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Oct. 23, 2009
Pro Bono Convention Details Increase in Free Legal Help Since 2007

A statewide network of judges, lawyers and representatives of legal aid societies met today to share how pro bono representation has increased in Ohio’s 12 appellate districts over the last two years.

The Pro Bono Convention precedes the American Bar Association’s week-long pro bono celebration that runs Oct. 25-31.

Established by the Ohio State Bar Association in 2007, the local committees of OSBA Judicially Led Appellate District Pro Bono Project gathered for the first time during a Pro Bono Convention at the Ohio Judicial Center. While a statewide task force guides the project, each committee has been meeting in its respective appellate district since early 2008 and developing an annual work plan for increasing pro bono legal services in individual appellate districts.

Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Beth A. Myers, co-chair of the First Appellate District committee, noted that judges are perfect candidates to lead this effort. “We, as judges, see not only the need for pro bono representation, but are also uniquely situated to encourage lawyers to participate.”

Supreme Court of Ohio Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer welcomed the group and thanked them for ensuring equal access to justice for those who most need legal help. He also referred to the Supreme Court’s 2007 “Statement Regarding the Provision of Pro Bono Legal Services by Ohio Lawyers,” which urged them to “engage in new or additional pro bono opportunities.” The Court – in conjunction with the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation – will soon offer attorneys their second opportunity to voluntarily report pro bono work in 2009.

“Ohio lawyers provide literally thousands of hours of free legal services, and make significant financial contributions to organizations that provide legal services to persons of limited means,” said Barbara J. Howard, OSBA president. “The OSBA encourages more lawyers to get involved in pro bono activities. Lawyers interested in pitching in are urged to contact the Ohio State Bar Association, their local bar association or their local legal aid society. The need continues to grow and the lawyers of Ohio continue to answer the call.”

“The Legal Services Corporation recently reported that for every client served by a legal aid society, another person is turned away, and in foreclosure cases, for every client served, two people are turned away,” said Jane Taylor, the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation’s Associate Director for Pro Bono. “The work being done by the appellate district pro bono committees will help to narrow this justice gap in Ohio, and ensure that more low income Ohioans get the legal help they desperately need.”

Dean Erwin Chemerinksy, University of California, Irvine School of Law, served as the featured speaker. Judge William A. Klatt, 10th District Court of Appeals, was named chair of the project, taking over for Cleveland attorney David Kutik, who served as chair for two years.

Contact: Chris Davey or Bret Crow at 614.387.9250.