ABA President Robert M. Carlson and Theodore A. Howard, the chair of the ABA Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants (SCLAID), supported confirmation this month of six individuals who have been nominated by President Trump to serve on the Board of Directors for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC).
The nominees, received by the Senate on June 11, are: past ABA President Robert J. Grey Jr., of Virginia; Abigail L. Kuzma, of Indiana; John G. Levi, of Illinois; John G. Malcolm, of the District of Columbia; Frank X. Neuner Jr., of Louisiana; and Gloria Valencia-Weber, of New Mexico. Three of the nominees – Grey, Levi and Valencia-Weber – are current board members who were previously evaluated by the ABA and were not reevaluated.
In a letter to Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Carlson and Howard explained that the support for the nominees was based on criteria adopted by the ABA House of Delegates in 1989 that are based on the principles and responsibilities set forth for the board by the LSC Act requiring that:
- “all persons considered for nomination should be free of all conflict, or the appearance of such conflict, with the existence and function of the corporation or the representation of poor persons in legal matters, so that they may act and may be perceived to act with objectivity and fairness;
- all nominees should support and demonstrate a high order of commitment to the continued existence and the effective operation of LSC;
- those nominated should be committed to the freedom of the LSC, its operation and its grantees from political control;
- potential board members should provide assurance that they understand and are fully committed to the role of legal services attorneys and support the underlying principle of the LSC Act that it is in the national interest that the poor have full access under law to comprehensive and effective legal services; and
- the LSC Board as finally constituted should be adequately representative of the organized bar, legal education, legal services attorneys, the clients to be served, and organizations involved in the development of legal assistance for the poor.
The ABA House of Delegates authorized the association’s president or a designee to support or oppose LSC Board nominees based on evaluations conducted by SCLAID. The recent evaluations, completed by a subcommittee appointed by SCLAID, asked the nominees to complete a questionnaire on their background, experience, and views. Subcommittee members reviewed each nominee’s written materials, conducted confidential interviews with people who know the nominee, and interviewed each nominee.
The letter emphasized that the ABA will not be able to determine whether the LSC board is diverse and represents various constituencies in its entirety until additional nominations are made to fill out the remaining three seats of the 11-member board.