Rulli, Louis 2016

Last modified: 2021-02-21 01:22
Storyteller: Rulli, Louis
Interviewer: Houseman, Alan
Date of interview: 2016-04-26
Length: 0:45:58

Topics: Access to justice, Civil legal aid: General, and Community law offices
Geo, US: PA
Lists:
Medium: Video
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NEJL I.D.: NEJL-009.101
Georgetown status: Video upon request
Georgetown notes: summary, bio note, keywords
Link to NEJL page: http://aspace.ll.georgetown.edu/public/repositories/2/archival_objects/393
NEJL AV link:

Video status:
Video notes:

Transcript link: Transcript
Transcript status: DeleteMeSoon
Transcript notes:

Consortium status: Gtn info copied
Consortium notes:

Excerpt:

Executive director of Community Legal Services in Philadelphia where he started his career. Then University of Pennsylvania law professor.



Bibliographic citation:

Abstract: The interview was conducted at Community Legal Services in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Description

Bio note
From https://www.law.upenn.edu/cf/faculty/lrulli/:
Louis Rulli possesses expertise in public interest law, legislation, litigation, and clinical legal education, and has written and lectured extensively on access to justice for the poor. He is the recipient of the University-wide Provost’s Award for Distinguished Teaching (2006), Penn Law’s Beacon Award for exemplary faculty commitment to pro bono service (2012), Community Legal Services’ Champion of Justice Award (2012), Villanova University’s Praxis Award in Professional Ethics (2015), and the AALS Father Robert Drinan Award (2019).

Prior to joining the Penn Law faculty, Rulli was the executive director of Community Legal Services in Philadelphia. He is a past chairman of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Commission on Judicial Selection and Retention, a founding member of the Pennsylvania IOLTA Board, and a member of the Judicial Ethics Ad Hoc Committee that recommended changes to the Code of Judicial Conduct to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. He served on Mayor Jim Kenney’s Transition Team and Policy and Planning Committee (2015) and is a former chairperson of the Local Rules Committee on Domestic Violence of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. He also is a former member of the Third Circuit’s Task Force on Equal Treatment in the Courts and the Editorial Board of the Legal Intelligencer.

He currently serves as a member of the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s House of Delegates and is the Access to Justice Advisor to the Board of Governors and Cabinet of the Philadelphia Bar Association. He formerly served on the governance boards of Community Legal Services, Philadelphia Legal Assistance, Friends of Farmworkers, and the Women’s Law Project.

Rulli is only the second person to receive the Pennsylvania Bar Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award, presented to an individual who has demonstrated substantial leadership in the creation and continuation of pro bono programs.

Full text of transcript

Consortium for the National Equal Justice Library
Oral History Collection
Interview with
Louis Rulli
Conducted by Alan Houseman
April 26, 2016

Alan Houseman:
This is an oral history of Louis Rulli, who was the former executive director of Community Legal Services in Philadelphia and then a law professor at University of Pennsylvania. The interviewer is Alan Houseman for the National Equal Justice Library. The date is April 26th, 2016, and we are doing this at the CLS offices in Philadelphia. Louis, I’d like to begin by having you tell us some background about you, where you grew up, where you went to college and law school, and your positions at CLS, and then your work at Penn. Then we’ll come back and talk in more depth.

Louis Rulli:
First, let me just say, Alan, it’s a great pleasure to be here with you. You know that I’m a great admirer of you and so I just want to say that up front. All the help that you have always been to Community Legal Services has always meant a great deal to me.

Louis Rulli:
I guess I’ll begin the story in New York City. I grew up in New York City. I spent my first 16 years in high rise public housing in New York City. I think that probably shaped much of my views and much of what I thought and continue to think is important about the work that is done here at Community Legal Services and what our justice system should look like for poor people, and for all Americans. I had the great privilege of living in public housing and living in and among folks that were diverse not only of race and gender and ethnicity but also of income because, at that time, public housing had a little bit more flexibility in income. I thought that was really important because I watched families helping families, families who had maybe a little bit more resources than the next family. So maybe that’s something we can return to about public housing and where I think maybe we need to improve.

