Stein, Jonathan 2016

Last modified: 2021-01-18 08:04
Storyteller: Stein, Jonathan M.
Interviewer: Houseman, Alan
Date of interview: 2016-04-26
Length: 0:46:25

Topics: Disability: Benefits, Lead paint poisoning, LSC: Restrictions, Poverty law, and Public assistance
Geo, US: Intl and PA
Lists: Reggies
Medium: Video
Collection:

NEJL I.D.: NEJL-009.103
Georgetown status: Video upon request
Georgetown notes:
Link to NEJL page: http://aspace.ll.georgetown.edu/public/repositories/2/archival_objects/404
NEJL AV link: http://summary, bio note, keywords/

Video status:
Video notes:

Transcript link: Transcript
Transcript status:
Transcript notes:

Consortium status: Gtn info copied
Consortium notes:

Excerpt:

He worked for Community Legal Services in Philadelphia starting in 1968 and served in various positions including General Counsel. He led innovative litigation that won crucial victories at the US Supreme Court for the poor and racial minorities.



Bibliographic citation:

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

Description

Bio note
From https://clsphila.org/about-cls/staff/advocates/252:
Jonathan M. Stein began his career with Community Legal Services Inc. in 1968, when he joined CLS as a staff attorney through the Reginald Heber Smith Fellowship Program. Since then Mr. Stein has served as Chief of Health, Education and Welfare Project, Chief of Law reform, Acting Managing Attorney of Law Center North Central, Chief of Special Projects, Executive Director (1983-1986), and currently General Counsel. His 39 years of unique practice at CLS on behalf of low-income people in the Philadelphia region and nationally has allowed him to be at the forefront of social change and reform while pursuing a broad range of avenues of advocacy and representation.

Mr. Stein has represented and worked closely with many community, city-wide, state, and national organizations of the poor, elderly and disabled; initiated legislative and administrative reform at the local, state and federal levels; and successfully conducted trial and appellate litigation in state and federal courts, including the United States Supreme Court. In 1971, he argued and won the precedent making Graham v. Richardson welfare and resident alien discrimination case in the Supreme Court, and later was co-lead counsel in Sullivan. v. Zebley, the 1991 Supreme Court SSI child disability benefit national class action case, which was the largest Social Security Act class action and the only major Court win for the poor during the Rehnquist Court. In addition, Mr. Stein’s advocacy has included extensive work with the media, coalition-building, presentations at national and regional conferences, and seminars and cooperative efforts with law schools and law firms.

Mr. Stein’s many awards include, the Reginald Heber Smith Award of the National Legal Aid and Defender Assn. for lifetime achievements and the Zebley Supreme Court case; first recipient of the Edward V. Sparer of the Pennsylvania Legal Services Center; the Gerald F. Flood Memorial Award of the Philadelphia Bar Assn.; Advocacy Award for Advancing the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, National Association of Protection and Advocacy Systems; the Bread and Roses Community Fund, Paul Robeson Social Justice Award ; and the British Council’s Atlantic Fellowship in Public Policy in London, 2000-2001, resulting in various publications including the monograph, The Future of Social Justice in Britain: A New Mission for the Community Legal Service (London School of Economics, CASE paper 48 (2001).

Mr. Stein received his LL.B. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School and his B.A. from Columbia College, And pursued post-graduate studies at the London School of Economics.

Full text of transcript

Consortium for the National Equal Justice Library
Oral History Collection
Interview with
Jonathan Stein
Conducted by Alan Houseman
April 26, 2014

Alan Houseman:
This is an oral history of Jonathan Stein. The interviewer is Alan Houseman for the National Equal Justice Library. The date is April 26, 2014, and we are at the Community Legal Services offices in Philadelphia.

Alan Houseman:
Jonathan, I wanted to begin by having you give us some background about where you grew up, where you went to law school, grad school, college, that kind of background.

Jonathan Stein:
Right. I grew up in Brooklyn, Flatbush, and actually went to James Madison High School, the high school of Bernie Sanders and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, among others. My college education was Columbia College, ’60 to ’64. I was an editor of the daily newspaper there.

