45 CFR § 1321.71 - Legal assistance.

§ 1321.71 Legal assistance.

(a) The provisions and restrictions in this section apply only to legal assistance providers and only if they are providing legal assistance under section 307(a)(15) of the Act.

(b) Nothing in this section is intended to prohibit any attorney from providing any form of legal assistance to an eligible client, or to interfere with the fulfillment of any attorney's professional responsibilities to a client.

(c) The area agency shall award funds to the legal assistance provider(s) that most fully meet the standards in this subsection. The legal assistance provider(s) shall:

(1) Have staff with expertise in specific areas of law affecting older persons in economic or social need, for example, public benefits, institutionalization and alternatives to institutionalization;

(2) Demonstrate the capacity to provide effective administrative and judicial representation in the areas of law affecting older persons with economic or social need;

(3) Demonstrate the capacity to provide support to other advocacy efforts, for example, the long-term care ombudsman program;

(4) Demonstrate the capacity to provide legal services to institutionalized, isolated, and homebound older individuals effectively; and

(5) Demonstrate the capacity to provide legal assistance in the principal language spoken by clients in areas where a significant number of clients do not speak English as their principal language.

(d) A legal assistance provider may not require an older person to disclose information about income or resources as a condition for providing legal assistance under this part.

(e) A legal assistance provider may ask about the person's financial circumstances as a part of the process of providing legal advice, counseling and representation, or for the purpose of identifying additional resources and benefits for which an older person may be eligible.

(f) A legal assistance provider and its attorneys may engage in other legal activities to the extent that there is no conflict of interest nor other interference with their professional responsibilities under this Act.

(g) No provider shall use funds received under the Act to provide legal assistance in a fee generating case unless other adequate representation is unavailable or there is an emergency requiring immediate legal action. All providers shall establish procedures for the referral of fee generating cases.

(1) “Fee generating case” means any case or matter which, if undertaken on behalf of an eligible client by an attorney in private practice, reasonably may be expected to result in a fee for legal services from an award to a client, from public funds, or from the opposing party.

(2) Other adequate representation is deemed to be unavailable when:

(i) Recovery of damages is not the principal object of the client; or

(ii) A court appoints a provider or an employee of a provider pursuant to a statute or a court rule or practice of equal applicability to all attorneys in the jurisdiction; or

(iii) An eligible client is seeking benefits under title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. 401, et seq., Federal Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance Benefits; or title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. 1381, et seq., Supplemental Security Income for Aged, Blind, and Disabled.

(3) A provider may seek and accept a fee awarded or approved by a court or administrative body, or included in a settlement.

(4) When a case or matter accepted in accordance with this section results in a recovery of damages, other than statutory benefits, a provider may accept reimbursement for out-of-pocket costs and expenses incurred in connection with the case or matter.

(h) A provider, employee of the provider, or staff attorney shall not engage in the following prohibited political activities:

(1) No provider or its employees shall contribute or make available Older Americans Act funds, personnel or equipment to any political party or association or to the campaign of any candidate for public or party office; or for use in advocating or opposing any ballot measure, initiative, or referendum;

(2) No provider or its employees shall intentionally identify the title III program or provider with any partisan or nonpartisan political activity, or with the campaign of any candidate for public or party office;

(3) While engaged in legal assistance activities supported under the Act, no attorney shall engage in any political activity;

(i) No funds made available under the Act shall be used for lobbying activities, including but not limited to any activities intended to influence any decision or activity by any nonjudicial Federal, State or local individual or body. Nothing in this section is intended to prohibit an employee from:

(1) Communicating with a governmental agency for the purpose of obtaining information, clarification, or interpretation of the agency's rules, regulations, practices, or policies;

(2) Informing a client about a new or proposed statute, executive order, or administrative regulation;

(3) Responding to an individual client's request for advice only with respect to the client's own communications to officials unless otherwise prohibited by the Older Americans Act, title III regulations or other applicable law. This provision does not authorize publication of lobbying materials or training of clients on lobbying techniques or the composition of a communication for the client's use; or

(4) Making direct contact with the area agency for any purpose;

(5) Providing a client with administrative representation in adjudicatory or rulemaking proceedings or negotiations, directly affecting that client's legal rights in a particular case, claim or application;

(6) Communicating with an elected official for the sole purpose of bringing a client's legal problem to the attention of that official; or

(7) Responding to the request of a public official or body for testimony, legal advice or other statements on legislation or other issues related to aging; provided that no such action will be taken without first obtaining the written approval of the responsible area agency.

(j) While carrying out legal assistance activities and while using resources provided under the Act, no provider or its employees shall:

(1) Participate in any public demonstration, picketing, boycott, or strike, except as permitted by law in connection with the employee's own employment situation;

(2) Encourage, direct, or coerce others to engage in such activities; or

(3) At any time engage in or encourage others to engage in:

(i) Any illegal activity; or

(ii) Any intentional identification of programs funded under the Act or recipient with any political activity.

(k) None of the funds made available under the Act may be used to pay dues exceeding $100 per recipient per annum to any organization (other than a bar association), a purpose or function of which is to engage in activities prohibited under these regulations unless such dues are not used to engage in activities for which Older Americans Act funds cannot be used directly.