Louis Rulli:
In 1963, ’64, my father was a civilian employee at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and it closed. We got a choice. What happens as a government civilian employee is he got a choice of a couple of spots that he could transfer to. One was Guam and the other was Philadelphia. My father came home one day and said, “We’re going to Guam.” My mother said, “We’re going to Philadelphia.” So that’s what brought me to Philadelphia. While I love New York City, I must say that I love Philadelphia and I stayed and spent my entire professional career in here in Philadelphia, with certainly no regrets at all.

Louis Rulli:
I went to public schools all of my life. PS20, then Junior High School 189, and Flushing High School in Queens. I also went to public schools and institutions for college and law school. I went to Rutgers University. I was very fortunate to go on full scholarship, both for college and for law school. So that was for me a very important investment by the public in me. I think that, too, probably helped to shape my own thoughts about an obligation that I had to give back because of the opportunities that I had. While in law school, I knew that I wanted to be a poverty lawyer. So one day I walked into the offices at 4053 Market Street, which was at that time the west Philadelphia neighborhood office of Community Legal Services, the first neighborhood law center in all of Pennsylvania. I liked what I saw, particularly the people who worked there.

Louis Rulli:
Janet Stotland was the managing attorney of Law Center West of Community Legal Services. She took me under her wing. It’s really an important lesson that I’ve tried to keep with me of how someone can really be a mentor for you and a real help for you in defining what’s important and where you might want to go. Janet played that role and as did so many folks in our Law Center West office. I was there as a law student. I liked it so much. I applied to be a staff attorney at Community Legal Services and was very pleased that I was hired. Larry Lavin was the executive director of CLS at the time. I began my career right after law school at 4053 Market Street in West Philadelphia.

Louis Rulli:
CLS has always been a family. It’s something that really distinguishes this program. We have many shared values, many shared successes, but by and large it’s really a family. I think that individuals who’ve come through the hallways of CLS have regarded each other as a family. I mention that only to say that even today, all these years since I began at Law Center West — I began in 1973 as a law student and 1974 as a staff attorney — we still have a group from Law Center West that meets every month for lunch to stay in close contact. So you can see that you don’t develop that kind of relationship without having really the strong bonds that a program like CLS created. I’m grateful to CLS in so many ways. I could never give to CLS half of what it gave to me.

Louis Rulli:
I was a staff attorney at Law Center West and it was a very different time in the world of legal services. We were generalists at that time, not specialists. You had an intake day. If my day was Tuesday, anybody who walked in the office on Tuesday would be interviewed by me. If it was a case that we were going to handle, I would handle it. So some Tuesdays I’d pray for rain to keep the crowd from coming in. It was really maybe not the most efficient way to deliver legal services. But it was certainly a way that introduced me very deeply to the community the ability to be located in the community, to walk the streets of the community, to be recognized in the community. People would come up to you off of their porches at night when you were trying to get home after a long day. They would come to you and say, “I’ve got another problem I’ve got to talk to you about.” That community connection was very much a part of Community Legal Services. I thought it was special that our name was that, Community Legal Services. It really, really captured what I think we all thought was so important about this program.

Louis Rulli:
I stayed at Law Center West as a staff attorney for roughly four years. We moved to a more modern law center at 52nd and Chestnut Streets. That was actually deeper into the poverty population of West Philadelphia and that created new challenges for us. Then I went downtown to join the housing unit. Housing had always been one of my passions. I had the great fortune of working in the housing unit with folks like George Gould and, of course, Sue Trippe was there and she had been with us at Law Center West earlier. I got to specialize on the public housing side of the housing unit. So I primarily worked on class actions as well as individual representation. We had many class actions against the Philadelphia Housing Authority. Quite frankly, I was shocked at the poor shape of public housing in Philadelphia as compared to New York. They were radically different and it demonstrated to me that there was a great amount of work that needed to be done in Philadelphia.

