this many times over the years, to the position that it’s in their interest, in many cases, that they keep people being customers, rather than shut them off. They have collaborated with us in helping to get fuel assistance, and other kind of emergency assistance in other kinds of programs that they can help clients pay the bills. And they have their own programs, in many cases, where they raise funds to give the people who are needy or having trouble paying their bill. So that’s a significant change. It used to be that utility shutoff cases and service cases were a large proportion or a significant proportion of the program cases. There are now almost no cases. They’re all handled informally by the Consumer Division of the Department of Public Utilities, which we had a lot to do with setting up. There are some awfully good people in there, lot of former advocates in fuel assistance programs. And, you know, the thing works for clients.

Second is landlord/tenant, where of course we started with, you know, a tremendous imbalance in favor of landlords. Then gradually, over a period of years, we built up rights, including rights to enforce code enforcement, rights to damages, and abatement, and the like. To a point where, again, if you’ve got an advocate and you have a place that has any kind of code violation, you’re likely to be able to have a good shot at saving your tenancy, if you want to, and/or get significant damages in return which is becoming increasingly important these days, with all of the housing shortage and the homelessness phenomenon. Keeping people in their existing homes has become a major goal of legal services and legal services clients. So that’s a major area.

In public assistance benefits, of course, we established all of the procedural rights. We had litigation that established timeliness requirements, fair hearing processes, and the like. That’s pretty standard with most places. Those are all in place, and those tend to work well.

The fair hearing systems for example, welfare and unemployment, and even social services, which we had a lot to do with shaping, I think work reasonably well. If you’re an advocate, in particular, people do very well there, I think it’s fair to say. Although I have to say, also, in the overwhelming majority of cases, people don’t have advocates in that system. But sometimes they even win there. So that, I think, has gone well. What we’ve managed to do over a period of time is to build up a lot of programs, benefit programs for people. We have really saved and built up the emergency assistance program, which is a safety valve for people who could qualify for it, if they have back utility bills or rent, or whatever. They don’t want to have to move. And we saved that through litigation in the ’80s — I mean, ’70s, late ’70s. The state was ready to dump it. They’ve tried to cut it back in various ways. We’ve been successful. And then we finally got it expanded, again, in 1983, as kind of a homelessness prevention measure. So that has gone around a number of ways. It’s, of course, now under attack again. So, I think those lifelines for clients have been really very, very impressive and essential.

We had quite a lot to do with housing production programs and the like. Trying to get more low-income housing units, a lot of other people have been involved in that as well. I think those are major efforts. In disability rights, we’ve got a constitutional amendment, a lot of protections against discrimination. We now have the Disability Benefits Project, which wasn’t our doing, in particular. But a lot of advocacy for people in those kinds of situations.

As far as the disappointments are concerned, there are a number of them. There is an up-to-poverty program campaign by one of our client groups, starting in the early ’80s to raise welfare grants, which are way below even the poverty line. And while grants did increase in the early ’80s, when the state had some money, we haven’t had a grant increase in AFDC for three years. It’s abominable the levels people have to live with. That campaign, I think it’s fair to say, did cause some increases. But there still is the basic lack of political will to spend the money. And it’s not a lot of money that the state would have to spend compared with what else they fund in order to bring AFDC and GR recipients up to some sort of subsistence level. And that’s a serious disappointment. We came close a number of times in getting some progress.

Another personal disappointment with me has been the whole welfare fraud area. I do a lot of litigation with GBLS and other programs on computer matches. And to this day, we have been unsuccessful in trying to curb a welfare fraud investigating agency at the state level, called the Bureau of Special Investigations. They investigate almost everybody who has an overpayment. They’re very coercive. They, you know, coerce people into agreeing to repay amounts, which are inflated and sometimes just plain wrong. And we have been unsuccessful, so far, in doing a lot of things to try to cut down that system. It’s just almost impossible to beat it.

So those are, I think, some personal disappointments. I, of course, am very disappointed that a lot of things are being cut back now. Even in this day and age, when we first had our state budget crisis starting around two years ago, everybody said, “Well, of course, we won’t cut the programs for the poor. We’ll cut everybody else. And we won’t repeat what happened in the mid- ’70s, when we also had a huge financial crisis where there were explicit welfare and unemployment cuts that were made as the price of trying to create financial stability, to raise new tax money to satisfy the business community.”

This time everybody says it isn’t going to happen. Well, in fact it is happening, all the same kinds of cuts are happening. Indiscriminate. Across the board. You even see cuts in programs where you can show that the state’s going to lose money by not spending money now. The Disability Benefits Project is a good example of that. But there are lots of others, preventive programs that the state has funded very sensibly, and they’re just cutting them back and cutting them out with almost no thought to the fact that they’re probably going to end up spending a lot more down the road. So it’s very disappointing that, you know, we haven’t been able to make more of a dent. On the other hand, I have to say that along with that, if we hadn’t been around in the legislature the last two years, the damage would have been much more severe. It was nothing short of a miracle to have virtually no cuts made to benefits and services to the undocumented where two years ago you thought that the undocumented were going to be run out of the state. Through some very effective efforts by client coalitions and, you know, legal services advocates, we managed to stave off disaster. And, you know, maybe that issue has cooled down a little bit, and maybe we won’t have as much of a threat for the future. But those are examples of the kinds of things that we were able to do to save things, but it’s not much consolation. We’re in bad times.

