Attorneys of the Month for January thru March 5th, 2018.

The following Georgia attorneys were disciplined and/or disbarred for the month Of March, 2018:

March 5, 2018

Sam L. Levine

Februry 19, 2018:

February 5, 2018:

Adam L. Smith

January 29, 2018:

Rich Merritt

If you want to know more, go to Supreme Court of Georgia, 2018 Opinion sand Summaries
The number on the left hand side above, is the case number for the attorney. The Attorney discipline is at the end of each section. If you click the case number, you can read the Order,


January 27, 2016, 11 a.m.
House Chambers, State Capitol

Lt. Governor Cagle, Speaker Ralston, President Pro Tem Shafer, Speaker Pro Tem Jones, members of the General Assembly, my fellow judges and my fellow Georgians:
Good morning. Thank you for this annual tradition of inviting the Chief Justice to report on the State of Georgia’s Judiciary. Thanks in large part to your support and the support of our governor, as we move into 2016, I am pleased to tell you that your judicial branch of government is not only steady and secure, it is dynamic; it has momentum; and it is moving forward into the 21st century with a vitality and a commitment to meeting the inevitable changes before us.
Our mission remains the same: To protect individual rights and liberties, to uphold and interpret the rule of law, and to provide a forum for the peaceful resolution of disputes that is fair, impartial, and accessible to all.
Our judges are committed to these principles. Each day, throughout this state, they put on their black robes; they take their seat on the courtroom bench; and they work tirelessly to ensure that all citizens who come before them get justice.

Our Judicial Council is the policy-making body of the state’s judicial branch. It is made up of competent, committed leaders elected by their fellow judges and representing all classes of court. They are assisted by an Administrative Office of the Courts, which is under a new director – Cynthia Clanton – and has a renewed focus as an agency that serves judges and courts throughout Georgia.
A number of our judges have made the trip to be here today. Our judges are here today because the relationship we have with you is important. We share with you the same goal of serving the citizens of this great state. We could not do our work without your help and that of our governor.
On behalf of all of the judges, let me say we are extremely grateful to you members of the General Assembly for your judicial compensation appropriation last year.

Today I want to talk to you about Georgia’s 21st century courts – our vision for the future, the road we must travel to get there, and the accomplishments we have already achieved.
It has been said that, “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”
Since a new state Constitution took effect in 1983, our population has nearly doubled to a little over 10 million, making us the 8th most populous state in the country. We are among the fastest growing states in the nation, and in less than four years, our population is projected to exceed 12 million.
Because it is good for our economy, we welcome that growth. Today, Georgia ranks
among states with the highest number of Fortune 500 companies, 20 of which have their global headquarters here; we have 72 four-year colleges and universities; we have the world’s busiest airport and we have two deep-water ports. Georgia is a gateway to the South, and for a growing number of people and businesses from around the world, it is a gateway to this country.
All of this growth produces litigation – increasingly complex litigation – and just as our state must prepare for this growth by ensuring we have enough roads and modes of transportation, enough doctors and hospitals, and enough power to reach people throughout the state, our courts also must be equipped and modernized for the 21st
While our population has nearly doubled since 1983, the number of Georgia judges has
grown only 16 percent. We must work together to ensure that our judicial system has enough judges, staff and resources in the 21st century to fulfill the mission and constitutional duties our forefathers assigned to us.
A healthy, vibrant judiciary is absolutely critical to the economic development of our state. Thanks to many leaders in the judiciary, as well as to our partnership with the governor and to you in the legislature, we are well on our way to building a court system for the 21st century.

This time next year, with your support, we will have put into place an historic shift in the types of cases handled by the Georgia Supreme Court – the highest court in the state – and by the Court of Appeals – our intermediate appellate court. Thanks to Governor Deal’s Georgia Appellate Jurisdiction Review Commission, this realignment will bring the Supreme Court of Georgia in line with other state Supreme Courts, which handle only the most critical cases that potentially change the law. Serving on the Commission are two of my colleagues – Justice David Nahmias and Justice Keith Blackwell – as well as two judges from the Court of Appeals – Chief
Judge Sara Doyle and Judge Stephen Dillard.
I thank you, Justices and Judges, for your leadership.
Under the Georgia Constitution, Supreme Court justices collectively decide every case that comes before us. Currently the state’s highest court hears divorce and alimony cases; we hear cases involving wills; we hear cases involving titles to land; and we hear disputes over boundary lines.
But the Governor’s Commission, and a number of reports by other commissions and
committees issued since 1983, have recommended that such cases should be heard by our intermediate appeals court, not by our highest court.
Both of our courts are among the busiest in the nation. But unlike the Supreme Court, which sits as a full court with all seven justices participating in, and deciding, every case, the Court of Appeals sits in panels of three. With your approval last year of three new Court of Appeals judges, that court will now have five panels, so it will have the capacity to consider five times as many cases as the Supreme Court.
Modernization of the Supreme Court makes sense. In a 19th century court system, when
most of the wealth was tied up in land, maybe title to land cases were the most important. Maybe they had the greatest implications for the public at large. But as we move into the 21st century, that is no longer true.
In answer to questions such as who owns a strip of land, what does a will mean, and who should prevail in a divorce settlement or an alimony dispute, most judicial systems believe that three judges are enough to provide the parties with a full and fair consideration of their appeal. It no longer makes sense to have seven – or nine – justices collectively review these types of cases.
There is no doubt these cases will be in good hands with the Court of Appeals.
Let me emphasize that all these cases the Commission recommended shifting to the Court of Appeals are critically important to the parties involved.
Let me also emphasize that the purpose of this historic change is not to lessen the burden on the Supreme Court. Rather, the intent is to free up the state’s highest court to devote more time and energy to the most complex and the most difficult cases that have the greatest implications for the law and society at large.
We will therefore retain jurisdiction of constitutional challenges to the laws you enact, questions from the federal courts seeking authoritative rulings on Georgia law, election contests, murder and death penalty cases, and cases in which the Court of Appeals judges are equally divided.
Significantly, we want to be able to accept more of what we call “certiorari” cases
which are appeals of decisions by the Court of Appeals. The number of petitions filed in this category during the first quarter of the new docket year is nearly 14 percent higher this year over last. Yet due to the amount of appeals the law now requires us to take, we have had to reject the majority of the petitions for certiorari that we receive.
These cases are often the most complex – and the most consequential. They involve
issues of great importance to the legal system and the State as a whole. Or they involve an area of law that has become inconsistent and needs clarification.
Businesses and citizens need to know what the law allows them to do and what it does
not allow them to do. It is our job at the highest court to reduce any uncertainty and bring consistency and clarity to the law.
Under the Commission’s recommendations, our 21st century Georgia Supreme Court will
be able to accept more of these important appeals.