Louis Rulli:
From the housing unit, I then went to manage our Law Center South office and so I returned to the community, this time a different community. We had a neighborhood law center in south Philadelphia on Broad Street between Federal and Wharton. Once again I enjoyed very much being very close and connected to a community. We had regular sessions at the senior citizens center and at St. Rita’s in south Philadelphia. We had open house days on certain Saturdays in which the community could come in and get a legal checkup, just to see how they were doing as a preventive measure, as well as providing the kind of individual and direct representation that we were doing out of our neighborhood law center. Community Legal Services had five, and at one time six, neighborhood law centers operating at the same time as well as a downtown location. I think that we had a great deal to offer Philadelphia as a result. Unfortunately, finances would change, support would change for the program, particularly from the federal government’s Legal Services Corporation. Unfortunately we had to close neighborhood law offices. Maybe we can talk more about that.

Louis Rulli:
Ultimately, I became the executive director of Community Legal Services in 1986. That was a great privilege to be able to lead this organization. I must tell you that as I traveled the country as well as the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, as I interacted with colleagues from legal services across the country, I was always very proud to represent CLS. We always viewed CLS here as one of the very finest legal services programs in the country. Certainly the work that we did here was known around the country and it was a great privilege to be able to represent that wherever we went. One of the great tributes to CLS occurred when I was the director of the program. A study was done and published in the Hastings Law Quarterly. After a survey of all of our litigation, the study concluded that CLS was the most successful legal services program in the nation. That really was a tribute to the enormous talent that we had at CLS and continue to have. I think that the talent that this program has had has been constant from the very beginning through the current day. We recruit really wonderful, wonderful, diverse folks from all parts of the country and they come deeply committed to the tasks and mission of this organization.

Louis Rulli:
I believe that the great strength of this organization has been the ability to put it all together and to demonstrate that a good legal services program is going to be many things and not just one thing. It’s going to provide top quality individual representation to large numbers of individuals from all of our communities. It’s going to represent groups because groups are a critical component to every impoverished community. It’s going to involve law reform litigation that’s grounded in, and born out of, that individual representation. So it’s not just marching off in ways that are not well intentioned and based upon good experience. Instead, it’s going to apply those talents to solving problems on a larger scale through our courts. It’s going to involve public policy and the recognition that we can change the law in many ways and that we have the expertise and the confidence to do that. With our clients, we can be a voice that is just not heard in our justice system and in the corridors of power where they need to be heard. We can engage in the legislative process because law is made in all three branches of government, not just in the judicial branch of government. The various branches will ebb and tide. Good lawyers, particularly good legal services lawyers, will understand where power is and where power can be obtained, where change can happen, and how to make change happen. I think that’s been one of the great hallmarks of CLS.

Louis Rulli:
This program has such a great history of litigation and I can talk for days about that. But I’ll just give you one example of our work on legislation. In our north Philadelphia office, we saw time and time again abused spouses, primarily women, coming in seeking safety and protection from the abuse that they were experiencing. Frankly, there was no good legal remedy for them. The advice that we could give them sometimes just subjected them to even more risk of safety and more abuse. We knew that there had to be a more systemic resolution and it wasn’t to be had through the courts. It had to come from the legislature. I’m very proud that our program was really very much involved in the creation of the Protection from Abuse Act, for example, Pennsylvania’s response very early on to this question. It’s an example of how lawyers at CLS analyzed, experienced the problem, worked with the community, worked with groups, worked with coalitions, identified where change was possible, and then actively pursued it.

