Posted Sep 01, 2008 01:15 pm CDT
At the 2008 ABA Annual Meeting in New York City, H. Thomas Wells Jr. began his term as ABA president with the plight of military families much on his mind.
Wells announced the launch of the Military Pro Bono Project, an effort to provide free legal services to military personnel of limited means on various types of civil matters, including family law and consumer cases.
“As lawyers, we can at times be pretty good at making a dollar, but we are at our best when we are making a difference,” Wells said at a news conference.
Under the project, the ABA’s Standing Committee on Legal Assistance for Military Personnel will use specially developed technology to match civilian lawyers to cases referred to them by the military.
The Section of Litigation is co-sponsoring the project.
“The armed services do an extremely admirable job of taking care of their people,” Wells said. “The ABA was eager to add our time and talent to support them as appropriate.”
Wells also announced a major effort to disseminate information about voter rights and responsibilities in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The information will be available to the public on a new website at abavoteinfo.org. The site, which will be coordinated by the ABA Standing Committee on Election Law, will contain state-specific information on such topics as absentee ballots and documents required for voting.
At the meeting, the House of Delegates voted on another key Wells concern: ABA efforts to help fill vacancies in the U.S. district and appellate courts. The House voted to endorse bipartisan commissions selected by senators from each state. The commissions—already used in eight states—would review and recommend nominees to the federal bench for presidential consideration.
Wells said wider use of commissions would be a way “to bridge the partisan divide that has grown over many years” in the process of selecting federal judges.
“We stand ready to be of assistance in any way they want us to be of assistance in the nominating process for federal judges,” said Wells, a partner and founding member at Maynard Cooper & Gale in Birmingham, Ala., where he maintains a litigation practice.