Sunday, April 5, 2015

Pro Bono Work - Advocating for the Underserved

"I will never reject, from any consideration personal to myself, the cause of the defenseless or oppressed, or delay anyone's cause for lucre or malice." _ The Florida Oath of Attorney

The other day I was criticized for fighting for a client's money. That money was, relative to the paychecks of the people in the room, small. But for some of my clients the amount in dispute was enormous. These clients, when in court for either criminal or civil issues, walk away feeling marginalized and set aside as unimportant because "the amount in dispute is not worth the court's time." 

"The courts shall be open to every person for redress of any injury, and justice shall be administered without sale, denial or delay." _ Art. I, s. xxi, Fla. Const.

How the dollar value of the case means anything to any real sense of justice escapes me. Justice denied to a person simply because they are poor is like a cancer. It grows malignantly through the attitudes of the economic class that was targeted as unworthy who begin looking at the justice system as a weapon for those of means. Worse, it will metastasize into the atmosphere of the courts because once a court rejects a litigant because of their income, it becomes easier to do the same in the future.

Justice is not about the money. It is about the framework of the law and how it should be applied in all cases, no matter the economic situation of those involved. We in the Profession should be wary of allowing the courts to marginalize the poor without a fight. The consequences are dire, because there is always somebody out there who thinks our client is poor.