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S. 2870 (102nd): Legal Services Reauthorization Act of 1992

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The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on Aug 10, 1992.

Legal Services Reauthorization Act of 1992 - Amends the Legal Services Corporation Act (the Act) to: (1) authorize appropriations for the Legal Services Corporation for FY 1993 through 1997; (2) make Federal criminal laws against theft, fraud, and embezzlement applicable to Corporation funds; (3) make the Federal criminal statute against obstructing a Federal audit applicable with regard to auditors employed or retained by the Corporation; (4) make certain provisions of the False Claims Act applicable to the Corporation, any financial assistance recipient and other grantee or contractor of the Corporation (awardee), subgrantee or subcontractor of any such entity, or employee thereof (thus, giving the Attorney General the authority to bring a civil action against any person employed by or contracting with a recipient, subrecipient, grantee, or contractor who perpetuates a fraud with Corporation funds, but excluding from application to the Corporation and its recipients provisions which permit a private person to initiate a false claims action); and (5) specify that such provisions shall not be construed or interpreted to abrogate the authority of the Inspector General of the Corporation to carry out his or her duties and responsibilities pursuant to the Inspector General Act of 1978. Revises prohibitions on the use of Corporation funds for lobbying purposes to prohibit such use by any awardee: (1) to pay for publicity or propaganda intended or designed to support or defeat legislation pending before the Congress or State or local legislative bodies, or to influence any decision by a Federal, State, or local agency; (2) to pay for any personal service, advertisement, telegram, telephone communication, letter, printed matter, or other device, intended or designed to influence; any decision by a Federal, State, or local agency, except when legal assistance is provided by an employee of an awardee of the Corporation to an eligible client on a particular matter which directly involves the client's legal rights or responsibilities; any Member of Congress or other Federal, State, or local elected official to favor or oppose any referendum, initiative, constitutional amendment, or similar procedure of the Congress, State legislature, local council, or similar governing body; or any such Member or official to favor or oppose legislation (with exceptions); or (3) for administrative or related costs associated with such prohibited activities. Permits the use of such funds in connection with any communication: (1) made in response to a Federal, State, or local agency or elected official; (2) to a Federal, State, or local elected official pertaining to the authorization or appropriation of funds or any other measure affecting the authority, functions, or funding of, or pertaining to oversight measures directly affecting, the awardee or the Corporation, if the project director or designee of the awardee has expressly determined that the legislative body involved is considering such authorization, appropriation, or other measure, or is conducting oversight of the awardee or the Corporation. Bars the Corporation from imposing restrictions or requirements on awardees that are inconsistent with, or not authorized by, provisions of the Act and other applicable law. Requires the Corporation to: (1) arrange for evaluations to determine whether awardees are providing comprehensive, economical, and effective legal assistance to eligible clients; and (2) conduct monitoring and investigations into allegations that an awardee has violated applicable requirements. Sets forth provisions concerning investigation procedures. Directs the Board of Directors of the Corporation to provide for the enforcement of requirements with respect to such awardees. Permits the Corporation to suspend, reduce, or terminate financial assistance (with such termination only after consideration or other remedial measures and only after the employee has been afforded reasonable notice and opportunity for a timely, full, and fair hearing, to be conducted by an independent hearing examiner when requested), or deny an application for refunding (after affording the awardee an opportunity to correct the failure) when: (1) there has been a substantial failure to comply with applicable requirements; or (2) evaluations demonstrate that an awardee has consistently failed to provide economical and effective legal assistance. Authorizes the Corporation to deny an application for refunding when the Corporation has identified an applicant for financial assistance that is better able to provide comprehensive, economical, and effective legal assistance for the geographic area served by such awardee. Revises provisions concerning notice to awardees prior to the suspension or termination of assistance or the denial of a refunding application. Prohibits the annual level of assistance from being reduced by more than five percent or $20,000, whichever is less, unless the awardee has been afforded notice and, at the awardee's request, a timely and fair hearing. Sets forth Corporation monitoring requirements. Directs the Corporation to adopt standards and procedures within one year pursuant to such provision, taking into account: (1) the responsibility of the Corporation to provide for independent evaluations; (2) that each awardee has the responsibility to manage its day-to-day operations and to assure that its employees comply with all applicable law and deliver high quality legal assistance in an effective and economical manner; (3) that the personal privacy of eligible clients could be adversely affected by the public disclosure of records or documents obtained in connection with monitoring or investigation (and bars the Corporation from requiring disclosure of such records to the extent that they can be expected to contain information directly pertinent and necessary to an audit, or to an investigation of a likely pattern of discrimination, lack of compliance with the law, or poor performance by an awardee which is indicated by other external evidence); (4) the privacy protections of State law and the principle that matters and records that are personal or private and that related to an individual employee should be protected from examination by the Corporation; and (5) the rules of ethics and professional responsibility that are applicable in the jurisdiction where an awardee delivers legal assistance. Bars the Corporation from requiring disclosure of confidential client and personal records, with exceptions. Requires the Corporation to develop criteria for evaluating the capability and performance of