BANK AMERICA / as YOUR LAW PARTNER
Or Pro Bono legal help where you didn’t know to find it.
Organizations to keep in mind as we discuss the poor seeking legal representation: (80% of the public cannot afford a lawyer.)
- National Center for State Courts -- Formed in 1971 by Richard Nixon and Chief Justice Warren Burger. Its mission is to improve judicial administration in the courts of the U.S.
- The Federalist Society -- Formed in 1982, its mission is to reform the current legal order.
- American Inns of Court -- Formed in 1983 by Chief Justice Warren Burger. Its mission is to foster excellence in professionalism, ethics, civility and legal skills.
- State Justice Institute -- Formed in 1984, Its mission is to ensure access to a fair and effective justice system. It serves to finance the activities of the National Center for State Courts with taxpayer money.
- American Judicature Society -- whose mission is to improve the American justice system - to "secure and promote an independent and qualified judiciary and fair system of justice."
Pro Bono in the Real World
There are some good people in the legal profession. Many erstwhile lawyers want really to do the right thing. Thus, there are lawyers everywhere willing to do free things for the general public to help them in the legal process. But, how to find those kind souls? The answer is here. Right here. With some surprising twists and unholy alliances.
The State Justice Institute and the National Center for State Courts embarked on a project over a decade ago to unify poor folk's access to lawyers and to examine the self-represented in the courts. They created a training manual to help judges deal with (read ‘silence’) citizens who presented themselves in the holy courtroom without a shepherd.
Happily, that lead to an attempt to figure out how all the 50 states were to deal with self-represented litigants. Then they examined what to do on the local level with the millions of people who have to deal with the legal system without help. Interestingly this study is called: "Reaching Out Or Overreaching, Judicial Ethics and the Self-Represented Litigants." It is too long for you to read, but I have to give them credit; it is a fair representation of the dilemma judges sometimes have in trying to bend over backwards for the stray sheep in their courtroom.
This is where Bank of America comes in. There is a new ‘network’ in town called probono.net. All these fine organizations listed above are funding devices to all but the poor. Yes, they accept private money. Yes, they accept taxpayer money. The State Justice Institute gets $5,000,000 annually in taxpayer funding from the federal government. Here is where it gets messy. These organizations accept big city law firms as their sponsors. They put big corporations like Bank of America on their Board of Directors. All to create pro bono networks for poor people. Yet, with all this financial and political horsepower, they admit they still are serving only 20% of the poor, the rest go without legal help while having to deal with an arcane legal system.
The judges become players in this pro bono arena through multiple portals. These organizations provide formal education programs and seminars for the judiciary through the American Judicature Society. Sponsored, in part by Bank of America.
So, picture that lonely unrepresented foreclosure victim who has been defrauded by Bank of America. They need legal help. Here is where they may start their search:
- Oregon State Bar -- Opps, not much help there. Their ‘Finding Legal Assistance” page is directed at telling lawyers where they can volunteer.
- SRLN.org -- “Welcome to the Self-Represented Litigation Network” they say. Opps, it isn’t what you think. This is the network of organizations 1-5 above. It isn’t for poor folks.
- selfhelpsupport.org -- Opps, this is the network for judges, staff and others who are dealing with self-represented litigation issues.
- lawhelp.org -- Now, we are getting someplace. This is a state-by-state website for free legal aid referrals.
Now start to be careful who is sponsoring these outfits. This one is sponsored by George Soros.
- OregonAdvocates.org--This is another website to help Oregon lawyers find volunteer opportunities. Again be careful about the sponsors.
- Center for NonProfit Legal Services -- Opps, this is just for Medford.
Ah, at least there is an umbrella outfit watching over all these websites for the public to get hooked up with a volunteer lawyer who wants to do good, so we can help the lonely citizen in foreclosure:
- probono.net -- Welcome to Bank of America Corporation’s Managing Director & Associate General Counsel, who is a Board of Director of probono.net along with partners in major law firms around the United States. Oh, yeah, Bank of America is a major financial donor to probono.net as well. Along with the State Justice Institute and other funding devices around the United States.
Remember the American Judicature Society above; as stated, they are sponsored by Bank of America too. Take heart, every federal court has a program to help the self-represented poor person get legal representation. It is just that they seldom use them.
IN SUMMARY: Why does everything have to be rigged against poor people?
NOTE: If anyone knows of a better resource for helping poor people NOT mentioned here, please let me know. Particularly, if there is probono help for people in foreclosure that is not just a con job to get a lawyer new business. My direct Email is --- firstname.lastname@example.org