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An Opportunity to Serve Those Who Serve Us

Friday, April 16, 2010

  • Jason Vail
  • ABA Military Pro Bono Project
  • Source: Misc Natonal Sites

Note: Pro Bono Net is partnering with Martindale-Hubbell Connected to promote pro bono April 16-30.  Below is the first of a series of guest blog posts on Pro Bono Net's Connected group, contributed by Jason Vail, Director of the ABA Military Pro Bono Project.  Join Connected to read the rest of the series in coming days, and register for a webinar April 22 on "Pro bono & your career."


Army private Sam Griffith received the kind of phone call that no parent ever wants to receive: A child welfare caseworker in Michigan had just removed the Griffith’s young daughter from the home of the child’s mother—Griffith’s ex-wife—based on suspicion of abuse and neglect. Griffith dropped everything to drive from Fort Hood, Texas, to recover his daughter, but upon his return to Texas, he was faced with a very difficult legal situation. The child’s mother still retained legal custody of the child under a Michigan court order and there was an open child welfare case in the juvenile court, all while Griffith was soon scheduled to deploy overseas to Iraq. Though he had met with a legal assistance attorney at his JAG office, there was little the Texas-licensed attorney could do to help him with what was entirely a Michigan legal matter, and with a very limited income, Griffith could not even begin to imagine how he would be able to get a civilian attorney to help him untangle these legal problems.

What the military attorney was able to do, however, was to refer Griffith to the American Bar Association’s Military Pro Bono Project. Once referred, the case was matched up with a Michigan attorney who volunteered with the Project to handle cases for servicemembers pro bono. The attorney quickly appeared in the case for Griffiths and, after a series of hearings—including those conducted with Griffith appearing by phone from Iraq—the court granted him permanent custody of his daughter.

Though names and locations in this story have been changed, it is based on a real case, one of hundreds that have been capably handled by volunteer attorneys across the country who have donated thousands of hours of time on behalf of enlisted servicemembers and their families in need of pro bono legal help with all kinds of civil cases.

Attorneys interested in giving back to the men and women of the armed forces should visit to find information about the Military Pro Bono Project, a list of cases currently in need of pro bono assistance, and an opportunity to register and be added to the Project’s volunteer roster. Attorneys accepting pro bono referrals experience a great sense of professional and personal fulfillment by assisting this deserving population. Our servicemembers willingly place themselves in harm’s way, and they must not be distracted from their mission by legal problems that they cannot resolve on their own. Join the ABA Military Pro Bono Project in lending a hand to our military personnel and their families, in recognition of the sacrifices they make on behalf of us all.

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