Leading child advocate calls for trained, respected, funded legal defenders for parents

The Importance of Family Defense  

By Martin Guggenheim,  ABA Family Law Quarterly Volume 48, No. 4 (Winter 2015) pp. 597-607

This article describes the growing field of “Family Defense,” which involves lawyers and other advocates working on behalf of parents or other family members whose children are at risk of being placed in court-ordered foster care. Although lawyers have been doing this work for several decades, a national movement to consolidate and enhance the field’s status in the legal profession is less than a decade old. Based in the American Bar Association’s Center on Children and the Law, this movement’s purpose is to achieve procedural and social justice for all families involved with child welfare systems, through legal, legislative, and policy advocacy. Above all else, it seeks to ensure that every parent who is in jeopardy of having a child removed from his or her care by a child welfare agency is able to secure excellent legal representation during the entire length of the court process. This article explains the importance of the field and how it differs from criminal defense. Finally, it offers some insight into why the field is relatively unknown in the legal profession despite the important work that it does.

Full text of article 


Judicial independence is threatened because self-satisfied courts & lawyers don't listen, don't explain, don't adapt to public's needs

So says Jesse Rutledge of the National Center for State Courts in Williamsburg, Virginia, based on the Center's annual surveys of public opinion about the courts, and decades of working on how the courts interact with the population:

"It’s really easy to blame efforts to erode the independence of our courts exclusively on shrill politicians or the fragmented news media. ... With all this outside pressure, is it any wonder that public trust in the courts—the stock and trade that underpins the ability of the courts to be independent—continues to erode?

"Unfortunately, those of us on the inside of the system may have myopia. ...  The data shows that Americans who have had direct interactions with courts trust the judiciary less than those who haven’t. Put differently, those who come to our courthouses aren’t as impressed with what they see as we are with ourselves.

"... Courts must take swift action to improve customer service, simplify forms and processes, and move as much of their routine business online as is practicable for their community. Americans perceive judges and the lawyers who appear in their courtroom as sharing an interest in delay, and at the same time an increasing number feel they are being shut out of the legal system entirely. Simplifying byzantine forms and procedures could go a long way to allowing more people to help themselves. ...

"Americans are sending a clear message about their courts. They don’t need another lecture on the virtues of jury service. Instead, they want courts that are accountable, connected to their communities in meaningful ways, and where they are able to take care of routine business expeditiously. Court users—whether they are litigants, jurors, or those seeking to pay for a traffic infraction or to file a simple form at a clerk’s window—should be placed in the middle of every equation, not treated as an afterthought."

Supporting independent courts—from the inside out


Where did we get those old law books? It's quite a story. It starts when Washington was president ...

These law books have been handed down from lawyer to lawyer, including:

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Richard Henry Lee,
1732-1794. Justice of the Peace, Delegate to the Virginia House of Burgesses and the Continental Congress, signer and leading proponent of the Declaration of Independence, President of the Continental Congress 1784-85. But most importantly, he did more than anyone to ensure that a Bill of Rights was added to the Constitution. He bought and inscribed some of these books for his son, Francis Lightfoot Lee II, 1782-1850.

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John Janney,
1798-1872, was a Quaker, Unionist lawyer in Leesburg, Virginia. Among his many great works was the successful defense of free-born Underground Railroad conductor Leonard Grimes of Leesburg. He was almost President: in a pivotal Virginia Whig caucus, he tied with John Tyler on the first ballot for the 1840 vice-presidential nomination. Henry Clay said, “He is the first man in Virginia and has no superior in the United States.” He was a delegate to the 1851 Virginia Constitutional Convention, which tried to heal the breach between eastern and western Virginia, and President of the 1861 convention that he hoped would preserve the Union. It swung in favor of secession when Lincoln called for troops to march against the South. He then had the bitter honor of formally giving Robert E. Lee charge of Virginia’s forces.

“Squire” Lawrence Bowers, 1810-1901, was called that because he was a local magistrate in Boone’s Creek, Washington County, Tennessee. He helped found the Boone’s Creek Academy. Ralph Waldo Crouch, Sr. was his grandson.

