May 2016

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Scotty Welch wins ABA TIPS Pro Bono Award

welchScotty Welch, recipient of the ABA TIPS Edmund S. Muskie Award for Pro Bono Service, with ABA President-Elect Linda Klein.

I’m very excited that the American Bar Association Tort & Insurance Practice Section presented its 2015 Edmund S. Muskie Pro Bono Service Award to Scotty Welch!  Since the award is given to recognize TIPS members “who have the attributes embodied by Muskie: his dedication to justice for all citizens, his public service and his role as a lawyer and distinguished leader of the section,” it would be hard to choose a better recipient than Scotty Welch.

Scotty has been practicing law in Mississippi, where the need for pro bono legal assistance are particularly acute, since 1964. During the more than a decade that I have had the privilege of practicing with him, he has consistently been a leader in both doing pro bono work in Jackson, and in encouraging other lawyers to do so.  In addition to having been an active TIPS member, a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers and the American Bar Foundation, and a past President of the Mississippi Bar Association, while maintaining a very active and successful practice, Scotty has always made time to represent the people who could not pay him.

Scotty has worked frequently with two Mississippi organizations, the Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Program and Mission First, to help low income individuals in Jackson with their legal concerns. Mission First matters during the last few years have included extensive work with the conservatorship for a man who became disabled after suffering a head injury, assisting a low income homeowner with the deed and homestead exemption for a home inherited from his father, and establishing guardianship for a minor child whose parent passed away and handling claims for insurance proceeds.  Scotty has been a reliable volunteer for MVLP legal clinics, and most recently volunteered to participate in its divorce mediation pilot program.  He was among the Baker Donelson attorneys specifically recognized by MVLP, in naming Baker Donelson its Curtis E. Coker Access to Justice Award recipient for 2014, as having provided it invaluable service.

These matters are typical of the kinds of cases that Scotty has taken on frequently over the years, while also tackling more systemic issues, such as work on an amicus brief for the National Black Chamber of Commerce addressing a potential threat to the right to trial by jury. In addition, he has been someone I can count on to rally the pro bono troops in our Jackson office, to set the example for our younger attorneys, and to never let the more senior attorneys think they have finished doing the pro bono part of their careers.

During 2014 and 2015, Scotty devoted almost 90 pro bono hours to representing the widow of a disabled veteran in appealing denial of VA benefits to the Court of Veterans Appeals. The VA had determined that although the veteran had long suffered from an extensive, service-connected, disability, the cause of death was not related to his disability.  The case involved analysis of more than 1500 pages of medical records and study of legal precedent.  A court mandated conference resulted in the VA attorney agreeing  to an order of remand, because Scotty was able to demonstrate that a VA physician ignored relevant evidence and used an improper standard for proof of service connection and that the record before the Board of Veterans Appeals contained another’s medical records. A very grateful client will be represented at a new hearing before the Board of Veterans Appeals by representatives of Disabled American Veterans.

Most recently, Scotty has devoted nearly 150 hours so far to a pro bono matter involving international child abduction. Scotty represents the mother, who was referred by The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, in seeking the return of her two girls through the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.  This has been a substantial undertaking, requiring becoming familiar with international and Israeli law, numerous court proceedings and a significant amount of discovery.

Scotty’s devotion to pro bono has never been limited to any narrow field of interest. In pursuit of helping others, he has always been willing to dive in to new issues, unfamiliar areas of law, and even international engagement.

Congratulations to Scotty!  We are so proud and grateful to call him our own.