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Hon. William S. Cohen
Senator Cohen grew up in Bangor, graduated from Bowdoin College and received his law degree from Boston University School of Law in 1965. Returning to Maine to practice law after graduation, his public service career began in 1968 as an Assistant County Attorney for Penobscot County. After serving as city councilor and mayor for the City of Bangor, he ran successfully for the Second District Congressional seat in 1972. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives until 1978, when he won a seat in the United States Senate. His career in the Senate has included service on the Armed Services and Governmental Affairs committees and the Select Committee on Intelligence. He also serves as chairman of the Special Committee on Aging. Earlier this year, he indicated that he would not seek a fourth term in the U.S. Senate.
His personal commitment to principles of justice was first brought to national attention during his service on the House Judiciary Committee in 1974, during the historic inquiry into the impeachment of President Nixon. In recent years, however, it has been his leadership on legal services issues on the floor of the U.S. Senate which has earned him national recognition. Always supportive of the legal needs of low-income and elderly Mainers, he first stepped into the growing debate about public funding of legal services programs in 1993 when he stopped a popular proposal to limit the kinds of legal claims which poor people could bring with the help of legal service attorneys.
In the past 18 months, the tide of sentiment in Washington has turned ever more strongly against the programs which provide free legal assistance to low-income people. Undaunted, Senator Cohen has continued to speak clearly and forcefully for the public’s obligation to insure justice for all its people through funding of the Legal Services Corporation. Despite its unpopularity among many politicians and the relative obscurity of the issue, Senator Cohen has repeatedly taken the Senate floor to insist that legal services programs receive appropriate funding and that they be allowed to continue to function as effectively as possible in their communities. In March of this year, in the face of overwhelming opposition, he successfully sponsored an amendment to the appropriation bill for the Legal Services Corporation which allowed legal services staff to continue to provide some assistance in legislative and administrative forums on the poverty law issues which are their special area of expertise.