Donald P. Bogard, an Indianapolis lawyer who has fought legal services lawyers and migrant farm workers in several past court cases, yesterday agreed to become president of the Legal Services Corp.
Bogard, head of litigation for Stokely-Van Camp Inc., was offered the job by the Legal Services board Oct. 29 after a contentious meeting in which legal services lawyers and others accused the board of insensitivity and complained that Bogard has no experience in poverty law.
The Legal Services Corp. is a federally funded, semi-independent agency providing free legal assistance to poor people. President Reagan, long a harsh critic of the program, last year tried to abolish it, then settled for appointing a board of his own to change its direction.
Letters obtained by The Washington Post indicate that Bogard was rejected last summer by the board's own presidential search committee, but its objections were overridden by William Harvey, Reagan's handpicked board chairman. Harvey yesterday confirmed in a telephone interview that Bogard has accepted the job.
Bogard's application for the $57,500-a-year job was reconsidered after Harvey sent an angry eight-page letter to Howard H. Dana Jr., a board member and head of the search committee, demanding that Bogard be included in the list of finalists. Bogard was once a student of Harvey's, a professor at the Indiana University School of Law.
In the letter, Harvey said that he "solicited" the application from Bogard, whom he called "a remarkably outstanding person."
"I request that Mr. Donald P. Bogard Esq. be given a full and fair hearing and review," Harvey wrote. "He most certainly did not receive that, and he shall. I shall be present for that discussion, and I shall present his remarkable record as I know it. I have a duty to do this, and, may I suggest, you have a duty to listen."
Harvey also criticized Dana's plan to ask for comment on the presidential finalists from outside special interest groups in the legal services community.
"I think that decision . . . is appalling," Harvey said in the letter. "It is made at the direct expense of board members who have been attacked because it lends an aura of credibility to those who have launched a vicious program of disinformation, and who maintain it . . . .
"I am one of the victims of that campaign, Mr. Dana, and you are not. But you might show a scintilla of awareness about it," Harvey wrote. A number of board members, including Harvey, have been criticized because of their lack of experience in the poverty law area and, in some cases, previous opposition to the program.
The decision to offer the job to Bogard was made on an 8-to-2 vote with Dana and board member Annie Slaughter of St. Louis in opposition.
Bogard did not return a phone call yesterday and previously has refused to discuss his position on legal services.
Bogard has been a lawyer for 11 years and spent eight years in the Indiana attorney general's office before joining Stokely-Van Camp, the large food processing company.
Another letter obtained by The Washington Post indicates that Dana has since urged Bogard not to accept the job.
In the letter, Dana, who headed Reagan's 1980 presidential campaign in Maine, praised Bogard's integrity and legal qualifications. But he added that the president of Legal Services "should be much more than a great lawyer. The president should be a great administrator, a great politician, a great leader and preferably he should possess substantial understanding of the ways of Washington, the corporation itself and legal services for the poor.
"Even if these were the best of times, I would have serious reservations about your qualifications in these other areas," Dana wrote.