Elections are a primary means for citizens to determine their futures. Redistricting cases are designed to insure that the electoral system is consistent with the intent of Congress and the framers of the Constitution. In a particular circumstance, a redistricting case might, in the judgment of local attorneys, be the single most important and efficient means of assisting the poor of a region. Although successful redistricting cases may benefit others besides the poor, so might other types of cases that LSC has not seen fit to ban, such as actions dealing with sanitation, landlord-tenant disputes, or consumer protection.
In short, it does not effectuate a congressional goal to eliminate one of the means Congress has allowed for achieving it.
Perhaps recognizing this fact, LSC suggests that the redistricting ban can be justified under another provision of the LSC Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2996f(b)(4), which prohibits "political activity." However, LSC's own regulations contain a part devoted to defining "Prohibited Political Activities," 45 CFR § 1608, and the definition contained therein covers political parties, campaign contributions, elections, and ballot referendums but specifically exempts from prohibition "any form of legal assistance to an eligible client, or . . . fulfillment of any attorney's professional responsibilities to a client." Redistricting cases involve precisely such provision of legal services to a client; the object of such cases is to vindicate claimed statutory and constitutional voting rights.
In any case, much legal work on behalf of the poor, from consumer litigation to entitlements claims to the Voting Rights Act cases still permitted under the Final Rule, has political implications and the potential for stirring up controversy.
As LSC previously recognized in adopting the regulation cited above, there is no indication that Congress intended the "political activity" ban to give LSC carte blanche to prohibit certain types of cases. Where Congress wanted to prevent recipients from working in certain politically-charged areas, e.g. abortion and school desegregation, it specifically so provided.
LSC has no authority to second-guess clear legislative determinations Congress has affirmatively stated in the LSC Act. Congress can and in the past has made judgments about what types of cases are appropriate for LSC recipients. It has reserved these judgments for itself.
There being no statutory authority for LSC to adopt the disputed Final Rule, it cannot be sustained.
Summary judgment is granted to plaintiffs and denied to LSC, and the Final Rule is declared invalid and enjoined. An appropriate Order is attached.
ORDER - June 25, 1990, Filed
Upon consideration of plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment, defendant's Motion to Dismiss or in the Alternative for Summary Judgment, the oppositions thereto, and the entire record herein, and for the reasons stated in the accompanying Memorandum, it is hereby
ORDERED that defendant's Motion to Dismiss or in the Alternative for Summary Judgment is denied; and it is further
ORDERED that plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment is granted; and it is further
DECLARED pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2201(a) that the regulation promulgated by defendant at 45 CFR Part 1632, 54 Fed. Reg. 31954 (Aug. 3, 1989) (the "Final Rule"), exceeds defendant's statutory rulemaking authority as provided in the Legal Services Corporation Act of 1974, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2996 et seq.; and it is further
ORDERED that defendant is permanently enjoined from enforcing the Final Rule; and it is further
ORDERED that plaintiffs are granted the costs of this action, to be fixed by the Clerk; and it is further
ORDERED that there being no indication of bad faith, plaintiffs' claim for attorney fees is denied.