Jonathan Stein:
Then on to University of Pennsylvania Law School, ’64 to ’67. I took at Penn the very first poverty law course created by Howard Lesnick, the labor law professor who became the head of the Reginald Heber Smith Program and who co-founded CUNY Queens Law School. I was active in the Law Students Civil Rights Research Council. In my third year at Penn Law School I published a law review note on the public assistance program in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, probably the first law review piece on the welfare system that graced that publication.

Jonathan Stein:
And I spent the next year doing research at the London School of Economics for a year under a fellowship, looking at welfare law and administration in London, to return I thought perhaps to New York. But as fate and lobbying of a few people led me here, I obtained a Reginald Heber Smith fellowship and was assigned in 1968 to the Philadelphia legal services program, Community Legal Services, which was in its third year of life, having begun in 1966.

Jonathan Stein:
Then I worked continuously here at Community Legal Services from 1968 to the present. I’ve now cut back a bit of my full-time work at present, but I’ve had a continuous course of work. And I consider myself very fortunate and lucky to have had this opportunity and to have graduated law school in 1967 when the whole birth of the Legal Services Program and movement began. So I was extra fortunate in the timing of my birth and the timing of my leaving law school.

Alan Houseman:
Right. And you had an Atlantic Fellowship, I see too.

Jonathan Stein:
Oh yes, an Atlantic Fellowship from the British Council later in 2000, 2001 that got me back to London and Britain for a full year. And I published about five different pieces, often critiques, of the British legal aid system and kind of comparative law pieces critiquing the legal aid or sometimes Judicare system that existed in Britain.

Alan Houseman:
Okay. So what factors led you to come to Reggie and then ultimately go to CLS, which I realize you were assigned originally. But what factors led you to want to do that?

Jonathan Stein:
Well, I wanted to work in legal services for different reasons. One was the gestalt and time of the mid 60’s where the civil rights movement particularly was very influential on me. There was a rediscovery of poverty, obviously, like Michael Harrington’s writing and others, which awakened people to poverty in America, which also impacted me.

Jonathan Stein:
And for the two summers while I was at law school, I clerked at Mobilization for Youth Legal Services, or MFY Legal Services, which was the, if not the prototype, one of the very first prototypes of legal services. And after my first year at Penn law school, Ed Sparer, the Director of MFY Legal Services at the time, hired me. And I had a great experience working on the Lower East Side at MFY, and actually returned the next summer and Harold Rothwax was the Director at that point.

Jonathan Stein:
Those were all influences which led me to view legal services, legal aid, as really the sole thing I wanted to do. And the beauty of the Reginald Heber Smith Program, as you may know, was to inject young blood activist reform oriented lawyers in legal aid programs which needed it. And Community Legal Services, although we were a new entity in 1966, was staffed entirely by the Legal Aid Society lawyers of Philadelphia. So they largely did not have the esprit, motivation or vision that I think younger lawyers who were getting out of law school and had various experiences as I had and possess. So the Reginald Heber Smith program was a beautiful way of parachuting down into the Philadelphia program with at least two or three others. We shook things up a little bit and invigorated a program with I think a mission that lives with us today.

Alan Houseman:
Did you do other work with Ed in the welfare rights movement? We’ll get to the CLS.

Jonathan Stein:
My main work with welfare rights was with the Philadelphia Welfare Rights Organization, which I began working with probably in the late 60’s. And there were a number of amazing women, especially Roxanne Jones who became the first black woman state senator in Pennsylvania later. My work was largely with Philadelphia Welfare Rights Organization. I attended the National Welfare Rights Organization conference in 1972 to stay close to that movement and to be essentially part of it. Some of the MFY Legal Services experience informed that because I know there was a clothing benefits campaign to really make demands on the New York City welfare system of benefits that were often denied or at the discretion of case workers.

Jonathan Stein:
So there was, with Cloward and Piven present in New York and infusing MFY’s mission, I think I probably had that experience as well that I brought to the Philadelphia program and my work with the Philadelphia Welfare Rights Organization.

Alan Houseman:
Okay. While you’ve been at CLS have been in virtually every position one could think of-

Jonathan Stein:
I think so.

