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  1. #1
    Senior Member Brian503a's Avatar
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    May 2005
    California or ground zero of the invasion

    Inspector general criticizes Calif. legal aid group ... 85CA.shtml

    Inspector general criticizes Calif. legal aid group


    The Associated Press


    A federally funded California nonprofit that gives legal help to Central Valley farmworkers and others violated federal prohibitions against political behavior, soliciting clients and other activities, an inspector general's report said Thursday.

    The report was requested by Republican Rep. Devin Nunes of Tulare, who's been critical of California Rural Legal Assistance and also of the federal Legal Services Corporation that funds it.

    The report found that California Rural Legal Assistance, which claims to provide free legal help to 20,000 poor rural Californians each year, apparently flouted congressional reforms blocking actions like lobbying and advocacy, getting involved in class-action litigation and representing illegal immigrants.

    Those reforms were enacted by congressional Republicans in 1996 after some in the GOP sought to eliminate the Legal Services Corporation entirely.

    The Legal Services Corporation's inspector general, Kirt West, found "substantial evidence the CRLA has violated federal law" by soliciting clients, working a fee-generating case, requesting attorney fees and associating with political activities.

    The findings raise "serious concerns about CRLA's deviation from Congress' intended purpose in enacting the 1996 reforms, to refocus (Legal Services Corporation) grantees on the provision of basic legal services to indigent persons seeking assistance," said the report.

    The inspector general said he was not able to reach conclusions in some areas because CRLA has refused to provide requested information.

    Jose Padilla, CRLA's executive director, issued a statement Thursday night saying his organization was "doing exactly the job Congress and the Legal Services Corporation funded it to do."

    In the past year, Padilla said, CRLA has recovered unpaid wages for hundreds of workers, obtained protective orders for victims of domestic violance, prevented hundreds of low-income residents from being illegally evicted and successfully challenged what he called enforcement agencies' "long-time failure" to adopt toxics and pesticides standards for fields and orchards where thousands of people work.

    He said the group's critics apparently prefer to "leave alone those wrongdoers whose habitual misconduct injures hundreds and even thousands."

    The American Bar Association also objected to the investigation as potentially intruding on attorney-client privilege, something the inspector general disputes.

    Nunes said the inspector general's report shows CRLA as an out-of-control company pursuing a political agenda with disregard for the law.

    "They're basically just an extreme environmentalist organization and they're constantly after agriculture and other industries that they don't like. They're not out at all to help poor people, that's for sure," Nunes said in an interview. He said constituents have complained about CRLA soliciting them to bring lawsuits about pesticides and other issues.

    CRLA got $6.7 million from the Legal Services Corporation in 2006 to serve migrant workers throughout the state and help poor residents in the Central Valley. It's one of a handful of Legal Services Corporation grantees in California.

    The inspector general report relied largely on a whistleblower who used to work as an attorney at CRLA.

    The report said that despite a federal prohibition against political activities, CRLA's executive director endorsed something called "The World Can't Wait: Drive Out the Bush Regime." Another company official co-hosted a fundraiser for Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry. Both officials cited their CRLA affiliations in connection with the events.

    Other examples suggested that CRLA leadership was less interested in helping individual clients, as required by Congress, than in pursuing "impact" cases that could change policies or score political points.

    For example, the whistleblower said she was required to spend significant amounts of time trying to find a client CRLA could use to get involved in a Modesto case involving disparate provision of municipal services. As a result she had little time to help two individual clients who sought help from CRLA.

    A spokesman for the Legal Services Corporation, Tom Polgar, said he hadn't yet read the report.

    "If the IG's allegations are accurate, that would be a serious matter" that LSC would have to address, he said.

    CRLA's current three-year federal grant expires in January; the company has applied to the Legal Services Corporation for a new grant.

    Published: Thursday, September 14, 2006 18:29 PDT
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  2. #2
    Super Moderator Newmexican's Avatar
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    May 2005
    Heart of Dixie
    CRLA's current three-year federal grant expires in January; the company has applied to the Legal Services Corporation for a new grant
    Shut them down!!!!!
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