Pro Bono News

2 Judges Make the Case for Legal Aid (AR)

Saturday, February 01, 2020

2 Judges Make the Case for Legal Aid

"A state Supreme Court justice and a chief judge on a federal appeals court emphasized the need to increase access to civil legal aid for people with low incomes at a Legal Services Corp. board meeting in Little Rock on Friday.

The independent nonprofit established by Congress in 1974 to provide financial support for civil legal aid to low-income Americans funds two legal-aid programs in Arkansas -- the Center for Arkansas Legal Services in Little Rock and Legal Aid of Arkansas in Jonesboro.

With a combined staff of 50 attorneys, the two agencies provide direct legal representation for as many as 10,000 people a year who otherwise couldn't afford it, said Robin Wynne, an Arkansas Supreme Court justice.

He told the board members who gathered Thursday and Friday from across the country for the meeting and a related Access to Justice Forum that when he graduated from law school in 1978, he opened a satellite branch of his family's Fordyce law firm in the nearby town of Hampton. At the time, Hampton had 1,200 people and no lawyers.

He set up shop in a renovated one-room "washateria" and grossed $16,000 that year, along with payment in fruits and vegetables from a town with more than its share of poverty.

Forty-three years later, he said, there is only one lawyer practicing in Fordyce, which had 11 lawyers in 1978, and there are no lawyers in Hampton.

"The need still exists, and we have a responsibility to rural Arkansas to provide access to justice," he said, addressing board members and others gathered Friday morning at the Old State House Museum for panel discussions on legal aid in rural America and the business community's role in increasing access to justice..."

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