Executive Director, Indiana Legal Services, Inc.
The United States is a law-bound society that depends on adjudication to address many important questions. We thrust the poorest members of our society into the legal system to decide some of their most basic rights – can they continue to live where they’ve been living, can they keep receiving disability benefits or are they now able to work, how much will be taken from their meager paycheck to support a child or repay the payday loan they had to get to pay rent? Because of their economic status, they cannot pay for lawyers to help them through that process. As stated in the Rules of Professional Conduct, lawyers should volunteer their time to help in these cases, but pro bono representation alone will not fill the gap. Legal counsel for low-income persons must be provided mainly by staffed civil legal aid programs, and courts must develop programs to assist low-income litigants in handling matters without legal representation. As Learned Hand put it, “If we are to keep our democracy, there must be one commandment: thou shalt not ration justice.” Lawyers must be an integral part in the effort to provide justice to those in poverty and the rest of our citizens. This Article is based on the first Shepard Lecture, sponsored by the Evansville Bar Association in honor of former Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard. [Read Entire Article Here]