The class action lawsuit has emerged as an effective legal device for addressing common harms. Claimants who might not litigate their claims individually are empowered by the opportunity to speak with one voice. The class action device, however, has been made largely unavailable to legal services lawyers representing the poor. Congressional restrictions enacted in 1996 prohibit legal services organizations that receive federal funding from the Legal Services Corporation from using that funding to initiate or participate in any class action lawsuit. This article examines the social, legal and professional impact of the class action restriction on the Legal Services Corporation and on the recipients of its funding. This article concludes that the class action restriction has adversely affected the poor and, consequently, should be reconsidered. In the event that the class action restriction is not revised or repealed, this article suggests practical alternative strategies for delivering effective group representation to the poor.


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