Wednesday, November 30, 2005

New York lawyers take the pledge

This enormous commitment of time, energy, and money to the public good deserves the highest levels of praise and respect. This is truly "walking the walk."

30 Firms Sign City Bar Statement Pledging Lawyers Will Log 50 Pro Bono Hours a Year New York Lawyer November 30, 2005 By Thomas AdcockNew York Law Journal

Thirty of the 55 large Manhattan law firms asked by the New York City Bar Association to endorse its aspirational "Statement of Pro Bono Principles" did so yesterday. Included in the statement is a pledge that signatory firms perform 50 or more hours per lawyer per year. A "substantial majority" of those hours should be in the cause of civil legal help for poor people — or about 30 hours, said Bettina B. Plevan, city bar president. That figure coincides with the 30 hours of annual pro bono service to the poor long advocated by Volunteers of Legal Service. ********************* The signatory firms to the city bar's statement include: Arnold & Porter; Bryan Cave; Carter, Ledyard & Milburn; Chadbourne & Parke; Clifford Chance US; Debevoise & Plimpton; Dewey Ballantine; Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson; Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher; Heller Ehrman; Hogan & Hartson; Holland & Knight; Hughes, Hubbard & Reed; Kaye Scholer; Kelley, Drye & Warren; Kirkland & Ellis; LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae. Also, Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw; Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy; Morgan, Lewis & Bockius; Morrison & Foerster; Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler; Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison; Proskauer Rose; Sidley, Austin, Brown & Wood; Simpson, Thacher & Bartlett; Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom; Stroock & Stroock & Lavan; Thelen, Reid & Priest; and Weil, Gotshal & Manges.

The full article is here.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Innocence is not always enough

Here is a revealing story which shows how a lack of self starting inertia can affect our justice system. It takes pro bono lawyers to get the job done.
Pardon These Innocent Men, Governor Warner: Margaret Carlson Nov. 23 (Bloomberg) -- It can be easier to put a man in jail than to get him out, even in America, even when everything says you're innocent. Sometimes being innocent works against you, because it means someone somewhere has made a mistake. The system rallies round the accuser, not the wrongly accused. Better that an innocent man remain in prison than the legal system be put on trial. That's the sad state of affairs in Norfolk, Virginia, where three young sailors appear to have been pressured into confessing to the rape and murder of a Navy wife, Michelle Moore-Bosko. The three men, who are 29, 33 and 35 years old, are serving life terms with no possibility of parole. Their cause has been taken up by the Innocence Project, a nonprofit legal clinic, and by three law firms working pro bono, Hogan & Hartson LLP, Holland & Knight LLP and Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP.
The rest of the story can be found here.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Look here if you want to help Katrina/Rita victims.

PNN Online carries this announcement of the formation of a "Katrina Legal Aid Resource Center:"
Tens of thousands of Gulf Coast residents face devastating legal problems as they struggle to rebuild their lives in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, but many people cannot afford and do not know where to get the legal assistance they need. To help address this problem, four national allies in the legal aid and public defender communities have launched “Katrina Legal Aid Resource Center,” a Web-based clearinghouse of legal aid, pro bono and public defender information for persons affected by the hurricanes and the lawyers and advocates helping them. Katrina Legal Aid Resource Center, is the result of a partnership among the American Bar Association (ABA), Legal Services Corporation (LSC), National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA) and Pro Bono Net. * * * * * * * * Lawyers who want to offer pro bono assistance to persons in affected areas may register online through an ABA database that matches lawyers with volunteer opportunities most suited to their expertise and interests. Private lawyers may also find a listing of opportunities to volunteer in numerous states and localities, along with information about lawyer training programs to prepare them to assist persons affected by the hurricane. The site also provides information for lawyers who want to provide assistance to evacuees who have been relocated to other states, including Texas, Georgia, Tennessee, New York and the District of Columbia. The coordinated substantive response to those in need as a result of Katrina and Rita has been extraordinary. In addition to the Katrina Legal Aid Resource Center, the ABA, LSC, NLADA and Pro Bono Net continue to work hard with a number of substantive support centers and emergency legal assistance experts in ensuring that: local advocacy efforts have the backup needed; volunteer advocates have access to substantive resources to assist their efforts; national advocacy responses are adequate; and substantive communications on cross-cutting issues are effective. For more information, please visit Katrina Legal Aid Resource Center.
This is a simply spectacular display of goodness coming from lawyers serving the neediest in times of great stress. The whole article is here.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Muncie, Indiana, attorney makes good!

A hat tip to Muncie, Indiana attorney Richard Hughes is clearly in order.
MUNCIE, Ind. (NLI) - High honors for a Muncie attorney who developed and runs a free service in Delaware County.Richard Hughes, a partner at DeFur Voran, received the Indiana Pro Bono Commission's Randall T. Shepard Award. Hughes said he knew of the award but never gave a thought to one day being honored with it."I was actually kind of embarrassed because so many other people helped," Hughes said.Now that he the award in hand, Hughes said nothing will change. But he does have one wish."I hope that the recognition will inspire other attorney's to become involved in pro bono work and do their share," Hughes said.Hughes does work for companies such as Habitat for Humanity and the Drop-In Center.
From NewsLink Indiana. Lawyers like Mr. Hughes should have their wishes granted, don't you think? He's in this for the love, not for the money.