Lonnie Powers: We are in bad times. And we’ve been going on now for a while. So it may be appropriate to ask you why you’re still doing this, after twenty-two years, working in state support.

Allan Rodgers: Well, it’s that I’ve never necessarily been a fan of the grass is greener in other places, [laughter] although I’ve had lots of temptations. I can’t think of a kind of activity and a kind of work which is more exciting, more stimulating, in a more general sense, and with a group of people that are more fun and heartening to be with. And I just can’t conceive that there’s any more important work than this. And so every time I’ve been tempted, I said, “Well, you aren’t going to do better than this, in terms of the satisfaction and impact, and everything like that.”

The other thing that’s been very exciting, particularly in recent years, is that we have done, at Mass. Law Reform, quite a lot of thinking about the structure of programs and quite a lot of broad thinking about what kinds of new programs you might devise, changes you might make, things you might be able to do even at the state level. And a lot of thinking about, you know, where this country has gone wrong, and where we might be able to do things more successfully. And some of those things we’ve launched at the state level. The Health Security Act in many ways, in which we did the client representation for on, was part of that. And there is a broader health care reform effort that is going on; we’re also heavily involved in. We’ll be involved in a very ambitious plan to try to reform long-term care. That’s about to be put into final shape. We’ve had a lot of influence and done a lot of thinking about housing programs and how they can better serve the poor. And Mass. Law Reform and a private law firm did the legal work for a new report on long-term housing affordability that has just been released by Citizen’s Housing and Planning Association. We’re working on a welfare reform project, under a foundation grant, to try to see whether there is a better cash assistance and a better welfare-to-work approach than we’ve had so far that’s more comprehensive. So on all of those fronts, I think you can say, you know, we’ve had the opportunity and have taken advantage of it to do some serious thinking about, you know, where both the country and the state are headed.

And in many ways, it may seem perverse that out of chaos can come some opportunities. But it may be, ironically, that now, with the states in such disarray and the state government in such disrepute, that you may have some opportunities to move forward on some of these things that you might not have at other times, when things are more stable. We shall see.

Lonnie Powers: We shall. Well, thank you, Allan. You talked about the possible opportunity to move forward, now that things are in disarray in state government. But have there been some instances where you’ve achieved some victories, and the implementation of them was more unusual than you thought? You mentioned the telephone company before.

Allan Rodgers: Well, there was one episode. We got involved on behalf of clients in challenging the practices of New England Telephone Company and customer service terminations and security deposits, and the like. This was in the mid-’70s. And we brought an adjudicatory proceeding, a fact-finding proceeding before the Department of Public Utilities. And they fought it tooth and nail, and we got a lot of information and put it all in the record. And then it appeared that the Department was ready to do something along the lines that we wanted. And the telephone company finally backed down. And they agreed to negotiate some regulations, and we put them out.

Then after that, having pounded away at them in the proceeding, and otherwise, about how they really had to change their practices and attitudes, they decided they would go to the opposite extreme. Because now that they had these regulations, they had to comply with them; they had to convince their people who, of course, they had told before shouldn’t be doing these things, that they now had to completely change their practices. So what they did is they decided to videotape a number of consumer advocates. I was one. And we all went in and went into the studio. And we gave our pitches about why it was important for them to understand people’s problems and understand the plight of poor people, and the need that they had for telephone service. And that it was no longer a luxury, it was a necessity, and all of those kinds of pitches that we kept making.

And they did, they put together this video thing. And I understand, several years later, that they showed it for a number of years within the telephone company in an effort, from the top-down, to convince all those line people that they’ve really got to change their practices and be more and it pretty much worked. One thing you have to say about hierarchal organizations is that when the word comes down from the top that you’re supposed to do it, well, people generally respond. And ever since then, the telephone company has, by and large, not been a problem with customer service practices. They’ve learned to live with the regulations. And, you know, we have very few calls or complaints about what’s happening. There are advantages in working with some organizations that can wave a wand and make it happen.

Lonnie Powers: Just before we close, you said when Mass. Law Reform first got a grant from OEO, there were four or five employees. How many people are there now?

Allan Rodgers: We now have, believe it or not, twenty-eight employees, which is the largest we’ve ever been. Several of them — three of them, are funded under the regional training center grant and three under the computer-assisted legal research. Those are special grants for which we are the grantee for a larger region than Massachusetts. But the rest are funded by a combination of federal funds and state funds. And one of the things I have to say is that this year our state funds started to exceed our federal funds for the first time. And that is a very significant achievement, and not the least due to you, Mass. Legal Assistance Corporation and the organized bar and legal services, in getting tremendous infusion of money, which has been a real morale booster and has made us able to do a lot more things than we were doing on a whole bunch of fronts.

So at a time when the clients are getting clobbered, we feel reinforced and sustained. And we feel we have a strong program. And we look forward to trying to do battle with all of the problems that the clients have, and see if we can get over this serious state fiscal crisis. And, I hope, look forward to some better times, when we can start thinking about some more significant advances for clients. But we feel very, very invigorated and strong, I know, in our program and in Massachusetts in general.

Lonnie Powers: Good. Do you have anything else that you want to record here?

Allan Rodgers: No, thank you.

Lonnie Powers: Well, thank you, Allan. And this is Lonnie Powers, and we’re now concluding this interview.


END