Distinguished jurists from around the Southeast gathered in Durham, North Carolina on Oct. 1, 2012 for a panel discussion that was part of a forum on the state of civil legal assistance in the region. The panelists were Judge Allyson Duncan of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, Chief Judge John C. Few of the South Carolina Court of Appeals, Justice S. Bernard Goodwyn of Virginia, Chief Justice Carol Hunstein of Georgia, Chief Justice Menis Ketchum of West Virginia, and Chief Justice Sarah Parker of North Carolina. Dean Martha Minow of Harvard Law School moderated the panel.
|Listen to the full discussion.|
The forum was sponsored by the board of directors of the Legal Services Corporation in conjunction with its quarterly board meeting, the third such event this year. The board convened this and the previous panels at the White House and the University of Michigan Law School to address a growing crisis in civil legal assistance, as Chairman John G. Levi noted in his opening remarks:
Dean Minow also noted the significance of this issue:
The growth in the number of pro se litigants and the problems it presents were addressed by several of the panelists:
West Virginia Chief Justice Menis Ketchum had a more personal experience with self-represented litigants:
An increase in pro se litigants reflects the widening justice gap--the disparity between the legal needs of low-income people and the capacity of the civil legal assistance system to meet those needs.
Dean Minow noted four ways that may help close this gap:
Chief Justice Ketchum agreed about the importance of pro bono and argued that we “should really consider that we mandate pro bono work.”
Chief Justice Parker pointed to a successful program in North Carolina that combines the efforts of legal service lawyers and pro bono attorneys:
Justice Goodwyn called for judges to be more active in promoting pro bono and illustrated how that is happening in Virginia:
Chief Justice Hunstein illustrated the real difference a creative judge can make:
Chief Judge Few noted the efforts of the South Carolina Access to Justice Commission:
Several panelists also applauded the efforts of law schools and clinics to help provide civil legal assistance, as did the host of the event, Dean David Levi of the Duke University Law School: