Poverty Warriors: A Historical Perspective on the Mission of Legal Services

By: Gary F. Smith. Published by: Clearinghouse Review: Journal of Poverty Law and Policy. Published in May 2011.

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Sargent Shriver and the other founders of the federally funded legal services program believed the program should advocate on behalf of entire poor communities and pursue an antipoverty mission. The current push for “access to justice” and “Civil Gideon” strays from that original mission by focusing on individual legal problems that do not target the underlying causes of poverty. Even with Legal Services Corporation regulations, legal services programs can pursue an antipoverty agenda if they have the desire and creativity to do so.

The “Civil Gideon” Movement In the national legal services community the new enthusiasm accompanying the quest for a so-called Civil Gideon model ultimately may serve to erode any remaining resemblance between today’s legal services “advocacy” and the antipoverty mission envisioned by the founders of the original legal services program. … LSNC thus allocates significant resources both to systemic, antipoverty advocacy and to brief assistance to large numbers of individual clients with critical legal needs.



Categories: General/Unspecified Clients, Legal Aid Attorneys, National

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