Louis Rulli:
CLS was never shy about its advocacy. It was willing to take on any challenge for our community. Sometimes that got us into trouble. Sometimes we were the target of powerful institutions and powerful politicians who were not pleased with CLS or who viewed CLS as beyond its mission. They felt that we should just be handling certain kinds of cases and only on an individual basis. But we had great leaders of this organization and from our local bar association who felt differently and were willing to stand up. No history of CLS really would be complete without talking about folks like Bill Klaus who took up that challenge. A lawyer from a very different background at Pepper Hamilton-

Alan Houseman:
I knew Bill.

Louis Rulli:
-who answered the challenge of the Vice President of the United States who criticized legal services. Bill did it in a very public way. He published an article in the ABA Journal. He always stood steadfast for the highest quality of work here at CLS. He gave us the license to stand up and do what every good law firm does for its clients, provide the highest quality representation even though it may mean that you upset somebody. There were people to upset. It might’ve been Mayor Rizzo in Philadelphia. It might’ve been Vice President Agnew. In 1992 when I was director of the program, overnight we lost all of our state funding with no advance warning. Imagine what that was like to try to recover from the entire loss of all state funding. It happened in a midnight conference committee of the state legislature when one of our most staunch advocates was not there in the room to protect us. So there is always a cost to standing up for what’s right and advocating against powerful interests. But if legal services is not going to do that, then why do we exist? Who do we serve?

Louis Rulli:
The message that I want to get across is that CLS has always fought that fight regardless of what institutions it had to fight against. There were many proud moments as an organization that I think we all take credit for. When I say all, I don’t mean just the lawyers. The lawyers often get the credit. But the strength of CLS has always been the entire family of CLS. The lawyers, the paralegals, the support staff, the investigators, the board of governors, the trustees of this organization, the alumni of the organization, have always stood together in support and in defense of the work that we do. I think that’s made an enormous difference. When you look at the high points of this program, and there are so many, you look at cases like Operating Engineers, and Bolden versus the Pennsylvania State Police, where we really made an incredible difference in breaking down the walls of race discrimination here in the union industries and in the state police. What a difference we made there.

Louis Rulli:
What a difference we made in Zebley v. Sullivan for 450,000 disabled children. I had the great pleasure of being executive director when Jon Stein and Richard Weishaupt and Tom Sutton handled that case before the United States Supreme Court. I still remember all of the letters that I got from mothers and fathers across the country saying what a difference that decision made for their disabled children. That’s an enormous, great tribute to the people who’ve come through CLS. So I’m immensely proud and I had a small part in that story. I like to say I did everything at CLS. I washed the windows. I was a law student. I answered the phones. I was a staff attorney. I was a supervising attorney. I was a law reform attorney. I was a managing attorney. I was the executive director. Then I later served on the board for many, many years. In fact, my term just ended and I recently got off the board.

Louis Rulli:
I chaired the board of Philadelphia Legal Assistance, which of course is the sister organization born out of the LSC restrictions. I did that, I chaired that organization when Bill Klaus came to me. He was the first chair of that organization just like he had been the chair of Community Legal Services. He was ill at the time and getting on in his years. He came to me and said, “Louis, we need you now to step up and be the chair of the organization.” How could you say no to Bill Klaus? So I had the great pleasure of serving in that role, as well. I appreciate the opportunity to be here today and to talk with you.

Alan Houseman:
You went to University of Pennsylvania Law School? A, why did you do that, and B, what have you done there? Just briefly.

Louis Rulli:
Yes. To teach. As I said, I had done a lot of different roles at CLS. In 1990 I began to teach. I’d always done a lot of training here at CLS and for the bar association. One of the passions I had was for teaching. I’d always been in charge of the law students coming into CLS and things like that and so I had a great passion there. In 1990 Rutgers needed an adjunct to teach. I talked with the dean and he said, “Why don’t you teach poverty law?” He said, “I look at your background and we don’t have anybody teaching poverty law, we haven’t had anybody teaching poverty law for a long time.” In fact, as I looked around the country, poverty law had pretty much disappeared from our law school curriculum. I said I’d love to do it, and so I did while I was the executive director. It added more duties to what was already a full day but it was a very rewarding experience. I realized how important it was. We had no textbooks for poverty law at the time. The only textbook for poverty law had been out of date probably 15 years prior to that. So I put materials together and designed a course and I taught poverty law as an adjunct for five years at Rutgers Law School.