Alan Houseman:
Executive Director, you’ve been general counsel, you’ve been a staff attorney, you’ve been head of one of the big units, public benefits unit. I want to first focus on two cases that went to the Supreme Court and then I want to come back and ask you about your other advocacy activities. We did an earlier interview with Richard, so we have some comment on Zebley, but let’s start not with Zebley but with Graham. Explain what happened, why the case came up, what the result was, and its importance.

Jonathan Stein:
Yeah. Graham v. Richardson, which was in Pennsylvania Leger v. Sailer, was a case which ultimately struck down the citizenship requirement for state welfare assistance in Pennsylvania and in Arizona, and became a Supreme Court presidential decision. It was probably one of the very first cases that I had. I had virtually … We’re talking about 1971, ’69, ’70, ’71. And I was virtually out of law school, had no litigation experience, no federal court experience, and none of us really had. We were learning as we were going on. There was no one essentially over 30 around to provide expertise or experience in this kind of lawyering so we were creating it ourselves.

Jonathan Stein:
We had a view that there were no limits on what we could do. We had some grounding in some law and some constitutional theories that carried us through in a lot of cases. And we ran with issues. Leger, or what became Graham v. Richardson, what became a three judge federal district court case, with three resident aliens who were not U.S. citizens and denied welfare assistance. That was probably the first federal court case, and maybe the first litigation, I ever filed. I sort of skipped the whole state court, municipal court, small claims court. We went directly to federal court with little to no experience and succeeded because we had a good … We did a lot of litigation collaboratively and we brought … We seized on issues that had been in existence for decades, if not centuries, and decided that the federal courts were the forum to litigate these.

Jonathan Stein:
Because there was a direct appeal from the three judge district court to the U.S. Supreme Court, that gave me the chance to argue that case. I believe we had a seven-two decision, and hopefully made some precedent for these times when denial of benefits and rights to legal immigrants is to the fore.

Jonathan Stein:
But I think that case was typical of a number of cases that colleagues of mine brought here. Our office, as you know, was one of the offices that brought the right to travel, Shapiro vs. Thompson. Well it became the Supreme Court decision. One of my extraordinary colleagues David Scholl argued two cases in the Supreme Court, consumer due process cases, Swarb v. Lennox and Sniadach v. Family Finance Corporation, which essentially were about seizing property or getting a judgment without a hearing given to the consumer. We felt we had the forums to work in, we thought our smarts, to the extent we had some litigation smarts and abilities, could carry us. And I think there was a good ambiance and atmosphere to do this.

Jonathan Stein:
We didn’t have bureaucratic structures that are existent in the institutional structures of legal services today of priorities and multiple levels of approvals and committees making decisions about what gets litigated or not. So there was a lot more freedom and I think a lot of things blossomed and a lot of good work took place in that freedom and essentially delegation to younger attorneys to run with issues.

Alan Houseman:
So later on you got involved with SSI and kids and Zebley. Talk a little bit about that. You talked some earlier.

Jonathan Stein:
Right. Well when I was Director from ’83 to ’86, one of my confidants said administration is kind of boring, it’s probably not your thing, and keep a hand in litigation, keep a hand in advocacy. So unlike most directors and administrators I decided I was gonna do something. I had really no experience in SSI child disability, which had just begun in the early 70’s and this was the mid-80’s. I had handled no cases before. And I just got wind of a losing case in a suburban county, in Delaware County outside of Philadelphia, where the best federal judge dismissed entirely a facial challenge to the regulations that had been in existence from the beginning that restricted eligibility of disabled children of medical and physical impairments for SSI.

Jonathan Stein:
And I said, I’m gonna run with this. So I appealed that case, which had no trial record, no factual record, just the records of three children and that’s it. And we brought it, we appealed it as a class action and I was lead counsel there and argued in the Third Circuit. And we began strategies that we use in other cases. We used amicus briefs to build a factual record that was virtually non-existent to show this was a national issue that impacted children across the country, that had practical remedies if regulations were overturned. We tapped allies across the country because at that time in the 80’s we were probably at a peak of collaboration with other lawyers around the country. And they infused their smarts, their amicus briefs, their advice.

Jonathan Stein:
And lo and behold, even though there was no case law on our side and two circuit cases against us, no direct precedent at all, we succeeded in convincing the Third Circuit Court of Appeals that this longstanding regulation was illegal and contrary to the Social Security Act.

