Oral history interview with Douglas Eakeley, conducted by Victor Geminiani (2002-08-06)
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Oral history interview with Douglas Eakeley, conducted by Victor Geminiani, August 6, 2002. Oral history collection, National Equal Justice Library, Special Collections, Georgetown Law Library.
Douglas Eakeley grew up in Westfield, New Jersey. He attended public schools, until he went to Yale College on a scholarship. He graduated summa cum laude in 1968 with an economics degree. A Rhodes Scholar, he studied at Oxford University and graduated in 1970. After Oxford, he returned to Yale and earned his J.D. from the Law School in 1972. Eakeley became involved with legal services while studying at Yale. He participated in the Yale clinical legal services program and was assigned to work with Newhallville Legal Services, one of the original Gray Area programs funded by the Ford Foundation. After law school, Mr. Eakeley was a law clerk for Judge Harold R. Tyler Jr. with the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York until 1973. In 1973, Mr. Eakeley started working as an associate with Debevoise & Plimpton and stayed with the firm until 1980. One of the reasons he started working with the firm was that it was very supportive of the pro bono work and community involvement of its lawyers. During that time, Eakeley served as special counsel to the New York City Board of Corrections. In this role, he secured a grant from the Ford Foundation to study the legal needs of moderate income people, which led to the publication of the monograph: “A Lawyer at a Price People Can Afford.” This monograph was published in 1974 by the New York State Bar Foundation. Eakeley served on the Board of Directors of the Legal Aid Society, and was a trustee of the Community Law offices in East Harlem. In 1980, Mr. Eakeley returned to New Jersey, and started working with Riker Danzig Scherer Hyland & Perretti LLP as a Partner, specializing in complex civil litigation, including securities fraud, antitrust and consumer fraud, class actions, products liability, and derivative litigation. At the same time, he began serving on the board of the Essex-Newark Legal Services Project, one of the oldest and largest legal services projects in New Jersey, where he organized a volunteer program and fundraising campaign. This eventually led to the formation of Legal Services Foundation of Essex County. In early 1982, Mr. Eakeley received an invitation to join the board of Legal Services of New Jersey, and shortly after, was elected chair. During this time, Legal Services successfully litigated against the State of New Jersey to force the State government to measure and articulate the standard of need for children on AFDC. After serving on the board of Legal Services for eight years, he joined the Florio Administration in 1990 as first Assistant Attorney General of the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety. He then returned to Riker Danzig Scherer Hyland & Perretti LLP and then joined Lowenstein Sandler LLP in 1996. In 1993, President Clinton appointed Mr. Eakeley to chair the board of the Legal Services Corporation, where he served until 2003. In 2012, Mr. Eakeley joined the Rutgers Law School in Newark as the Alan V. Lowenstein Professor of Corporate and Business Law.Interview keyword summary: Yale clinical legal services program; Newhallville Legal Services, Ford Foundation Gray Area program, memories of Bill Clinton as a Rhodes scholar; Community Law offices in East Harlem; Essex-Newark Legal Services Project; Legal Services Foundation of Essex County; Legal Services of New Jersey, litigation against the state of New Jersey to measure and articulate standard of need for children on AFDC; Reagan administration, Clinton administration, Legal Services Corporation, monitoring conducted by the LSC in the 1980s when the LSC leadership was clearly hostile toward the field and operational use of funds; minimum access funding, Project Advisory Group; ABA; NLADA; request for LSC budget increase from $448M to $848M; short-term and long-term goals as LSC Board Chairman: a) find a President for LSC; b) get congressional reauthorization for LSC; c) get increased funding for LSC; e) get regulatory reform to remove restrictions on LSC; need to reduce politicization of the LSC.
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