President Reagan yesterday appointed 11 persons to interim terms on the board of directors of the Legal Services Corp., effectively bypassing the Senate, which had refused to confirm the same nominees earlier this year.
Reagan said he was making the "recess appointments" so the board could have a working quorum. Recess appointees do not have to be confirmed by the Senate; in this case, they will serve until Congress adjourns at the end of next year.
The board has been without a working quorum since late October when the terms of four other recess appointees expired. The board members oversee the quasi-private corporation that administers federally funded legal aid to the poor.
Reagan originally nominated the same 11 people on March 12, but the Senate adjourned without taking action on the nominees after Democrats, led by Sen. Thomas F. Eagleton (D-Mo.), objected to some of the nominees.
The president has tried repeatedly to abolish the agency, which conservatives contend has overstepped its mandate in the past by serving as an advocate for the poor and engaging in political activites. Reagan has consistently asked Congress not to fund the corporation, and he is expected to do the same in his fiscal 1986 budget.
Democrats and administration critics have continued to push funds for the corporation through Congress and attached amendments to money bills to prevent the Reagan-appointed boards from dismantling the corporation from within.
Deputy White House press secretary Marlin Fitzwater announced the recess appointments yesterday from Santa Barbara, Calif., where Reagan is vacationing. He did not indicate whether Reagan will resubmit the names as nominees to the Senate when it reconvenes.
The president has been unable to get the Senate to confirm a full board since he took office. As a result, it has been run by a series of recess appointees.
Maureen Murray, a spokesman for the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, a frequent critic of the board under the Reagan administration, said yesterday that the recess appointments will give Democratic members of the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee an opportunity to see "firsthand" whether the board members should be confirmed next year if their names are resubmitted.
The most controversial appointee is Michael B. Wallace, a former top aide to Rep. Trent Lott (R-Miss.). Eagleton contends that Wallace was the architect of the administration's unsuccessful efforts to keep the Internal Revenue Service from revoking the tax-exempt status of racially segregated private schools.
Eagleton also has accused Wallace of being the chief congressional staff organizer of opposition to an extension of the Voting Rights Act. In the past, Wallace has declined to comment on the charges.
Last spring the labor committee had recommended the confirmation of all the nominees except Wallace, but sent all the names to the full Senate. The Senate, however, never acted on the nominations.
Eagleton also complained about LeaAnne Bernstein, a lawyer and secretary to the corporation's board of directors. Eagleton said she is responsible for notifying the public about board meetings, but has given only the minimum notice required and has worked to limit public participation at meetings.
The other appointees are Claude Galbreath Swafford, a Tennessee lawyer; Robert A. Valois, a Raleigh lawyer; William Clark Durant III, a Grosse Pointe, Mich., lawyer; Pepe J. Mendez, a Denver lawyer; Paul B. Eaglin, a Fayetteville, N.C., lawyer; Thomas F. Smegal, a San Francisco lawyer; Basile Joseph Uddo, a New Orleans lawyer; Lorath Miller, a day-care and senior-citizens' program supervisor for the Detroit YMCA; and Hortencia Benavides, a bookstore clerk from El Paso.