Pro Bono Publico Meets Droits de L'Homme: Speaking a New Legal Language
38 Pages Posted: 22 Jul 2014 Last revised: 9 Jul 2020
Date Written: February 1, 1991
In this Article, the author examines ways that legal aid advocacy organizations in the U.S. can utilize international human rights doctrine and procedures to advance the interests of poor and marginalized Americans in domestic and foreign venues. This is a sympathetic account of some of the efforts undertaken by legal services lawyers in this burgeoning field of law. The first section briefly describes the history and structure of the quasi-public legal aid programs funded by the Legal Services Corporation (LSC). Section two details practical reasons why attorneys may want to look to international instruments or forums to achieve their clients' objectives and to satisfy the bureaucratic limitations imposed by the LSC.
The third section provides synopses of actual cases in which legal aid attorneys have invoked international human rights law. These include cases filed in U.S. courts and international tribunals concerning protections for immigrants and language minorities, and the right to maternity leave and welfare payments. The last section offers observations on strategy and style, and forum and format, in utilizing unconventional arguments and modes of advocacy. The author recounts successes and challenges faced by practitioners who seek to combine the role of poverty lawyer with that of the international human rights advocate.
This Article is adapted from Stephen Rosenbaum, "Lawyers Pro Bono Publico: Using International Human Rights Law On Behalf of the Poor," in NEW DIRECTIONS IN HUMAN RIGHTS (Ellen Lutz, Hurst Hannum and Kathryn Burke, eds., Univ. of Penn.Press, 1989).
Keywords: Legal Services Corporation, legal aid, poverty law, international human rights law, customary international law
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