Vol. 28, No. 2
CBA Board of Governors Debates Mandatory Pro Bono
by Diane Hartman
Perhaps the best scene was out in the hall, about ten minutes after the Colorado Bar Association Board of Governors rejected mandatory pro bono ("about 78-8") and mandatory reporting of pro bono ("about 71-15").
Ed Kahn and Ernie Marquez shook hands and said how much they had enjoyed working with each other. Both members of the Legal Services/Pro Bono Subcommittee of the Supreme Court Judicial Advisory Council that proposed the idea, Ernie took the "con" position and Kahn took the "pro" position. The two men traveled the state and were willing to talk to reporters, appear on radio shows, and have gentlemanly arguments with each other in front of lawyers and the general public, so that everyone could understand the issues better. (If you haven’t read the proposal, please see the full report on the CBA’s homepage at www.cobar.org.)
Ernie, a sole practitioner from Salida, has been very involved in the Colorado Bar Association, and emphasized the problems of solos, who make up more than half of our bar population. Ed, a member of Kelly, Hagland, Garnsey & Kahn, a law firm that consistently does a large amount of pro bono and public service work, took the stance that mandatory pro bono may be the only way to get the problem of unmet legal needs solved.
Sometimes in Board of Governors meetings, members thumb quickly to the pages being discussed, catching up on background reading materials. At the Saturday, January 9 meeting at the University of Denver College of Law, many people said they had never seen representatives so prepared.
Typical were the comments of Christine Law from the Aurora Bar Association, who said their bar had a larger turnout to discuss this issue than any they could remember. Their lawyers, most of whom are solos or members of small firms, support the concept of pro bono, she said. "They all participate in pro bono," but the Aurora Bar voted 100 percent against a mandated number of pro bono hours.
The Board of Governors representatives brought votes from their members: the Mineral Law Section, the Arapahoe Bar, and El Paso County (Jack Donley said: "We had over a 30 percent response to our survey! The majority do pro bono, but 90 percent are against this concept."). Lynne Sholler of Continental Divide said more than 30 percent of their members responded, and they were four to one against. Dave Furgason, president of the Denver Bar, reported the results of a survey of DBA members: ten to one voted against the two proposals.
Dick Holme, a DBA representative, had some interesting proposals (for example, swap pro bono for fewer CLE requirements; fewer yearly fees for those who do pro bono). He said, "We have an emphasis on sticks here. I’d like to think more about carrots."
Following Holme, Paula Lallier of Heart of the Rockies said her bar was 80 percent against. She used to be a pro bono coordinator and said pro bono support in that area "is fantastic. But we object to the sticks."
With the spectre of the Bronco-Miami Dolphins playoff match hanging over the group (and with many members showing their orange and blue colors), President Ben Aisenberg tried to keep a balance of letting the issue be aired fully and getting out in time for the game. He managed both.
Finally, the Board took up the Pueblo Bar Association’s proposal that had been tabled, made several amendments, and adopted it. The proposal recognizes the duty lawyers have to provide pro bono, the need for it, the fact that most lawyers do some form of pro bono, but takes a stand against mandatory pro bono and mandatory pro bono reporting. This resolution will go to the Colorado Supreme Court committee that meets in March and then will be passed on to the Colorado Supreme Court for its final decision.
In the end, the governors voted to create a task force to look again at the problem of legal needs of the poor across Colorado and how best to address the need.
Any members who have creative solutions to the problem of unmet legal needs of the poor, send your comments to the new task force: CBA Pro Bono Task Force, c/o Ben Aisenberg, 1900 Grant St., 9th Fl., Denver, CO 80203.
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