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american lawyer media news service Atlanta-Frank B. Strickland, the new chairman of the Washington-based Legal Services Corp. (LSC), is a realist and, to some extent, a contradiction in terms. Strickland now heads the 11-member board of a congressionally created, $338.8 million private nonprofit that distributes federal funds nationwide to groups that offer civil legal services to the poor. The contradiction comes because he’s a member of the Federalist Society and a long-time Republican, active in a party whose members, less than a decade ago, attempted to eviscerate the organization he now leads. The realism comes from his philosophy that for LSC-and the many legal aid groups it funds around the country-to survive, there has to be a measure of compromise to keep the organization outside the arena of partisan politics. President George W. Bush nominated Strickland, a 36-year veteran of law practice and a partner at Strickland Brockington Lewis of Atlanta, and Strickland was confirmed by Congress earlier this year. He was sworn in at the board’s quarterly meeting in Santa Fe, N.M., on April 25. He replaced former Chairman Douglas S. Eakeley, a partner with Lowenstein Sandler of Roseland, N.J. Strickland served as the first vice chairman of Georgia’s Republican Party in the mid-1980s and later as the state party’s general counsel and redistricting counsel. He’s also a long-time legal services supporter. He spent years on the board of Atlanta Legal Aid Society Inc. and has been on the board of Georgia Legal Services Program Inc., two groups funded by LSC. Strickland is one of eight new faces on the 11-member board, whose members serve three-year renewable terms. Party balance The president may appoint no more than six members from his own political party, and the board’s current makeup is six Republicans and five Democrats. Members are paid $320 plus travel costs for each quarterly meeting. They oversee LSC’s 110-member staff, promulgate regulations and ensure that member programs comply with congressional regulations. According to Strickland, the board also oversees funding allocations among the legal services programs in states and territories based on a statistical, U.S. Census Bureau-based calculation of the size of the poverty populations that the programs serve. One of his goals is to preserve access to free legal help for the poor. “It’s far more important for a person to be able to go to a storefront lawyer for a legal problem than to expand the scope of what legal services does,” he said. The scope of legal services work was a factor that almost led to LSC’s obliteration in the mid-1990s. At that time, Congress attempted to defund LSC-a move that could have undercut seriously or even eliminated many legal aid groups around the country. Strickland was a member of a group of Georgians who spoke before the Georgia congressional delegation urging it to maintain LSC’s funding. According to LSC spokesman Eric D. Kleiman, the organization’s funding was $400 million in 1995. The next year, Congress slashed its budget by $122 million to $278 million. In addition, Congress instituted a set of restrictions on the types of matters that may be handled by the legal services groups that LSC funds. Those restrictions, still in force, prohibit legal services programs from handling class actions, challenging welfare reform laws, litigating on behalf of prisoners, lobbying, collecting attorney fees, representing certain categories of aliens and offering representation in drug-related public housing evictions. Strickland said he has no plans to try to get Congress to lift the 1996 restrictions. “Whether or not I agree with the restrictions-in other words, it is more important in my mind to continue funding at least at current levels rather than take on the political hot-button issue of expanding the scope of what legal services lawyers can do,” he said. “If that’s the trade-off, I’ll take it.”

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