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1911
Fifteen legal aid societies join together to form the National Alliance of Legal Aid Societies. Arthur von Briesen of the Legal Aid Society of New York is the first president of the organization that will become the NLADA.

1919
Justice for the Poor, the first nationwide study of legal aid by Reginald Heber Smith, is published.

1923
The National Association of Legal Aid Organizations succeeds the National Alliance of Legal Aid Societies. The first Annual Conference is held.

1938
The United States Supreme Court rules in Johnson v. Zerbst, that, "the Sixth Amendment withholds from the Federal Courts, in all criminal proceedings, the authority to deprive an accused of his life or liberty unless he has or waives the assistance of counsel."

1945
The American Bar Association appropriates funds to promote, through state and local bar associations, the organization of legal aid offices.

1949
The National Legal Aid Association succeeds NALAO. Harrison Tweed is elected president. Emery A. Brownell is executive director.

1956
NLAA establishes a Defender Section.

1958
NLAA changes its name to the National Legal Aid & Defender Association.

1963
NLADA receives a $2.3 million Ford Foundation grant for improving defender services through the National Defender Project.

In Gideon v. Wainwright, the Supreme Court guarantees the right to counsel in state courts to all persons accused of felonies.

1964
The Criminal Justice Act of 1964 directs each federal district court to adopt a plan to provide legal representation for indigents at all stages of a criminal proceeding, including appeal.

Jean and Edgar Cahn co-author "The War on Poverty: A Civilian Perspective," which becomes the blueprint for neighborhood legal services programs.

1966
NLADA files an amicus brief in In re Gault, in which the Supreme Court sets forth due process requirements, including right to counsel, in juvenile proceedings where the defendant's freedom is at stake.

NLADA Civil Committee is established.

NLADA begins offering insurance plans to its members.

1972
NLADA files amicus brief in Furman v. Georgia, in which the Supreme Court abolishes the death penalty.

1973
NLADA publishes "The Other Face of Justice," the only comprehensive national survey of criminal defense funding and needs.

1974
Congress establishes the Legal Services Corporation (LSC).

1975
The first LSC Board is confirmed and LSC begins operations.

1976
NLADA publishes "Guidelines for Legal Defense Systems in the United States."

1979
NLADA creates its Access to Justice Project, funded by LSC to provide representation of poor people before Congress on federal court jurisdictional issues.

1980
Ronald Reagan is elected president; He vows to eliminate federally funded legal services.

1981
LSC-funded programs sustain a 25 percent funding cut but survive initial attempts to eliminate legal services.

IOLTA (Interest on Lawyers' Trust Accounts) is pioneered in Florida.

NLADA conducts first national Appellate Defender Training.

1982
NLADA's Civil Standards Project coordinates development of standards for the provision of civil legal services.

NLADA receives a grant from the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation for an Alternative Sentencing Advocacy Project.

1984
The American Bar Association holds its first Pro Bono Conference.

1985
The first confirmed LSC Board of Directors of the Reagan administration embarks upon a five-year campaign to eliminate funding and restrict advocacy but is constrained by Congress.

NLADA conducts first national Defender Management Training.

1987
NLADA launches Capital Report, a newsletter for death penalty defense team members.

ABA adopts "Standards for Providers of Civil Legal Services to the Poor."

1989
NLADA conducts Life in the Balance: Defending Death Penalty Cases Conference.

1990
President George Bush names recess appointees to the LSC Board.

NLADA, the Project Advisory Group and the Center for Law and Social Policy publish "Future Challenges, A Planning Document for Legal Services."

NLADA publishes "National Directory of Death Penalty Mitigation Specialists."

1991
NLADA holds its first Annual Awards Dinner to commemorate the Association's 80th anniversary, with former U.S. presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford as honorary co-chairs.

ABA Adopts Monitoring Standards.

President Bush sends his nominees for the LSC Board to the Senate for confirmation.

NLADA receives Ford Foundation funding to coordinate the work of national and state programs, regional training centers, the elder law support community and other providers of support to legal services advocates.

1993
Hillary Rodham Clinton recognized at NLADA's third Annual Awards Dinner for her dedication and commitment to equal access to justice for all Americans.

1996
In response to severe cuts in LSC funding, NLADA leads efforts in statewide planning and development of innovative service delivery models.

1997
Grants from the Ford Foundation and the Open Society Institute support NLADA efforts to promote the development of comprehensive, integrated statewide systems for delivering civil legal assistance to low-income people.

1998
Project Advisory Group (PAG), created in 1967 by the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity to serve as the voice of legal services programs and their clients, merges with NLADA.

1998 marks the 10-year anniversary of NLADA's Life in the Balance training conference, the nation's premier death penalty defense training.

