State Bar Pres. Asks Lauderdale Co. Lawyers To Help Fill ‘Justice Gap’;
Provide Free Civil Legal Services To Area Poor
Florence, Ala., October 20, 2009 - Fighting your way through the legal system is difficult enough for those with social and economic capital. But for Alabama's poor and disadvantaged, it can be an impossible and demoralizing task.
Alabama State Bar President Thomas J. Methvin, Montgomery (Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & miles, P.C.) is in Florence to meet with members of the Lauderdale County Bar Association at noon at the Turtle Point Yacht Club to review what lawyers can do to fill the "justice gap."
Methvin said, "Alabama ranks 51st in the U.S. and its territories in the amount of funding provided for civil legal aid. On average, the state spends $10 annually for every low-income citizen and this rank places us behind every state and Puerto Rico. It's shameful."
The situation is particularly acute now as the recession has caused many financial problems to morph into legal problems and increasing numbers of the poor and disadvantaged are turning to legal aid programs because they have nowhere else to go.
Methvin said that the types of unresolved civil legal problems include: women who are seeking protection from abuse, mothers trying to obtain child support or custody of their children, families who are facing unlawful eviction or foreclosure that could leave them homeless, and individuals who have lost their job and need unemployment benefits.
During the week of October 25-31, 2009, lawyers from throughout Alabama will join with their counterparts in a national observance and celebration of Pro Bono (providing free legal services to the poor and underserved). Lawyers in each of the state's 42 judicial circuits will participate in events like: conducting free legal clinics offering advice and counsel in areas such as elder and family law; discussing with community and civic groups the critical need for the Legislature to provide a continuous stream of funding for legal services, and recruiting additional lawyers to volunteer to provide pro bono service.
"Pro Bono Week provides us with an opportunity to focus on something that is of critical importance to everyone – making sure that everyone in our community has true access to justice," says Debra Coble, President of the Lauderdale County Bar Association. "During this time we're encouraging more lawyers to get involved in the Volunteer Lawyer Program to help provide legal services to people who simply wouldn't be able to afford it otherwise. Ensuring these most vulnerable people in our community have access to legal help not only makes our area safer and stronger, it's the right thing to do."
The 16,000-member Alabama State Bar is dedicated improving the administration of justice and increasing public understanding and respect for the law.