House Version of Legal Aid Reauthorization Introduced
On Thursday, October 8, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) introduced H.R. 3764, the House version of the “Civil Access to Justice Act of 2009.” In most respects the Scott bill tracks the Senate version of the bill that was filed by Sen. Harkin (D-IA) in March of 2009, but does include some substantive revisions and a number of technical changes.
With the exception of the restriction on abortion litigation, which continues to apply to all of a grantee’s funds, both bills eliminate the application of restrictions to non-LSC funds that is imposed by the current appropriations act. The Scott bill also eliminates all limitations on class actions and excludes the language from the Harkin bill on priorities, leaving in place the LSC Act provisions on class actions and priorities, eliminating the appropriations act provisions on these issues. Both bills include a restriction on LSC-funded legal assistance in drug related public housing evictions, but the Scott bill applies only to individuals who have been convicted of the illegal distribution of a controlled substance, while the Harkin bill also applies to individuals who have been charged with these drug crimes.
The Senate and House bills restrict LSC-funded representation of aliens, but both bills expand the exceptions to the restriction to include most legal aliens, many of whom are not covered by the exceptions in the current Appropriations Act. In addition, the House bill updates the exceptions to make them consistent with current immigration law and specifically permits the representation of certain victims of torture. Both bills permit LSC grantees to claim attorneys’ fees, although the Harkin bill requires grantees to report such fees to LSC.
The Harkin bill included a section amending the Higher Education Act that authorized the Secretary of Education to make grants to support law school clinical programs. The Scott bill does not address clinical legal education. The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law which has oversight responsibility for LSC has scheduled a hearing on October 27 to address the reauthorization bill as well as the Justice Gap.
Civil Access to Justice Act of 2009 (H.R. 3764)
Introductory Remarks from Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA)
Introductory Remarks from Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN)