Nearly 2,000 Los Angeles children in foster care
will be adopted this year through the efforts of a full-time attorney
and hundreds of volunteers. Five hundred victims of domestic violence
in San Bernardino County will get assistance from a legal advocacy
A Northern California project spanning 23
counties provides expertise on complicated legal transactions
involving community initiatives for affordable housing, child care
programs and living wage job placements. Victims of Alzheimer's
disease and their families in Los Angeles are helped by a bilingual
attorney who deals with their special legal problems.
These are just a few examples of Californians who
would not otherwise get legal help without special programs supported
by the State Bar.
In recognition of its efforts to increase access
to legal services for the poor, the bar has been named a recipient of
the American Bar Association's 2001 Harrison Tweed Award.
"The determined effort of the State Bar of
California to increase access to justice for low-income people
deserves to be applauded," said L. Jonathan Ross, chair of the ABA
Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants.
The Harrison Tweed award is given annually by the
committee and the National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA).
It will be presented during the ABA's annual meeting next month in
The bar was honored for its commitment to
increasing legal aid to the poor, particularly for the 1996 creation
of the Access to Justice Com-mission, a significant part of a
multifaceted bench-bar program. The 23-member commission includes
representatives named by elected officials, and professional and civic
"The State Bar of California richly deserves
this high honor," said commission chair Jack Londen. "Despite a
number of obstacles, the State Bar has worked for more than two
decades to create and support institutions in California to serve the
needs of people who cannot afford to pay for help from lawyers."
In 1999, the State Bar, Judicial Council of
California and the Access Commission worked to establish the equal
access fund, California's first-ever state appropriation for legal
services. The $10 million fund was approved by Gov. Gray Davis for
both 1999-2000 and 2000-2001. Although a budget increase is not
certain this year, the governor's original budget in January
contained a $5 million increase.
The Tweed award also cited the bar's work to
increase the yield from interest on lawyer trust accounts (IOLTA) and
support for the establishment of a Judicial Council task force on
unrepresented litigants. The goal of the task force is to develop and
implement a statewide action plan for self-represented litigants,
including increasing the number of self-help centers and finding
additional resources for those without lawyers.
The ABA also praised the bar for reaffirming its
commitment to pro bono legal services as soon as its funding was
restored by the California legislature after the 1998 dues crisis.
"The award is a tribute to the fine efforts of
the State Bar staff for finding creative ways to continue the bar's
public service work and to the ongoing commitment of so many dedicated
volunteers," said State Bar President Palmer Brown Madden.
Added Maria Villa, chair of the member relations
and communications committee: "This very prestigious award
recognizes the fact that the State Bar has made access to justice a
very high priority."
Beneficiaries of the State Bar's work include
clients served by more than 100 local services programs. Among those
clients are victims of domestic violence, grandparents seeking to
become guardians, homeless families, elderly victims of loan fraud and
individuals trying to overcome barriers to work so they can achieve
Other recipients of this year's Harrison Tweed
Award are the Oregon State Bar and the Brooklyn Bar Association.
The award was created in 1956 to recognize the
extraordinary achievements of bar associations in increasing access to
justice for the poor.