awardees. Specifies that the Inspector General of the Corporation shall not, in carrying out his or her functions, be subject to any restriction that: (1) is contained in the standards and procedures adopted by the Corporation under this provision; and (2) limits access by the Corporation to documents or other information. Directs the Corporation to require each grantee, contractor, or person or entity receiving financial assistance to provide for an independent annual financial audit and to submit the report of the audit to the Corporation. Bars the Corporation from selecting the auditor employed by such entity, but allows the Corporation to direct such an entity to change its audit when necessary to maintain the entity's fiscal integrity. Permits the Corporation to conduct its own audit or hire an independent auditor when necessary, with the costs to be borne by the Corporation. (Current law directs the Corporation to conduct, or require each such grantee, contractor, or person or entity to provide for, an annual financial audit.) Places restrictions on the bringing of a class action suit by an awardee with funds provided by the Corporation against the Federal Government or any State or local government. Requires awardees to adopt policies to attempt to negotiate settlements and to use alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, where appropriate, before filing suit. Prohibits the use of Corporation funds to alter, revise, or reapportion a legislative, judicial, or elective district at any level of government. Places restrictions on the use of Corporation funds for legal assistance for aliens. Revises requirements for governing bodies of grant or contract recipients to require a recipient's governing body to be comprised of (in the majority) attorneys who are appointed by State, county, or local bar associations the memberships of which represent a majority of the attorneys practicing law in the locality in which the recipient is to provide legal assistance. Sets forth requirements for governing or policy bodies of recipients and other awardees. Allows the governing body of a bar association to appoint members of the governing or policy bodies of more than one awardee of the Corporation. Makes technical and conforming changes with respect to the professional responsibilities of the Corporation and attorney employees of the Corporation. Specifies that neither the Corporation nor the Comptroller General shall have access to any reports or records protected from disclosure by the laws or rules of ethics or professional responsibility that apply in the jurisdiction where such reports or records are maintained. Requires the Corporation (with specified exceptions) to ensure that attorneys employed full-time in providing legal assistance supported in major part by the Corporation refrain from any: (1) outside practice of law in which the attorneys seek or receive compensation; and (2) uncompensated outside practice of law. (Current law bars attorneys employed full-time in legal assistance activities supported in major part by the Corporation from any compensated outside practice, and any uncompensated outside practice except as authorized in guidelines promulgated by the Corporation.) Prohibits the use of Corporation funds for initiating the defense of a person in a proceeding to evict such person from a public housing project if the person has been convicted of the illegal sale or distribution of a controlled substance and the proceeding has been brought by a public housing project agency because such person threatens the health or safety of other tenants or employees of such agency. Prohibits awardees (or employees) from engaging in pre-complaint settlement negotiations, filing a complaint, or pursuing litigation against a defendant unless a written retainer agreement which enumerates the facts on which the claim is based has been signed by the plaintiffs. Specifies that, unless authorized by a court of competent jurisdiction, no awardee (or employee) may file a complaint or petition in a court until all plaintiffs known to plaintiff's counsel at the time have been specifically identified in the complaint or petition. Requires the Corporation to study, through the use of demonstration projects and other appropriate methods, the feasibility of utilizing a system of competition to improve the delivery of legal assistance and related activities. Sets forth reporting requirements. Specifies that a general restriction on training activities of the Corporation should not be construed to prohibit training of attorneys or paralegals as necessary to prepare them to advise any eligible client as to the nature of the legislative process, or to inform any such client of his or her rights under any statute, order, or regulation. Repeals a limitation on the use of non-Federal funds received by the Corporation. Directs the Corporation to require each awardee to maintain a system of time and recordkeeping that discloses the types of activities supported by Corporation and non-Corporation funds and allocates appropriate costs, including overhead, to activities funded by non-Corporation funds. Sets forth additional requirements regarding the specific type of system to be employed. Prohibits the use of alternative corporations to evade the provisions of this Act. Defines an "alternative corporation" as a group which has a single identity of interest with an awardee. Requires any awardee which shares employees with any other entity to specify with particularity the use of any funds by such employees. Directs the Corporation to ensure that all attorneys engaged in legal assistance activities supported by the Corporation refrain, while so engaged, from any political activity (current law) associated with a political party or the campaign of any candidate for public or party office. Requires grants and contracts made for calendar years 1993 through 1997 to be made for at least 12 months, except for any grant to a new program commencing operations after the beginning of the applicable calendar year. Sets forth provisions with respect to the establishment of local priorities and periodic analysis of the legal needs of clients in the area served by each such awardee. Revises the definition of "staff attorney" to mean an attorney who: (1) is employed by a recipient organized in whole or in part for the provision of legal assistance to eligible clients under the Act; and (2) receives more than half of his or her annual professional salary from the proceeds of a grant or contract from the Corporation to such recipient. (Current law specifies an attorney who receives more than half of his annual professional income from a recipient organized solely for the provision of legal assistance to eligible clients.) Directs the Corporation to conduct a study on legal assistance to older Americans.