 Matthew Harrison, 1822-1875, was a Leesburg lawyer, known in the legislature as “The Loudoun Lion”.

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The Rev. Alexander Broadnax Carrington,
1834-1912, from Charlotte Court House, Va., studied at Washington College and practiced law, but then chose the Presbyterian ministry. He was chaplain of the 37th Virginia Infantry under Stonewall Jackson. His final pastorate was at Greenwich Presbyterian Church in Nokesville, Va.

Landon C. Berkeley and James P. Harrison of Berkeley & Harrison were prominent Danville, Va. lawyers in the late 19th Century.

E.S. Oliver, owner of our French Code Napoleon, was a New Orleans lawyer and businessman in the mid-19th Century. He won Lavillebeuvre v. Cosgrove, about the right to reopen a boarded-up window through a common wall between two properties, under the French version of easement law, called “destination du père de famille.” He lost a case against his agent for letting a debtor pay him in Confederate money and investing it in Confederate bonds, because he didn’t complain when he heard about it, thinking he could “sit on his rights.”

Samuel Ferguson Beach, a Connecticut-born Alexandria lawyer, city councilman, and banker, lost a Northern Virginia congressional race in early 1861, then filed a challenge to election practices at Ball’s Crossroads, now Ballston. He was a leading member of the Constitutional Convention for the "Restored Government of Virginia," and unionist Northern Virginians elected him to Congress, which refused to seat him. He represented the Lee family of Arlington House, and other former Confederates, in Virginia and U.S. Supreme Court cases overturning the wartime seizure of their land. He won Colston v. Quander, upholding a Fairfax marriage that was illegal when made because it was between a slave and a free Negro. In other cases he argued for upholding a law preventing free blacks from testifying against whites, and that Congress’s return of Alexandria and present-day Arlington to Virginia was unconstitutional. He helped lead efforts to give black Virginians voting rights, and was appointed United States Attorney for Virginia. He was once co-counsel with future President James A. Garfield.

Samuel McCormick, 1849-1937, son of Justice Francis McCormick of Weehaw, briefly served in the Confederate Army, then studied law at the University of Virginia, where he owned these books, and then at Washington College, now Washington & Lee University. He was an honorary pallbearer for Robert E. Lee. He was a lawyer, farmer and businessman in Clarke County, Virginia, and was Court Clerk there from 1904 to 1912. 

Joseph J. Darlington, 1849-1920, was a leading Washington lawyer, citizen, prize pig breeder, and president of the City Orphan Asylum. He taught law at Georgetown University, and gave Ralph Waldo Crouch, Sr. a copy of his treatise on The Law of Personal Property. They were neighbors in Herndon and commuted together on the W&O.D. Railroad. A memorial to him at Judiciary Square has been criticized for its utter lack of resemblance to him. 20130705_150437

Ralph Waldo Crouch, Sr., 1881-1968, was youngest of ten children of a Baptist preacher, and his inheritance was one horse, which he sold to buy a ticket to Washington to seek his fortune. He did a variety of jobs, including streetcar conductor, and went to school at night while raising a growing family. He graduated from Georgetown Law in 1912, and was a tax lawyer and estate-tax auditor for the U.S. Government, commuting by train from his in-laws’ farm in Herndon. He later joined Crouch & Crouch, practicing in Arlington and Richmond. In retirement he moved back to the farm his great-grandparents had settled in the late 1700s in Boone’s Creek, Tennessee.

George Edelin, 1891-1938, Georgetown Law 1918, joined Julius Peyser’s general and administrative-law practice in Washington, D.C., where his early work included U.S. Supreme Court cases. He was a law professor at the University of Maryland.

George J. Schultz, 1885-1961, earned doctorates in law, medicine and divinity, and was a law professor at the University of Maryland. He married George Edelin’s brother’s widow. After his death his law books were entrusted to her goats, in his barn in Hyattstown, Maryland, until Richard Edelin Crouch retrieved a few of them.

John Walter Edelin, Jr., 1905-1980. His naval career started on President Coolidge’s yacht, where he assisted the President in an unannounced amphibious landing at George Washington’s birthplace, to fierce combat in the Battle of Peleliu, to the military governorship of the Palau Islands.