Louis Rulli:
At the conclusion of that, I decided that I wanted to do it full-time. I thought the future of making headway in the struggle for justice was squarely in the lap of the next generation. So I wanted to be part of the teaching and the training and the maturation of the next generation. When an opportunity arose at the University of Pennsylvania Law School to join the clinical faculty as a practice professor, that to me seemed like a perfect job. It was one leg in the academy and one leg in the practice world. Part of my responsibility would be to be very much a part of the access to justice movement in America. I could write about it, I could teach about it, I could share my own experience about it, and where I hoped that we could continue to grow as a community and as a nation. It was an opportunity that was too good to pass up. So I joined the faculty at Penn Law School. This is my 20th year as a member of the faculty. I’ve had a second equally rewarding career, although I view it all not as two, but really as one career.

Louis Rulli:
I hope that one of the things that I’ve been able to achieve is number one, to mentor so many really talented individuals. Some of them are here and are doing amazing things at Community Legal Services. Others are at legal services programs around the country. Others are in the academy teaching law students. Others are at law firms, now partners. One of the nice things, when you’ve been there for 20 years, is that your students are maturing in their own professional careers and they’re holding positions of influence and power, not only in the public interest sector but in the private sector and in the government sector. My students have been counsel to President Obama, they’ve been counsel to committees on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, and continue to be. I certainly enjoy having them back to class to mentor my current students. It’s been 21 years at Community Legal Services and 20 years at Penn Law School — a total of 41 years in a struggle to make our justice system more responsive to the needs of low income individuals in our country.

Alan Houseman:
I think you covered most of the CLS but I want to make sure. You mentioned some of the activities and we’ve heard about them from others here today. But as executive director, what would you say your most important achievements were?

Louis Rulli:
In hindsight I would say a few things. One of the objectives I had when I became executive director was to strengthen the bond and the relationship between the program and the larger community. We were facing some difficult times. I became director in the 1980s. Of course it was the Reagan Administration in the White House. It was a very different time. When I took office here, we were in litigation against the Legal Services Corporation. They had sued us. We had sued them. It’s never a great thing to be in litigation against your primary funding source but it was necessary. But it was also important that I get a handle on that and be able to move this program forward. I knew that one of the important things that I had to do was to deepen the bonds between our program and our larger community. That meant stronger ties with our bar association so that they would recognize that CLS was instrumental to them and their mission as well as instrumental to the future of the city of Philadelphia for which whom they obviously had a great interest, as well.

Louis Rulli:
I had to strengthen our ties with government, even though we had a deserved reputation of taking on government when they were wrong. But we had to build relationships with folks. We had to get them to understand why we did what we did. So my goal was to build a more diverse basis of support for the program so that it would increase funding for our program. I knew it was important to diversify our funding. I had watched programs that were too heavily dependent upon one funding source, particularly in the southern part of the United States, and the consequences of that. So I wanted to diversify our funding sources. The way you do that, of course, is to build relationships that are much deeper. We began the Breakfast of Champions while I was director. It was our annual outreach to the legal community which grew and grew and grew and continues to this day.

Louis Rulli:
Our first keynote speaker at the first Breakfast of Champions was the honorable A. Leon Higginbotham, probably one of the most important judges in the United States at that time and probably at any time. He, in my mind, embodied the true mission and purpose of our organization, to really break down the barriers of hostility and discrimination and bias and to see people as they really are and the goodness in people. I believe that if we could get the private bar and our local government as well as our state government to really see the goodness in our communities and the value that every individual brings, we could strengthen the support for our program and for legal services, the mission itself with civil justice. That was my first and one of the most important priorities. We diversified funding. We got so much more support from the bar association for CLS and so that was a critical component.

