To The Readers Of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel:
On March 18, NYCLA celebrated the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Gideon v. Wainwright, which recognized the constitutional right to counsel in a criminal case. That decision has particular resonance with me since my law firm, Arnold & Porter, represented Clarence Earl Gideon pro bono in the U.S. Supreme Court.
The panel discussion that occurred on March 18 during our program illuminated the fact that, despite the passage of 50 years, the full promise of Gideon remains unfulfilled. Our legal services providers simply do not have the time or resources to provide adequate representation to many criminal defendants.
Part of NYCLA’s mission is to provide “free legal services for the indigent, low-income and other persons in need” and so the Association encourages all of its members to assist in providing legal representation to those who cannot afford to pay for it. We also invite our member attorneys to participate in our pro bono projects – a variety of meaningful opportunities that use volunteer attorney time efficiently to meet pressing community needs. As a profession, we owe it to our citizens and our courts to ensure that constitutional imperatives are being met.
I encourage you to tweet me @nyclapres and share how you are helping to fulfill the promise of Gideon. I also encourage you to visit nycla.org/joinus to learn more about the benefits of membership, one of which allows members to give back to the community by participating in members-only pro bono projects.
Stewart D. Aaron