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Rationing Justice

Poverty Lawyers and Poor People in the Deep South

Making the Modern South

408 pages / 6.00 x 9.00 inches / None

ebook available

American History

  Paperback / 9780807134160 / March 2009

Established in 1964, the federal Legal Services Program (later, Corporation) served a vast group of Americans desperately in need of legal counsel: the poor. In Rationing Justice, Kris Shepard looks at this pioneering program's effect on the Deep South, as the poor made tangible gains in cases involving federal, state, and local social programs, low-income housing, consumer rights, domestic relations, and civil rights. While poverty lawyers, Shepard reveals, did not by themselves create a legal revolution in the South, they did force southern politicians, policy makers, businessmen, and law enforcement officials to recognize that they could not ignore the legal rights of low-income citizens. Having survived for four decades, America's legal services program has adapted to ever-changing political realities, including slashed budgets and severe restrictions on poverty law practice adopted by the Republican-led Congress of the mid-1990s. With its account of the relationship between poverty lawyers and their clients, and their interaction with legal, political, and social structures, Rationing Justice speaks poignantly to the possibility of justice for all in America.

Kris Shepard is an attorney who lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, and he serves on the board of directors of Legal Aid of North Carolina. He is the coeditor of A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Praise for Rationing Justice

“Shepard digs deep into an impressive array of newspapers, oral histories, personal interviews, and organizational and legal sources to create a complex, ground-level narrative of how diverse, and not always unified, groups of lawyers established and then sustained the practice of ‘poverty law’ in a hostile, changing region. . . . A worthwhile contribution to the recent history of law and social policy.”—Journal of American History

Rationing Justice . . . offers a unique perspective on the history of this remarkable federal project. . . . Shepard is unusually sensitive to the role of legal services programs in advancing the careers of female and African American attorneys.”—Florida Historical Quarterly

“A thorough and well-documented account of the cases brought by legal services attorneys in the Deep South.”—Law and History Review

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