Louis Rulli:
The second was to continue to attract, recruit, and retain the very best. It was important to me that we have a diverse workforce. We took a study at one point of all of Hispanic lawyers in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. There weren’t a huge number at that time. We determined in that study that the overwhelming number of Hispanic lawyers in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania had worked at CLS at one time or another. It just was a reflection of the important role that this organization was playing in so many ways in launching careers that would pay dividends for our communities and for our justice system. That, too, was an important goal that I had. I hope that I advanced the ball on that. Certainly our program has continued to be in the forefront in that area as well.

Louis Rulli:
Then, third, we wanted to reach out more to the community. We wanted to make sure the community understood what our role is. I, like every legal services lawyer, cringed when you saw a person come into your office very late in the process knowing that you could’ve helped them so much more if you could’ve seen them at an earlier stage. You ask them, “Why didn’t you come in earlier?” They say to you, “I didn’t know you existed.” You’d wonder, after all these years, how could it be that they didn’t know that we existed? But that was and continued to be a great challenge.

Louis Rulli:
We had a TV show that we started when I was director of the program. I was thrilled about that. Again, it was just another reflection of the great talent and dedication of our staff. We had a TV show on the new public television network that had just started up at that time. Once a week, after a full day of work, totally on a volunteer basis, our staff would go out there. I asked Linda Weir Johnson, one of our lawyers, to be the host of the program. She would interview CLS and other lawyers and guests and community people to talk about the various problems. The idea was to educate the community. Community education was always a very important part of our program and we had to find new ways to reach larger numbers of folks. I was really pleased that we could do that through our TV show. Each TV show would not only interview guests but then would have a call-in. People would call in. At first we were worried. What if nobody called in? How foolish that was! People would call in with their problems. The next day, we would have this splurge of folks coming in and seeking legal help. So we knew we were making some headway in reaching out to the community.

Louis Rulli:
So that, too, was an important goal that I had for the program. Looking back I think that we made some advances there. Unfortunately, we had to close community centers and that-

Alan Houseman:
why was that?

Louis Rulli:
Well, at some point our funding dropped so significantly that we could not efficiently and effectively deliver services when the staff got too small. So the question was, could we deliver this service more effectively with a larger group at a more central location? It was very painful for everyone. It was particularly painful because I believe strongly in community law centers. Having had the great joy of being the managing attorney at our community center, and starting my legal career at a community law center, I knew that we were giving up a lot. But we were convinced that we really had no choice. We were fortunate to be able to maintain our north Philadelphia office. We decided that the most impoverished community of Philadelphia was in north central Philadelphia and so we would do everything we could to maintain that center as well as our downtown office. So today those are the two locations that remain. But of course, we would all love the opportunity to return to places like 52nd and Chestnut, and Broad and Federal, and Kensington and Allegheny, and 5th and Girard, and all of the many locations that we had neighborhood law centers.

Louis Rulli:
Those are some of the things that we did. We had to introduce technology to legal services when I was executive director and that was a new venture. Word processing, not quite computers but word processing. We had to bring that technology in. We had to find the resources to do that. That was important to begin to find new ways to more efficiently deliver service more quickly. But the most important thing, and the thing I guess which I’m most proud about, is really the achievements that our entire family produced that are reflected in the many cases that we were successful in, the many individual lives that we touched. No doubt, when you talk about the history of CLS, we’ll talk about those cases because they loom large in the history of civil justice in America. There was Fuentes versus Shevin, and Swarb v Lennox, and Shapiro versus Thompson, and Zebley. They ring large. I tell the story of, and I’m only going to tell one story if I can?

Alan Houseman:
Sure, please.

