Saturday, August 12, 2006

"Civil Gideon"

This week the ABA House of Delegates unanimously apporved a resolution urging governments to make counsel available as a right to low-income parties whose basic human needs are at stake. The full resolution, as adopted:

RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association urges federal, state, and territorial governments to provide legal counsel as a matter of right at public expense to low income persons in those categories of adversarial proceedings where basic human needs are at stake, such as those involving shelter, sustenance, safety, health or child custody as determined by each jurisdiction.
Michael S. Greco, outgoing president of the ABA, strongly supported the proposal.
“This is historic,” Greco said, “in the realm of an extraordinarily meaningful action by the ABA,” expressing the principle “that every poor American, like every wealthy American, should have access to a lawyer to protect the fundamental needs of human existence.”
A Civil Law Gideon, ABA Journal Annual Meeting Daily Report, Aug. 8, 2006.

As ABA president, Greco encouraged the profession to recommit to its noblest principles, serving the disadvantaged and performing public service. He created the Commission on the Renaissance of Idealism in the Legal Profession, whose final report (Aug. 2006) is here. Recommendations included a set of resolutions:
  • that the ABA encourage lawyers to participate in pro bono work and that employers give lawyers the time to do so (Resolution adopted, Feb. 13, 2006).
  • that the ABA urge lawyers and law firms to adopt a set of Pro Bono Policies and Procedures (Resolution not yet submitted).
  • that the ABA urge law schools to require employers that interview to make their pro bono policies available and disclose their pro bono records AND that law schools have policies of their own encouraging pro bono service by all members of the law school community (Resolution not yet submitted).
  • the the ABA urge courts to develop programs to encourage pro bono representation of indigent parties (Resolution not yet submitted).
Several local attorneys served on the Commission or its Advisory Committee: Coast Guard Commander Benes Z. Andana (SU '91), former WSBA president Ronald R. Ward, Rudy A. Englund (UW '75), Kathleen J. Hopkins (UW '91).

Thanks to Michele Storms for pointing out this week's ABA resolution to me. Storms is the new executive director of the William H. Gates Public Service Law Scholarship Program. Thanks to Mary Hotchkiss for the information about the Commission on the Renaissance of Idealism in the Legal Profession.

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