As we move into the 21st century, plans are being discussed to build the first state Judicial Building in Georgia’s history that will be dedicated solely to the judiciary. We are grateful for the Governor’s leadership on this. The building that now houses the state’s highest court and the Court of Appeals was built in 1954 when Herman Tallmadge was governor. Back then, it made sense to combine the state judicial branch with part of the executive branch, by locating the Law Department in the same building.
But the world has changed since 1954, and the building we now occupy was not designed with visitors in mind. It was not designed with technology in mind. And it surely was not designed with security in mind. Indeed, it was designed to interconnect with neighboring buildings that housed other branches of government.
A proper Judicial Building is about more than bricks and mortar. Outside, this building will symbolize for generations to come the place where people will go to get final resolution of civil wrongs and injustices; where the government will go to safeguard its prosecution of criminals; and where defendants will go to appeal convictions and sentences to prison for life.
Inside such a building, the courtroom will reinforce the reality that what goes on here is serious and solemn; it is a place of great purpose, in the words of a federal judge. The parties and the lawyers will understand they are all on equal footing, because they are equal under the law.
There is a majesty about the law that gets played out in the courtroom. It is a hallowed place because it is where the truth must be told and where justice is born. The courtroom represents our democracy at its very best.
No, this building is not just about bricks and mortar. Rather it is a place that will house Georgia’s highest court where fairness, impartiality, and justice will reign for future generations.

We are no longer living in a 1950s Georgia. The courts of the 21st century must be
equipped to handle an increasingly diverse population. Living today in metropolitan Atlanta alone are more than 700,000 people who were born outside the United States. According to the Chamber of Commerce, today some 70 countries have a presence in Atlanta, in the form of a consulate or trade office. We must be ready to help resolve the disputes of international businesses that are increasingly locating in our state and capital. Our 21st century courts must be open, transparent and accessible to all. Our citizens’ confidence in their judicial system depends on it. We must be armed with qualified, certified interpreters, promote arbitration as an alternative to costly, courtroom-bound litigation, ensure that all those who cannot afford lawyers have an avenue toward justice, and be constantly updating technology with the aim of improving our courts’ efficiency while saving literally millions of dollars. For all of this, we need your help.

When I first became a judge, we had no email, no cell phones, no Internet. People didn’t Twitter or text, or post things on YouTube, Facebook or Instagram. The most modern equipment we had was a mimeograph machine.
This past year, by Supreme Court order, we created for the first time a governance
structure to bring our use of technology into the 21st century. Chaired by my colleague Justice Harold Melton, and co-chaired by Douglas County Superior Court Judge David Emerson, this permanent Judicial Council Standing Committee on Technology will lead the judicial branch by providing guidance and oversight of its technology initiatives.
Our courts on their own are rapidly moving away from paper documents into the digital age. At the Supreme Court, lawyers must now electronically file all cases. This past year, we successfully launched the next phase by working with trial courts to begin transmitting their entire court record to us electronically. The Court of Appeals also now requires the e-filing of applications to appeal, and this year, will join the Supreme Court in accepting electronic trial records.

Our goal is to develop a uniform statewide electronic filing and retrieval system so that lawyers and others throughout the judiciary can file and access data the easiest way possible.
Using a single portal, attorneys will be able to file documents with trial courts and appellate courts – and retrieve them from any court in the state. This is the system advocated by our partner, President Bob Kaufman of the State Bar of Georgia, and by attorneys throughout the state.
Such a system will not only make our courts more efficient at huge savings, but it will make Georgia safer. When our trial judges conduct bond hearings, for example, they often lack critical information about the person before them. They usually have reports about any former convictions, but they may not have information about cases pending against the defendant in other courts. The technology exists now to ensure that they do.
Also on the horizon is the expanded use of videoconferencing – another electronic
improvement that will save money and protect citizens’ lives. After a conviction and sentence to prison, post-trial hearings require courts to send security teams to pick up the prisoner and bring him to court. Without encroaching on the constitutional right of confrontation, we could videoconference the inmate’s testimony from his prison cell. Again, the technology already exists.
Our Committee on Technology will be at the forefront of guiding our courts into the 21st century.

As Georgia grows, it grows more diverse.
Our Georgia courts are required by the federal government to provide language services free of charge to litigants and witnesses, not only in criminal cases but in civil cases as well.
Even for fluent English speakers, the judicial system can be confusing and unwelcoming.
My vision for Georgia’s judiciary in the 21st century is that every court, in every city and every county in Georgia, will have the capacity of serving all litigants, speaking any language, regardless of national origin, from the moment they enter the courthouse until the moment they leave. That means that on court websites, signs and forms will be available in multiple languages, that all court staff will have the tools they need to assist any customers, and that court proceedings will have instant access to the interpreters of the languages they need.
Chief Magistrate Kristina Blum of the Gwinnett County Magistrate Court has been
working hard to ensure access to justice for all those who come to her court, most of whom are representing themselves.
Recently her court created brochures that provide guidance for civil trials, family
violence matters, warrant applications, garnishments, and landlord-tenant disputes. These brochures provide basic information about each proceeding – what to expect and how best to present their case in court.
Judge Blum, who is in line to be president of the Council of Magistrate Judges and is a member of our Judicial Council, has had the brochures translated into Spanish, Korean and Vietnamese. Such non-legalese forms and tutorial videos that our citizens can understand go a long way toward building trust in the judicial system, and in our entire government.
The Supreme Court Commission on Interpreters, chaired by Justice Keith Blackwell, is
making significant strides in ensuring that our courts uphold the standards of due process. With the help of Commission member Jana Edmondson-Cooper, an energetic attorney with the Georgia Legal Services Program, the Commission is working around the state to educate judges,court administrators and lawyers on the judiciary’s responsibilities in providing language assistance.
The essence of due process is the opportunity to be heard. Our justice system is the envy of other countries because it is open and fair to everyone seeking justice. By helping those who have not yet mastered English, we reinforce the message that the doors to the best justice system in the world are open to everyone.
Our law demands it. Our Constitution demands it.

