It's interesting that the Chief Justice said that "the Utah State Bar
(the association all lawyers must belong to) has started a pro bono (free)
initiative to help those with the greatest need." I heard that
the association started this "initiative" last summer by asking all
lawyers to volunteer to help people who can't afford a lawyer. They called
it "Lend a Learned Hand" (after a famous judge named Learned Hand).
Lawyers were supposed to volunteer in writing by the end of July, but July has
come and gone and nothing has come of it. Please tell us more.
As a retired paralegal, I've found that part of the problem is that too
many attorneys have the same sense of entitlement as do doctors; the idea that
because they had to work hard in law school, they're now entitled to be
wealthy. The error in that thinking is that many other people who, for many
reasons, couldn't go to medical school or law school have nevertheless
worked equally hard or harder in their own field of endeavor while barely
earning enough to scrape by. Demanding fees of $200 to $300 an hour to defend
someone charged with a crime is simply unreasonable when we know it's
likely to cause financial ruin for the client even if he wins. It also leaves
public defenders in an uncomfortable situation, getting paid $25 or $30 an hour
while their private sector counterparts get rich. It's no wonder public
defenders sometimes yield to temptation to squeeze clients for a bit more.
I'm not even going to touch on highly-paid attorneys who pay their staff
minimum wage or only slightly more...
The Legislature really needs to take a strong look at "Justice Courts"
who have questionable magistrates and are used as a source of funding for
municipalities. These "courts" rarely dispense justice but specialize
in collecting fees. And yes, they are a conflict of interest and a huge
The chief justice may think that the courts should be open to all but every year
the Legislature passes laws making it more difficult and more expensive to seek
redress in the judicial system and every year the Utah Supreme Court does
nothing to protect access to the courts.
If the Chief Justice wants the Courts to be accessible to all, a good place to
start is by ensuring his opinions and those of his colleagues are written in
language that are accessible to all. Too often, judges write in terms that only
lawyers understand, making it impossible for the lay person to even attempt to
defend himself. The second problem is WestLaw and LexisNexis whose subscriber
fees for their necessary legal services are way too exorbitant, and this pushes
up the price for individuals with lawyers and keeps in the dark those without a
lawyer. A free legal database is sorely needed.
In my opinion, the courtrooms should be more empty, more of the time. Our
"sue-happy" culture only heightens insurance premiums, increases red
tape/regulations and promotes angst and mistrust of others. It makes doing
small business and private enterprise more difficult and more expensive.If we could treat each other with greater civility and respect and honor
our own word and deed, courtrooms would be quieter, civil angst lower and
everybodies blood pressure would be healthier.And we all be able to
keep more of our own money...