Clinton Bamberger


First Director of the Legal Services Program (LSP) within OEO). Then Executive VP of LSC. Was also President of NLADA.

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Person details

Where most active professionally: International, Maryland, and National
Law type: Civil
Source: CNEJL
Lists: In Memoriam, LSC Board/Staff, and OEO Legal Services staff

Bio

E. Clinton Bamberger, Jr. (July 2, 1926-Feb. 12, 2017) was born in Baltimore, MD. He earned a B.S. degree from Loyola College (Baltimore) in 1949, and graduated from Georgetown University Law Center with a J.D. in 1951. After law school, from 1951 to 1952, Bamberger worked as a law clerk to Judges Charles Markell and Edward Delaplaine of the Court of Appeals of Maryland.

In 1952, Bamberger became an associate with the Baltimore firm of Piper & Marbury; and between 1958 and 1959 he also served as Assistant Attorney General of Maryland. In 1960, Bamberger became a partner of Piper & Marbury, where he was involved in insurance litigation. He also served as the attorney for death row inmate John L. Brady in Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), in which the Supreme Court ruled that withholding exculpatory evidence from the defendant violated the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Bamberger became involved in the case through a friend, a Jesuit priest who served as chaplain in the Maryland penitentiary.

In September of 1965, Bamberger became the first Director of the Legal Services Program (LSP) within the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO), the first program of the federal government to provide financial support for civil legal services to the poor. While at OEO/LSP Bamberger spent much time delivering speeches, attempting to garner support for the new government program .

His stay at LSP was brief, and in mid-1966 Bamberger left LSP to run for State Attorney General of Maryland. That campaign was unsuccessful and Bamberger returned to Piper & Marbury until 1969. (For major accomplishments while at OEO/LSP see 1st annual report of OEO/LSP). In 1969, Bamberger became Dean of the Columbus School of Law at The Catholic University of America. There he taught Civil Procedure and Professional Responsibility.

In 1975, Bamberger left The Catholic University of America to become the Executive Vice President of the Legal Services Corporation. Maintaining that he had spent much time as a legal services bureaucrat and advocate, and never as a legal services attorney, Bamberger left the Legal Services Corporation in 1979 to become a staff attorney and clinical instructor at the Legal Services Institute (LSI) in Boston, but controversy and politics surrounding LSI forced Bamberger’s departure.

In 1982, Bamberger left LSI to become Professor of Law and Director of Clinical Education at the School of Law of the University of Maryland. While at the University of Maryland, he served as the attorney for Denise Sampson in Ronald Fishkind Realty v. Sampson, 306 Md. 269, 286, 508 A.2d 478, 487 (1986).

While at the University of Maryland, Bamberger also became very involved in international legal aid, especially in South Africa, Australia, Nepal, and the Netherlands, and frequently traveled abroad, lecturing about international legal aid. He retired emeritus from the University of Maryland in 1991.

What others say

Obituaries

​​​​​The New York Times: E. Clinton Bamberger, Lawyer With a ‘Fire for Justice,’ Is Dead at 90

The Baltimore Sun: E. Clinton Bamberger Jr., pioneer in legal aid for poor

Clinton Bamberger Dies: The Loss of an Icon (By Alan W. Houseman, Feb. 2017)

See this text at: https://www.nlada.org/tribute-clinton-bamberger

Clinton Bamberger, a giant in legal aid, died last Sunday in Baltimore. He was a friend and mentor to me and many others in the civil legal aid movement. Clint’s wife of 64 years, Katharine, died in December.
Clint was the first director of the federal legal services program in the Office of Economic Opportunity in 1965 and became Executive Vice-President of the Legal Services Corporation when it first began in 1975. He was also President of NLADA.

He had an extensive career in legal education. He was Dean of the Catholic University of America’s law school in the early 1970s. From 1979-1982 he worked at the Legal Services Institute in Boston with Gary Bellow and Jeanne Charn. The Institute was affiliated with Harvard and Northeastern law schools and was a unique initiative to develop a new way of training future legal aid lawyers. 1982, he joined the University of Maryland law school to build its clinical law program into a nationally distinctive effort using law students to provide free services to the poor.

Prior to his direct involvement in civil legal aid, Clint was an associate of Piper & Marbury, served as Maryland assistant attorney general from 1958 to 1959, and in 1960 became a partner at Piper & Marbury. In 1963, he argued Brady v. Maryland in the United States Supreme Court in the case that led the Court to rule that prosecutors must give defendants any evidence they possess that may indicate their innocence, known as the “Brady Rule.” Many criminal lawyers and scholars perceive the Brady Rule as one of the most significant developments in criminal justice law.