The courts of the 21st century will symbolize a new era. A turning point in our history occurred when we realized there was a smarter way to handle criminals.
Six years ago, my colleague and then Chief Justice Carol Hunstein accompanied
Representative Wendell Willard to Alabama to explore how that state was reforming its criminal justice system. Back in Georgia, Governor Deal seized the reins, brought together the three branches of government, and through extraordinary leadership, has made criminal justice reform a reality. Georgia is now a model for the nation.
Today, following an explosive growth in our prison population that doubled between
1990 and 2011 and caused corrections costs to top one billion dollars a year, last year our prison population was the lowest it has been in 10 years. Our recidivism rate is the lowest it’s been in three decades. And we have turned back the tide of rising costs.
For the last five years, the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform – created by the governor and your legislation – has been busy transforming our criminal justice system into one that does a better job of protecting public safety while holding non-violent offenders accountable and saving millions in taxpayer dollars. I am extremely grateful to this Council and commend the steady leadership of co-chairs Judge Michael Boggs of the Court of Appeals and Thomas Worthy of the State Bar of Georgia.
Throughout this historic reform, Georgia’s trial court judges have been in the trenches.
Our number one goal in criminal justice reform is to better protect the safety of our citizens.
Central to that goal is the development of our specialty courts – what some call accountability courts.
These courts have a proven track record of reducing recidivism rates and keeping our
citizens safe. Nationwide, 75 percent of drug court graduates remain free of arrest two years after completing the program, and the most conservative analyses show that drug courts reduce crime as much as 45 percent more than other sentencing options. Last year, these courts helped save Georgia more than $51 million in prison costs.
From the beginning, you in the legislature have steadfastly supported the growth in these courts, most recently appropriating more than $19 million for the current fiscal year.
Georgia now has 131 of these courts, which include drug courts, DUI courts, juvenile and adult mental health courts, and veterans courts. Today, only two judicial circuits in the state do not yet have a specialty court, and both are in the early stages of discussing the possibility of starting one. In addition to those already involved, last year alone, we added nearly 3500 new participants to these courts.
Behind that number are individual tales of lives changed and in some cases, lives saved.
Our judges, who see so much failure, take pride in these success stories. And so should you.

Chief Judge Richard Slaby of the Richmond County State Court, speaks with great pride of Judge David Watkins and the specialty courts that have grown under Judge Watkins’ direction. Today the recidivism rate among the Augusta participants is less than 10 percent.
The judges who run these courts are committed and deserve our thanks. We are grateful to leaders like Judge Slaby, who is President-Elect of the Council of State Court Judges and a member of our Judicial Council; to Judge Stephen Goss of the Dougherty Superior Court, whose mental health court has been recognized as one of the best mental health courts in our country; to Chief Judge Brenda Weaver, President of the Council of Superior Court Judges and a member of our Judicial Council. Judge Weaver of the Appalachian Judicial Circuit serves on the Council of
Accountability Court Judges of Georgia, which you created last year by statute. Its purpose is to improve the quality of our specialty courts through proven standards and practices, and it is chaired by Superior Court Judge Jason Deal of Hall County. Judge Deal’s dedication to the specialty court model in his community, and his guidance and encouragement to programs throughout the state, are described as invaluable by those who work with him.

We may not have a unified court system in Georgia. But we have judges unified in their commitment to our courts. Among our one thousand four hundred and fifty judges, Georgia has many fine leaders. I’ve told you about a number of them today. In closing, I want to mention two more.
When the United States Supreme Court issued its historic decision last year on same-sex marriage, our Council of Probate Court Judges led the way toward compliance. Three months before the ruling was issued, the judges met privately at the behest of the Council’s then president, Judge Chase Daughtrey of Cook County, and his successor, Judge Don Wilkes of Emanuel County. Together, they determined that regardless of what the Supreme Court decided, they would follow the law. Both Governor Deal and Attorney General Sam Olens also publicly announced they would respect the court’s decision, despite tremendous pressure to do otherwise.
These men are all great leaders who spared our state the turmoil other states endured. The bottom line is this: In Georgia, we may like the law, we may not like the law, but we follow the law.

The day-to-day business of the Georgia courts rarely makes the news. Rather judges,
their staff and clerks spend their days devoted to understanding the law, tediously pushing cases through to resolution, committed to ferreting out the truth and making the right decision. It is not easy, and they must often stand alone, knowing that when they sentence someone to prison, many lives hang in the balance between justice and mercy.
So I thank all of our leaders, and I thank all of our judges who are leading our courts into the 21st century.
May God bless them. May God bless you. And may God bless all the people of Georgia.
Thank you.

Agendas Acc0rding to the Federal Bar Association

I ran across this tonight, looking for something else, but it caught my eye and so I read it.
Knowing what I know about this country and being “awake”, I find the following pretty fucking interesting. What are your thoughts?:


Active Issues | Monitored Issues

Independence of the Federal Judiciary

The Federal Bar Association reaffirms the importance of the independence of the judiciary, recognizing that judicial decisions are not immune from scrutiny, but are to be made solely on the basis of the law.

Funding for the Federal Courts

The Federal Bar Association supports adequate funding for the general and continuing operations of the federal courts, including an equitable level of rent and facilities expense consistent with actual costs, budgetary constraints, staffing needs and security considerations, to permit the courts to fulfill their constitutional and statutory responsibilities

Federal Judgeships and Caseloads

The Federal Bar Association supports the authorization and establishment of additional permanent and temporary federal judgeships, including bankruptcy judgeships, along with support personnel, as proposed by the Judicial Conference of the United States, when rising caseloads in the federal courts threaten the prompt delivery of justice. The Federal Bar Association also supports efforts to educate Congress, the legal profession and the general public about how the overwhelming case loads threaten the ability of the Third Branch of the federal government to function.

Federal Judicial Vacancies

The Federal Bar Association calls upon the President and Congress to act promptly and responsibly in nominating and confirming nominees to the federal appellate and district courts. The Federal Bar Association supports the development of strategies to reduce the time required to fill federal judicial vacancies.

Courthouse Security

The Federal Bar Association supports the adoption of adequate security measures to protect the federal judiciary, their families and court personnel in and outside the courthouse, while preserving meaningful public access to judicial proceedings.

Federal Judicial Pay

The Federal Bar Association support equitable compensation and regular periodic adjustments for the federal judiciary, as well as senior officials of the Executive Branch and Members of Congress, to promote the recruitment and retention of the highest quality public servants.

