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A legal defense fund is any fund set up to provide legal help and to safeguard the rights and interests of a particular individual or group. A legal defense fund pays legal fees associated with filing or defense of suits associated with a particular interest such as the safeguarding the environment, animal rights or civil rights. There are several kinds of legal defense funds such as animal legal defense fund, service members legal defense fund, home school legal defense fund etc.
One of the most well known legal defense funds is the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. The Legal Defense Fund was incorporated in 1939 with Thurgood Marshall as director. From 1945 to 1954 the LDF's legal campaign developed a sustained assault on segregation in education. The LDF was behind the lawsuits that resulted in the desegregation decisions of 1954, Brown v. Board of Education and Bolling v. Sharpe. For about a decade after Brown, the Legal Defense Fund concentrated on efforts to defend itself against attempts by southern legislatures to keep it from operating (for example, by charging it with unethical practices in soliciting clients, while attempting to compel school boards to comply with the desegregation decision). In 1963 the Supreme Court in NAACP v. Button,held that the Legal Defense Fund's activities in supporting litigation were protected by the First Amendment. In the 1960s the Legal Defense Fund provided legal support for African Americans prosecuted during sit in demonstrations. After enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the LDF developed a substantial litigation campaign to eliminate racial discrimination in employment. Motivated by concern that the death penalty was administered in ways that amounted to discrimination against African Americans, the Legal Defense Fund also challenged capital punishment.