Vol. 30, No. 5
Much Ado About Pro Bono Month in Colorado
by JoAnn Viola Salazar
Every May we celebrate Pro Bono Month in Colorado. There's no parade. Not even a party. So what's to celebrate?
-We celebrate the generosity of Colorado attorneys who give their time and talent to people who might otherwise have no voice in the court system.
-We celebrate the kindness of attorneys and paralegals who accept the tough cases for battered women who need the protection of a restraining order.
-We celebrate the persistence of a pro bono coordinator who has already made nine calls trying to place a difficult domestic case involving children.
-We celebrate the fact that organizations such as the Rocky Mountain Children's Law Center exist to work for the smallest and most helpless of clients: our children.
-We celebrate the big law firm that takes on the legal affairs of the little non-profit organization.
-We celebrate the small firm that works with the local school board.
-We celebrate the sole practitioner who says "yes" when the pro bono coordinator calls.
-We celebrate the independent judiciary for their application of fair and equal justice, regardless of the economic status of the litigant.
-We celebrate the court reporters who volunteer their skills at a deposition for a client who is poor and cannot pay.
-We celebrate the interpreters who assist with litigants who cannot speak English or who are hearing impaired.
-We celebrate that our state court system recognizes the pro se litigant and works to assist him or her to negotiate the paperwork necessary to file an action.
-We celebrate the law students who, in learning their profession, participate in the clinical programs at their schools to give thousands of hours of legal services to indigent clients, as well as legal research assistance to attorneys doing pro bono cases.
-We celebrate all of the good and positive things that we do as a society to uphold the concept that all people should have equal access to justice.
Maybe there should be a parade.
Access to Justice 2001
Pro bono representation of the poor is but one part of the set of cogs that turn the wheels of the American legal system. The profession is now evaluating our system to see how it can be improved. Some things work incredibly well. Let's continue to celebrate those things. Let's also celebrate the fact that we are free to examine the system and are capable of finding innovative ways to improve it.
On May 11, 2001, the Colorado Bar Association will present a one-day conference entitled "Access to Justice 2001" at the University of Denver College of Law. This conference will address the way in which the courts, private bar, and community work together and separately to provide equal access to justice to all Colorado residents. Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Mary J. Mullarkey will open the conference; keynote speaker will be John McKay, President of the Legal Services Corporation, from Washington, D.C.
The conference also will consider broader issues affecting our legal system, such as barriers to access to the legal system; litigants without lawyers; the roles of judges and law schools in providing access; and how to identify problems, generate solutions, and make improvements. Another topic of discussion will be pro bono. Participants will examine how to help lawyers do pro bono work effectively and how to improve the network of providers in the system.
During Pro Bono Month, we not only celebrate the things that are working well, but also the fact that our profession continually seeks to find creative and intelligent solutions to problems. The Access to Justice conference will become an annual event with the express purpose of providing a forum for the profession and the public to work together to explore options. For more information on the 2001 conference, contact Jo Ann Viola Salazar, (303) 824-5319 or (800) 332-6736.
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