John W. Jackson, 1905-2006, was a legendary Arlington prosecutor and lawyer. He taught trial skills at the George Washington University Law School. In semi-retirement he was still an eminence and mentor to everyone in the office suite of John Perkins, where Richard Crouch had his first full-time law office after leaving Family Law Reporter.

Howard Wade Vesey, 1906-1969, was a Washington lawyer who later moved to Santa Barbara, California where he was also a real estate developer. He died in a plane crash and his wrongful death case ascended as high as the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Thomas Gordon Crouch, 1910-2004. His practice with Crouch & Crouch in Arlington and Richmond emphasized tax, business, probate and estate planning law. A dedicated hunter, fisherman, sailor and Shriner. He led the funding and organization of the restoration of his great-great grandfather Jesse Crouch’s log house.

Leroy E. Batchelor, 1926-2012, served in World War II, including the Battle of Iwo Jima, and the Korean War. He was a criminal defense and general practitioner in Arlington. He represented Arlington County in a school desegregation case. He once argued before the U.S. Supreme Court. An accomplished seaman and boating instructor, he retired at 62. He and his wife spent much of the next two decades at sea.

Jack L. Melnick, 1935-2013, was an Arlington/Falls Church legislator, prosecutor, civic leader and lawyer. In the legislature, he led the effort for a crime victims’ compensation fund. He taught at George Washington University Law School. He restored and drove a Model A Ford. His probate and elder law practice continues with his son, Paul Melnick.

The Hon. W. Richard Walton, Sr., b. 1938, is a civic leader, former prosecutor and retired Common Pleas Court Judge in Ironton, Ohio.

Thomas W. Murtaugh had a general, criminal, juvenile and family-law practice in Leesburg, Virginia. He represented people from all walks of life and excelled at presenting the human reality of his cases in everyday terms. He was gentlemanly and kindly to a fault. Richard and John Crouch learned much from him. He gave us John Janney’s books when he moved to West Virginia, where he practiced occasionally but is now fully retired.

Bill Findler 1948-2007 was widely admired as an Arlington lawyer, but even more as a Washington-Lee high school track coach, pillar of the church, and father of five. When he died suddenly after a morning run, his obituary on the sports page of the Northern Virginia Sun quoted John Crouch: “He was a leader for all of us. He was strong and honest. He told it like it is. He dealt with every situation with humor and integrity.”

Bryan Garner is a leading authority on legal writing and drafting. He redrafted the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and several similar sets of rules, edits Black’s Law Dictionary, and wrote several books on legal writing, including two coauthored with Justice Scalia. It’s a stretch to include him here, because I don’t have a book from his personal collection; he gave me a copy of his Black’s as a sort of party-favor for answering a question right in a seminar. As I look up to him as a life-changing guru and kindred spirit, I cling to it like Dobby the House Elf clung to his employer’s discarded glove.

Richard Edelin Crouch, b. 1940, is a prolific lawyer, author, and activist.  He had a military, criminal, civil liberties, public interest and general practice before limiting his practice to family law and legal ethics and malpractice, and especially international and interstate family law. At the same time he edited BNA’s Family Law Reporter and other publications, then the Virginia State Bar’s Family Law News, and several family law books and practice guides. He is now retired.


Adultery Constitutionally Protected, Mustn't "Stigmatize", Federal 9th Circuit Rules

Perez v. City of Roseville, as described in:

Ninth Circuit: Adultery Is Constitutionally Protected

The court holds that Lawrence v. Texas limits government restrictions on extramarital sex.


Federal "diversity jurisdiction" exists to prevent unfair home-court advantage, so why doesn't it apply to family law?

"Family Law Is Not 'Civil': The Faulty Foundation of

The Domestic Relations Exception To Federal Jurisdiction”

By Joseph A. Carrol, Dickinson School of Law

ABA First Place Schwab Essay Contest Winner, 2017

 


Berkeley thug: Violence OK if they don't obey. Sounds like every wife-beater ever.

(And husband-beater.) I'm a divorce lawyer, so I should know. Masked Berkeley rioter Neil Lawrence makes the all-too-familiar argument that violence is OK when people don't shut up and obey even after you ask nicely:

"But when you consider everything that activists already tried — when mass call-ins, faculty and student objections, letter-writing campaigns, numerous op-eds (including mine), union grievances and peaceful demonstrations don’t work, when the nonviolent tactics have been exhausted — what is left? Of all the objections and cancellation requests presented to the administration, local government and local police, the only one that was listened to was the sound of shattering glass."

 in the Daily Californian, "Black bloc did what campus should have"

 


If presidential perjurers don't get charged, will anyone be afraid to lie in court?

In the Clinton impeachment we decided that perjury isn't an impeachable offense, at least when it's basically about a president's private life and not the essential parts of his job, treason, murder, rape, subverting democratic elections, corruption ... .

But what about plain old criminal prosecutions? if presidents and candidates don't get prosecuted for obvious perjury either, then that tells everyone else to disregard that lying when testifying it's illegal and dangerous. And it gives lawyers and judges another reason not to believe what anyone says. Testifying to a court -- whether on the witness stand, in a deposition, or a written, notarized affidavit -- is under oath and "under penalty of perjury."

Newsweek has published clear proof that Donald Trump either: (a) lied in a deposition in a case against an ex-employee, about a failed attempt to bribe Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, or (b) lied about it to Bush's face in the second debate. Or both. (Even if bribe is the wrong word, that doesn't affect the specific question that the lie and contradiction were about: Whether Trump was trying to get Bush to reverse his opposition to casino gambling when he hired the Defendant to get Florida to allow him to build a casino and hosted a fundraising event for Bush.)

The lawsuit was in Broward County, Florida. Perjury in a deposition is a third-degree felony under Florida law, and can mean up to five years in prison. I haven't yet found out whether Trump was in Florida or another state when he gave his deposition testimony, and whether that would keep Florida from prosecuting him. But the head prosecutor in Broward County, and/or the county where Trump testified, needs to decide whether to pursue a perjury investigation and prosecution, preferably before the election. 

DONALD TRUMP EITHER LIED TO THE REPUBLICANS OR BROKE THE LAW (EXCLUSIVE)


Law schools' focus on case-law makes the law & lawyers elitist, undemocratic, bad at their most important job

Larry Gaughan, an elder statesman of family law and mediation in Northern Virginia, recently reflected on the legal profession's excessive focus on case-law, and the attitude that law isn't real until it has been applied in a published appeals court case. Besides the way it poisons lawyers' ability to help their clients, which he so eloquently illustrates, I think there's even more:

  1. It makes young lawyers ridiculously elitist and contentious -- they model themselves on bow-tied Supreme Court Justices hurling pompous insults at each other and at the people involved in their cases, and not on real lawyers working in the trial courts, lawyers who work to resolve disputes before they become trials, and lawyers who try to draft contracts and statutes so well that people won't even have legal disputes about them, and won't have to go to lawyers to know what they mean.
  2. It's anti-democratic: As Larry points out, major new legislation in our field -- even something as basic as letting divorce courts divide property --  is often not understood, and not really recognized, until there is case law saying what it means. And Virginia's appeals courts sometimes take the attitude that revising the details of divorce-related law is only their business, and when the legislature tries to meddle in it or to undo the effects of an appeals court decision, they seem to do their best to frustrate the legislature's aims or use the new statutes to reach absurd and unintended results, as if to say, 'see what a mess you make when you meddle in the affairs of divorce courts!' In Constitutional law, the Third Amendment and, until recent decades, the Second Amendment, are often described as a dead letter because there were no court case opinions 'making them real.'

Larry writes:

"In 1890 American law schools began to switch to the study of appellate cases as the primary means of legal education.  ...  Given that so few law graduates now wind up as litigators, that approach makes less sense with every passing year.  Almost by its very nature, the case system teaches us to look backwards and to think of law as litigation. ...

"The case system made more sense when most law graduates wound up as lawyers whose practices included litigation.  Even [for them], law schools were not great in teaching statutory interpretation.  I remember vividly the problems many Virginia lawyers had in figuring out how to interpret the new equitable distribution statute as first enacted in 1982.  To many lawyers, the new statute really only started to have meaning after the appellate cases started to come into play. ...

"We must recognize that most legal disputes are not resolved by courts, that statutes have meaning even before courts interpret them, and that more law school graduates will pursue careers that require some knowledge of the legal framework, but also the ability to quickly learn and assimilate other kinds of expertise."

Like most lawyers, I have good and bad recollections of my own legal education.  I remember the popular law professor who taught commercial law courses, and the skepticism about another professor who taught criminal procedure.  The former taught us “the law” from uniform statues that were already in the process of major revisions.  The latter was a theorist whose courses accurately predicted every one of the major reforms of the Warren court.

-- Mediator and lawyer Larry Gaughan in "An Improper Focus for Legal Education", The Divorce Agreement Newsletter, No. 53 – July 6, 2016


Make lawyers report pro bono hours, contributions? Va. Bar seeks comments, decides Oct. 7.

The Virginia State Bar doesn't require lawyers to do pro bono work, but its governing Council votes Oct. 7 on changing the membership rules to mandate annual reporting of pro bono hours, subject to the same enforcement system -- fines for reporting late, eventual automatic suspension for not reporting -- that we impose for failing to pay dues or certify that we have malpractice insurance. 

The bar has asked for comments by August 31, 2016. They should be sent to publiccomment@vsb.org. If you can't send them by the deadline, send them anyway. Most Council members who spoke about it at the last meeting, and everyone who spoke up at our last Arlington bar meeting, were against it -- but experience shows that that doesn't translate into actual votes when the leadership cares deeply about a new expansion of the Bar's mission.

The existing rules say lawyers "should" spend 2% of their time on pro bono work, and they make clear that that does not mean they must; it's "aspirational". Like about 40 other states, Virginia does not require tracking or reporting of pro bono work.

 The proposed rules have extensive definitions of what work, for what clients or causes, is and is not pro bono – with the same level of detail as they would have if they were part of a mandatory pro bono rule. They even require the license renewal form to have a check-box for “I am exempt from providing pro bono legal services” as a judge, government lawyer, or officially non-practicing bar member.

Since the pro bono reporting, insurance reporting, etc. are part of annual membership renewal, which is not sent in until it's all finished, the small penalties for doing the various parts of it late add up, basically doubling your dues (which are generally $250).  The VSB budget shows that lawyers currently pay $470,000 in late fees and penalties and $9, 943,625 in current dues. Rough math translates this to 1,880 lawyers paying the penalties, out of the bar's 49,801 members (of whom almost all pay dues; 31,464 are fully active members). It's actually more than 1,880 lawyers, since some who have lower dues, for various reasons, must be among those paying late and thus contributing to the $470,000.  With the new rule, the lawyers paying the new penalty would be the lawyers who are already paying late penalties, surely the solo or barely-practicing lawyers with the least resources. The rule change looks like it would add another $50, as existing Para. 19 on penalties requires “a delinquency fee of $50, for each Rule violated.” It will slightly increase late renewals by adding one more step in the form, and one more reason for delay, mostly by people who’ll think they might have reconstruct their exact number of hours.

The entire proposal is below, and I think it's the only place with each functional part of the proposal including the existing rules it meshes with. But you may also want to look at:

Below are the four parts of the proposal:

  • the new proposed reporting requirement,
  • the existing wording on penalties and suspension which would now apply to failures to report pro bono
  • proposed additions to definition of pro bono
  • existing aspirational rule and its existing definition of pro bono

NEW BAR MEMBERSHIP RULE:

Proposed Changes to Paragraph 18 of Part 6, Section IV of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia:
After the existing language about malpractice insurance coverage, the rest of the rule would consist of this, all new, language:
 
... b) Pro Bono Publico Legal Service Reporting Requirement.

In order to make available information about lawyers' pro bono publico legal service, each active member of the Virginia State Bar shall provide the following annual certification:

  1. Pro Bono Hours. I have personally provided approximately ____ hours of pro bono publico legal services during the previous 12 months beginning July 1 of the preceding year and ending June 30 of the current year.
  1. Financial Contribution. I have personally contributed $_______ to support programs that provide the direct delivery of legal services to meet the needs described in Rule 6.1 (a) of the Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct, as an alternative method for fulfilling my responsibility to render pro bono legal services.
  1. Exempt Persons. I am exempt from providing pro bono legal services because (i) I am currently serving as a member of the judiciary; or (ii) I am a government lawyer prohibited by statute, rule, regulation or agency policy from providing legal service outside of my employment; or (iii) I maintain retired, disabled or associate status with the Virginia State Bar. ____ (Check here.)

Pro bono legal services as described in Rule 6.1(a) of the Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct performed in other states by a member of the Virginia State Bar are reportable in Virginia as pro bono hours.

(c) Penalties for Failure to Comply. Failure to comply with this Rule shall subject the active member to the penalties set forth in Paragraph 19 herein.

"PARAGRAPH 19", REFERENCED ABOVE AS THE PENALTY FOR NON-COMPLIANCE, WOULD NOT BE CHANGED. IT READS:

19. Procedure for the Administrative Suspension of a Member—

Whenever it appears that a member of the Virginia State Bar has failed to comply with any of the Rules of Court relating to such person's membership in the bar, the Secretary-Treasurer shall mail a notice to the member advising of the member's noncompliance and demanding (1) compliance within sixty (60) days of the date of such notice and (2) payment of a delinquency fee of $50, for each Rule violated, provided, however, that the delinquency fee for an attorney who does not comply with the timely completion requirements of Paragraphs 13.2 and 17 (C) of these rules shall be $100, and the delinquency fee for an attorney who does not comply with the certification requirements of Paragraphs 13.2 and 17 (D) of these rules shall be $100, and shall increase by $100 on February 1 for noncompliance with the certification requirements. The notice shall be mailed to the member at his last address on file at the Virginia State Bar.

In the event the member fails to comply with the directive of the Secretary-Treasurer within the time allowed, the Secretary-Treasurer will then mail a notice to the member by certified mail to advise (1) that the attorney's membership in the bar has been suspended and (2) that the attorney may no longer practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia or in any way hold himself or herself out as a member of the Virginia State Bar. Thereafter the attorney's membership in the Virginia State Bar may be reinstated only upon showing to the Secretary-Treasurer (1) that the attorney has complied with all the Court's rules relating to his or her membership in the bar and (2) upon payment of a reinstatement fee of $150 for each Rule violated, provided, however, that the reinstatement fee for an attorney who was suspended for noncompliance with Paragraphs 13.2 and 17 of these rules shall be $250, and shall increase by $50 for each subsequent such suspension, not to exceed a maximum of $500.

Whenever the Secretary-Treasurer notifies a member that his or her membership in the bar has been administratively suspended, the Secretary-Treasurer shall also (1) advise the Chief Judges of the circuit and district in which the attorney has his or her office, as well as the clerks of those courts and the Clerk of the Supreme Court, of such suspension and (2) publish notice of the suspension in the next issue of the Virginia Lawyer Register.

An administrative suspension shall not relieve the delinquent member of his or her annual responsibility to attend continuing legal education programs or to pay his or her dues to the Virginia State Bar.

ADDITIONS TO DEFINITION OF PRO BONO:

ADD TO COMMENTARY OF RULE 6.1 IN RULES OF PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT: 

[6]Pro bono publico legal services include but are not limited to the following:
a)Legal representation of disadvantaged people;
b)The provision of legal advice to an individual or non-profit organization that primarily addresses the human service needs of the disadvantaged;
c)Administrative rule making for the disadvantaged;
d)The provision of free training or mentoring to those who represent the disadvantaged;
e)Serving on bar association committees assisting the disadvantaged;
f)Serving on legal committees or boards that address the provision of pro bono legal services to the disadvantaged;
g)Serving on the boards of legal services or similar pro bono organizations;
h) Leading or coordinating Law Day activities;
i) Serving as an instructor for a continuing legal education program on issues of substantive law or
advocacy for pro bono and legal services lawyers;
j)Serving as a mediator or arbitrator in a matter involving a litigant who is unable to pay for such services;
k) Engaging in legislative advocacy to improve the law, the legal system or the profession in its delivery of legal services for the indigent.
Pro bono public legal services also do not include services rendered to improve the law, legal system or the legal profession unless they are primarily intended to assist disadvantaged persons, including not only persons whose incomes are below the federal poverty guidelines but also those person s frequently referred to as the “working poor.”

EXISTING VOLUNTARY PRO BONO RULE AND DEFINITIONS:

(Note: The overall definitions section for the Model Rules says that "should" means an aspiration, not a requirement.)

6.1  Voluntary Pro Bono Publico Service

  • (a) A lawyer should render at least two percent per year of the lawyer’s professional time to pro bono publico legal services. Pro bono publico services include poverty law, civil rights law, public interest law, and volunteer activities designed to increase the availability of pro bono legal services.
  • (b) A law firm or other group of lawyers may satisfy their responsibility collectively under this Rule.
  • (c) Direct financial support of programs that provide direct delivery of legal services to meet the needs described in (a) above is an alternative method for fulfilling a lawyer’s responsibility under this Rule.

Comment

[1] Every lawyer, regardless of professional prominence or professional work load, has a personal responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay, and personal involvement in the problems of the disadvantaged can be one of the most rewarding experiences in the life of a lawyer. The Council for the Virginia State Bar urges all Virginia lawyers to contribute a minimum of two percent of their professional time annually to pro bono services. Pro bono legal services consist of any professional services for which the lawyer would ordinarily be compensated, including dispute resolution as a mediator or third party neutral.

[2] Pro bono services in poverty law consist of free or nominal fee professional services for people who do not have the financial resources to compensate a lawyer. Private attorneys participating in legal aid referral programs are typical examples of “poverty law.” Legal services for persons whose incomes exceed legal aid guidelines, but who nevertheless have insufficient resources to compensate counsel, would also qualify as “poverty law,” provided the free or nominal fee nature of any such legal work is established in advance.

[3] Pro bono publico legal services in civil rights law consists of free or nominal fee professional services to assert or protect rights of individuals in which society has an interest. Professional services for victims of discrimination based on race, sex, age or handicap would be typical examples of “civil rights law,” provided the free or nominal fee nature of any such legal work is established in advance.

[4] Free or nominal fee provision of legal services to religious, charitable or civic groups in efforts such as setting up a shelter for the homeless, operating a hotline for battered spouses or providing public service information would be examples of “public interest law.”

[5] Training and mentoring lawyers who have volunteered to take legal aid referrals or helping recruit lawyers for pro bono referral programs would be examples of “volunteer activities designed to increase the availability of pro bono legal services.”

[6] Service in any of the categories described is not pro bono publico if provided on a contingent fee basis. Because service must be provided without fee or expectation of fee, the intent of the lawyer to render free or nominal fee legal services is essential. Accordingly, services for which fees go uncollected would not qualify.

Collective Fulfillment of Pro Bono Publico Service

[7] Although every lawyer has an individual responsibility to provide pro bono publico services, some legal matters require the application of considerably greater effort and resources than a lawyer, acting alone, could reasonably provide on a pro bono basis. In fulfilling their obligation under this Rule, a group of two or more lawyers may pool their resources to ensure that individuals in need of such assistance, who would otherwise be unable to afford to compensate counsel, receive needed legal services. The designation of one or more lawyers to work on pro bono publico matters may be attributed to other lawyers within the firm or group who support the representation.

[8] ABA Model Rule Comment not adopted.

Financial Support in Lieu of Direct Pro Bono Publico Services

[9] The provision of free or nominally priced legal services to those unable to pay continues to be the obligation of each lawyer as well as the profession generally, but the efforts of individual lawyers are often not enough to meet the need Not only do these needs far exceed the capacity of the collective bar, the nature of legal practice for many lawyers places constraints on their ability to render pro bono publico legal services. For example, some lawyers (e.g., some government lawyers) are prohibited by the terms of their employment from engaging in any outside practice. Other lawyers lack the experience and access to resources necessary to provide competent legal assistance.

[10] To provide legal services beyond those available through the pro bono efforts of individual lawyers, the legal profession and government have established additional programs to provide such services. Lawyers who are unable to fulfill their pro bono publico obligation through direct, legal representation should support programs that provide legal services for the purposes described in (a) through financial contributions in proportion to their professional income.