Frank Dineen is the longest serving legal services lawyer in the country. In 1962, the Ford Foundation funded Community Progress, Inc., as a model for the Kennedy administration’s Office of Economic Opportunity. With the involvement of the late Yale Law School faculty member Joseph Goldstein, who was a Ford Foundation consultant, the program included a legal component. Jean Camper Cahn and Frank Dineen were the two lawyers hired for the program. A year later, because of political problems resulting from representing an African-American man accused of raping a white women, the legal component was spun off as New Haven Legal Assistance Association, Inc. Jean’s Cahn’s husband, Edgar Cahn, became Sargeant Shriver’s chief of staff at OEO, and was instrumental in getting a federally funded legal component into OEO. That ultimately became the Legal Services Corp.
However, Dineen’s involvement actually goes back further. Thanks largely to the involvement of Yale Law School students, New Haven established a municipal legal aid bureau in 1927, one of the first five in the country, with Dineen as its first student chair. After NHLAA was formed, he had the title of Director of the Municipal Legal Aid Bureau, one of only three people to have held that title (the others being Grace Bossie and Robert Solomon, Yale Law School Clinical Professor and Director of the School’s Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization).
Dineen was involved in many landmark cases, including the Supreme Court case of Boddie v. Connecticut, establishing the right to free access to the courts in cases of fundamental rights. As a result, every state and the federal system have established fee waiver mechanisms. Dineen is also credited with literally reinventing landlord/tenant practice in CT.
Dineen is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Distinguished Service Award from Yale University and Yale Law School in 1981, for his work in legal services and with law students; and the Charles J. Parker Legal Services Award from the Connecticut Bar Association for his work in legal services. He was also designated a James W. Cooper Fellow by the Connecticut Bar Foundation in 1994. He is currently teaching and working with students in the Landlord/Tenant and Legal Assistance clinics.