Jonathan Stein:
The government appealed. I was lead counsel. Richard, my dear colleague, asked whether he could argue the case in Supreme Court and since I had been there before and he had a mother too, I said sure go ahead, it’s yours. And so he did the argument about a year or so later in the court. And that became, as you know, I think the only major poverty law win in the Rehnquist court era, and the largest class action in Social Security history. And I guess you have some of the numbers of children, of hundreds of thousands of children that were qualified thereafter, with medical assistance, to get SSI disability benefits.

Jonathan Stein:
I try to put it in the context of other things we’ve done and other achievements, although in scale it’s a lot bigger than almost anything anyone has ever done in legal services, certainly in our program. We use some of the same tools. We had allies in legal services, National Senior Citizens Law Center, California Protection Advocacy, who were doing similar work, who we collaborated with on creating theories that could win, that could create factual records that didn’t exist in the trial court that we recreated for the amicus briefs.

Jonathan Stein:
I especially went and obtained amicus briefs from the major disability groups in the country from the Arc to Easter Seals. Many of them did not have any knowledge or experience with the SSI child disability program because it was a poverty program with many disability groups dealing with more middle class families. It was a benefit, a low income benefit, which many advocacy and interest groups don’t always value. They value services, medical care. Income benefits have always been a linchpin of legal service advocacy. We’ve brought that consciousness to a host of areas, including SSI child disability.

Jonathan Stein:
There were less than 300,000 kids on SSI disability about when we appealed the suit in the mid-80’s. There are 1.3 million children today. We’ve written a piece about this, I think in the October 2015 Clearinghouse Review where Rich and I look back on that period. Really we like to use it less to boast about it but more to encourage other lawyers to think boldly, not to let the lack of precedent or case law deter them, and to also understand that probably the bulk of our work was done after we won the Supreme Court decision. It was the implementation, the helping to draft the regulations. We insisted that there be an outreach program as part of the settlement. So for the first time this is a program where the Social Security Administration actually advertised its existence, which they had never done before. We got internal quality review reports as part of the monitoring so that we could monitor every state in the country, particularly many states in the South that refused to really change their practices.

Jonathan Stein:
So this monitoring and defense of the program continued well after 1990 and it included defending the program when the inevitable backlash came in the 1996 Welfare Reform legislation as you know, where probably the biggest hit in money was in the SSI program for non-citizens and for children and others. Our efforts in ’96, ’97, thereafter was essentially to minimize the damage that was done and to preserve the essential holding of the Zebley Supreme Court in the ultimate legislation that was adopted by the Gingrich Congress in ’96. And that holding essentially was to continue to look holistically at children, at their functioning as well as their medical issues.

Jonathan Stein:
And I think even with the backlash that we suffered in the 1996, when 100,000 children were terminated by the Gingrich Congress and by President Clinton’s adoption and signing of the Welfare Reform Bill, we still minimized that damage considerably and helped sustain the program to today. That’s a long answer.

Alan Houseman:
I always saw Zebley as one of the great legal aid cases. And you and Richard of course deserve huge credit for this. When I’ve written about this I always comment on, well there’s King, Shapiro, and Goldberg, and then there’s Zebley.

Jonathan Stein:
Yeah, no thank you. I appreciate your … That’s a value of us to have your view of it. In our 25th anniversary, which was just this year, of Zebley, and the Clearinghouse Review article we published, we did solicit some views. I just noted that Peter Edelman of the Georgetown Law Center said that Zebley is “Exhibit A for the proposition that impact litigation can still be the agent of change of historic dimension.” From Peter. And then Sylvia Law, another wonderful law professor as you know at NYU law school-

Alan Houseman:
One of my closest friends.

Jonathan Stein:
Yes. One of your closest friends. She said, “The victory in Zebley was nothing short of miraculous.” And it was, I guess. We brought it before a fairly conservative court. As legal aid lawyers we don’t have the status in appellate courts, the Supreme Court, that major law firm lawyers do. There was no precedent direct on point. We were asking a Supreme Court that generally defers to administrative agencies, whether you’re a liberal or a conservative justice, to essentially overturn almost 20 years of interpretation of that statute by the Social Security Administration.

Jonathan Stein:
We were kind of pleased at the result. I don’t know if we were surprised about it. But we anticipated a conservative court. That’s why in the work in preparing, even including the amicus briefs at the Third Circuit level, we wanted to make sure the American Medical Association, which we had no dealings with before, had an amicus brief, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and on down. We wanted the establishment medical world, the establishment disability world, to be present and to reinforce the arguments of these young legal aid lawyers. And we wanted a remedy. We knew we were throwing out an entire way that Social Security had administered a program for two decades, and we anticipated that we had to come up with a tool, a policy, that they could adopt in lieu of that. And we got the Supreme Court to say that this was not only illegal, but there’s a better way, a more appropriate way that conforms to the statute, to do an individual functional assessment of disabled children. And that happened to be the message that amicus briefs in the medical community, psychiatric, psychological, pediatric, gave to the court too. That an individual functional assessment was the linchpin of fairly and promptly evaluating children.

Jonathan Stein:
So we’re happy about that. I have to say, also, in terms of context, that Zebley built upon the advocacy of the legal services community in the 80’s. As you know, when President Reagan came to office in the early 80’s one of his first acts was, I call it the massacre of the disabled. He essentially said, even though you’ve been determined either as an SSI recipient or a Social Security disability insurance recipient, to be eligible, we’re going to view you as an entirely new applicant. And within less than two years, a half million people were terminated throughout the country. I played a very active role here in Philadelphia, but with amazing other advocates like Eileen Sweeney at the National Citizens Law Center, and others, to take on that Reagan Administration policy head on on a number of fronts: litigation, legislatively, and through legislative hearings, media advocacy, and others.

Jonathan Stein:
And we created some case law in the circuits that were kind of building blocks later, almost 10 years later, for the Zebley case, that looked at the functioning of adults, the individualized assessment that had to be done for adults. And those were cases, they were medical improvement cases, where we essentially created a whole new test for determining if someone continued to be eligible. That wasn’t explicitly in the statute. But we had great facts, we had good advocacy, we had receptive circuit courts, and we got the medical improvement test adopted. So when we ultimately briefed Zebley almost ten years later, we could point to these cases, not directly on point but by analogy, that would be supportive of what a fair disability system looked like.

Alan Houseman:
That was a terrific set of background. Really, seriously.

Alan Houseman:
Besides Graham and Zebley and all the work went in that you just described to build up to Zebley, what are more other achievements that you’ve accomplished here in a substantive sense?

Jonathan Stein:
I’ve done a lot of work in a lot of areas, which may be atypical for legal services.

Alan Houseman:
Talk about that.

Jonathan Stein:
Yeah, yeah. Over time, and I’m talking about over close to 50 years of time, I think legal services has tended to value specialization for which there are real solid grounds for. I mean specialists generally do more quality work and are on top of their work. But it’s also created silos and I think restricted the practice of what legal services people do.

Jonathan Stein:
Looking back, I worked on a number of areas of poverty law, I would call it, for which there were no specialties and for which today there are almost no specialties. I began working with childhood lead poisoning. Of course Flint, Michigan now is returned to the map with water poisoning there. But in the late 60’s and early 70’s I don’t think any legal aid programs were working in that area. Largely through the work of the Philadelphia Welfare Rights Organization, and informed by them. Because parents with lead poisoned kids did not walk through the doors of CLS, nor do they probably walk in the doors of other legal aid offices, and say I have a health problem or a systemic problem that I need help in.

Jonathan Stein:
So I had the liberty, which I don’t think is too available today either in my program or in other programs unfortunately around the country, to run with an issue like child lead poisoning where we advocated more money to do screening of children and housing with the city health department where we sued, with my colleague George Gould in the housing unit, the Philadelphia Housing Authority and HUD for not doing enough, or not doing anything, to do with lead paint in their housing.

