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Poverty Warriors

A Historical Perspective on the Mission of Legal Services

By Gary F. Smith

Sargent Shriver and the other founders of the federally funded legal services program believed the program should advocate on behalf of entire poor communities and pursue an antipoverty mission. The current push for “access to justice” and “Civil Gideon” strays from that original mission by focusing on individual legal problems that do not target the underlying causes of poverty. Even with Legal Services Corporation regulations, legal services programs can pursue an antipoverty agenda if they have the desire and creativity to do so.

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