December 2010

You are browsing the site archives for December 2010.

In several cities around the U.S., specialized court programs are being established to help address the legal problems that can contribute to long term homelessness. Homeless individuals can encounter the same types of minor legal woes that happen to many other people – things like traffic tickets and misdemeanor citations. These are the kinds of issues that are a hassle, but not necessarily a major problem, for most. For the poor, something that might be an inconvenience to you and me can actually lead to homelessness, and for the homeless, it can prevent them from returning to mainstream life. (more…)

In each of our communities, Baker Donelson is fortunate to work with wonderful organizations that are dedicated to the cause of access to justice. Many provide direct legal services to the poor and recruit volunteer attorneys to do the same, while others address broader policy issues that stand in the way of equal access. They all have one thing in common – a constant struggle to maintain the level of funding needed to continue doing this vital work. (more…)

For the second year in a row, Baker Donelson’s Louisiana attorneys have brought us the marvelous honor of being named the Pro Bono Project of New Orleans’ Law Firm of the Year. Thanks to the excellent leadership of Office Managing Shareholder Roy Cheatwood and New Orleans Pro Bono Coordinator Sherry Dolan, our attorneys contributed more than 1000 hours of pro bono services to PBP clients during 2010, handling cases involving divorce and child custody, adoptions, consumer credit and many other issues. Twenty of our attorneys were also individually recognized for their outstanding dedication to the PBP and its pro bono clients. We also enjoyed working with PBP on activities for the National Celebration of Pro Bono in October. We’re proud to partner with PBP to help those in need in Louisiana. (more…)

To some extent, there have always been those who represent themselves in civil litigation. Some have chosen to do so, while others have done so out of necessity because they could not afford to hire a lawyer to help them. While individuals have the right to represent themselves, of course, that process is fraught with difficulties. The most obvious problems affect the self-represented litigants themselves. Pitted against an adversary who is represented by counsel, and working in a system that can be difficult to understand, the self-represented litigant is often unable to achieve anything like justice. Tenants may be wrongfully evicted from their homes, consumers may be forced to pay unfair charges to creditors, and injured plaintiffs may be denied the compensation to which they are entitled, all because they don’t understand how to navigate the system or are unaware of the legal claims and defenses that apply to their cases. People can be devastated and their lives turned upside down by the outcome of a civil case, but there is no right to counsel in non-criminal cases. (Whether there should be such a right, called “civil Gideon” in reference to the U.S. Supreme Court case that established a constitutional right to counsel in criminal cases, is hotly contested and has only recently begun to see wide public debate). As you might imagine, as our economy has deteriorated, the number of people who cannot afford to pay for representation has increased dramatically. (more…)