Legal Defense Fund

Legal Defense Fund

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In the United States, a legal defense fund (or LDF) is an account set up to pay for legal expenses, which can include attorneys' fees, court filings, litigation costs, legal advice, or other legal fees. The fund can be public or private and is set up for individuals, organizations, or for a particular purpose. These funds are often used by government public officials, civil rights organizations, and public interest organizations.

Legal defense funds often have large membership counts where the members contribute to the fund. The fund sometimes is or operates like a law firm
Law firm
A law firm is a business entity formed by one or more lawyers to engage in the practice of law. The primary service rendered by a law firm is to advise clients about their legal rights and responsibilities, and to represent clients in civil or criminal cases, business transactions, and other...

, where teams of attorneys provide legal services through litigation. Contrary to the name, attorneys working for legal defense funds both file and defend lawsuit. Unlike legal financing
Legal financing
Legal financing, also known as litigation financing, professional funding, settlement funding, or third party funding is a generic term used to describe the mechanism or process through which litigants can finance their litigation or other legal costs through a third party funding company...

 from legal financing companies, legal defense funds provide a separate account for litigation rather than a one-time cash advancement, though both are used for purposes of financing litigation and legal costs.

Government Legal Defense Funds


A Government Legal Defense Fund is an account set up to pay for the legal expenses encountered by a person holding government office, or by other public officials. While public figures are undergoing legal proceedings, they may incur large legal fees and face conflict of interest laws that restrict how they may pay for such expenses. A legal defense fund allows third parties to donate monies, with an option for anonymity, to pay for such legal costs.

Many American public figures have employed legal defense funds, including Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton
William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton is an American politician who served as the 42nd President of the United States from 1993 to 2001. Inaugurated at age 46, he was the third-youngest president. He took office at the end of the Cold War, and was the first president of the baby boomer generation...

 and Sarah Palin
Sarah Palin
Sarah Louise Palin is an American politician, commentator and author. As the Republican Party nominee for Vice President in the 2008 presidential election, she was the first Alaskan on the national ticket of a major party and first Republican woman nominated for the vice-presidency.She was...

. On November 15, 2010, Congressman Charlie Rangel's credibility was questioned when he claimed that until very recently he was unaware that the establishment of a legal defense fund was an option he could use to pay for his defense against corruption
Political corruption
Political corruption is the use of legislated powers by government officials for illegitimate private gain. Misuse of government power for other purposes, such as repression of political opponents and general police brutality, is not considered political corruption. Neither are illegal acts by...

 charges These funds are governed by Congressional
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

 ethics rules and guidelines from the Office of Governmental Ethics
United States Office of Government Ethics
The United States Office of Government Ethics is a separate agency within the executive branch of the U.S. Federal Government which is responsible for directing executive branch policies relating to the prevention of conflicts of interest on the part of Federal executive branch officers and...

 (OGE), which impose various requirements to limit contributions to the fund.

Public Interest Legal Defense Funds


Public Interest
Public interest
The public interest refers to the "common well-being" or "general welfare." The public interest is central to policy debates, politics, democracy and the nature of government itself...

 Legal Defense Funds are non-profit organizations that use legal services to advance environmentalism
Environmentalism
Environmentalism is a broad philosophy, ideology and social movement regarding concerns for environmental conservation and improvement of the health of the environment, particularly as the measure for this health seeks to incorporate the concerns of non-human elements...

, animal rights
Animal rights
Animal rights, also known as animal liberation, is the idea that the most basic interests of non-human animals should be afforded the same consideration as the similar interests of human beings...

, labor rights
Labor rights
Labor rights or workers' rights are a group of legal rights and claimed human rights having to do with labor relations between workers and their employers, usually obtained under labor and employment law. In general, these rights' debates have to do with negotiating workers' pay, benefits, and safe...

, and other public interests. They file lawsuits, provide free legal assistance to clients, push for legislative reform, and provide public education through seminars, workshops, and other outreach efforts.

Public Interest Legal Defense Funds include the Earth Justice Legal Defense Fund (formerly known as the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund), the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, Life Legal Defense Fund, and the National Association of Social Workers Legal Defense Fund and many others.

Civil Rights Legal Defense Funds


Civil Rights
Civil rights
Civil and political rights are a class of rights that protect individuals' freedom from unwarranted infringement by governments and private organizations, and ensure one's ability to participate in the civil and political life of the state without discrimination or repression.Civil rights include...

 Legal Defense Funds are non-profit organizations that use legal services to advance civil rights. They often provide legal assistance, advocacy, litigation support, and public education to increase gender and racial equality. Common issues include equality in the workplace, equality in education, immigration rights, voting rights
Suffrage
Suffrage, political franchise, or simply the franchise, distinct from mere voting rights, is the civil right to vote gained through the democratic process...

, and violence prevention.

Civil Rights Legal Defense Funds include the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Women’s Equity Action League Educational and Legal Defense Fund, and the National Organization for Women Legal Defense and Education Fund (Legal Momentum), the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund and many others.

See also

  • Legal defense
  • Comic Book Legal Defense Fund
    Comic Book Legal Defense Fund
    The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is a United States non-profit organization created in 1986 to protect the First Amendment rights of comics creators, publishers, and retailers covering legal expenses....

  • NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund
    NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund
    The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. is a leading United States civil rights organization and law firm based in New York City....

  • Legal financing
    Legal financing
    Legal financing, also known as litigation financing, professional funding, settlement funding, or third party funding is a generic term used to describe the mechanism or process through which litigants can finance their litigation or other legal costs through a third party funding company...