New Orleans, LA – Recipients of the 2022 Louisiana State Bar Association (LSBA) Pro Bono Publico and Children’s Law Awards were honored recently in a special ceremony at the Louisiana Supreme Court. In a show of support, appreciation, and respect, all seven Louisiana Supreme Court Justices participated in the ceremony, which recognized outstanding individuals and organizations who have given their time and talent to ensuring access to justice for citizens of Louisiana, regardless of their ability to pay. The Justices, who hold in high regard the pro bono work of the award recipients, have also encouraged state judges to assist attorneys who seek to provide 20 hours of pro bono service in 2022, a current initiative of the LSBA.
This is the 37th year the LSBA has held the Annual Pro Bono Publico & Children’s Law Awards Ceremony, which returned to an in-person ceremony at the Supreme Court after two years of virtual celebration honoring recipients. Their offering of legal services to those who otherwise may not have such access is a valued commodity. With challenges resulting from the pandemic and weather events experienced throughout the state of Louisiana and nationally, many of our citizens are unable to afford legal assistance. Pro bono work is impactful in serving these citizens and gives them equal attainable access to justice. A list of 2022 pro bono award recipients is available on the pro bono section of the LSBA website.
As a further demonstration of their support for pro bono services, the seven Justices recently sent a letter to all Louisiana attorneys, encouraging their participation in the LSBA “20 hours in 2022” pro bono initiative, which encourages attorneys to provide 20 hours of pro bono legal services in 2022. The Justices also sent a letter to all Louisiana judges, which included a quote by United States
Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell, Jr., who once said, “Equal justice under the law is not merely a caption on the façade of the Supreme Court building. It is perhaps the most inspiring ideal of our society…it is fundamental that justice should be the same, in substance and availability, without regard to economic status.” The letter further explains that “judges can set a tone within the legal profession that pro bono is a central part of fulfilling the promise of justice for all.” According to the Louisiana Rules of Professional Conduct, attorneys are encouraged to provide 50 hours of pro bono legal service annually. In a recent ABA survey, “judge solicitation” was one of the most “encouraging factors” for attorney volunteerism. The Justices suggested that judges use their unique positions to promote the “20 hours in 2022” pro bono initiative to attorneys and to participate in events that honor attorneys offering pro bono work.
If ten percent of Louisiana attorneys provided 20 hours of pro bono service, the result would be over 40,000 hours of pro bono legal work provided for our needy citizens. This would have a significant impact on the lives of many people who cannot afford civil legal representation.
“The attorneys of our state who perform pro bono service truly render a service to all of society, by championing the rule of law and by providing access to justice,” said Chief Justice John L. Weimer. “The Justices and I applaud them for their efforts and thank them profusely for volunteering to serve those who cannot afford an attorney but cannot afford to be without an attorney.”