Louis Rulli:
I’m going to tell the story of an individual. I’m going to tell the story of a woman who was in her late 50s. She weighted 88 pounds. She was a recipient of Social Security Disability benefits. She walked into my office in the ’80s before I became director. She was thrown off the Social Security Disability rolls in that shameful period in the 1980s when the Reagan Administration was throwing people off under the rubric that they had medically improved when in fact no one had really reviewed their records and had determined that their conditions had improved. She couldn’t understand why the government was saying that she had improved. In fact, her condition was getting worse and worse. She had serious gastric and stomach problems, she had great difficulty keeping food down, she was losing weight, she walked with a cane, and the notion that she could engage in substantial gainful activity was ridiculous. It was shameful.

Louis Rulli:
She kept asking me the same question over and over again, “Why won’t they believe me? Why won’t they believe that I can’t work? I would love to work but I can’t work. Why is my own government throwing me off?” She was frightened, she was afraid. She didn’t have family to turn to. She didn’t know how she would make it without her Social Security Disability payments. So it was a very frightening period for her. We represented her and I took her case and we won her case in Social Security, ultimately. But it took a fair amount of time. The judge, of course, awarded her retroactive benefits, which she desperately needed because she was behind in her bills and she needed those retroactive benefits. Even though we had won the case, the benefits didn’t come despite the fact that I kept putting as much pressure as I could on the government — where’s the money? — and on the US attorney’s office — where’s the retroactive payments? Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months and she still didn’t get her retroactive benefits.

Louis Rulli:
I did what lawyers do, I filed a contempt motion against the Secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services and I put in a claim for attorney fees. I had a great judge, one of the most distinguished judges in American history — the Chief Judge of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Charles Lord. I will never forget the opinion that he wrote in this case that the administrative law judge ruling against our client was as shameful as the Administration throwing her off the rolls. I took an appeal to federal court. It was assigned to Judge Lord. He wrote an opinion that was just maybe two paragraphs and I’m going to paraphrase it for a moment but it stuck with me and I framed it and put it on my wall. It said, “If the purpose of the Secretary of Health and Human Services is to crush defenseless human beings, it would succeed but for the interposition of the federal courts.” I was touched by the role that he saw in himself in bringing justice.

Louis Rulli:
Of course, I said to the judge, “I loved your opinion but I’d like to modify it. It’s really the role that legal services plays in bringing you that case and giving a voice in the federal courts so that you could issue this decision.” Despite that opinion, we didn’t get those retroactive benefits. Despite filing a contempt motion, we still didn’t get those benefits. Then Newsweek magazine heard about this story. They called me and they said, “We want to come down and interview your client.” They were doing a cover story on this whole period of throwing disabled folks off the rolls and they wanted to feature her in the story. They came down from New York and they interviewed her and they photographed her and she was in Newsweek magazine. In those days it wasn’t instantaneous as it is today. That issue of Newsweek hit the stand I think on a Monday-

Alan Houseman:
Yeah, it came out in the beginning of the week.

Louis Rulli:
At the beginning of the week, that’s right. Two days later by certified mail, her retroactive benefits came to my office. I learned a very important lesson, that we have to do our role but we must never forget that we have to shine light on injustice. The media and the public must be part of what we do. If we can do that, we can be much more successful on behalf of our clients and on behalf of the communities we serve. So she was extremely happy to receive that, as you can imagine. It restored her confidence in our rule of law, in our government. I think that’s something that’s often forgotten, that legal services is really not a radical proposition at all but it’s a very mainstream conservative proposition. If you believe in the rule of law, then you believe in the rule of law for everyone, not just those who can afford it. It is critical that all Americans have confidence in our system of government. So democracy depends upon legal services to the poor. I’ve always viewed that this program is part of a civil rights movement, part of a human rights movement, but fundamentally is at the core of what it means to be a democratic society.

Alan Houseman:
That was terrific.

Louis Rulli:
We done?

Alan Houseman:
I want to use this somewhere. Seriously.

Louis Rulli:
Well.