In addition to the video above, this page contains helpful information and resources for 1) judges and 2) local circuit pro bono committees.
PROMOTING PRO BONO FROM THE BENCH:
A New Judge’s Mini-Guide for Encouraging Access to Justice
“I will never reject, from any consideration personal to myself, the cause of the defenseless or oppressed.”
The Duty of Legal Professionals
As reflected by the Oath of Admission to the Florida Bar, assuring access to justice especially for the poor and disadvantaged is a centuries old tradition of the legal profession. The current challenge is how to continue to live up to this tradition. Judges have a unique role in encouraging attorneys to engage in pro bono representation. A 2009 ABA study of pro bono found that “encouraged by a judge” was among the top three incentives for attorneys to do pro bono.[i]
· With the effects of the financial crisis still lingering, the demand for legal services continues to increase.
· National research shows for every person helped through legal aid, one is turned away. [iii]
· There are more than 98,000 lawyers in Florida, but only 7% volunteered with a pro bono program and 6% contributed cash in lieu of providing pro bono services.[iv]
In 2003, the Florida Supreme Court recognized the unique position of the judge in improving the administration of justice by amending Canon 4B and its commentary in the Florida Code of Judicial Conduct. The revised canon clarifies that judges’ involvement in activities to improve the law and the administration of justice is not just allowed, but it is encouraged and it states explicitly that pro bono legal services can a part of these activities.
For more information on Canon 4B:
Promoting Pro Bono Involvement[v]
Recruiting Volunteer Attorneys
ð Sending periodic reminders to encourage attorneys to volunteer
ð Writing editorial opinion pieces on pro bono
ð Making presentations describing the need for volunteers
ð Working with the local bar association for recruitment events
ð Displaying the One Campaign posters in your courtrooms
ð Encouraging firms to create attorneys pro bono teams to take on a pro bono projects together
Accommodating Pro Bono Practice
ð Giving priority to pro bono cases
ð Hearing pro bono cases first on the daily calendar
ð Offering courthouse space for meeting clients and pro bono clinics
ð Encouraging court personnel to accommodate volunteer attorneys
ð Helping with training and offering free CLE programs
ð Encouraging law clerks to undertake pro bono work that meets the limitation imposed by the Code of Conduct Judicial Employees, Canon 4D
Recognizing Pro Bono Attorneys
ð Publicly recognizing the contribution of pro bono attorneys at bar functions or social settings
ð Recognizing pro bono attorneys on the court’s website
ð Recording a YouTube video expressing appreciation to pro bono attorneys and linking it to your court or local bar website
ð Acknowledging the contribution of hours through letters of praise and appreciation to senior partners of the volunteer attorney’s firm
JUDICIAL PRO BONO COMMITTEES
On October 1, 1993, the Florida Supreme Court adopted an extensive amendment to the Rules of Professional Conduct. One of the new rules adopted, 4-6.5, established the voluntary pro bono plan, which described the responsibilities of the Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Service, and summarized the role of the circuit pro bono committees. The purpose of the voluntary pro bono attorney plan was to increase the availability of legal services to the poor. Key provisions of the plan are described below.
Voluntary Pro Bono Plan
1. A Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Service was appointed to review reports and pro bono plans from circuit court committees and submit its own annual report on these local activities.
2. Circuit Pro Bono Committees were created in each of the judicial districts of Florida
1. creating circuit pro bono plans
2. implementing the plans and monitoring their results
3. submitting an annual report to the Florida Bar standing committee
4. using existing legal assistance and pro bono program resources to implement circuit pro bono plans
5. encouraging more lawyers to participate in pro bono activities by providing support and education services including: providing intake, matching cases with attorneys, legal education and training, malpractice insurance, recognition of volunteers, etc.
3. A list of pro bono service opportunities were suggested including representation of clients, interviewing, participation in pro se clinics and policy advocacy.
For more information about Florida’s rules, please see: http://www.floridabar.org/divexe/rrtfb.nsf/FV/F0DF871E8337A74F85257164004C597A
ADDITIONAL JUDICIAL PRO BONO TOOLS
To find additional pro bono tools please use the following resources visit the American Bar Association’s Judicial Promotion of Pro Bono Promotional Tools page http://apps.americanbar.org/legalservices/probono/judicial/promotools.html
SOURCES AND ADDITIONAL LINKS
[i] Supporting Justice II A Report on the Pro Bono Work of America’s Lawyers. http://www.courts.mo.gov/file.jsp?id=3552
[ii] 2102 US Census Poverty: 2000 to 2012 http://www.census.gov/prod/2013pubs/acsbr12-01.pdf
[iii] Legal Services Corporation Pro Bono Task Force Report, Page 2, http://www.lsc.gov/sites/default/files/LSC/lscgov4/PBTF_%20Report_FINAL.pdf
[iv] Calculated from the 2012 Pro Bono Statistic provided by The Florida Bar Foundation
Pro Bono Resources Designed To Support Local Circuit Pro Bono Efforts
1) Sample Administrative Order Creating a Circuit Pro Bono Committee (in MS Word format)
2) Sample Letter for Pro Bono Circuit Committee Members (in MS Word format)
3) Article outlining judicial support of pro bono (in MS Word format)
Pro Bono in the News
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