A call to duty in New Mexico

A special commission appointed by the New Mexico Supreme Court is calling on the lawyers of its state bar to improve access to the legal sysem for all:
The last in a series of three public hearings on expanding access to the state's legal system takes place Friday in Santa Fe. The 16-member New Mexico Commission on Access to Justice, appointed by the New Mexico Supreme Court, will conduct the hearings, according to a commission release. The commission, which is co-chaired by New Mexico Supreme Court Justice Petra Jimenez Maes, is gathering information on how to improve delivery of "affordable, quality legal services" to the state's large low-income population. The hearings are part of an overall effort by the state's legal community to reform the process of providing legal assistance to the poor. The State Bar of New Mexico recently adopted proposals that would increase the number of pro bono (donated) hours lawyers are expected to provide along with better record-keeping to assure compliance. Several agencies already work to assist low-income residents with legal problems. But commission members say that's still not enough, and the hearings are aimed at trying to find other ways to provide assistance. The commission held hearings earlier in Roswell and Las Cruces. The Santa Fe session is the last meeting before the group meets to formulate its recommendations. It is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Judicial Complex at 100 Catron Street in New Mexico's capital city.
Providing representation to the persistently under-represented segments of our society is the highest calling of our profession. The "rule of law" means much more to those who can access it than to those who cannot. The State Bar of New Mexico gets it, and we are all better off for their fine efforts. Here is the article from New Mexico Business Weekly.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Heroes for Children Awards presented in Minneapolis

I came across this, and I thought it pretty well represented the kind of activity we are trying to praise and promote here at Probonolaw:
MINNEAPOLIS – Children’s Law Center of Minnesota (CLC) of St. Paul celebrated its tenth anniversary on October 6, 2005, with a benefit at the Millennium Hotel in Minneapolis. The evening was also an opportunity to honor two community leaders for a lifetime of making a difference in young peoples lives. Kerri Miller, MPR host of Midmorning & Talking Volumes, emceed the event and Connecticut Juvenile Court Judge Frederica Brenneman, the inspiration for the television series “Judging Amy” (CBS), and a pioneering judicial advocate for children’s rights, was present to honor this year’s award recipients, Justice Rosalie E. Wahl, who received the first Rosalie E. Wahl Justice for Children Award; and David L. Moore, founder and scoutmaster of Hmong Boy Scout Troop 100, who received the Heroes for Children Award. The law firms of Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi, Faegre & Benson, and Fredrikson & Byron, were also recognized for dedication to pro bono legal services for children. * * * * Children’s Law Center of Minnesota is a nonprofit organization with a mission to advance the rights and interests of Minnesota’s children, especially children of color and children with disabilities, in the judicial, child welfare, health care, and education systems. They work primarily on representation of more than 800 children in foster care through a multidisciplinary team of volunteer lawyer and CLC social worker; training and education of volunteer lawyers and other child advocates; and advocating for policy and system reform including employing an impact litigation strategy. CLC’s small multidisciplinary staff of social worker and lawyers has leveraged thousands of pro bono hours - valued at several million dollars- from volunteer lawyers to represent children in all areas of the law. Through two crucial programs in the Twin Cities: the Foster Child Advocacy Project and the State Wards: the Forgotten Children Project, CLC provides a voice for Minnesota’s youth and helps break the cycle of family and system failure. There youth testimonials at the banquet, which, demonstrated the impact the CLC has had in areas where children have no voice or representation. CLC helped one teen out of a foster home full of substance abuse. He also demonstrated a genuine medical need for braces that was denied until CLC won his appeal. Another girl was a ward of the state, and wanted to be adopted by a family other than the family the county selected. Although Andrea’s guardian ad litem and her birthmother supported Andrea’s request, neither the county worker nor the court would agree to the placement. With the help of a CLC volunteer lawyer, Andrea’s request to live with the family she selected was granted. CLC’s advocacy for children was recognized with the 2003 Minnesota Council of Nonprofits 2003 Advocate Award and the 1998 Midwest Human Rights Hero Award from the Midwest Coalition of Human Rights. Executive Director Gail Chang Bohr received the MSBA Civil Litigation 2004 Advocate Award for her work in improving procedural safeguards for children in Juvenile Court. Former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno said, “I’m so impressed with what I’ve read about Minnesota Children’s Law Center. This is an example of what I talk about – of bringing social workers together with lawyers and others concerned with the interests of children to address the issues in a comprehensive way.”
This is what real lawyers do. The whole article is here, and it includes some touching information about Hmong Boy Scout Troop 100 as well.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Santa Clara County Bar boosts Pro Bono

The Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal is carrying this report:

Silicon Valley attorneys will need to provide more free legal service -- a lot more -- to meet the area's growing need, according to a report by the Santa Clara County Bar Association. The report recommends its members provide 60 hours of free legal service annually as well as provide a cash donation of at least one billable hour to a local legal aid organization. Only about 15 percent of Silicon Valley's 7,000 attorneys meet the 50 hours a year guideline the American Bar Association recommends, according to several estimates. "There is a moral imperative to meeting these goals," says William Abrams, a partner at Pillsbury Winthrop's Palo Alto office and a member of the Santa Clara County Bar Association's pro bono task force. "It's a good first step; the next step is to figure out how to make it work."