Respect for the Federal Courts

Declining public confidence in our courts undermines public respect for the courts and the legitimacy of their rulings. To counter that influence, the Federal Bar Association supports programming and other efforts to educate the public about the federal courts and the role they serve in assuring a just society.

Professionalism and Stature of Federal Attorneys

The Federal Bar Association supports and promotes efforts to improve the professionalism and stature of attorneys employed by the federal government, including: enhancements to the compensation packages of federal attorneys, including pay and retirement benefits, to assist in recruitment and retention; the expansion, consistent with applicable conflict of interest laws, of policies encouraging full participation of attorneys employed by the federal government in professional organizations and pro bono legal activities, including approval for use of administrative leave; enhanced federal funding for participation in continuing legal education and training programs, including paid tuition and administrative leave; and the establishment of programs for student loan deferral and repayment assistance for all federal attorneys, including federal law clerks, federal defenders and judge advocates of the Armed Forces, in support of recruitment and retention efforts.

Social Security Disability Appeals Backlog

The Federal Bar Association supports adequate funding and resources for the Social Security Administration to remove the significant backlog of disability benefit appeals awaiting adjudication and to assure the fair and timely administration of justice for all appellants.

Authority of Bankruptcy Judges in “Core Proceedings”

The Federal Bar Association supports amendment of bankruptcy law to expressly allow bankruptcy judges to issue proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law in core proceedings in which they are otherwise barred from entering final judgments under Article III of the United States Constitution.

Commission on Nazi-Confiscated Art Claims

The Federal Bar Association supports the Congressional creation of a commission to address identification and ownership issues related to Nazi-confiscated artworks, pursuant to the Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art, as signed by the United States and the international community.

Article I Immigration Court
The Federal Bar Association supports the transfer of responsibilities for the adjudication of immigration claims from the Executive Office of Immigration Review within the Department of Justice to a specialized Article I court, as established by Congress, for the adjudication of claims under the Immigration and Naturalization Act.

Federal Criminal Sentencing
The Federal Bar Association supports efforts to advance fairness and consistency in federal sentencing, while preserving judicial independence and discretion to deal with the particular circumstances of individual cases.

Military Spouse Attorney Mobility
The Federal Bar Association supports state-level legal licensing accommodations, including bar admission without additional examination, for attorneys who are spouses of service members, i.e., members of the uniformed services of the United States as defined in 10 USC §101(a)(5), when: (1) those “military spouse attorneys” are present in a particular state, commonwealth, or territory of the United States or District of Columbia due to their service members’ military assignment; (2) they are graduates of accredited law schools; and (3) they are licensed attorneys in good standing in the bar of another state, commonwealth, or territory of the United States or District of Columbia.

Patent Litigation Reform
The Federal Bar Association supports legislation that curbs abusive patent litigation practices and other responsible measures to improve the quality and clarity of patents. The FBA opposes legislation that reduces judicial discretion in adjudicating patent actions or circumvents the Rules Enabling Act by mandating changes that depart from the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in patent cases.


Courthouse Construction

The Federal Bar Association supports the full funding of courthouse construction proposed by the Judicial Conference of the United States.

Cameras in the Courts

The Federal Bar Association encourages a discussion of the competing considerations vis-a-vis proposed legislation which would authorize federal judges, in their discretion, to permit photographing, electronic recording, broadcasting, and televising of federal court proceedings in appropriate circumstances.

Division of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

The Federal Bar Association opposes the division of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, consistent with its capacity to effectively and efficiently render justice.

Continuing Legal Education Funding for the Federal Judiciary

The Federal Bar Association supports the expansion of and enhancement of federal funding for continuing legal education and training programs for the federal judiciary.

Expansion of Federal Jurisdiction Over State and Local-Prosecuted Crimes

The Federal Bar Association advocates strict scrutiny of legislation proposing to grant original jurisdiction to federal authorities over crimes traditionally reserved to state and local prosecution.

Criminal Justice Act Panel Attorney Compensation

The Federal Bar Association supports Congressional funding to permit an increase in compensation rates for Criminal Justice Act panel attorneys.

National Security and Civil Liberties

The Federal Bar Association encourages the discussion of the competing considerations in the nation’s war against terror between the protection of civil liberties and the interests of national security.

Prevention of Epidemics and Civil Liberties

The Federal Bar Association encourages and contributes to a discussion of the competing considerations between governmental restrictions to guard against epidemics and pandemics and the preservation of individual rights, as well as the use of technology to ensure the continuance of participatory governance.

Safety of Administrative Judges

The Federal Bar Association supports the efforts by the Social Security Administration and the Executive Office of Immigration Review to take appropriate steps to ensure the security of their administrative law judges and immigration judges, and all others who participate in its proceedings.

Veteran Disability Claims Adjudication

The Federal Bar Association supports legislative and administrative improvements to the veterans disability claims process in the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs to assure equitable and expeditious determinations.

Attorney Fee-Based Representation of Veterans

The Federal Bar Association supports proposals to expand the availability of fee-based representation of veterans in the disability claims process and to oppose any efforts to repeal the authority of attorney representation to veterans in the furtherance of such claims.

Frivolous Litigation

The Federal Bar Association opposes legislative proposals to eliminate judicial discretion in the imposition of sanctions for frivolous litigation, including proposals to revise Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure by imposing mandatory sanctions and preventing a party from withdrawing challenged pleadings on a voluntary basis within a reasonable time.

Adopted by the Board of Directors
Federal Bar Association
July 10, 2015

The compass of FBA’s government relations program is its Issues Agenda, a roster of policy priorities to which the Association devotes its advocacy resources. The policy priorities embraced by the Issues Agenda are associated with active issues that concern the health and welfare of the federal judicial system and effective federal legal practice. For example, they concern the preservation of judicial independence, adequate funding and facilities for the federal courts, sufficient numbers of federal judgeships, equitable compensation for the federal judiciary, fairness and consistency in federal sentencing and a host of other matters

From: The American Lawyer: How Big Law is Failing Legal Aid, By Susan Beck

The Justice Gap: How Big Law Is Failing Legal Aid
Susan Beck, The American Lawyer
June 29, 2015

(Cleveland legal aid lawyer Maria Smith says her group must turn away more than half of those seeking help. Photo: Michael Mcelroy for The American Lawyer
Read more:

Cleveland legal aid lawyer Maria Smith says her group must turn away more than half of those seeking help.
Cleveland legal aid lawyer Maria Smith says her group must turn away more than half of those seeking help.
Photo: Michael Mcelroy for The American Lawyer
On a morning in late April, a young woman appears in Cleveland housing court without a lawyer. Her mother faces eviction, she tells the judge, but she can’t come to court herself because she’s in the hospital. The judge asks the daughter if she has any documents proving this. She doesn’t. The judge enters a default judgment for the landlord and orders the mother to move out in 11 days.
Magistrate Judge Myra Torain Embry will call more than 30 eviction cases this morning. With one exception, none of the tenants present have a lawyer. Most likely, they can’t afford one. For more than half the cases, the tenant doesn’t even show, and Embry enters a default judgment for the landlord. Most tenants are given seven days to find new homes.
During a break in the proceedings, Embry says this is a typical day in housing court. “It’s rare to have a tenant with a lawyer,” says Embry, a former legal aid lawyer who has been a housing court judge for 14 years. Even if a tenant hasn’t paid her rent, she can benefit from having a lawyer, she explains. Cases usually settle if a tenant has counsel, and a settlement often gives the tenant more time to move. A settlement also won’t leave an eviction judgment on the tenant’s record, which can harm her credit, and prevent her from qualifying for public housing. In the case of this young woman, a lawyer would likely have known to bring the necessary paperwork, and a default judgment might have been avoided.
Maria Smith, a supervising attorney of the housing unit at The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, says they just don’t have the resources to represent most people facing eviction, or other crucial legal problems. The nonprofit is still depleted from cuts made during the recession, down to 40 lawyers from 55. Last year it had to turn away 57 percent of the more than 17,000 legal matters of all kinds that people brought to them.
Smith, 57, has worked as a legal aid lawyer in Cleveland for more than 15 years, previously spending time in Central and South America as a missionary. The stakes in these eviction cases can be scary, she says, especially for children. Smith recalls one judge telling her that her clients were facing “just an eviction,” not a death sentence. “But for some people this can be a spiral down from which they never recover,” she says.
Smith carries a caseload of roughly 30 active cases, and makes less than half the pay of many first-year associates at big firms. (Supervising lawyers at her organization earn between about $61,000 and $92,000.) “I have no complaints about the salary,” says Smith. “But the work is suffocating. I could work 24/7 and still not do everything I need to do.”
A juxtaposition
Scenes like the one in Cleveland’s housing court play out every day in every major city in America, in housing courts, family courts and other settings where critical life issues of the poor are decided.
In contrast to the constitutional right to counsel in criminal cases, an individual doesn’t have a federal right to a lawyer in a civil matter, no matter how serious. A few jurisdictions, however, have passed laws requiring lawyers for individuals in certain serious civil matters, such as the loss of parental rights.
A network of legal service providers who represent the poor for free has arisen to address some of this need, but a lack of adequate public funds and private donations means that, as in Cleveland, more than half of those who seek help are turned away. Put another way, there’s just one legal aid lawyer for every 8,893 low-income Americans who qualify for legal aid, according to the Justice Index, a project of the National Center for Access to Justice at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. That’s how, in a country with one of the highest concentrations of lawyers in the world, poor people often are forced to navigate the potential loss of their home, their children or their benefits on their own.
The crisis in legal aid isn’t new. What is new is that since the recession, profits and revenue at Am Law 200 firms are healthy again—in many cases, surging. Last year, the collective revenue of these firms passed the $100 billion mark for the first time. Many recorded all-time highs in revenues and profits, and profits per partner at a dozen firms exceeded $3 million. Yet in our analysis—the first time we’ve looked deeply at firms’ legal aid giving—it appears that the most generous firms contribute little more than one-tenth of 1 percent of their gross revenue to groups that provide basic legal services for the poor, and many fall far below that amount. This doesn’t include individual donations by firm lawyers, which isn’t feasible to track. While individual donations are important, institutional giving by law firms is crucial for legal aid groups, those organizations say.
We found that the bulk of firms’ charitable donations are directed to other causes, including clients’ pet charities and well-endowed law schools, records show. At the same time, the percentage of law firm pro bono work aimed at helping the poor is declining. Legal aid advocates, however, are largely reluctant to publicly criticize big firms, because they’re so dependent on the funds they do get from them.
Lawyers and firms, especially America’s biggest and most successful ones, have a special responsibility to do more, some observers say. “A big- firm lawyer ought to care that the justice system is working fairly for everyone,” says John Levi of Sidley Austin, chairman of the board of directors for the Legal Services Corporation, a federally funded nonprofit that is the single biggest source of legal aid funding in the United States. He senses that many big firms could dig deeper into their pockets to support legal aid. “I’m not sure they are,” he says.

David Stern, executive director of Equal Justice Works, a nonprofit that solicits firms to underwrite fellowships for young lawyers to work at nonprofit legal aid groups, says he appreciates the support he gets from big firms, but believes most firms should do more. “When you look at how little they give, it’s pitiful,” he says about law firm giving as a whole. “I have been doing this work for more than 20 years, and I am always astounded by law firms talking about charitable giving from a position of scarcity while their partners are bringing home more than $1 million in profits per partner.”
Beyond pro bono
Judge David Tatel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit tells lawyers that bono work is critical to addressing the civil legal aid crisis, but will never solve the problem. Rather, he urges law firms to donate more money to legal aid.
“What we need most of all is dramatically increased lawyer and law firm funding for state and local legal aid programs,” he said in a speech at a fundraising dinner for local D.C. legal aid groups two years ago. Given the earnings of the biggest and wealthiest law firms, he said, “no one in this country should be denied access to the courts simply because he or she cannot afford a lawyer.” Tatel pointed out that if the 12 biggest firms in D.C. donated one-quarter of 1 percent of their revenues to legal aid, this would more than double the number of poor clients that legal aid groups could serve. “The District’s legal community can and must do more,” admonished Tatel, previously a partner at Hogan & Hartson who led its pro bono program.
During a recent interview, Tatel underscored that the wealthiest firms have a special responsibility to address this crisis. “Lawyers for whom this profession is extraordinarily profitable must fulfill their responsibility,” he says. When asked about the response from the law firm community after his 2013 speech, Tatel said: “I have not heard any response.”
Simpson Thacher & Bartlett partner Mark Cunha agrees that the law firm community needs to shift its focus to better help the poor. “An awful lot of discussion you hear about providing legal services revolves around pro bono,” says Cunha, who serves on the board of Legal Services NYC, the largest provider of civil legal services for the poor in the country. “There should be as much emphasis on financial contributions by lawyers or firms and government. There’s no question that legal services lawyers are more efficient in providing the kinds of services needed by low-income people.”
The need is evident in courthouses everywhere. Take Philadelphia family court, where one day in June a 35-year-old woman sits with her 7-year old son. She grips a folder with evidence she wants to show the judge, including police reports about her ex-boyfriend. She looks anxious.
“I’ve never been to court before,” she says. “I didn’t even know where it was. I feel like I’m going to throw up.”
“Me, too,” her son says.
“You, too? I’m sorry, baby,” she says, holding her son. She begins to cry.
The woman is here because her ex-boyfriend has filed for a protective order against her. The woman claims that the boyfriend has been abusive to her and her son, but she was scared to take legal action for fear of retaliation.
She seems unaware that she might need a lawyer. “The cops that served me [with the documents for this case] told me I didn’t need an attorney,” she says. Did she know that free legal help might be available? “No, I didn’t know I could get free legal aid,” she says. “I was scared for my life. I’m still scared for my life.”
When her case is called, she stands before the judge along with her ex-boyfriend. Her hand shakes as she takes the oath. She agrees to let the case go to trial, but she seems confused about the implications. “What does this mean for me?” she asks as she walks out of the courtroom. She begins to cry again. “I don’t have money for a lawyer. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. I can’t even afford my rent. The judge wouldn’t let me say anything or show my evidence. Why?”
Even if this woman tried to get a legal aid lawyer, she’d likely be out of luck. Roughly 11,000 requests for protective orders are filed each year in Philadelphia County. Susan Pearlstein, supervising attorney for the family law unit at Philadelphia Legal Assistance, says they have to turn away 95 percent of the people who request their help. “We don’t have the resources,” she says. Overall, Philadelphia Legal Assistance has only 20 lawyers, and has lost 10 staff members over the last several years. Kathleen O’Malley, managing attorney of Philadelphia-based Women Against Abuse, says her group has three lawyers who work on protective order cases, but they can barely put a dent in the demand. What does her group need most? “Money. More grants and more funding, so we can hire more attorneys.”
What law firms give
Voluntary contributions by individual lawyers and law firms of all sizes account for 7 percent of total legal aid funding: They gave $95.8 million in 2013, according to the American Bar Association, out of $1.385 billion in funding from all sources. It’s not clear how much of that $95.8 million was contributed by Am Law 200 firms. Even if the entire amount came from those firms, which it didn’t, this funding would represent less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the firms’ collective revenue of $96.3 billion that year.
The Pro Bono Institute, which is best known for encouraging pro bono work, also collects data about law firm financial contributions to legal aid groups. Each year it asks firms to answer an optional question about those contributions. The PBI’s data shows that the median law firm contribution in 2014 was $155,000 based on responses supplied by 63 firms. Only five firms gave more than $1 million. The average contribution was $356,503.

(Maria Smith and a client in Smith’s office. “I could work 24/7” and not finish the work, she says.
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When we asked the largest and most profitable firms how much they gave last year to legal services groups helping the poor, the response was mixed. Most firm leaders didn’t want to discuss the topic on the rec­ord, let alone disclose data. Others made it clear they didn’t welcome these questions. Maria Smith and a client in Smith’s office. “I could work 24/7” and not finish the work, she says.
One of the few leaders who discussed this topic publicly was William Voge, the chairman of Latham & Watkins, the top-grossing firm in The Am Law 100. “I think Big Law should do more. Whatever we’re doing can’t be enough, given the demand for legal services out there,” he says. Last year Latham’s revenue jumped 14 percent, to $2.6 billion, and profits per partner grew 16.5 percent, to $2.9 million. Voge did not disclose Latham’s legal aid contributions, saying that it would be difficult to collect that information and would be misleading without counting individual contributions from partners, which would be even harder to determine. “You could not look at the firm’s contribution alone and have it be representative of what the firm does,” he says.
(Some firms underwrite legal aid fellowships for young lawyers. Click here for stand-out firms.)
Four firms did agree to disclose their level of giving to legal aid: Kirkland & Ellis ($2.6 million); Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison ($1.5 million); Reed Smith ($300,000); and Sidley Austin ($2.1 million). The highest level of giving as a percentage of revenue was at Paul Weiss: its $1.5 million donation represents 0.14 percent of its revenue; Kirkland and Sidley were close behind at 0.12 percent.
“Our giving to legal aid has increased dramatically in recent years,” says Brad Karp, the chairman of Paul Weiss. “While we and our peer firms can always do more, I’m proud of the work that we and others in our community do to try to make legal services available to those members of our community who desperately need them.”
Uncertain public support
Private contributions to legal aid have become increasingly important, given the precarious nature of public support. The federally funded Legal Services Corporation is the largest single source of legal aid funding, but represents less than one-fourth of total support. The balance comes from a patchwork of sources, including state and local appropriations, interest on client funds, and private fundraising from lawyers and law firms. Adjusted for inflation, LSC’s funding has shrunk 40 percent in 10 years, and it’s not clear how it will fare in the current federal budget process. President Barack Obama has asked that its funding be increased from $375 million to $452 million for the new fiscal year, which begins October 1. The House Appropriations Committee has adopted a bill that would cut LSC’s budget by $75 million, down to $300 million, while the Senate Appropriations Committee approved $385 million. At press time, it wasn’t clear how this would be resolved.
Another dire funding problem for legal services is the dwindling money from IOLTA—interest on lawyer trust accounts—which have long been a significant source of legal aid support. When lawyers hold money in trust for clients, the interest earned must by law be turned over for legal aid funding. The negligible interest rates that have persisted since the financial crisis have decimated this funding source. In 2008 IOLTA produced $240 million for legal aid; by 2013 the amount was down to $74.5 million—the lowest figure since the ABA started tracking legal aid funding in 2002.
The ABA’s Model Rules, which aren’t binding on lawyers, say that a lawyer should voluntarily give financial support to organizations that provide legal services to people of limited means. But it doesn’t suggest a level of support.
LSC president James Sandman is reluctant to suggest how much law firms should give to legal aid, but wishes they would make legal services groups a priority in their giving. The former managing partner of Arnold & Porter notes with dismay that legal aid groups are increasingly competing for charitable funds with firms’ corporate clients, who pressure firms to donate to their favored causes. “While these nonprofits are doing good and valuable work,” he says, “these expenditures are more in the nature of marketing or client relationships.”

What they gave: Click on the thumbnails for charts detailing legal aid giving by the most profitable and largest U.S. firms.

Big Law’s beloved charities
Many firms direct the bulk of their charitable contributions to a range of groups other than legal aid, according to public filings made by foundations that some firms have set up for charitable giving. Kirkland & Ellis, for example, has one of the most generous law firm foundations. According to the foundation’s most recent filing with the Internal Revenue Service, the firm donated $8.2 million to 304 charitable groups in 2013. Of those donations, 21 percent, or $1.7 million, went to groups that provide legal services to the poor.
The firm’s largest contribution, $591,500, went to Northwestern University, where firm chairman Jeffrey Hammes earned his law degree. The Legal Aid Society of New York received the next-largest contribution ($448,117), and Kirkland’s third-largest gift went to the Bain Capital Children’s Charity ($298,200). Bain Capital is a major Kirkland client. Other recipients include Stanford University ($277,000), the Navy Seal Foundation ($50,000) and the American Football Coaches Foundation ($6,667).
The Jones Day Foundation, which distributed $3.5 million in 2013, gave $750,000 to Johns Hopkins University and $350,000 to the Holocaust Memorial Museum. Legal aid groups received $270,000. The firm says it gives money to legal aid outside of its foundation, but wouldn’t say how much.
Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, which has the highest profits per partner of any firm in The Am Law 200, at $5.5 million, also has a charitable foundation, which distributed $1.85 million in 2013. It gave $1.05 million to New York University, where firm co-founder Martin Lipton is chairman of the board of trustees, $200,000 to NYU Langone Medical Center and $300,000 for Prep for Prep, which helps students of color attend private schools. Wachtell’s foundation didn’t contribute to legal aid groups. Daniel Neff, co-chairman of Wachtell, says the firm makes most of its charitable contributions outside the foundation, and declined to say how much Wachtell donated to legal aid.
Wachtell, like most major New York firms, participates in a pledge program to raise money for The Legal Aid Society of New York, the city’s second-largest civil legal aid provider, according to the society’s website. Fifty-two law firm “sustaining members” promised to donate $600 for each lawyer they have in New York, and these pledges raised $8.4 million last fiscal year. An annual gala raises millions more. In all, law firms contributed $12.4 million to the group last fiscal year.
Seymour James Jr., who heads The Legal Aid Society as its attorney-in-chief, praises the legal community for its financial contributions and pro bono work. “They have been tremendously supportive,” he says. Still, the organization is woefully underfunded. “There are hundreds of people we are unable to serve every week,” he says. About 2 million New Yorkers are living in poverty, he says, and The Legal Aid Society’s roughly 280 civil lawyers aren’t enough. He estimates it would take well over 1,000 lawyers to meet needs.
One factor in this funding crisis is that The Legal Aid Society’s $600 per lawyer law firm pledge level hasn’t changed in 19 years, since it was set in 1996. Chairman Richard Davis acknowledges that the board, which consists mostly of partners from Am Law 100 firms, has been reluctant to raise this amount. “People say, ‘Why don’t you increase it?'” says Davis, a former Weil, Gotshal & Manges partner who now has a solo practice. “But we don’t want to compromise our relationship [with these firms] by increasing it to more.” Vice-chairman Blaine “Fin” Fogg of Skadden says he’s discussed raising this amount with a few board members, but hasn’t brought the issue to the whole board. “Would I be happy if the sustaining law firms gave us more? Sure,” he says. “But there has been some reluctance to ask for an increase lest some firms say, ‘Enough already.'”
Six hundred dollars represents four one-hundredths of 1 percent of the $1.3 million average revenue generated by a lawyer at 18 of the biggest New York firms. This $600 is also less than the target amount for law firm giving set by legal aid providers in Chicago ($1,000 per lawyer) and Boston ($800), and the same as the main legal service provider in Atlanta ($600), where lawyers on average make much less.
Fogg and others stress that most big New York firms contribute to many legal aid groups, not just to The Legal Aid Society, so their total legal aid support isn’t reflected by these numbers. But no one, it appears, tracks collective giving.
Outside New York, two legal communities have found that a coordinated approach has spurred giving to legal aid. The Chicago Bar Foundation, the charitable arm of the Chicago Bar Association headed by Robert Glaves, said that last year at least 11 firms met the challenge of paying $1,000 per local lawyer for collective contributions to local legal services groups. More than $5 million was raised from all firms, a 43 percent increase since the program was started in 2008.
In Washington, D.C., Georgetown University Law Center professor Peter Edelman devised a novel program to track law firm giving to local legal aid groups. In 2011 the D.C. Access to Justice Commission, which Edelman chairs, started its Raising the Bar in D.C. program, which asks firms to donate amounts ranging from 0.075 percent to 0.11 percent of their local D.C. revenues to legal aid groups. (The firms report their donations to Ernst & Young.) The commission set the top percentage after finding that the two or three most generous firms gave 0.11 percent of local revenue.
Last year the Raising the Bar program raised $5 million for local legal services groups, a 66 percent increase since the program’s first year. Jessica Rosenbaum, the commission’s executive director, says that gathering the information to set those benchmarks was crucial. “Firms were in the dark about what was a generous giving level,” she says. After the information was out, she says, “it created a healthy competition among firms.”
Timothy Hester, the chairman of Covington & Burling, is a strong advocate for pro bono work, but he says he’s not convinced that law firms have a special obligation to support legal aid, especially given their status as partnerships owned by individual partners. He sees legal aid funding as a societal problem. “We’re making the decision [to contribute] on behalf of every partner,” he says. “It’s important for law firms to contribute, but I like to encourage partners individually to contribute. Not everyone will have the same view.” He notes that Covington participates at the highest level in D.C.’s Raising the Bar program, giving 0.11 percent of its local revenue, but suggests that is the limit. “You can’t expect a lot more than what we’re already doing,” he says. “You can’t expect giving to be unduly high.”
‘The crisis is so bad’
Although pro bono hours by the Am Law 200 firms have been generally robust from 2008 to 2013, it appears that a shrinking percentage of that time was spent helping the poor with basic legal needs. In 2013 only 46 percent of the hours reported by 80 firms to the Pro Bono Institute were aimed at helping the poor—the lowest percentage since the PBI started tracking this metric in 1995, when it was 71 percent. In 2014 the percentage jumped to 70 percent; PBI officials say they have been educating firms on the importance of keeping tract of that type of work.
Data gathered by The American Lawyer for its annual pro bono survey supports the PBI’s findings. When asked to list their biggest pro bono project of 2014, the majority of firms cited a project that focused on something other than helping the poor with everyday legal needs. More than 20 listed a death penalty case. (While that is valuable work, it’s not in the nature of legal aid work.) Other examples of top projects include voting rights disputes, environmental litigation, marriage equality cases, a Holocaust reparations project, and a transgender name change project.
Several firms, however, listed projects aimed at addressing the access-to-justice crisis of the poor. Davis Polk & Wardwell lawyers logged more than 2,000 hours last year helping more than 100 low-income homeowners victimized by fraudulent mortgage modification practices. Hunton & Williams runs two clinics for low-income individuals in Virginia; other firms periodically offer clinics, too.
Getting big firms to handle evictions, custody and child support issues, and consumer debt cases can be a hard sell to lawyers who would rather work on sexy headline-making cases. “It can seem too unfamiliar, even for an experienced litigator, says LSC’s Sandman. “People don’t want to embarrass themselves.” Sandman says he’s made it his mission to urge firms to devote more pro bono time to helping the poor with their basic legal needs, and accepts every opportunity he’s offered to speak at law firms about this.
Covington & Burling chairman Hester says he was inspired by Sandman’s talk at his firm to represent a tenant in housing court. It was satisfying, he says, but admits it wasn’t as stimulating as death penalty defense work, which he’s done for more than 30 years. “It doesn’t grab your intellectual attention in the same way as a thorny death penalty appeal,” he says. Still, he and others at Covington have been discussing ways to get the firm’s lawyers to do more work like this. “The question is, how do we encourage people to see this work for the poor in our local community as sufficiently engaging?”
Lisa Dewey, the pro bono partner at DLA Piper, says she’s been increasingly thinking about ways the firm can address the basic legal needs of the poor. “People shouldn’t avoid this work because it’s not sexy enough,” she says. “This is really important stuff.” The firm has helped create and run legal clinics in Baltimore and Chicago and at Veterans Administration hospitals. In March, DLA Piper and Arent Fox announced a novel collaboration with Georgetown University Law Center to open a “low bono” law firm that to serve low-income people who make too much to qualify for free legal aid, but who still can’t afford a lawyer at market rates. The D.C. Affordable Law Firm is slated to start taking clients in the fall.
DLA Piper’s Dewey says the firm is also thinking beyond traditional models of legal help. “The crisis is so bad,” says Dewey. “There’s no way everybody who needs a lawyer will get one. We’ll have to come up with new solutions, whether we’re using nonlawyers or self-help resource centers.”
Collen Cotter, executive director of the Cleveland Legal Aid Society, says some simple changes wouldn’t cost much but could make a huge difference. Court forms, for example, should be written in plain En­glish. “The terms ‘petitioner’ and ‘respondent’­—it’s not clear to most people what that means,” she says. LSC’s Sandman agrees. “We have a system that is largely built by lawyers for lawyers.” he says.
Hoping and praying
On a Saturday morning in late May, dozens of people sit quietly in a waiting room at the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Health Center on the east side of Cleveland, where the Cleveland Legal Aid Society is holding a clinic. It’s staffed mostly with young lawyers doing pro bono work from Squire Patton Boggs, in-house lawyers from the Cleveland Clinic and local law school students.
One young woman has a dispute with her former employer, who runs a beauty salon where she apprenticed. “He made me work without pay, and I didn’t get my final paycheck,” she says. Although she was working for minimum wage, she says she was forced to sign a noncompete agreement preventing her from working at other salons. “I’m very nervous right now,” she says. “I feel like he’s trying to intimidate me.”
Another woman clutches a stack of papers. “I’ve got all this paperwork, and I don’t know how to fill it out,” she says. The 38-year-old mother of two says her husband died in March and didn’t leave a will. His bank won’t release his money until she goes through probate, and the forms confuse her. She lives in a nearby county, and was sent here by her county’s legal service provider because it didn’t have the resources to help her. She shuffles the papers. “They make it very difficult for common people to go through this.”
Maria Smith of Cleveland Legal Aid says she’s discouraged that society doesn’t see more value in providing legal services for such people. But she says she tries to stay optimistic. “The young lawyers coming through [legal aid] now are just incredible,” she says. How does she keep from becoming overwhelmed? “I pray a lot,” she says. “Most frustrating is that it would not take much away [from others] to change this.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified the largest civil legal aid provider in New York City. It is Legal Services NYC. An earlier version also incorrectly stated the number of lawyers on staff at Philadelphia Legal Assistance.
(For additional coverage, including our editorial on Big Law and legal aid, click here.)

