Client Grievance Procedure, 48501-48506 [E6-13700]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 161 / Monday, August 21, 2006 / Proposed Rules reasonable fee may be charged for copying docket materials. For more information on this rulemaking, contact Patricia Mercer at (703) 308– 8408, or mercer.patricia@epa.gov, Office of Solid Waste (MC: 5304W), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW., Washington, DC 20460. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Comment Period. We are extending the comment period by 30 days in response to a request from the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) on behalf of the American Council on Education (ACE), the Campus Safety, Health, and Environmental Management Association (CSHEMA), the Campus Consortium for Environmental Excellence (C2E2), and the National Association of College and University Business Officers for more time to respond to issues in the proposed rule published on May 23, 2006 (71 FR at 29712). Therefore, the public comment period will now end on September 20, 2006. Regulated Entities. Entities potentially affected by this proposed action are generators of unwanted materials, as defined in this proposal, from college and university laboratories. College and university laboratories, as defined under this proposal, include laboratories associated with a private or public, postsecondary, degree-granting, academic institution that is accredited by an accrediting agency listed annually by the U.S. Department of Education. Only those colleges and universities which have laboratories on their campuses would be covered by this alternate approach; laboratories not located at colleges or universities would not be covered. This proposed action is optional in that colleges and universities may elect to have their laboratories remain regulated under current RCRA generator regulations as set forth in 40 CFR 262.11 and 262.34(c), or may choose to manage their hazardous wastes according to this alternative regulatory approach. (In RCRA authorized states, today’s proposed action would be an option once it has been adopted by the state in which the college or university resides.) To determine whether a college or university laboratory is covered by this action, interested parties should examine 40 CFR part 262, subpart K carefully. If there are questions regarding the applicability of the proposed rule to a particular entity, consult the person listed in the section of this preamble entitled FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT. rmajette on PROD1PC67 with PROPOSALS1 FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: VerDate Aug<31>2005 15:09 Aug 18, 2006 Jkt 208001 Submitting CBI. Do not submit this information to EPA through http:// www.regulations.gov or e-mail. Send or deliver information identified as CBI only to the address listed in the ADDRESSES section of this document. Clearly mark the part or all of the information that you claim to be CBI. For CBI information in a disk or CD ROM that you mail to EPA, mark the outside of the disk or CD ROM as CBI and then identify electronically within the disk or CD ROM the specific information that is claimed as CBI. In addition to one complete version of the comment that includes information claimed as CBI, a copy of the comment that does not contain the information claimed as CBI must be submitted for inclusion in the public docket. Information so marked will not be disclosed except in accordance with procedures set forth in 40 CFR part 2. List of Subjects in 40 CFR Parts 261 and 262 Environmental protection, Standards applicable to generators of hazardous wastes. Dated: August 16, 2006. Matthew Hale, Director, Office of Solid Waste. [FR Doc. E6–13854 Filed 8–18–06; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6560–50–P LEGAL SERVICES CORPORATION 45 CFR Part 1621 Client Grievance Procedure Legal Services Corporation. Notice of proposed rulemaking. AGENCY: ACTION: SUMMARY: This Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) proposes to amend the Legal Services Corporation’s regulation on client grievance procedures. These proposed changes are intended to improve the utility of the regulation for grantees and their clients and applicants for service in the current operating environment. In particular, LSC is proposing changes to clarify what procedures are available to clients and applicants, to emphasize the importance of the grievance procedure for clients and applicants and to add clarity and flexibility in the application of the requirements for hotline and other programs serving large and widely dispersed geographic areas. DATES: Comments on this NPRM are due on September 20, 2006. ADDRESSES: Written comments may be submitted by mail, fax or e-mail to Mattie Cohan, Senior Assistant General PO 00000 Frm 00015 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 48501 Counsel, Office of Legal Affairs, Legal Services Corporation, 3333 K Street, NW., Washington, DC 20007; 202–295– 1624 (ph); 202–337–6519 (fax); mcohan@lsc.gov. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mattie Cohan, Senior Assistant General Counsel, 202–295–1624 (ph); mcohan@lsc.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background The Legal Services Corporation’s (LSC) regulation on client grievance procedures, 45 CFR part 1621, adopted in 1977 and not amended since that time, requires that LSC grant recipients establish grievance procedures pursuant to which clients and applicants for service can pursue complaints with recipients related to the denial of legal assistance or dissatisfaction with the legal assistance provided. The regulation is intended to help ‘‘insure that legal services programs are accountable to those whom they are expected to serve.’’ 42 FR 37551 (July 22, 1977). As noted above, part 1621 has not been amended since its original adoption nearly 30 years ago. A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) was published in 1994 which would have instituted some more specific requirements for the grievance process and clarified the situations in which access to the grievance process is appropriate. However, due to the significant legislative activity in 1995 and 1996, no final action was ever taken on the 1994 NPRM and the original regulation has remained in effect. As part of a staff effort in 2001 and 2002 to conduct a general review of LSC’s regulations, the Regulations Review Task Force found that a number of the issues identified in the 1994 NPRM remained extant. The Task Force recommended in its Final Report (January 2002) that part 1621 be considered a higher priority item for rulemaking. Representatives of the grantee community agreed at that time that rulemaking to revise and update part 1621 was appropriate. The thenBoard of Directors accepted the report and placed part 1621 on its priority rulemaking list. No action was taken on this item prior to the appointment of the current Board of Directors. After the appointment of the current Board of Directors, LSC Management recommended to the Board that a rulemaking to consider revision of part 1621 was still appropriate. The Board of Directors agreed and on October 29, 2005, the Board of Directors directed that LSC initiate a rulemaking to E:\FR\FM\21AUP1.SGM 21AUP1 48502 Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 161 / Monday, August 21, 2006 / Proposed Rules rmajette on PROD1PC67 with PROPOSALS1 consider revisions to LSC’s regulation on client grievance procedures, 45 CFR part 1621. The Board further directed that LSC convene a Rulemaking Workshop and report back to the Operations & Regulations Committee prior to the development of any Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). LSC convened a Rulemaking Workshop on January 18, 2006, and provided a report to the Committee at its meeting on January 27, 2006. As a result of that Workshop and report the Board directed that LSC convene a second Rulemaking Workshop and report back to the Operations & Regulations Committee prior to the development of any NPRM. LSC convened a second Rulemaking Workshop on March 23, 2006 and provided a report to the Committee at its meeting on April 28, 2006. As a result of the second Workshop and report, the Board directed that a Draft NPRM be prepared. The Committee considered the Draft NPRM at its meeting of July 28, 2006 and the Board approved this NPRM for publication and comment at its meeting of July 29, 2006. Summary of the Rulemaking Workshops LSC convened the first Part 1621 Rulemaking Workshop on January 18, 2006. The following persons participated in the Workshop: Gloria Beaver, South Carolina Centers for Equal Justice Board of Directors (client representative); Steve Bernstein, Director, Legal Services of New York— Brooklyn; Colleen Cotter, Director, The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland; Irene Morales, Director, Inland Counties Legal Services; Linda Perle, Senior Counsel, Center for Law and Social Policy; Melissa Pershing, Director, Legal Services Alabama; Don Saunders, Director, Civil Legal Services, National Legal Aid and Defender Association; Rosita Stanley, National Legal Aid and Defenders Association Client Policy Group (client representative); Chuck Wynder, Acting Vice President, National Legal Aid and Defenders Association; Steven Xanthopoulous, Director, West Tennessee Legal Services; Helaine Barnett, LSC President (welcoming remarks only); Karen Sarjeant, LSC Vice President for Programs and Compliance; Charles Jeffress, LSC Chief Administrative Officer; Mattie Condray, Senior Assistant General Counsel, LSC Office of Legal Affairs; Bert Thomas, Program Counsel, LSC Office of Compliance and Enforcement; Mike Genz, Director, LSC Office of Program Performance; Mark Freedman, Assistant General Counsel, LSC Office of Legal Affairs; and Karena Dees, Staff Attorney, LSC Office of Inspector General. VerDate Aug<31>2005 15:09 Aug 18, 2006 Jkt 208001 The discussion was wide-ranging and open. The participants first discussed the importance of and reason for having a client grievance process. There was general agreement that the client grievance process is important to give a voice to people seeking assistance from legal services programs and to afford them dignity. The client grievance process also helps to keep programs accountable to their clients and community. It was generally agreed that the current regulation captures this purpose well. However, it was noted that the client grievance process also can be an important part of a positive client/applicant relations program and serve as a source of information for programs and boards in assessing service and setting priorities. This potential is not currently reflected in the regulation. The participants noted that the vast majority of complaints received involve complaints regarding the denial of service, rather than complaints over the manner or quality of service provided. The vast majority of complaints over the manner and quality of service provided are resolved at the staff level (including with the involvement of the Executive Director); complaints which need to come before the governing body’s grievance committee(s) are few and far between. It was noted that many recipients have the experience of receiving multiple complaints over time from the same small number of individuals. In the course of the discussion, the group discussed a variety of other issues related to the client grievance process. The group also considered the fact that some of the issues raised, although important, may not be easily or most appropriately addressed in the text of the regulation. Some of these issues are summarized as follows: • Whether programs can be more ‘‘proactive’’ in making clients and applicants aware of their rights under the client grievance procedure, but do so in a positive manner that does not create a negative atmosphere at the formation of the attorney-client relationship. It was noted that while informing clients of their rights can be empowering, suggesting at the outset that they may not like the service they receive is not conducive to a positive experience. • The appropriate role of the governing body in the client grievance/ client relations process; • Challenges presented in providing proper notice of the client grievance procedure to applicants and clients who are served only over the telephone and/ or e-mail/internet interface; PO 00000 Frm 00016 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 • Application of the process to Limited English Proficiency clients and applicants; • Whether and to what extent it is appropriate for the composition of a grievance committee to deviate from the approximate proportions of lawyers and clients on the governing body, e.g., by a higher proportion of clients than the governing body has generally; • Challenges presented by a requirement for in-person hearing and what other options may be appropriate; • Whether the limitation of the grievance process related to denials of service to the three enumerated reasons for denial in the current rule is too limited given the wide range of reasons a program may deny someone service; • Whether the grievance process should include cases handled by nonstaff such as PAI attorneys, volunteers, attorneys on assignment to the grantee (often as part of a law firm pro bono program); Finally, the group was in general agreement that additional opportunity for comment and fact finding would prove useful to both LSC and the legal services community before LSC committed to moving ahead with the development of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. LSC convened its second Part 1621 Rulemaking Workshop March 23, 2006. The following persons participated in the second Workshop: Claudia Colindres Johnson, Hotline Director, Bay Area Legal Aid (CA); Terrence Dicks, Client Representative, Georgia Legal Services; Breckie Hayes-Snow, Supervising Attorney, Legal Advice and Referral Center (NH); Norman Janes, Executive Director, Statewide Legal Services of Connecticut; Harry Johnson, Client Representative, NLADA Client Policy Group; Joan Kleinberg, Managing Attorney, CLEAR, Northwest Justice Project (WA); George Lee, Client Representative, Kentucky Clients Council; Richard McMahon, Executive Director, New Center for Legal Advocacy (MA); Linda Perle, Senior Counsel, Center for Law and Social Policy; Peggy Santos, Client Representative, Massachusetts Legal Aid Corporation; Don Saunders, Director, Civil Legal Services, National Legal Aid and Defender Association; Rosita Stanley, Client Representative, NLADA Client Policy Group; Helaine Barnett, LSC President (welcoming remarks only); Karen Sarjeant, LSC Vice President for Programs and Compliance; Charles Jeffress, LSC Chief Administrative Officer; Mattie Condray, Senior Assistant General Counsel, LSC Office of Legal Affairs; Bertrand E:\FR\FM\21AUP1.SGM 21AUP1 rmajette on PROD1PC67 with PROPOSALS1 Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 161 / Monday, August 21, 2006 / Proposed Rules Thomas, Program Counsel, LSC Office of Compliance and Enforcement; Cheryl Nolan, Program Counsel, LSC Office of Program Performance; and Mark Freedman, Assistant General Counsel, LSC Office of Legal Affairs. The discussion at the second Workshop focused primarily on how hotlines approach the issue of providing notice to clients and applicants and how they process grievances given that inperson contact with such programs is extremely rare, and how clients and applicants experience the grievance process and what the process means for them. There was also some discussion of additional issues, such as client confidentiality and potential application of the grievance process to private attorneys providing services pursuant to a grantee’s PAI program. The following issues and themes emerged from the discussion: • The programs felt that a strength of the regulation is its flexibility. Programs have different delivery systems, even among hotlines, and different approaches. They cautioned against adopting specific practices in the regulation itself. Rather, they felt that programs should be free to adopt practices that best meet their delivery model and communities. • Hotlines have different approaches to providing notice to callers. Some programs include it in their automated script. There is some concern about making the initial contact seem negative by bringing up the grievance process. There is also a concern about callers being denied service without knowing about their grievance rights. Many participants felt that the regulation should not require notice in the automated hotline script. • The regulation could emphasize the importance of the notice but leave it to the programs to figure out the best way to provide it in different situations. • Client and applicant dignity is very important. Most concerns are addressed when the applicant feels that they were heard and taken seriously, even if they are denied service. • All of the programs reported that intake staff will deal with dissatisfied callers by offering to let them talk to a supervisor, sometimes the executive director. They are given the choice of talking to someone or filing a written complaint. They almost always want to talk to someone. Talking with someone higher up almost always resolves the issue and usually entails an explanation of the decision not to provide service. • Decisions to deny service sometimes involve the priorities of other entities such as pro bono programs that take referrals. Some programs handle VerDate Aug<31>2005 15:09 Aug 18, 2006 Jkt 208001 intake for themselves and for other organizations. The criteria for intake are not always the same. A program may have to handle complaints about denials of service that involve a different program’s priorities. • In many situations there is nothing more that the program can do, especially when a denial of service decision was correct. There was a concern about creating lots of procedures that would give a grievant false hope. It is important that the applicant get an ‘‘honest no’’ in a timely fashion. • The oral and written statements to a grievance committee do not require an in person hearing. These can be conveyed by conference call, which may be better in some circumstances. In some cases though, clients or applicants have neither transportation nor access to a phone. Programs may have difficulty providing grievance procedures in those situations. • Hotlines have a number of callers who never speak to a member of the hotline staff. They include hang ups, disconnected calls, people who got information through the automated system, and people who could not wait long enough. These calls may include frustrated applicants who never got to the denial of service stage. • Web sites could provide client grievance information, but that also raises questions about how to make grievance information available only to people with complaints about that program. There is a danger of a generally available form becoming a conduit for a flood of complaints unrelated to a program and its services. • The grievance process itself should not be intimidating. Often the applicants and clients are already very frustrated and upset before contacting the program. • There was discussion of what process, if any, a client had for quality concerns with a PAI attorney or a pro bono referral. One program reported informally mediating these disputes. Another program reported surveying clients at the end of PAI cases and following up on any negative comments. One program reported that its separate pro bono program has its own grievance procedures. There was a concern that private attorneys would not volunteer if they felt that they would be subject to a program’s grievance process and grievance committee. There was some discussion acknowledging a distinction between paid and unpaid PAI attorneys, but noting that clients do not see a difference. PO 00000 Frm 00017 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 48503 Section-by-Section Analysis After considering the discussions from the Workshops, LSC has determined that the regulation is generally working as intended and that some of the issues raised in the course of the Workshops, while of significant importance, are not issues which can easily be addressed by changes in the regulation itself. Accordingly, LSC is proposing only modest changes to the text of the regulation. LSC believes, however, that these changes will improve the regulation and benefit both grantees and clients and applicants for legal assistance. These changes are discussed in greater detail below. Section 1621.1—Purpose LSC is proposing to amend this section to clarify that the grievance procedures required by this section are intended for the use and benefit of applicants for legal assistance and for clients of recipients and not for the use or benefit of third parties. In addition, LSC proposes to delete the reference to ‘‘an effective remedy’’ because the grievance process is just that, a process and not a guarantee of any specific outcome or ‘‘remedy’’ for the complainant. LSC believes that these changes are consistent with the current application and understanding of the rule and are appropriate to more accurately reflect the purpose of the regulation. LSC considered including a statement in this section clarifying that the client grievance procedure is not intended to and does not create any entitlement on the part of applicants to legal assistance. The reason for including such a statement would be that the vast majority of complaints received are from applicants who have been denied legal assistance and it is possible that having a clarifying statement in the regulation would help to limit such complaints. However, LSC ultimately determined that including a statement to this effect would not likely be very useful because it seems unlikely that many applicants for legal assistance will have read the regulation prior to applying for legal assistance. As such, it seems an unnecessary addition to the regulation. LSC invites comment on this issue. Another issue which came up during the Workshops was the ancillary use by recipients of the client grievance procedure as a feedback mechanism to help recipients identify issues such as the need for priorities changes (i.e., because there are increasing numbers of applicants seeking legal assistance for problems not otherwise part of the recipient’s priorities), foreign language E:\FR\FM\21AUP1.SGM 21AUP1 48504 Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 161 / Monday, August 21, 2006 / Proposed Rules assistance, staff training, etc. Although LSC believes that information collected through the client grievance procedure can and should, as a best practice, be used in this manner, such ancillary use is incidental and not the purpose of the client grievance procedure per se. LSC believes that adding a reference to such ancillary use to the purpose statement of the regulation would be inappropriate and would dilute the focus of the regulation from its purpose of providing applicants and clients with an effective avenue for pursuing complaints. LSC invites comment on this issue. rmajette on PROD1PC67 with PROPOSALS1 Section 1621.2—Grievance Committee LSC is not proposing any changes to this section. There was discussion in one of the Workshops about whether and to what extent it is appropriate for the composition of a grievance committee to deviate from the approximate proportions of lawyers and clients on the governing body, e.g. by a higher proportion of clients than the governing body has generally. It was not clear from the discussion, however, what such a change would accomplish and there was no clear feeling that the current requirement was resulting in ineffective or inappropriate grievance committees. Accordingly, LSC considers the current wording of the regulation, which requires the proportion of clients and lawyer members of the grievance committee to approximate that of the governing body, to be sufficiently flexible for recipients to respond to local conditions. As such, LSC believes any change to this section to be unwarranted. Section 1621.3—Complaints by Applicants About Denial of Legal Assistance LSC is proposing to reorganize the regulation to move the current section dealing with complaints about denial of service to applicants before the section on complaints by clients about the manner or quality of legal assistance provided. This change is being proposed for two reasons. First, the vast majority of complaints that recipients receive are from applicants who have been denied legal assistance for one reason or another. As such, it seems appropriate for this section to appear first in the regulation. Second, and more importantly, the current regulation (and the regulation as being proposed herein) requires recipients’ to adopt a simpler procedure for the handling of these complaints. There was some concern that some level of confusion is created by having the more detailed procedures required by the section on complaints about the manner or quality of legal VerDate Aug<31>2005 15:09 Aug 18, 2006 Jkt 208001 assistance appear first in the regulation. Put another way, there was concern that the current organization of the regulation obscures the fact that recipients are permitted to adopt a different procedure for processing the denial of complaints of legal assistance by applicants. Accordingly, LSC believes the proposed reorganization will clarify this matter and make the regulation easier for recipients and LSC to use. In addition to the proposed reorganization discussed above, LSC is proposing modest substantive changes to the regulation. First, LSC is proposing to add language to the title of this section and the text of the regulation to clarify that this section refers to complaints by applicants about the denial of legal assistance. Consistent with the proposed changes in the purpose section, LSC believes these changes will help clarify that the grievance procedure is available to applicants and not to third parties wishing to complain about denial of service to applicants who are not themselves complaining. LSC notes that for applicants who are underage or mentally incompetent, the applicant him or herself is not likely to be directly applying and LSC does not intend this change to impede the ability of the person (parent, guardian or other representative) to act on that applicant’s behalf. Rather, LSC intends the proposed clarification to apply to situations in which a neighbor, friend, relative or other third party would seek to complain in a situation in which the applicant is otherwise capable of complaining personally. Second, LSC proposes to delete the language which limits complaints about the denial of legal assistance to situations in which the denial was related to the financial ineligibility of the applicant, the fact that legal assistance sought is prohibited by the LSC Act or regulations or lies outside the recipient’s priorities. Applicants are denied for these and other reasons, such as lack of resources, application of the recipient’s case acceptance guidelines, the merit of the applicant’s legal claim, etc. By removing these limitations, the regulation will apply in all situations of a denial of legal assistance. From the applicant’s point of view it is immaterial why the denial has occurred and LSC can discern no good reason to afford some applicants, but not others, an avenue for review of decisions to deny legal assistance. Moreover, the recipients participating in the workshops noted that they do not make any distinction between applicants on this basis and make their grievance PO 00000 Frm 00018 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 procedure available to any applicant denied service, regardless of the reason. LSC believes that the proposed change will, therefore, not create any new burdens on recipients, yet will implement the policy in a more appropriate manner. Third, LSC proposes to clarify that the phrase ‘‘adequate notice’’ as it is used in this section is adequate notice of the complaint procedures. The current regulation is vague on this point, although in context the logical inference is that it must refer to notice of what the complaint procedures are. LSC believes clarifying the language on this point would be useful. LSC is further proposing to add the words ‘‘as practicable’’ after ‘‘adequate notice.’’ LSC believes that this change will help recipients who do not have in-person contact with many applicants and who, therefore, cannot rely on posted notice of the complaint procedures in the office. Such recipients use a variety of methods of providing notice, from posting on websites, to inclusion of notice in phone menus, to having intake workers and attorneys speaking with applicants provide the information orally. All of these methods can be sufficient and appropriate to local circumstances. The proposed phrasing is intended to ensure that recipients have sufficient flexibility to determine exactly how and when notice of the complaint procedures are provided to applicants, while retaining the requirement that the notice be ‘‘adequate’’ to achieve the purpose that applicants know their rights in a timely and substantively meaningful way so as to exercise them if desired. Finally, LSC is proposing to add a statement that the required procedure must be designed to foster effective communications between recipients and complaining applicants. It was clear in the Workshops that this is very important to both applicants and recipients. Indeed, it is one of the main reasons for having a complaint procedure. Accordingly, LSC believes it is important for the regulation to reflect this. Because LSC is confident that the vast majority of recipient grievance procedures are already designed to foster effective communications, the proposed addition to the regulation should not create any undue burden on recipients. LSC considered also proposing to add a statement that the required procedure must be designed to treat complaining applicants with dignity, as this was another recurring refrain LSC heard throughout the Workshops. Ultimately, however, LSC believes that treating applicants with dignity is such a basic duty, it is neither E:\FR\FM\21AUP1.SGM 21AUP1 Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 161 / Monday, August 21, 2006 / Proposed Rules rmajette on PROD1PC67 with PROPOSALS1 necessary nor appropriate to make it a specific regulatory requirement in this context. LSC invites comment on this issue. LSC intends that existing complaint procedures for applicants who are denied legal assistance which would meet the proposed revised requirements may continue to be used and would be considered to be sufficient to meet their obligations under this section. Section 1621.4—Complaints by Clients About Manner or Quality of Legal Assistance As noted above, LSC is proposing to reorganize the regulation to move the current section dealing with complaints about legal assistance provided to clients after the section on complaints by applicants about denial of legal assistance. For a discussion of the reasons for this proposed change, see the discussion at section 1621.3, above. LSC is also proposing some minor substantive changes. First, LSC is proposing to add language to the title of this section and the text of the regulation to clarify that this section refers to complaints by clients about the manner or quality of legal assistance provided. Consistent with the proposed changes in the purpose section, LSC believes these changes will help clarify that the grievance procedure is available to clients and not to third parties wishing to complain about the legal assistance provided to clients who are not themselves complaining. As with the similar proposed changes to the section of applicants, LSC notes that for clients who are underage or mentally incompetent, the client him or herself is not likely to be directly applying and LSC does not intend this change to impede the ability of the person (parent, guardian or other representative) to act on that client’s behalf. Rather, LSC intends the proposed clarification to apply to situations in which a neighbor, friend, relative or other third party would seek to complain in a situation in which the client is otherwise capable of complaining personally. LSC is also proposing some revision of the language setting forth the minimum requirements for the required grievance procedures. Except as noted below, these changes are not intended to create any substantive change to the regulation, but, rather, to provide more structural clarity to the regulation. The changes being proposed do contain a few substantive changes. One such proposed change is the addition of a statement that the procedures be designed to foster effective communications between recipients and complaining clients. The rationale for VerDate Aug<31>2005 15:09 Aug 18, 2006 Jkt 208001 this proposed change is the same as for the parallel proposed change in proposed section 1621.3, above. As with proposed section 1621.3, LSC considered also proposing to add a statement that the required procedure must be designed to treat complaining clients with dignity, but chose not to for the same reasons articulated in that proposed section, above. LSC is also proposing to amend the time specified in the rule regarding when the client must be informed of the complaint procedures available to clients. Currently, clients must be informed ‘‘at the time of the initial visit.’’ This is typically accomplished in a few different ways, such as through the posting of the complaint procedures in the office, by providing an information sheet to clients or by including information about the grievance procedure in the retainer agreement, etc. However, the phrase ‘‘at the time of the initial visit’’ tends to imply an in-person initial contact—a situation which in increasingly uncommon for many recipients and clients. Also, a client may not actually be accepted as a client at the time of the initial contact (whether in person or not). LSC believes that what is important is that when the person being accepted as client be informed of the available complaint procedure at that time because that is when the information appears to be most useful and meaningful for the client. Accordingly, LSC is proposing the clients be informed of the grievance procedures available to them to complain about the manner or quality of the legal assistance they receive ‘‘at the time the person is accepted as a client or as soon thereafter as practicable.’’ LSC is not proposing to dictate how that notice must be provided. LSC believes that this change will assist recipients and clients in situations in which the client does not have an in-person initial visit and will afford recipients the flexibility to provide notice in a manner and time appropriate to local conditions. LSC intends that a recipient’s existing complaint procedures for clients who are dissatisfied with the manner or quality of legal assistance provided which would meet the proposed revised requirements may continue to be used and would be considered to be sufficient to meet their obligations under this section. The last change LSC is proposing to this section is to include an explicit requirement that the grievance procedures provide some method of reviewing complaints by clients about the manner or quality of service PO 00000 Frm 00019 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 48505 provided by private attorneys pursuant to the recipient’s private attorney involvement (PAI) program under 45 CFR part 1614. The regulation has previously been silent on this matter and LSC has not required recipients to apply the client grievance procedure to private attorneys. LSC notes, however, that from the clients’ standpoint it is immaterial whether legal assistance happens to be provided directly by the recipient or by a private attorney pursuant to the PAI program. In both cases, the client remains a client of the recipient and should be afforded some avenue to complain about legal assistance provided. At the same time, subjecting private attorneys to the same grievance procedure that applies to the recipient would likely be administratively burdensome and likely impede recipients’ ability to recruit private attorneys for the PAI program. In addition, some PAI programs, such as ones administered by bar associations, already have their own complaint procedures. Also, recipients are required by the section 1614.3(d)(3) of the PAI regulation to provide effective oversight of their private attorneys. Providing some process for review of complaints about their service is reasonably considered part of that responsibility. In light of the above, LSC believes that it is appropriate that this regulation contain a requirement that recipients establish a procedure to review complaints by clients about the manner or quality of service of PAI attorneys. LSC is not proposing to require that recipients afford the same procedure as provided to clients being provided service directly by the recipient. Moreover, LSC intends that existing formal and informal methods for review of complaints about PAI attorneys currently meeting recipients’ obligations under part 1614 continue to be used and would be considered to be sufficient to meet their obligations under this section. List of Subjects in 45 CFR Part 1621 Grant programs—law, Legal services. For reasons set forth above, and under the authority of 42 U.S.C. 2996g(e), LSC proposes to revise 45 CFR part 1621 as follows: PART 1621—CLIENT GRIEVANCE PROCEDURES Sec. 1621.1 Purpose. 1621.2 Grievance Committee. 1621.3 Complaints by applicants about denial of legal assistance. 1621.4 Complaints by clients about manner or quality of legal assistance. E:\FR\FM\21AUP1.SGM 21AUP1 48506 Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 161 / Monday, August 21, 2006 / Proposed Rules Authority: Sec. 1006(b)(1), 42 U.S.C. 2996e(b)(1); sec. 1006(b)(3), 42 U.S.C. 2996e(b)(3); sec. 1007(a)(1), 42 U.S.C. 2996f(a)(1). § 1621.1 Purpose. The part is intended to help ensure that recipients provide the highest quality legal assistance to clients as required by the LSC Act and are accountable to clients and applicants for legal assistance by requiring recipients to establish grievance procedures to process complaints by applicants about the denial of legal assistance and clients about the manner or quality of legal assistance provided. § 1621.2 Grievance Committee. The governing body of a recipient shall establish a grievance committee or committees, composed of lawyer and client members of the governing body, in approximately the same proportion in which they are on the governing body. § 1621.3 Complaints by applicants about denial of legal assistance. A recipient shall establish a simple procedure for review of decisions to deny legal assistance to applicants. The procedure shall, at a minimum, provide: A method for the recipient to provide applicants with adequate notice as practicable of the complaint procedures; information about how to make a complaint; and an opportunity for applicants to confer with Executive Director or the Executive Director’s designee, and, to the extent practicable, with a representative of the governing body. The procedure must be designed to foster effective communications between the recipient and complaining applicants. rmajette on PROD1PC67 with PROPOSALS1 § 1621.4 Complaints by clients about manner or quality of legal assistance. (a) A recipient shall establish procedures for the review of complaints by clients about the manner or quality of legal assistance that has been rendered by the recipient to the client. (b) The procedures shall be designed to foster effective communications between the recipient and the complaining client and, at a minimum, provide: (1) A method for providing a client, at the time the person is accepted as a client or as soon thereafter as practicable, with adequate notice of the complaint procedures and how to make a complaint; (2) For prompt consideration of each complaint by the Executive Director of the recipient, or the Executive Director’s designee, (3) An opportunity for the complainant, if the Executive Director VerDate Aug<31>2005 15:09 Aug 18, 2006 Jkt 208001 or the Executive Director’s designee is unable to resolve the matter, to submit an oral and written statement to a grievance committee established by the governing body as required by section 1621.2 of this part. The procedures shall also: Provide that the opportunity to submit an oral statement may be accomplished in person, by teleconference, or through some other reasonable alternative, permit a complainant to be accompanied by another person who may speak on that complainant’s behalf; and provide that, upon request of the complainant, the recipient shall transcribe a brief written statement, dictated by the complainant for inclusion in the recipient’s complaint file. (c) Consistent with its responsibilities under 45 CFR 1614.3(d)(3), a recipient shall establish a procedure to review complaints by clients about the manner or quality of legal assistance that has been rendered by a private attorney pursuant to the recipient’s private attorney involvement program under 45 CFR part 1614. (d) A file containing every complaint and a statement of its disposition shall be preserved for examination by LSC. The file shall include any written statement submitted by the complainant or transcribed by the recipient from a complainant’s oral statement. Dated: August 14, 2006. Victor M. Fortuno, Vice President and General Counsel. [FR Doc. E6–13700 Filed 8–18–06; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 7050–01–P FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION 47 CFR Parts 1, 2, 6, 7, 9, 13, 20, 22, 24, 27, 68, 73, 74, 78, 80, 87, 90, 95, 97, and 101 [WT Docket No. 06–150, CC Docket No. 94– 102, WT Docket No. 01–309; FCC 06–114] Service Rules for the 698–746, 747–762 and 777–792 MHz Bands; Revision of the Commission’s Rules To Ensure Compatibility With Enhanced 911 Emergency Calling Systems; Hearing Aid-Compatible Telephones Federal Communications Commission. ACTION: Proposed rule. AGENCY: SUMMARY: In this document, the Federal Communications Commission (Commission) undertakes an examination of possible changes to service rules that primarily govern wireless licenses in the 698–746, 747– PO 00000 Frm 00020 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 762, and 777–792 MHz bands (700 MHz Band) currently occupied by television (TV) broadcasters and being made available for new services as a result of the digital television (DTV) transition. Because of statutory changes, industry developments, and the fact more than four years have passed since the Commission adopted its initial band plans and service rules governing these licenses, the Commission is revisiting various of its earlier rule decisions regarding these 700 MHz Band licenses. The Commission also is requesting comment on: the tentative conclusion that services provided by licensees in the 700 MHz Band, and in other bands subject to Miscellaneous Wireless Communications Services rules including the Advanced Wireless Services in the 1710–1755 MHz and 2110–2155 MHz bands (AWS–1), should be subject to 911 and enhanced 911 (911/E911) and hearing aidcompatibility requirements to the same extent that such services would be covered if provided in other bands; and how to modify Commission rules to ensure that they include all similar wireless services. DATES: Comments due on or before September 20, 2006. Reply comments are due on or before October 20, 2006. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by WT Docket No. 06–150, CC Docket No. 94–102, WT Docket No. 01– 309, by any of the following methods: • Federal eRulemaking Portal: http:// www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments. • Federal Communications Commission’s Web Site: http:// www.fcc.gov/cgb/ecfs/. Follow the instructions for submitting comments. • E-mail: ecfs@fcc.gov, and include the following words in the body of the message, ‘‘get form.’’ A sample form and directions will be sent in response. • Mail: Federal Communications Commission, 445 12th Street, SW., Washington, DC 20554. • Hand Delivery/Courier: 236 Massachusetts Avenue, NE., Suite 110, Washington, DC 20002. • Accessible Formats: Contact the FCC to request reasonable accommodations (accessible format documents, sign language interpreters, CART, etc.) for filing comments either by e-mail: FCC504@fcc.gov or phone: 202–418–0530 or TTY: 202–418–0432. Instructions: All submissions received must include the agency name and docket number for this rulemaking. All comments received will be posted without change to http://www.fcc.gov/ cgb/ecfs including any personal information provided. E:\FR\FM\21AUP1.SGM 21AUP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 71, Number 161 (Monday, August 21, 2006)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 48501-48506]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E6-13700]


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LEGAL SERVICES CORPORATION

45 CFR Part 1621


Client Grievance Procedure

AGENCY: Legal Services Corporation.

ACTION: Notice of proposed rulemaking.

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SUMMARY: This Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) proposes to amend 
the Legal Services Corporation's regulation on client grievance 
procedures. These proposed changes are intended to improve the utility 
of the regulation for grantees and their clients and applicants for 
service in the current operating environment. In particular, LSC is 
proposing changes to clarify what procedures are available to clients 
and applicants, to emphasize the importance of the grievance procedure 
for clients and applicants and to add clarity and flexibility in the 
application of the requirements for hotline and other programs serving 
large and widely dispersed geographic areas.

DATES: Comments on this NPRM are due on September 20, 2006.

ADDRESSES: Written comments may be submitted by mail, fax or e-mail to 
Mattie Cohan, Senior Assistant General Counsel, Office of Legal 
Affairs, Legal Services Corporation, 3333 K Street, NW., Washington, DC 
20007; 202-295-1624 (ph); 202-337-6519 (fax); mcohan@lsc.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mattie Cohan, Senior Assistant General 
Counsel, 202-295-1624 (ph); mcohan@lsc.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    The Legal Services Corporation's (LSC) regulation on client 
grievance procedures, 45 CFR part 1621, adopted in 1977 and not amended 
since that time, requires that LSC grant recipients establish grievance 
procedures pursuant to which clients and applicants for service can 
pursue complaints with recipients related to the denial of legal 
assistance or dissatisfaction with the legal assistance provided. The 
regulation is intended to help ``insure that legal services programs 
are accountable to those whom they are expected to serve.'' 42 FR 37551 
(July 22, 1977).
    As noted above, part 1621 has not been amended since its original 
adoption nearly 30 years ago. A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) 
was published in 1994 which would have instituted some more specific 
requirements for the grievance process and clarified the situations in 
which access to the grievance process is appropriate. However, due to 
the significant legislative activity in 1995 and 1996, no final action 
was ever taken on the 1994 NPRM and the original regulation has 
remained in effect.
    As part of a staff effort in 2001 and 2002 to conduct a general 
review of LSC's regulations, the Regulations Review Task Force found 
that a number of the issues identified in the 1994 NPRM remained 
extant. The Task Force recommended in its Final Report (January 2002) 
that part 1621 be considered a higher priority item for rulemaking. 
Representatives of the grantee community agreed at that time that 
rulemaking to revise and update part 1621 was appropriate. The then-
Board of Directors accepted the report and placed part 1621 on its 
priority rulemaking list. No action was taken on this item prior to the 
appointment of the current Board of Directors.
    After the appointment of the current Board of Directors, LSC 
Management recommended to the Board that a rulemaking to consider 
revision of part 1621 was still appropriate. The Board of Directors 
agreed and on October 29, 2005, the Board of Directors directed that 
LSC initiate a rulemaking to

[[Page 48502]]

consider revisions to LSC's regulation on client grievance procedures, 
45 CFR part 1621. The Board further directed that LSC convene a 
Rulemaking Workshop and report back to the Operations & Regulations 
Committee prior to the development of any Notice of Proposed Rulemaking 
(NPRM). LSC convened a Rulemaking Workshop on January 18, 2006, and 
provided a report to the Committee at its meeting on January 27, 2006. 
As a result of that Workshop and report the Board directed that LSC 
convene a second Rulemaking Workshop and report back to the Operations 
& Regulations Committee prior to the development of any NPRM. LSC 
convened a second Rulemaking Workshop on March 23, 2006 and provided a 
report to the Committee at its meeting on April 28, 2006. As a result 
of the second Workshop and report, the Board directed that a Draft NPRM 
be prepared. The Committee considered the Draft NPRM at its meeting of 
July 28, 2006 and the Board approved this NPRM for publication and 
comment at its meeting of July 29, 2006.

Summary of the Rulemaking Workshops

    LSC convened the first Part 1621 Rulemaking Workshop on January 18, 
2006. The following persons participated in the Workshop: Gloria 
Beaver, South Carolina Centers for Equal Justice Board of Directors 
(client representative); Steve Bernstein, Director, Legal Services of 
New York--Brooklyn; Colleen Cotter, Director, The Legal Aid Society of 
Cleveland; Irene Morales, Director, Inland Counties Legal Services; 
Linda Perle, Senior Counsel, Center for Law and Social Policy; Melissa 
Pershing, Director, Legal Services Alabama; Don Saunders, Director, 
Civil Legal Services, National Legal Aid and Defender Association; 
Rosita Stanley, National Legal Aid and Defenders Association Client 
Policy Group (client representative); Chuck Wynder, Acting Vice 
President, National Legal Aid and Defenders Association; Steven 
Xanthopoulous, Director, West Tennessee Legal Services; Helaine 
Barnett, LSC President (welcoming remarks only); Karen Sarjeant, LSC 
Vice President for Programs and Compliance; Charles Jeffress, LSC Chief 
Administrative Officer; Mattie Condray, Senior Assistant General 
Counsel, LSC Office of Legal Affairs; Bert Thomas, Program Counsel, LSC 
Office of Compliance and Enforcement; Mike Genz, Director, LSC Office 
of Program Performance; Mark Freedman, Assistant General Counsel, LSC 
Office of Legal Affairs; and Karena Dees, Staff Attorney, LSC Office of 
Inspector General.
    The discussion was wide-ranging and open. The participants first 
discussed the importance of and reason for having a client grievance 
process. There was general agreement that the client grievance process 
is important to give a voice to people seeking assistance from legal 
services programs and to afford them dignity. The client grievance 
process also helps to keep programs accountable to their clients and 
community. It was generally agreed that the current regulation captures 
this purpose well. However, it was noted that the client grievance 
process also can be an important part of a positive client/applicant 
relations program and serve as a source of information for programs and 
boards in assessing service and setting priorities. This potential is 
not currently reflected in the regulation.
    The participants noted that the vast majority of complaints 
received involve complaints regarding the denial of service, rather 
than complaints over the manner or quality of service provided. The 
vast majority of complaints over the manner and quality of service 
provided are resolved at the staff level (including with the 
involvement of the Executive Director); complaints which need to come 
before the governing body's grievance committee(s) are few and far 
between. It was noted that many recipients have the experience of 
receiving multiple complaints over time from the same small number of 
individuals.
    In the course of the discussion, the group discussed a variety of 
other issues related to the client grievance process. The group also 
considered the fact that some of the issues raised, although important, 
may not be easily or most appropriately addressed in the text of the 
regulation. Some of these issues are summarized as follows:
     Whether programs can be more ``proactive'' in making 
clients and applicants aware of their rights under the client grievance 
procedure, but do so in a positive manner that does not create a 
negative atmosphere at the formation of the attorney-client 
relationship. It was noted that while informing clients of their rights 
can be empowering, suggesting at the outset that they may not like the 
service they receive is not conducive to a positive experience.
     The appropriate role of the governing body in the client 
grievance/client relations process;
     Challenges presented in providing proper notice of the 
client grievance procedure to applicants and clients who are served 
only over the telephone and/or e-mail/internet interface;
     Application of the process to Limited English Proficiency 
clients and applicants;
     Whether and to what extent it is appropriate for the 
composition of a grievance committee to deviate from the approximate 
proportions of lawyers and clients on the governing body, e.g., by a 
higher proportion of clients than the governing body has generally;
     Challenges presented by a requirement for in-person 
hearing and what other options may be appropriate;
     Whether the limitation of the grievance process related to 
denials of service to the three enumerated reasons for denial in the 
current rule is too limited given the wide range of reasons a program 
may deny someone service;
     Whether the grievance process should include cases handled 
by non-staff such as PAI attorneys, volunteers, attorneys on assignment 
to the grantee (often as part of a law firm pro bono program);

Finally, the group was in general agreement that additional opportunity 
for comment and fact finding would prove useful to both LSC and the 
legal services community before LSC committed to moving ahead with the 
development of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.
    LSC convened its second Part 1621 Rulemaking Workshop March 23, 
2006. The following persons participated in the second Workshop: 
Claudia Colindres Johnson, Hotline Director, Bay Area Legal Aid (CA); 
Terrence Dicks, Client Representative, Georgia Legal Services; Breckie 
Hayes-Snow, Supervising Attorney, Legal Advice and Referral Center 
(NH); Norman Janes, Executive Director, Statewide Legal Services of 
Connecticut; Harry Johnson, Client Representative, NLADA Client Policy 
Group; Joan Kleinberg, Managing Attorney, CLEAR, Northwest Justice 
Project (WA); George Lee, Client Representative, Kentucky Clients 
Council; Richard McMahon, Executive Director, New Center for Legal 
Advocacy (MA); Linda Perle, Senior Counsel, Center for Law and Social 
Policy; Peggy Santos, Client Representative, Massachusetts Legal Aid 
Corporation; Don Saunders, Director, Civil Legal Services, National 
Legal Aid and Defender Association; Rosita Stanley, Client 
Representative, NLADA Client Policy Group; Helaine Barnett, LSC 
President (welcoming remarks only); Karen Sarjeant, LSC Vice President 
for Programs and Compliance; Charles Jeffress, LSC Chief Administrative 
Officer; Mattie Condray, Senior Assistant General Counsel, LSC Office 
of Legal Affairs; Bertrand

[[Page 48503]]

Thomas, Program Counsel, LSC Office of Compliance and Enforcement; 
Cheryl Nolan, Program Counsel, LSC Office of Program Performance; and 
Mark Freedman, Assistant General Counsel, LSC Office of Legal Affairs.
    The discussion at the second Workshop focused primarily on how 
hotlines approach the issue of providing notice to clients and 
applicants and how they process grievances given that in-person contact 
with such programs is extremely rare, and how clients and applicants 
experience the grievance process and what the process means for them. 
There was also some discussion of additional issues, such as client 
confidentiality and potential application of the grievance process to 
private attorneys providing services pursuant to a grantee's PAI 
program. The following issues and themes emerged from the discussion:
     The programs felt that a strength of the regulation is its 
flexibility. Programs have different delivery systems, even among 
hotlines, and different approaches. They cautioned against adopting 
specific practices in the regulation itself. Rather, they felt that 
programs should be free to adopt practices that best meet their 
delivery model and communities.
     Hotlines have different approaches to providing notice to 
callers. Some programs include it in their automated script. There is 
some concern about making the initial contact seem negative by bringing 
up the grievance process. There is also a concern about callers being 
denied service without knowing about their grievance rights. Many 
participants felt that the regulation should not require notice in the 
automated hotline script.
     The regulation could emphasize the importance of the 
notice but leave it to the programs to figure out the best way to 
provide it in different situations.
     Client and applicant dignity is very important. Most 
concerns are addressed when the applicant feels that they were heard 
and taken seriously, even if they are denied service.
     All of the programs reported that intake staff will deal 
with dissatisfied callers by offering to let them talk to a supervisor, 
sometimes the executive director. They are given the choice of talking 
to someone or filing a written complaint. They almost always want to 
talk to someone. Talking with someone higher up almost always resolves 
the issue and usually entails an explanation of the decision not to 
provide service.
     Decisions to deny service sometimes involve the priorities 
of other entities such as pro bono programs that take referrals. Some 
programs handle intake for themselves and for other organizations. The 
criteria for intake are not always the same. A program may have to 
handle complaints about denials of service that involve a different 
program's priorities.
     In many situations there is nothing more that the program 
can do, especially when a denial of service decision was correct. There 
was a concern about creating lots of procedures that would give a 
grievant false hope. It is important that the applicant get an ``honest 
no'' in a timely fashion.
     The oral and written statements to a grievance committee 
do not require an in person hearing. These can be conveyed by 
conference call, which may be better in some circumstances. In some 
cases though, clients or applicants have neither transportation nor 
access to a phone. Programs may have difficulty providing grievance 
procedures in those situations.
     Hotlines have a number of callers who never speak to a 
member of the hotline staff. They include hang ups, disconnected calls, 
people who got information through the automated system, and people who 
could not wait long enough. These calls may include frustrated 
applicants who never got to the denial of service stage.
     Web sites could provide client grievance information, but 
that also raises questions about how to make grievance information 
available only to people with complaints about that program. There is a 
danger of a generally available form becoming a conduit for a flood of 
complaints unrelated to a program and its services.
     The grievance process itself should not be intimidating. 
Often the applicants and clients are already very frustrated and upset 
before contacting the program.
     There was discussion of what process, if any, a client had 
for quality concerns with a PAI attorney or a pro bono referral. One 
program reported informally mediating these disputes. Another program 
reported surveying clients at the end of PAI cases and following up on 
any negative comments. One program reported that its separate pro bono 
program has its own grievance procedures. There was a concern that 
private attorneys would not volunteer if they felt that they would be 
subject to a program's grievance process and grievance committee. There 
was some discussion acknowledging a distinction between paid and unpaid 
PAI attorneys, but noting that clients do not see a difference.

Section-by-Section Analysis

    After considering the discussions from the Workshops, LSC has 
determined that the regulation is generally working as intended and 
that some of the issues raised in the course of the Workshops, while of 
significant importance, are not issues which can easily be addressed by 
changes in the regulation itself. Accordingly, LSC is proposing only 
modest changes to the text of the regulation. LSC believes, however, 
that these changes will improve the regulation and benefit both 
grantees and clients and applicants for legal assistance. These changes 
are discussed in greater detail below.

Section 1621.1--Purpose

    LSC is proposing to amend this section to clarify that the 
grievance procedures required by this section are intended for the use 
and benefit of applicants for legal assistance and for clients of 
recipients and not for the use or benefit of third parties. In 
addition, LSC proposes to delete the reference to ``an effective 
remedy'' because the grievance process is just that, a process and not 
a guarantee of any specific outcome or ``remedy'' for the complainant. 
LSC believes that these changes are consistent with the current 
application and understanding of the rule and are appropriate to more 
accurately reflect the purpose of the regulation.
    LSC considered including a statement in this section clarifying 
that the client grievance procedure is not intended to and does not 
create any entitlement on the part of applicants to legal assistance. 
The reason for including such a statement would be that the vast 
majority of complaints received are from applicants who have been 
denied legal assistance and it is possible that having a clarifying 
statement in the regulation would help to limit such complaints. 
However, LSC ultimately determined that including a statement to this 
effect would not likely be very useful because it seems unlikely that 
many applicants for legal assistance will have read the regulation 
prior to applying for legal assistance. As such, it seems an 
unnecessary addition to the regulation. LSC invites comment on this 
issue.
    Another issue which came up during the Workshops was the ancillary 
use by recipients of the client grievance procedure as a feedback 
mechanism to help recipients identify issues such as the need for 
priorities changes (i.e., because there are increasing numbers of 
applicants seeking legal assistance for problems not otherwise part of 
the recipient's priorities), foreign language

[[Page 48504]]

assistance, staff training, etc. Although LSC believes that information 
collected through the client grievance procedure can and should, as a 
best practice, be used in this manner, such ancillary use is incidental 
and not the purpose of the client grievance procedure per se. LSC 
believes that adding a reference to such ancillary use to the purpose 
statement of the regulation would be inappropriate and would dilute the 
focus of the regulation from its purpose of providing applicants and 
clients with an effective avenue for pursuing complaints. LSC invites 
comment on this issue.

Section 1621.2--Grievance Committee

    LSC is not proposing any changes to this section. There was 
discussion in one of the Workshops about whether and to what extent it 
is appropriate for the composition of a grievance committee to deviate 
from the approximate proportions of lawyers and clients on the 
governing body, e.g. by a higher proportion of clients than the 
governing body has generally. It was not clear from the discussion, 
however, what such a change would accomplish and there was no clear 
feeling that the current requirement was resulting in ineffective or 
inappropriate grievance committees. Accordingly, LSC considers the 
current wording of the regulation, which requires the proportion of 
clients and lawyer members of the grievance committee to approximate 
that of the governing body, to be sufficiently flexible for recipients 
to respond to local conditions. As such, LSC believes any change to 
this section to be unwarranted.

Section 1621.3--Complaints by Applicants About Denial of Legal 
Assistance

    LSC is proposing to reorganize the regulation to move the current 
section dealing with complaints about denial of service to applicants 
before the section on complaints by clients about the manner or quality 
of legal assistance provided. This change is being proposed for two 
reasons. First, the vast majority of complaints that recipients receive 
are from applicants who have been denied legal assistance for one 
reason or another. As such, it seems appropriate for this section to 
appear first in the regulation. Second, and more importantly, the 
current regulation (and the regulation as being proposed herein) 
requires recipients' to adopt a simpler procedure for the handling of 
these complaints. There was some concern that some level of confusion 
is created by having the more detailed procedures required by the 
section on complaints about the manner or quality of legal assistance 
appear first in the regulation. Put another way, there was concern that 
the current organization of the regulation obscures the fact that 
recipients are permitted to adopt a different procedure for processing 
the denial of complaints of legal assistance by applicants. 
Accordingly, LSC believes the proposed reorganization will clarify this 
matter and make the regulation easier for recipients and LSC to use.
    In addition to the proposed reorganization discussed above, LSC is 
proposing modest substantive changes to the regulation. First, LSC is 
proposing to add language to the title of this section and the text of 
the regulation to clarify that this section refers to complaints by 
applicants about the denial of legal assistance. Consistent with the 
proposed changes in the purpose section, LSC believes these changes 
will help clarify that the grievance procedure is available to 
applicants and not to third parties wishing to complain about denial of 
service to applicants who are not themselves complaining. LSC notes 
that for applicants who are underage or mentally incompetent, the 
applicant him or herself is not likely to be directly applying and LSC 
does not intend this change to impede the ability of the person 
(parent, guardian or other representative) to act on that applicant's 
behalf. Rather, LSC intends the proposed clarification to apply to 
situations in which a neighbor, friend, relative or other third party 
would seek to complain in a situation in which the applicant is 
otherwise capable of complaining personally.
    Second, LSC proposes to delete the language which limits complaints 
about the denial of legal assistance to situations in which the denial 
was related to the financial ineligibility of the applicant, the fact 
that legal assistance sought is prohibited by the LSC Act or 
regulations or lies outside the recipient's priorities. Applicants are 
denied for these and other reasons, such as lack of resources, 
application of the recipient's case acceptance guidelines, the merit of 
the applicant's legal claim, etc. By removing these limitations, the 
regulation will apply in all situations of a denial of legal 
assistance. From the applicant's point of view it is immaterial why the 
denial has occurred and LSC can discern no good reason to afford some 
applicants, but not others, an avenue for review of decisions to deny 
legal assistance. Moreover, the recipients participating in the 
workshops noted that they do not make any distinction between 
applicants on this basis and make their grievance procedure available 
to any applicant denied service, regardless of the reason. LSC believes 
that the proposed change will, therefore, not create any new burdens on 
recipients, yet will implement the policy in a more appropriate manner.
    Third, LSC proposes to clarify that the phrase ``adequate notice'' 
as it is used in this section is adequate notice of the complaint 
procedures. The current regulation is vague on this point, although in 
context the logical inference is that it must refer to notice of what 
the complaint procedures are. LSC believes clarifying the language on 
this point would be useful. LSC is further proposing to add the words 
``as practicable'' after ``adequate notice.'' LSC believes that this 
change will help recipients who do not have in-person contact with many 
applicants and who, therefore, cannot rely on posted notice of the 
complaint procedures in the office. Such recipients use a variety of 
methods of providing notice, from posting on websites, to inclusion of 
notice in phone menus, to having intake workers and attorneys speaking 
with applicants provide the information orally. All of these methods 
can be sufficient and appropriate to local circumstances. The proposed 
phrasing is intended to ensure that recipients have sufficient 
flexibility to determine exactly how and when notice of the complaint 
procedures are provided to applicants, while retaining the requirement 
that the notice be ``adequate'' to achieve the purpose that applicants 
know their rights in a timely and substantively meaningful way so as to 
exercise them if desired.
    Finally, LSC is proposing to add a statement that the required 
procedure must be designed to foster effective communications between 
recipients and complaining applicants. It was clear in the Workshops 
that this is very important to both applicants and recipients. Indeed, 
it is one of the main reasons for having a complaint procedure. 
Accordingly, LSC believes it is important for the regulation to reflect 
this. Because LSC is confident that the vast majority of recipient 
grievance procedures are already designed to foster effective 
communications, the proposed addition to the regulation should not 
create any undue burden on recipients. LSC considered also proposing to 
add a statement that the required procedure must be designed to treat 
complaining applicants with dignity, as this was another recurring 
refrain LSC heard throughout the Workshops. Ultimately, however, LSC 
believes that treating applicants with dignity is such a basic duty, it 
is neither

[[Page 48505]]

necessary nor appropriate to make it a specific regulatory requirement 
in this context. LSC invites comment on this issue.
    LSC intends that existing complaint procedures for applicants who 
are denied legal assistance which would meet the proposed revised 
requirements may continue to be used and would be considered to be 
sufficient to meet their obligations under this section.

Section 1621.4--Complaints by Clients About Manner or Quality of Legal 
Assistance

    As noted above, LSC is proposing to reorganize the regulation to 
move the current section dealing with complaints about legal assistance 
provided to clients after the section on complaints by applicants about 
denial of legal assistance. For a discussion of the reasons for this 
proposed change, see the discussion at section 1621.3, above.
    LSC is also proposing some minor substantive changes. First, LSC is 
proposing to add language to the title of this section and the text of 
the regulation to clarify that this section refers to complaints by 
clients about the manner or quality of legal assistance provided. 
Consistent with the proposed changes in the purpose section, LSC 
believes these changes will help clarify that the grievance procedure 
is available to clients and not to third parties wishing to complain 
about the legal assistance provided to clients who are not themselves 
complaining. As with the similar proposed changes to the section of 
applicants, LSC notes that for clients who are underage or mentally 
incompetent, the client him or herself is not likely to be directly 
applying and LSC does not intend this change to impede the ability of 
the person (parent, guardian or other representative) to act on that 
client's behalf. Rather, LSC intends the proposed clarification to 
apply to situations in which a neighbor, friend, relative or other 
third party would seek to complain in a situation in which the client 
is otherwise capable of complaining personally.
    LSC is also proposing some revision of the language setting forth 
the minimum requirements for the required grievance procedures. Except 
as noted below, these changes are not intended to create any 
substantive change to the regulation, but, rather, to provide more 
structural clarity to the regulation. The changes being proposed do 
contain a few substantive changes. One such proposed change is the 
addition of a statement that the procedures be designed to foster 
effective communications between recipients and complaining clients. 
The rationale for this proposed change is the same as for the parallel 
proposed change in proposed section 1621.3, above. As with proposed 
section 1621.3, LSC considered also proposing to add a statement that 
the required procedure must be designed to treat complaining clients 
with dignity, but chose not to for the same reasons articulated in that 
proposed section, above.
    LSC is also proposing to amend the time specified in the rule 
regarding when the client must be informed of the complaint procedures 
available to clients. Currently, clients must be informed ``at the time 
of the initial visit.'' This is typically accomplished in a few 
different ways, such as through the posting of the complaint procedures 
in the office, by providing an information sheet to clients or by 
including information about the grievance procedure in the retainer 
agreement, etc. However, the phrase ``at the time of the initial 
visit'' tends to imply an in-person initial contact--a situation which 
in increasingly uncommon for many recipients and clients. Also, a 
client may not actually be accepted as a client at the time of the 
initial contact (whether in person or not). LSC believes that what is 
important is that when the person being accepted as client be informed 
of the available complaint procedure at that time because that is when 
the information appears to be most useful and meaningful for the 
client. Accordingly, LSC is proposing the clients be informed of the 
grievance procedures available to them to complain about the manner or 
quality of the legal assistance they receive ``at the time the person 
is accepted as a client or as soon thereafter as practicable.'' LSC is 
not proposing to dictate how that notice must be provided. LSC believes 
that this change will assist recipients and clients in situations in 
which the client does not have an in-person initial visit and will 
afford recipients the flexibility to provide notice in a manner and 
time appropriate to local conditions.
    LSC intends that a recipient's existing complaint procedures for 
clients who are dissatisfied with the manner or quality of legal 
assistance provided which would meet the proposed revised requirements 
may continue to be used and would be considered to be sufficient to 
meet their obligations under this section.
    The last change LSC is proposing to this section is to include an 
explicit requirement that the grievance procedures provide some method 
of reviewing complaints by clients about the manner or quality of 
service provided by private attorneys pursuant to the recipient's 
private attorney involvement (PAI) program under 45 CFR part 1614. The 
regulation has previously been silent on this matter and LSC has not 
required recipients to apply the client grievance procedure to private 
attorneys. LSC notes, however, that from the clients' standpoint it is 
immaterial whether legal assistance happens to be provided directly by 
the recipient or by a private attorney pursuant to the PAI program. In 
both cases, the client remains a client of the recipient and should be 
afforded some avenue to complain about legal assistance provided. At 
the same time, subjecting private attorneys to the same grievance 
procedure that applies to the recipient would likely be 
administratively burdensome and likely impede recipients' ability to 
recruit private attorneys for the PAI program. In addition, some PAI 
programs, such as ones administered by bar associations, already have 
their own complaint procedures. Also, recipients are required by the 
section 1614.3(d)(3) of the PAI regulation to provide effective 
oversight of their private attorneys. Providing some process for review 
of complaints about their service is reasonably considered part of that 
responsibility. In light of the above, LSC believes that it is 
appropriate that this regulation contain a requirement that recipients 
establish a procedure to review complaints by clients about the manner 
or quality of service of PAI attorneys. LSC is not proposing to require 
that recipients afford the same procedure as provided to clients being 
provided service directly by the recipient. Moreover, LSC intends that 
existing formal and informal methods for review of complaints about PAI 
attorneys currently meeting recipients' obligations under part 1614 
continue to be used and would be considered to be sufficient to meet 
their obligations under this section.

List of Subjects in 45 CFR Part 1621

    Grant programs--law, Legal services.

    For reasons set forth above, and under the authority of 42 U.S.C. 
2996g(e), LSC proposes to revise 45 CFR part 1621 as follows:

PART 1621--CLIENT GRIEVANCE PROCEDURES

Sec.
1621.1 Purpose.
1621.2 Grievance Committee.
1621.3 Complaints by applicants about denial of legal assistance.
1621.4 Complaints by clients about manner or quality of legal 
assistance.


[[Page 48506]]


    Authority: Sec. 1006(b)(1), 42 U.S.C. 2996e(b)(1); sec. 
1006(b)(3), 42 U.S.C. 2996e(b)(3); sec. 1007(a)(1), 42 U.S.C. 
2996f(a)(1).


Sec.  1621.1  Purpose.

    The part is intended to help ensure that recipients provide the 
highest quality legal assistance to clients as required by the LSC Act 
and are accountable to clients and applicants for legal assistance by 
requiring recipients to establish grievance procedures to process 
complaints by applicants about the denial of legal assistance and 
clients about the manner or quality of legal assistance provided.


Sec.  1621.2  Grievance Committee.

    The governing body of a recipient shall establish a grievance 
committee or committees, composed of lawyer and client members of the 
governing body, in approximately the same proportion in which they are 
on the governing body.


Sec.  1621.3  Complaints by applicants about denial of legal 
assistance.

    A recipient shall establish a simple procedure for review of 
decisions to deny legal assistance to applicants. The procedure shall, 
at a minimum, provide: A method for the recipient to provide applicants 
with adequate notice as practicable of the complaint procedures; 
information about how to make a complaint; and an opportunity for 
applicants to confer with Executive Director or the Executive 
Director's designee, and, to the extent practicable, with a 
representative of the governing body. The procedure must be designed to 
foster effective communications between the recipient and complaining 
applicants.


Sec.  1621.4  Complaints by clients about manner or quality of legal 
assistance.

    (a) A recipient shall establish procedures for the review of 
complaints by clients about the manner or quality of legal assistance 
that has been rendered by the recipient to the client.
    (b) The procedures shall be designed to foster effective 
communications between the recipient and the complaining client and, at 
a minimum, provide:
    (1) A method for providing a client, at the time the person is 
accepted as a client or as soon thereafter as practicable, with 
adequate notice of the complaint procedures and how to make a 
complaint;
    (2) For prompt consideration of each complaint by the Executive 
Director of the recipient, or the Executive Director's designee,
    (3) An opportunity for the complainant, if the Executive Director 
or the Executive Director's designee is unable to resolve the matter, 
to submit an oral and written statement to a grievance committee 
established by the governing body as required by section 1621.2 of this 
part. The procedures shall also: Provide that the opportunity to submit 
an oral statement may be accomplished in person, by teleconference, or 
through some other reasonable alternative, permit a complainant to be 
accompanied by another person who may speak on that complainant's 
behalf; and provide that, upon request of the complainant, the 
recipient shall transcribe a brief written statement, dictated by the 
complainant for inclusion in the recipient's complaint file.
    (c) Consistent with its responsibilities under 45 CFR 1614.3(d)(3), 
a recipient shall establish a procedure to review complaints by clients 
about the manner or quality of legal assistance that has been rendered 
by a private attorney pursuant to the recipient's private attorney 
involvement program under 45 CFR part 1614.
    (d) A file containing every complaint and a statement of its 
disposition shall be preserved for examination by LSC. The file shall 
include any written statement submitted by the complainant or 
transcribed by the recipient from a complainant's oral statement.

    Dated: August 14, 2006.
Victor M. Fortuno,
Vice President and General Counsel.
 [FR Doc. E6-13700 Filed 8-18-06; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 7050-01-P