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US Supreme Court Upholds Welfare Challenges in Free Speech Case

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 this week that Congress violated the First Amendment when it barred lawyers in a federally financed legal services program from challenging welfare laws on behalf of their indigent clients. In Legal Services Corporation v. Velazquez, the Supreme Court ruled that lawyers working for the Legal Services Corporation were not obligated to present the government’s viewpoints alone. Congress had attempted to limit the service’s lawyers, preventing them from litigating or lobbying to reform either state or federal welfare systems under the recently enacted welfare law. The Legal Services Corporation was created to initiate dialogue around federal and state law affecting the poor, said Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the majority decision. Justice Antonin Scalia wrote a dissenting opinion that was also signed by Justices Rehnquist, O’Connor, and Thomas.

Sources:

New York Times - February 28, 2001