by Jack Katz
Rutgers University Press, 1982
eISBN: 978-1-9788-1711-1 | Cloth: 978-0-8135-0943-3
Library of Congress Classification KF337.C45K38 1982
Dewey Decimal Classification 344.7731103258

Jack Katz has written the first case study of legal assistance lawyers—commonly known as poverty lawyers—and their agencies. Focusing on legal services for the poor over the last 100 years in Chicago, the city with the most experienced large staff of poverty reform lawyers in the nation, Katz examines what organizational and personal experiences make these lawyers either passive or entrepreneurial in their drive for equal justice for the poor. This historical and participant-observation study traces the social foundations of the aspiration for equal justice. In the 1880s, when lawyers were first hired by organizations specifically to assist the poor, the legal status of poverty was virtually non-existent. Today the legal status of the poor is defined affirmatively in scores of statues, in masses of highly differentiated administrative regulations, and in a rich case law of judicial decisions made in the last 20 years. During the rise and fall of the Progressive era, throughout the Depression and the New Deal, in the midst of the explosive public activism of the Sixties, and even after the internment of the War on Poverty, legal assistance lawyers have worked progressively toward the legalization of poverty. Recently, a disturbing irony has appeared in this progress. Legal assistance lawyers, especially the most aggressive and professionally creative, have proven less successful in eliminating poverty than in reorganizing the poor into a formal social category. This category is systematically, comprehensively, and predictably defined by law, and administratively maintained by the state in segregation from the working and middle classes.

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