Reporter Anita Abedian contributed to this article.

What’s being said

Aug 24, 2015
covnbaeyer and Prof. Mai Linh Spencer, Academic Director, Lawyers for Americahave made very good points. I cannot help but wonder while reading this very informative and well written article, how lawyers and lawfirms can treat pro se litigants with such contempt, when they are really doing nothing to see that Legal Aid helps those in need.When people are forced into a corner, many of them will learn as much as they can, and go into he court pro se. The way these pro se litigants are treated is dispicable. I understand all of the many arguments about why pro se litigants should not be allowed into the courtroom, but at the same time, attorney‘s fees have become totally outrageous for common people. To deny them any form of justice should be viewed as criminal. That is not what our country was founded on.Statistics have shown that the American justice system is worse than most third world country when it comes to justice for the poor. That leaves these people even more vulerable to injustice.Thanks for such a great article!

Jun 30, 2015
What percentage of the IOLTA donations are big firm? My guess is that they carry the bulk of that number. I would also be curious to know whether legal services orgs find in kind/pro bono hours or $ donations more valuable.

Prof. Mai Linh Spencer, Academic Director, Lawyers for America
Jun 29, 2015
Thank you for this well-researched article, which I hope will serve as a call to action. One simple and cost-effective method to provide significant legal services to the poor is for a firm to sponsor a Lawyers for America fellow. For less than $57,000 total, a firm can fund a 3L to extern for 8 months at a partnering legal services org, then return to that same org after graduation and bar exam to work for an entire calendar year. That‘s 20 months of work directed at closing the justice gap. For more information, see com/lawyersforamericaThe program currently operates out of UC Hastings, where I am its Academic Director. We hope to see it spread to other schools and areas, so that we can eventually close the justice gap. It would be wonderful to have private firms join our effort in this relatively modest, but very meaningful, way.

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