Lenzner-Jones Firing

1969: OEO creates Office of Legal Services (OLS) headed by Terry Lenzner

In 1969, during the very early days of the Nixon Administration, the legal services program was elevated within OEO with the creation of the Office of Legal Services (OLS), headed by an associate director of OEO who reported directly to the OEO director. Terry Lenzner, a young Harvard Law School graduate who had worked at the Justice Department, became the new director of OLS. He hired as his deputy Frank Jones, a former Reggie who had worked in legal services programs and who later became the executive director of NLADA.

November 20, 1970: OEO Director Donald Rumsfeld fires Terry Lenzner and Frank Jones

As had been true during its earlier history, infighting within OEO was again rampant, particularly over the issue of including legal services within a reorganized regional structure. OEO Director Donald Rumsfeld decided to shift grant-making authority and supervision of the legal services program to “generalist” OEO regional directors. The ABA, the National Advisory Committee, and other legal services supporters opposed this move, arguing that legal services would be run by non-lawyer political appointees who would curb the independence of the program. The plan was never implemented, but in the course of the dispute, Rumsfeld fired Lenzner and Jones, both of whom had supported independence for the legal services program and had opposed  regionalization. In addition, the National Advisory Committee was disbanded.

The firings were far more significant than a mere fight over internal bureaucratic issues. They symbolized the growing disparity in views between the Nixon Administration and legal services supporters over the role and functions of the legal services program.