Polluters and other defendants in numerous lawsuits brought by Law School Clinics in behalf of the victims of corporate and state government abuse have discovered their adversaries’ Achilles heals. Reprising events in the early history of the Legal Services Corporation, the defendants are now actively moving in state legislatures to cut off funding to the law school clinic lawyers who represent their adversaries. The result, they hope, will be continued immunity from legal inquiry and a continuation of business and pollution as usual.
Many years ago, during The Great Society, the federal government funded the Office of Economic Opportunity, (OEO) which provided many services, including civil legal services to poor people. These legal services were obviously capable of transforming society in fundamental ways. Poor people, for so long disenfranchised, found they had access to federal and state courts and free lawyers to pursue fundamental violations of their civil rights. Instantly, poor people had allies in enforcing their legal rights. In response, those who favored the status quo immediately sought not to remedy poor people’s complaints, but instead to cut them off from their lawyers, to forbid the lawyers from pursuing these important cases.