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TCL > May 1999 Issue > A Letter from the President of the Colorado Bar Association

May 1999       Vol. 28, No. 5       Page  15

A Letter from the President of the Colorado Bar Association
by Ben S. Aisenberg

Dear Colorado Bar Association Members:

At its January meeting, the CBA Board of Governors voted overwhelmingly to ask the Judicial Advisory Council not to recommend mandatory pro bono and mandatory reporting to the Colorado Supreme Court. As you may have read in the press, the Council voted to reject mandatory pro bono, although it voted unanimously to recommend mandatory reporting.

When the Legal Services/Pro Bono Subcommittee of the Judicial Advisory Council, which was assigned the task of exploring ways to fulfill the need for legal services for the poor and indigent, made its recommendation, local bars let us know they were unhappy with the concept of mandatory pro bono. These concerns were passed on to me in my visits and by virtue of resolutions passed by local bars. Anticipating this concern, we asked the Judicial Advisory Council, which was initially in favor of mandatory pro bono by a 2 to 1 vote, to delay its recommendation in order to get more feedback from our members. We wanted to be sure the issues were aired, all sides were considered, and that your voice was heard. Local bar associations held meetings on the topic; others did surveys. We had seminars at various locations throughout the state where this issue was debated pro and con. The end result was the Board of Governor's meeting in January, where your representatives fully discussed the issues. It was quite clear that our membership was against mandatory pro bono and mandatory reporting. Largely as a result of the efforts of all of us, the Judicial Advisory Council will not recommend the Supreme Court adopt mandatory pro bono. In this regard, the Colorado Bar Association fulfilled the mission our members had given us in terms of their desire not to be forced to do something they wish to do voluntarily. But, merely because we are not going to be regulated in this fashion is no reason to sit back, relax and rejoice because we have dodged the bullet. It is rather a time to renew our efforts to insure that the legal needs of the poor in our state are met. The CBA is committed to addressing this problem.

At the request of the Board of Governors, I have appointed a task force headed by Aaron Clay of Delta to revisit this issue and look again at what can be done. Admittedly, the Legal Services/Pro Bono Subcommittee has done exhaustive and thoughtful research into the problem, but perhaps some creative options are left. By the same token, we are asking you to renew and expand your commitment to voluntary pro bono work. I know that attorneys throughout the state have already spent much time and energy performing legal and community service, but there is more work to be done. What is clear is that there are needs that are not being met. I ask you to renew the oath we all took when we were admitted to the Bar to never reject the cause of the defenseless or oppressed and to use our knowledge of the law for the betterment of society and for the improvement of the legal system. Thus, although mandatory pro bono has been rejected, our work is just beginning. We intend once again to petition the Legislature to get funding for this purpose. I respectfully ask all members of the Colorado Bar to renew their efforts both in time and financial assistance and to do voluntarily, rather than by mandate, what is needed to be done to address this critical need.

Ben Aisenberg, President, Colorado Bar Association

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