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A season for justice

By Kelli Evans
Senior Director Administration of Justice
The State Bar of California

Kelli EvansWhen you think of October, you may think of football, Halloween, or falling leaves. The State Bar’s Office of Legal Services and the California Access to Justice Commission are asking you to think about something else – justice. October is Campaign for Justice Month.

Why should every lawyer in the Golden State care? Here’s the problem: More than 6 million people in California have legal concerns, but are too poor to think of hiring an attorney. Their issues range from family unification, to personal safety, to wage theft, to educational opportunity and the whole gamut of civil law. Some problems are not so complicated and can be resolved in pro per after a little training. Some are a bit more complex and require legal advice and guidance. Some demand attorney involvement, as when the other party has an economic advantage and can hire counsel. In some situations, affirmative litigation is needed to defend basic rights and liberties, right up to the highest appellate levels.

No layperson should be expected to handle these kinds of problems without help, but our courthouses are crammed with low-income Californians who have no other choice. They often fail and with bad consequences. They don’t get justice, and their lives become that much more difficult. The court loses precious time trying to keep litigants in compliance with procedural requirements, often granting continuances that can make a small case take a long time. The whole justice system gets so bogged down that no one can get before a judge in a reasonable period of time.

It’s a massive problem. Eventually, if we don’t take action, our whole system of jurisprudence could grind to a halt. However, as lawyers, we have the power to make a real difference: by joining the Campaign for Justice.

The Campaign for Justice brings together litigators, bench officers, academics, legal service attorneys and state administrators in a team to reduce and close the “Justice Gap” – the difference between the legal services Californians so badly need and those they can actually get. We’re asking you to get involved. Volunteer your services at a local legal clinic and help some litigants who’d be lost without you. Write a check for the Campaign’s Justice Gap Fund, and every dollar will be leveraged throughout the state to protect the dignity and safety of families, veterans, isolated elders and all those for whom justice is urgently needed.

Learn more about the Campaign for Justice by visiting the website: You’ll find tools, inspiring stories and a community of professionals just like you who are taking action to make our system of justice a true resource for all who must rely upon it – not just those who can afford it.

There are lots of ways to participate in the campaign. Your contribution of pro bono hours with a local provider who offers mentoring and guidance or a check for an hour’s billing or whatever you can spare might not mean much to you. But it means the world to those who need your help. If every lawyer does a little bit, we can help make sure that every Californian can count on the legal system to protect our families and communities. What we ask of you this October is small. What rests in the balance is beyond measure.