History of restrictions on LSC-funded civil legal aid programs

From the beginning of the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), there have been restrictions on who can be served and what can be done by LSC-funded civil legal aid programs. This is a history of restrictions on programs funded by LSC. Such restrictions came in three main phases:

  • The original 1974 LSC Act included a number of restrictions.
  • Congress added more in 1982 and 1989 through appropriation provisions that in most cases only restricted a program’s LSC funds.
  • In the FY96 appropriations legislation, modified slightly by the FY98 appropriations legislation, and incorporated in the FY99 and subsequent appropriations legislation, Congress added many more and made these new restrictions apply to all funds received by a program with LSC funding.

LSC-funded entities can still address systemic problems faced by low-income persons
The LSC restrictions imposed in 1996, and subsequently, left legal services programs and their staff with less capacity to effectively represent low-income persons in the courts and before other forums that affect their rights and responsibilities. Even so, over 95% of the work done in legal services in 1995 could continue and over 98% of the cases brought to court in 1995 could still be brought. Moreover, there continue to be many critically important representational activities that can still be done by LSC-funded entities, and programs can continue to address systemic problems faced by low-income persons in virtually all substantive areas.

Restrictions by states and other funders (not covered in this history)
Note that some states and other funders have also imposed restrictions on their funding. Most of the state restrictions are identical to the LSC restrictions. A few states and some other funders have imposed additional restrictions to funding not included in the LSC restrictions. This history does not cover restrictions by states and other funders.