Remarks by LSC Board Chair John G. Levi | Pro Bono Reception

Boise, ID | Board of Directors Meeting | July 2018
August 7, 2018

Good evening.  I am John Levi, the 10th Chair of the Board of Directors of the Legal Services Corporation, and it is my pleasure on behalf of the Board to welcome you all to this reception.

This evening, we recognize a former Chief Justice of the Idaho Supreme Court, a leading law firm, as well as a law clinic and lawyer in private practice for their significant pro bono contributions to our grantee in this state, Idaho Legal Aid Services.

I want to particularly thank Holland & Hart for hosting us this evening, and we are looking forward to being welcomed by their Counsel J. Walter Sinclair.

We will also be privileged to hear from Idaho Supreme Court Justice Robyn Brody.

I want to take a moment to recognize LSC’s outstanding President Jim Sandman, and we are so very grateful that he joined us after managing the Arnold & Porter firm, serving as President of the DC Bar and General Counsel of the DC Public Schools.

Our Board members are with us tonight, and they have all done a terrific, hard-working job.

Martha Minow, our Vice Chair and Harvard Law School professor and former Dean, who was recently named as the 300th Harvard University Professor, Harvard’s highest faculty honor.

Robert Grey, Senior Counsel at Hunton & Williams in Richmond, and a former ABA President, and President of the Leadership Counsel.

Harry Korrell, a partner at Davis Wright Tremaine in Seattle.

Victor Maddox, of Louisville’s Fultz Maddox Dickens.

Laurie Mikva, an Assistant Clinical Professor at Northwestern Law School.

Father Joseph Pius Pietrzyk, a professor of Canon Law and Chair of Pastoral Studies at St. Patrick Seminary in Menlo Park, California, who in a former life worked for three years as a Corporate and Securities associate at my firm Sidley Austin in Chicago.

 Julie Reiskin, the Executive Director of the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition.

 Gloria Valencia-Weber, a professor at the University of New Mexico School of Law.

We have been so fortunate to receive the additional support of non-director members of our Board committees, five of whom are here tonight:  Frank Strickland, former LSC Board Chair and a partner with Strickland Brockington Lewis LLP in Atlanta; Tom Smegal, LSC’s longest-serving Board member and a practitioner in San Francisco; Rebecca Rapp, the General Counsel and Chief Privacy Officer at Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation in Madison, Wisconsin and a former judge; Robert Henley, a family law partner at Batzli Stiles Butler in Richmond Virginia; and Abby Kuzma, a former Assistant Attorney General of Indiana, who founded and ran her own legal aid clinic in Indianapolis for 15 years and has been nominated by President Trump for the next LSC Board.

Another nominee for the next LSC Board is also here tonight — Frank X. Neuner Jr., a founder and managing partner of NeunerPate in Lafayette, Louisiana.

And I should acknowledge that three current Board members have — thus far — been renominated — Robert Grey, Gloria Valencia Weber, and me.

It is the Board’s tradition to travel to every state before returning to one where we have already held a meeting.  Since we hold only three such meetings a year, the LSC Board will not likely be back in Idaho any time soon, and that makes the awards we are giving this evening very special indeed.

The awards reflect LSC’s commitment to pro bono service, evidenced by LSC’s Pro Bono Task Force and, most recently, by our Pro Bono Innovation Fund Grants program, first funded by Congress in 2014 for $2.5 million and increased to $4 million this year.

This week, we announced this year’s grants to 15 organizations in 13 states for a wide variety of projects — from developing a statewide network of retired lawyers to provide limited-scope services in Montana, to a project using technology to connect private lawyers in Los Angeles with clients in rural parts of California, to eviction prevention projects in New York, Wisconsin, and Vermont.

As you and we work hard and in new ways like this to promote pro bono, however, we together must acknowledge and we have come to fully appreciate that pro bono is most effective when supported by adequately funded and properly structured legal aid programs that screen cases and support volunteer lawyers with training, materials and the expertise of staff attorneys.

Pro bono lawyers working in conjunction with lawyers at LSC-funded programs have helped tens of thousands of people across the country and play an essential role in LSC's mission to help ensure equal access to justice.

That mission reflects a fundamental responsibility of our profession, as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg once observed:

“Lawyers have a license to practice law, a monopoly on certain services.  But for that privilege and status, lawyers have an obligation to provide legal services to those without the wherewithal to pay, to respond to needs outside themselves, to help repair tears in their communities.”

Providing civil legal services to low-income Americans is also a civic responsibility, keeping faith with a core American value —equal access to justice.

As best-selling author and lawyer John Grisham, who is also a member of LSC’s Leaders Council, observed in April at our Forum in Washington:

“In the land of a million lawyers, there’s so many people who face eviction, disaster, loss of benefits, and more . . . because they don’t have lawyers.  And if we can’t protect them, we, as a society, are all diminished.”

Tonight, we recognize and honor lawyers who are answering this call through their own remarkable pro bono service here in Idaho.