Jonathan Stein:
So child lead poisoning was one issue. School meals was really another. There’s still no specialty in any Legal Aid program for free lunch, free breakfast programs. And very early, and I think informed by, I have to think back, by the Philadelphia Welfare Rights Organization, I saw this and using really the lens of public benefits and welfare law that were schooled in a legal services view of the free school meals program, which goes back a good time, as a program where great numbers of children were essentially being denied free lunches, free breakfast through a lot of reasons including the means test, the paper application, and other barriers in the school district. And again, this is not an area or an issue where clients walk in and say my kid is not getting a free lunch or free breakfast. Most parents probably didn’t know they were even entitled to one.

Jonathan Stein:
And over the years, from I guess the early 70’s to the present actually, I’ve always had a strong interest in working around school meals and free breakfast and free lunch. And one of our achievements, which was not litigation, as a lot of our achievements were really outside of courts, was in ’89, ’90 when we got the Philadelphia School District to have essentially a universal meals program for over 100,000 kids, really 2/3 or more of the schools where essentially the whole means test written application was waived and census data was used to have a survey-based method to qualify presumptively entire schools of children. And we were the first district in the country, in 1990, to have that, the Philadelphia School District. And virtually for 15 years we were the only school district to have that kind of program. And that became a model used by Congress in 2011 when they amended the Child Nutrition Act to establish what is now called community eligibility, which is a variant of that, which essentially using statistical categories, qualifies entire schools nationwide for free lunch and free breakfast.

Jonathan Stein:
I guess I mention those two areas because they fall out of the silos of specialization that bureaucratically legal aid has created nationwide. They reflect, I think, some of the discretion, liberty, that younger lawyers had to run with issues that were legitimate poverty issues. And also step out of the traditional forums of courts that often we are thrust into as lawyers.

Jonathan Stein:
Also in the mid-70’s we viewed utility and energy law as an area that we weren’t working in. And again most legal services weren’t working in. And we saw applying the constitutional theories that we used in welfare law, due process theories, to utility services, viewing utility as a right and entitlement as a government service, we created due process case law that required essentially a due process hearing before the termination of municipal gas service. That case was Dawes v. Philadelphia Gas Commission.

Jonathan Stein:
Similarly with water service. We did the same in Koger v. Guarino in the mid-70’s. And we said if rate setting can impact poor people, we should be advocates in the rate setting process. And we became the advocate to this day representing gas customers in rate proceedings and water customers in municipal water rate proceedings, which has both impacted low income people since there are lots of protections in rates for low income people in Philadelphia, and generated some revenue for CLS because when we become the public advocate for gas or water rates, we are paid by the city for that activity.

Jonathan Stein:
I think some of that early work represented a very healthy bubbling forth of advocacy that tried to view the problems of poor people a bit more broadly than the traditional categories that we’ve created for our clients.

Alan Houseman:
If by some miracle you were in a position to re-steer the civil legal aid program today, where would you go with it?

Jonathan Stein:
Yeah, well okay. I’d start with number one getting rid of the restrictions that have been added to appropriations since ’96. And I know you’ve wrestled with that and I know this could’ve been one of the most difficult issues you’ve dealt with in Washington. But I just view this as a crippling of legal services and restricting the ability of lawyers to be lawyers. And whatever the political hurdles may be to undo that, and maybe it’s not in the political forum of Congress to undo that, maybe it’s in the litigation world which I’ve always though should’ve been more open and used, I think getting rid of restrictions that prohibit class actions, that prohibit administrative and legislative advocacy in particular, have been so detrimental. I don’t know how many programs like us in 1996 thereafter restructured to forego federal money.

Alan Houseman:
About 20.

Jonathan Stein:
About 20.

Alan Houseman:
Not many big ones. You and GBLS and Washington State and California. They were small ones. But really the big ones were you and GBLS and then New Hampshire and semi-small. You know, Vermont.

Jonathan Stein:
But I’ve seen over the years just how devastating it is, including in my own state of Pennsylvania where we are really the sole non-restricted program. There’s another smaller program, but it limits what we can do with fellow advocates.

Jonathan Stein:
And I have too a couple of examples. We’ve established for many years quarterly meetings with the Social Security Commissioner. And we hit major policy issues of SSI. We’ve done that since the 90’s, almost as a followup from Zebley. Zebley gave us such credibility with Social Security that we knew what we were talking about, that we were reasonable, that we were smart, that we could talk to people in government and work together, that we’ve been meeting, whether it’s Republican, Democrat, with commissioners and their senior staff, deputy commissioners, for years. Very productively.

Jonathan Stein:
And we are limited in having bringing people into that forum, that coalition. We’ve reached out to some people in southern states who simply say they cannot participate. We have a potential lawsuit that we’re working on right now of dealing with district offices, non-disability issues where when appeals or seeks of waiver of an overpayment district offices. Major due process violations that have been thrown under the rug for years and years.

Jonathan Stein:
And we are working with the now Justice for Aging Center, formally National Senior Citizens Law Center. And we have problems in bringing on co-counsel from legal aid programs, or even people who could document through affidavits and work with us even if they’re not active co-counsel in participating in a potential class action litigation that we are planning.

Jonathan Stein:
I know I’m drawing a lot about the restrictions, but I think to me that’s been the biggest obstacle and I think the one that needs to be ameliorated and ultimately rescinded. And I would like to see … I think it would begin to attract to legal services younger people who will do vigorous advocacy. I think it will use political forums that we really cannot use now. And frankly, a lot of the remedies for our clients are not in the courts, they are in federal government, state government, local government forums. I think it’s so important.

Jonathan Stein:
In terms of other structural issues, they are there. If one can give more independence to lawyers. If one can accelerate collaboration and a kind of connectivity and collegiality that was cross-program in the 70’s, 80’s, into the 90’s, that I see really has dissipated today. I think one of our strengths was working together, often in class action litigation, sometimes in legislative efforts. The Social Security Disability Reform Act of 1984 came out of the class actions that were going on around the country and that Act ended the mass termination of people on disability, established the medical improvement test to protect ongoing beneficiaries. That’s the law today. So it’s been around for 30 years. And that was largely a legal services established enactment of Congress. And I don’t think that could be done or easily done today with the cadre of legal aid people that were working on that at that time.

Jonathan Stein:
My wish list could probably go on further. Obviously funding issues and training are there. But I’ll leave it at that.

Alan Houseman:
Okay.

Jonathan Stein:
I would have one more case if there’s room for it.

Alan Houseman:
Yeah, yeah, yeah. We have time. And I wanna ask you one other question, but let’s do your case.

Jonathan Stein:
Okay. Well, again, it’s one of those cases that doesn’t walk through the door. It’s not traditional for legal services. But it was a major case of the 70’s, a great decade. And it was Resident Advisory Bd. v. Rizzo. And it was a housing discrimination, housing civil rights lawsuit. And it came about because Mayor Frank Rizzo — he was a two term mayor in the 70’s — supported a local white community in South Philadelphia, a couple miles south of where we are in Center City, Philadelphia, to stop 120 homes from being built by the Philadelphia Housing Authority on land that ironically had blacks on it for decades in the past who were pushed out in a renewal. He supported a local community that essentially shut it down, and he got all the housing agencies, redevelopment authority, housing authority, and HUD because Frank Rizzo had access to the Nixon White House in 1973, 4, 5. And Nixon was on the side of white working class people of the Rizzo ilk. So every government agency supported the shut down.

Jonathan Stein:
We brought a class action on behalf of a public housing tenants group called Resident Advisory Board. I think we probably brought it around 1973, 4. Again maybe five years after I got out of law school. It was actually probably the first trial I ever had as lead counsel with some really brilliant colleagues, George Gould, Harold Burke. And I took the deposition of Frank Rizzo the mayor. They fought it for months, they even tried to get the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the deposition being taken. And he just stuck to his guns to say I’ll support a white community that would want to stop housing where blacks would be living in.

Jonathan Stein:
We obtained from a federal judge Raymond Broderick, a former Republican lieutenant governor in Pennsylvania, a decision that found the city and Mayor Rizzo guilty of intentional race discrimination. Probably the first time and the last time the city and Mayor of Philadelphia have been found to have maliciously, intentionally violated the rights of minorities. And we became, I believe, the first circuit, as the case was appealed by the city and where we won also in the circuit, to apply the Fair Housing Act’s disparate impact test. Which, as you know, the U.S. Supreme Court finally got around last year, 2015, to address and belatedly in a 5-4 decision upheld disparate impact as the fair and proper interpretation of the 1968 Fair Housing Act.