Several other accomplishments are worthy of note. In 1984, he brought a lead paint case that allowed tenants to put rent into a court-controlled account if lead-based paint was “easily accessible to a child” even without signs that the child had a high level of lead in their blood. In 1989, Clint became involved in developing a legal aid system in South Africa, prior to the end of apartheid in 1994. He was also the first board member named to the Open Society Institute – Baltimore, a foundation that seeks to address issues of poverty, criminal justice and education.

For the civil legal aid community, Clint was not just the first director of the federal program, he, along with his deputy Earl Johnson, was its architect.

Clint and Earl fleshed out the overall design for the program. Unlike the legal aid systems that existed in other countries, which generally used private attorneys who were paid on a fee-for-service basis (known as Judicare), OEO’s plan for the legal services program in the United States utilized staff attorneys working for private, nonprofit entities. OEO’s grantees were to be full-service legal assistance providers, each serving a specific geographic area, with the obligation to ensure access to the legal system for all clients and client groups. The only specific national earmarking of funds was for services to Native Americans and migrant farmworkers.

OEO was able to generate proposals for federal funding from organizations eager to provide legal assistance. Within nine months of taking office, Clint and his staff had completed the Herculean task of funding 130 OEO legal services programs. By the end of 1966, federal funding grew to $25 million for these local programs and national infrastructure programs established to provide litigation support, training, and technical assistance. By 1968, 260 OEO programs were operating in every state except North Dakota, where the governor had vetoed the grants.

As Executive Vice-President of LSC, Clint helped shape the plan to expand legal services to every county in the US, oversaw the development of the Office of Program Support and the Research Institute, initiatesd some of the early delivery research which LSC undertook and provided constant guidance to the Senior Staff and President Tom Ehrlich.

Earl Johnson summed up Clint’s remarkable influence on legal aid:

“The Legal Services Program would never have succeeded without Clint’s bold vision, his oratorical skills in articulating that vision, and his courage in facing down those who tried to kill the program at its birth. I had the great privilege of having Clint as a boss for 8 months and an inspiration and good friend for a half century. He belongs in the same rank of legal aid heroes as Reginald Heber Smith and Arthur von Briesen.”

Clint Bamberger: An Appreciation (By Earl Johnson)

I had the great privilege and honor of serving as Clint’s deputy director in 1965-66 when he launched the OEO Legal Services Program, his landmark achievement in a lifetime of important achievements. From that vantage point, I came to know the man and appreciate his many talents and virtues first hand. In the mid-1960s there was no e-mail, in fact no computers. Clint and I were in each other’s offices a half-dozen times a day and often more frequently than that.

We had a tiny headquarters staff, a half dozen lawyers and three or four secretaries and only seven months to create a nationwide system of a 150 programs with over 1000 lawyers. To make that happen, Clint committed himself to 12 and 14 hour days, seven days a week, all the while commuting to his Baltimore home nearly every night. And he expected and largely received similar commitments from the rest of us on his staff. Clint was famous for his middle of the night calls to staff asking for status reports on existing assignments or handing out new assignments. But no one complained. What Clint did and said inspired loyalty to him and the cause he espoused.

You see, Clint had a mission. He wanted to not only expand legal aid, but to change it—quite dramatically. He wanted to turn it into an affirmative force for restructuring the law to make it more favorable for the poor. And Clint wasn’t shy about stating that goal. At the November 1965 meeting, he told the members of the National Legal Aid and Defenders Association that was what he expected from legal aid societies to which he made grants—a message not popular with many of those in attendance. He said the same thing to ABA members at the mid-year meeting in February 1966, and in innumerable speeches to local and state bar associations around the country that spring. When some in the audiences at these events objected, sometimes in derisive language, Clint stood his ground, in fact, usually more than stood his ground. It was in these confrontations, he showed his talents as the superb trial lawyer he was.

Clint didn’t limit his courage to the public stage. In making decisions in the quiet of the office he exhibited that same devotion to his vision of what the OEO Legal Services Program should become. When the ABA president and several other bar leaders on the National Advisory Committee objected to the proposed requirement that poor people should have one-third of the seats on the boards of local legal services grantees, Clint argued that provision was essential and insisted it remain. And remain it did. Similarly, when the California State Bar along with all the local bars in areas to be served by California Rural Legal Assistance stated their opposition to that proposal, Clint took their calls, then ignored that pressure and signed the grant.

As you can well imagine, it wasn’t hard to consider such a man a hero, and to love working for him. That was how everyone on the OEO LSP staff felt, including and especially myself. Clint Bamberger was the absolutely perfect person to be the first director of the nation’s first federally funded legal services program for the poor. His unique combination of vision, oratorical skills, courage, and heart made all the difference and set the program on course to make a major contribution during the “war on poverty” era.