Restrictions on types of cases that could be handled
The 1974 LSC Act prohibited:
- litigation involving nontherapeutic abortion;
- representation in school desegregation cases;
- representation in selective service and military cases;
- representation in certain juvenile cases;
- representation in criminal cases;
- representation in habeas corpus collaterally attacking a criminal conviction; and
- bringing fee-generating cases (defined as any case or matter which, if undertaken on behalf of an eligible client by an attorney in private practice, reasonably may be expected to result in a fee for legal services from an awards to a client, from public funds, or from the opposing party).
The restriction on juvenile representation was removed during the 1977 reauthorization of the LSC Act.
Restrictions on clients that could be represented
The LSC Act permits representation of all aliens, public housing residents, prisoners and others so long as they met financial eligibility guidelines.
Restrictions on representation and other activities
The 1974 LSC Act included restrictions on legislative and administrative advocacy, ballot measures, initiatives or referendum, class actions, training and organizing, but there were qualifications and exceptions that significantly limited those restrictions.
Ballot measures, initiatives and referendum: Programs could not advocate or oppose any ballot measure, initiative, or referendum.
Legislative and administrative advocacy: The 1974 Act prohibited indirect or direct attempts to “influence the issuance, amendment or revocation of any executive order or similar promulgation by any Federal, State or local agency, or to undertake to influence the passage or defeat of any legislation by the Congress of the United States, or by any State or local legislative bodies, or State proposal by initiative petition.” However, the Act permitted representing clients before legislative and administrative bodies when “necessary to the provision of legal advice and representation with respect to … (a) client’s legal rights and responsibilities.” The Act also permitted program staff to testify, draft, or review measures or to make representations to government agencies, legislative bodies, committee or members when requested to do so. The Act also permitted representation when agencies and legislative bodies are considering a measure directly affecting the activities of a program or the Corporation (self-help lobbying).
Class actions: Could be undertaken with the express approval of the project director under policies promulgated by the program’s board.
Training: Programs could not conduct or support training programs to advocate for particular public policies or encourage political activities, labor or anti-labor activities, boycotts, strikes and demonstrations. However, programs could train attorneys and paralegals to provide legal assistance and disseminate information about public policies.
Organizing: Programs could not organize a group, association, and the like. But programs could provide legal assistance to such groups.
Restrictions on personal activities of staff attorneys
Staff attorneys could not:
- run for partisan elective office (and must resign if they decide to run);
- engage in any political activity during working hours;
- engage in any illegal demonstrations, boycotts, strikes or other illegal activity at any time; or
- engage in voter registration or transporting voters to the polls during working hours.
Restrictions on the type of cases and scope of representation applied to both LSC and private funds, but not to non-LSC public funds (which included IOLTA funds).