Jonathan Stein:
Our case had holdings finding both disparate racial impact as well as intentional race discrimination. The appellate courts upheld us. The housing was again subject to protest. This time, unlike earlier, the city police actually arrested people and enforced the mandate of the court. 120 homes were built, totally integrated 50/50, and to this day there’s been total peace, harmony and essentially one of the few successful integrated subsidized housing projects in the city.

Jonathan Stein:
I say unorthodox in terms of Legal Services because Legal Services often does not get into civil rights matters or housing discrimination issues. And again it was reflective of who we are … Who we were here and the fact that we felt that we could, that there were not limits on what we could do and should do if there was something sound to pursue.

Jonathan Stein:
There was a recent article just published last month, April 2016, in Shelter Force, a publication of the National Housing Institute, which did a wonderful history called “Integrating Whitman” because that’s what it’s called the Whitman Townhouse Case. It went into that history. So that was another piece of litigation which I’m really happy we got involved in. We all learned a lot from it because frankly these were the years when we had very little litigation experience, very little courtroom experience, and this gave it to us. And we did it without 50, 60, 70 year old senior partners telling us what to do or how to get to federal court.

Alan Houseman:
All right. So my final question has not really to do with CLS directly. Because the library has an international collection, I would like your quick take from your work in England, on the legal aid system in England.

Jonathan Stein:
Okay.

Alan Houseman:
And it’s changed a little bit.

Jonathan Stein:
Yeah. Well when I was there in 2000, 2001 it just became the Community Legal Services system under Blair. The major reshuffling,. But my critique of it, which got published in a monograph at the London School of Economics Center for Analysis of Social Exclusion, CASEKs, was a critique of that. Because I thought and felt, and to this day think, that the social justice mission of their legal aid system is absent in part because it’s a Judicare system, it doesn’t allow for specialization or bodies of lawyers, groups of lawyers to collectively pursue larger issues. There are other bureaucratic and financing restraints on doing impact work. And that was largely the critique I made, although at the same time valuing a number of organizations and largely nonprofits who specialize in disability law or housing law that carry that forward. That the legal aid system wasn’t quite supportive enough, as well as what we would call, well, a neighborhood law center approach, which they experimented with in the 70’s, modeling after our legal services here, but never developed. So it’s still a nascent and underdeveloped area of providing legal services.

Jonathan Stein:
They do spend a lot of money, they probably help a lot of people. But I’ve found that in critical areas of law, particularly welfare law as an example, and in doing impact work, there were serious limitations in what they were doing. And you can read more in my monograph.

Alan Houseman:
All right so we are about done. Is there anything else you want to add?

Jonathan Stein:
Yeah. I feel very lucky and fortunate to have a legal services program around for me professionally and personally. And despite the bitching about restrictions, which I think are real and need to go, and a sort of bureaucratization and specialization, I think there’s still some extraordinary work going on and a lot of it is going on these days by younger lawyers in this program, a few older lawyers as well. The original mission of our office at least, and the work that we began in the 60’s and 70’s is continuing to some extent today. And that’s it.

Alan Houseman:
I forgot one final thing. I see that you’re a dancer. So talk a second about your background, like I didn’t know anything about it.

Jonathan Stein:
Yeah, I know I said it. That’s the part of the resume … I thought I’d share my whole resume with you because you’re such a good guy and you have the wonderful archive here, opened my life up. I’ve been taking modern dance since the 70’s and contact improvisation since the 80’s, something that requires another longer explanation than this tape. And I’ve been in performances since the late 80’s. So I’ve been in about 15 dance performances in this gray world between professional and non-professional and I’m still occasionally performing. Writing about dance and editing. I helped found an online dance journal called ThinkingDance.net in 2011, so I’m doing writing and editing. It’s just another part of my life and I’ve always felt that you can’t have a life that’s solely a work life. You need a non work life. And you have to work at your non work life to make it viable and fulfilling. So thank you for asking about my dance life. It’s there. I would talk more about it in another forum

Alan Houseman:
That’s great. Thank you much.

Jonathan Stein:
Thank you. Okay.