1999
NLADA begins an ambitious new plan to transform itself into a more technologically advanced, member-oriented entity. The association enters into a new partnership with the ABA to institute an Equal Justice Conference, bringing together civil legal services providers, volunteer private attorneys, pro bono coordinators, jurists, law school clinicians, bar leaders, funders, and other members of the equal justice community from around the nation.

Prompted by NLADA's request to U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno that she use her position to build the case for supporting and improving indigent defense, the Department of Justice convenes the first National Symposium on Indigent Defense, in Washington, DC. NLADA's defender division helps author the symposium report, "Improving Criminal Justice Systems through Expanded Strategies and Innovative Collaboration."

The Legal Services Corporation celebrates its 25th anniversary.

2000
The "new" NLADA launches a National Public Awareness Campaign to educate the public and funders about the need for civil legal services for the poor. NLADA launches the American Council of Chief Defenders, a section open to chief and deputy chief defenders of state, county, local and federal defender systems and programs in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, American Samoa and the Virgin Islands. NLADA's 78th Annual Conference, in Washington, D.C., draws a record number of attendees.

2001
In the case of Velazquez v. LSC, U.S. Supreme Court finds one of the restrictions placed against LSC, the welfare reform prohibition in "suits for benefits" cases, to be an unconstitutional limitation on First Amendment free speech guarantees. The Court denies cert on the challenges to other restrictions in Velazquez.

NLADA adopts a Client Section.

NLADA's defender division works with the public opinion research firm Belden, Russonello & Stewart to take the first-ever national poll on indigent defense.

2002
NLADA successfully advocated for an additional $9.5 million in funding for Legal Services Corporation (LSC) grantees for fiscal year 2003.

NLADA, together with AARP and other organziations, filed an amicus curiae brief in support of the Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts (IOLTA) funding in the victorious U.S. Supreme Court case of Brown v. Legal Foundation of Washington.

2003
In commemoration of the 40th Anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court right to counsel case, NLADA launched two national public awareness campaigns to support indigent defense reform efforts.

* No Exceptions - A Campaign to Guarantee a Fair Justice System for All, and

* Initiative on the Right to Counsel - A national blue ribbon committee, co-chaired by former U.S. Vice President Walter Mondale and former U.S. Senator John Danforth (R-MO), is evaluating the current state of indigent defense throughout the nation.

2004
NLADA, together with the National Consumer Law Center, awarded eight Consumer Law Fellowships to legal services programs around the country, enabling them to expand their practice of consumer law.

NLADA successfully advocated for the creation of a new, statewide public defense system in Montana that meets most national standards, and for the first time, provides uniform funding from the state.

2005
NLADA representatives played a leading role in the revision of the American Bar Association Standards for the Provision of Civil Legal Services to the Poor, which was last updated in 1986.

NLADA convened the nation's top defender executives (the American Council of Chief Defenders) on Capitol Hill to discuss the effect of disparities in the distribution of federal resources on public defense and to educate key congressional leaders about student loan forgiveness for public defenders.

2006
NLADA worked closely with her national partners to secure a $22 million increase in the annual appropriation of the Legal Services Corporation. The first infusion of funds in four years, the increase symbolizes the broad bipartisan support the legal services community enjoys on Capitol Hill.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, NLADA services were retained by the Louisiana State Bar Associationto assess the situation in Orleans Parish (New Orleans), with the aim of recommending a strategic plan to overcome systemic deficiencies. The NLADA-authored report was released on September 22 to an overwhelmingly positive reception. So strong was the reaction that NLADA has since served in an advisory role to the House Criminal Justice Committee of the Louisiana Legislature, providing technical assistance at the request of the committee chair.

2007
NLADA and the ACCD launched a campaign resulting in the introduction of federal legislation for student loan forgiveness to help programs attract and retain diverse, qualified staffs. We are hopeful that the John R. Justice Prosecutors and Defenders Incentive Act of 2007 will be enacted into law this year. NLADA also worked with members of the academy and others on the College Cost Reduction and Access Act (H.R.2669), signed into law in September, which includes a Public Service Loan Forgiveness program available to public interest lawyers, including public defenders.

2008
On January 4, 2008, the Nevada Supreme Court issued a sweeping order finding a caseload crisis in Clark County (Las Vegas) and Washoe County (Reno), and mandating widespread reform of the Stateís indigent defense services. Among other items, the order strengthens the systemís independence by requiring every county to submit a delivery plan that eliminates judges from the defense function by May 1st, establishes an interim statewide independent public defense commission to oversee services, and requires case-weighting studies to be completed in an expedited fashion. NLADA staffed the Supreme Court Task Force and each of its three subcommittees, and coordinated the participation of our NIDC partners. The Supreme Court of Nevada officially recognized NLADAís Director of Research & Evaluation, David Carroll, for his "generous contributions to the Supreme Court's Indigent Defense Commission," stating that his input "will aid the Supreme Court in future decisions" and his contributions "will endure for years to come." Back to Top