Pro Bono week spotlights need for equal access to legal service

Published 9:27 pm Friday, October 23, 2009

Both the City of Greenville and Butler County Commission have issued proclamations declaring Oct. 25-31 as Pro Bono Week, participating in both a national and state weeklong campaign to spotlight those individuals needing access to legal service.

The Alabama State Bar is sponsoring the campaign.

“Providing access to justice for those who cannot afford it levels the playing field,” said State Bar President Thomas J. Methvin. “When we improve access to the state’s courts we are actually helping Alabama families help themselves.”

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Greenville attorney Cleve Poole, who is the 2nd Judicial Circuit representative on the state Board of Bar Commissioners, said attorneys frequently offer their services pro bono, (Latin: “For the public good”), at a reduced rate to those clients who exhibit need.

This week, he said, is the chance for attorneys on a local, state, and national level to focus on low-income citizens who lack basic access to legal assistance.

“Many people know that when you are accused of committing a crime, then the court appoints you an attorney if you’re unable to afford one,” said Poole. “But not in civil cases, which can be anything from divorce, to child support, to lawsuits. And there’s a lot of people who just don’t have the money to pay for legal service.”

According to the Alabama State Bar, Alabama currently 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, which places Alabama behind even Puerto Rico.