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MASSACHUSETTS LAW REFORM INST. v. LEGAL SERVS. COR

December 19, 1984

MASSACHUSETTS LAW REFORM INSTITUTE, INC., et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
LEGAL SERVICES CORPORATION, et al., Defendants; WESTERN CENTER ON LAW AND POVERTY, INC., Plaintiff, v. LEGAL SERVICES CORPORATION, et al., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: PARKER

 BARRINGTON D. PARKER, District Judge:

 INTRODUCTION

 This matter comes before the Court on the parties' cross motions for summary judgment in two related cases: Massachusetts Law Reform Institute v. Legal Services Corporation ("MLRI"), Civil Action No. 84-190 and Western Center on Law and Poverty, Inc. v. Legal Services Corporation ("Western Center"), Civil Action No. 84-406. The central legal issue presented is whether the defendant Legal Services Corporation ("Corporation" or "LSC") lawfully refused to renew the plaintiffs' regional training grants for fiscal year ("FY") 1984.

 The plaintiffs in both actions operate regional training centers which provide training and related services to lawyers and indigent clients. The MLRI plaintiffs include the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, Inc. (Northeast Regional Training Center), Legal Services of Arkansas, Inc. (Southeast Regional Training Center), Legal Services Organization of Indiana, Inc. (Midwest Training Resource Center), and Colorado Rural Legal Services, Inc. (Western Regional Training Center). The plaintiff Western Center on Law and Poverty, Inc. operates the training center for Region VIII. Each plaintiff is hereinafter identified by the name of the training center it operates.

 Earlier in these proceedings, the Court considered the legality of the Corporation's decision to deny refunding to the MLRI plaintiffs. MLRI, 581 F. Supp. 1179 (D.D.C. 1984), aff'd 238 U.S. App. D.C. 59, 737 F.2d 1206 (D.C.Cir.1984). In granting those plaintiffs a preliminary injunction, the Court determined that the Corporation's action was contrary to the applicable federal law. Although Western Center was not a party to the MLRI proceeding, *fn1" the legal analysis and rationale of that decision applies with equal force to all of the training centers. Certain issues concerning the timeliness of Western Center's application for 1984 funds and its request for prejudgment interest on its state support grant will also be resolved in this opinion.

 The findings of fact and conclusion of law entered by the Court in granting the preliminary injunction in MLRI are adopted for purposes of deciding the pending summary judgment motions. These conclusions are reinforced by recent congressional action, see Pub.L. 98-411, 98 Stat. 1545 (1984), which confirms the correctness of the Court's initial ruling that the LSC's decision to deny refunding violated the FY 1984 Appropriations Act for the Departments of Commerce, Justice, State, the Judiciary and Related Agencies ("1984 Appropriations Act"), Pub.L. 98-166, 97 Stat. 1071 (1983), and the procedural provisions of the Legal Services Corporation Act of 1974 ("Act"), 42 U.S.C. § 2996 et seq. Accordingly, the Court grants the plaintiffs' motions for summary judgment in MLRI and Western Center. The reasons for that determination are set forth below. Where appropriate, the Court refers to its specific findings in MLRI.

 FACTUAL BACKGROUND

 The LSC first awarded training grants to the centers in September of 1981. *fn2" These grants were for a term of at least one year and provided funds for initial startup costs. The initial training grants were supplemented at the close of 1981. In two letters dated December 11, 1981, the LSC extended the terms of the September agreements and gave each MLRI plaintiff two additional grants. In each case, the smaller grant could be expended during the 1982 calendar year, while the larger grant was for the fifteen month period beginning October 1, 1982 and ending December 31, 1983. *fn3"

 The funds obligated for the latter period were not carryover funds from previous years, and were specifically provided for the operation of the training centers for the last three months of 1982 and all of 1983. Although the award letters stated that the second grant was awarded for the 1982 and 1983 fiscal years, the funds could not be expended prior to October 1, 1982. Under the terms of the second supplemental grant agreements, the regional training centers in MLRI received the following grants: Northeast ($160,000), Western ($170,000); Southeast ($ 130,000), and Midwest ($135,000). *fn4"

 In sum, the Corporation gave the centers advance funding for a two-year period. The grants were explicitly issued pursuant to the Legal Services Corporation Act of 1974, 42 U.S.C. § 2996e(a)(1)(B), (3)(B). *fn5" The first type of grant funds general, support-related functions, while the latter covers training and technical assistance functions which relate to the delivery of legal services. *fn6" The grant agreements cautioned that they "are awarded on a non-recurring basis and do not affect your program's annual funding level" and that any decision not to renew the grants next year (i.e. 1982) would not "constitute a denial of refunding within the meaning of section 1011 of the Legal Services Corporation Act [ 42 U.S.C. § 2996j]." See, e.g. Rodgers Aff., Exs. 2, 3.

 Prior to October 15, 1983, all of the training centers except Western Center submitted applications for refunding of their training center grants. Shortly thereafter, Gregg Hartley, the Director of the LSC Office of Field Services, wrote letters notifying the plaintiffs, including Western Center, that:

 
Pursuant to the original grant award, Condition No. 12, this is notification that the Corporation will not renew your grant. *fn7"

 Condition No. 12 provided that:

 
In the event that the Corporation's Congressional appropriation is not sufficient to enable the Corporation to renew this grant, at least sixty (60) days before the end of the grant term, the Corporation will notify the grantee that it does not intend to renew this grant.

 The timing of the nonrenewal letters was directly tied to the requirements of Condition 12. Since the last of the centers' three grants was to expire on December 31, 1983, the Corporation wanted to ensure that it complied with the sixty day notice provision. Hartley Dec. at paras. 41-47, filed Jan. 20, 1984; Hartley Dep. at 94-96, filed Feb. 15, 1984.

 This alleged shortage of funds, however, presents an unlikely justification for the decision to deny refunding to the plaintiffs. At the time Hartley prepared the October 1983 letters, he was aware that LSC possessed more than $5 million in surplus funds which could be expended in FY 1984. Hartley Dep. at 65-66. While the exact amount of LSC appropriations for FY 1984 had not been determined when Hartley drafted the letters, any new appropriations would certainly increase the available pool of funds for grant expenditures. The LSC in fact received FY 1984 appropriations of $275 million, at 14.1 percent increase over its 1983 appropriations. 97 Stat. 1088. By the start of 1984, the Corporation had approximately $6 million in surplus funds, of which more than $4 million were available for expenditure in FY 1984. Hartley Dep. at 65-69, Ex. 10 at 19, 21, Ex. 11.

 Nor was the Corporation's decision related to its opinion of the centers' performances under the terms of the grants. Hartley Dec. at 35; Hartley Dep. at 90-91. The Corporation has admitted that two of the training centers have excellent programs (Midwest and Western). Hartley Dec. at 48; Hartley Dep. at 89-90. The performance of the Northeast Center has been at least satisfactory, and Western Center's performance has not been criticized. The Corporation is apparently less satisfied with the quality of services provided by the Southeast Regional Center. Id.

 LEGAL ANALYSIS

 The plaintiffs challenge the Corporation's actions on two grounds: failure to comply with an affirmative rider attached to the 1984 Appropriations Act, Pub.L. 98-166 and failure to provide the procedural rights afforded by the Legal Services Corporation Act of 1974, 42 U.S.C. § 2996j. *fn8" The Court will first examine these two arguments, then consider the specific procedural posture of Western Center's request for refunding, and lastly, determine the amount of money the regional training centers are entitled to receive in 1984.

 A.

 Pub.L. 98-166: 1984 ...


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