Letters to the Editor
Posted Jun 1, 2004 2:44 PM CST
I welcome the fact that the April ABA Journal devotes such comprehensive coverage to "Brown at 50."
Certainly, Brown v. Board of Education merits our retrospective meditation. However, a decent respect for the truth requires me to disavow certain much-too-generous words about me.
In sentences linking me with my good friend and admired colleague Judge Constance Baker Motley, the article states, “Motley and Pollak were among the foot soldiers. They burned the midnight oil at LDF’s Manhattan headquarters, dodged defiant law enforcement officers in the South, and pressed their cases before reluctant judges.” This is true as to Motley and the other LDF staff lawyers—Robert Carter, Jack Greenberg and, of course, Thurgood Marshall. And it is true as to the cooperating counsel representing plaintiffs in the various jurisdictions where the cases arose—lawyers such as Spottswood Robinson, Oliver W. Hill and Louis Redding.
By contrast, volunteer lawyers like myself may have logged many hours in LDF’s headquarters advising on strategy, but not many of us actually ventured into the trenches, i.e., the trial courts. The staff lawyers and cooperating counsel who tried the cases were the heroes—along with the plaintiff children and parents who risked everything to bring the substance of the Constitution into harmony with its words.
Judge Louis H. Pollak
“Are schools returning to the 1950s?” April, page 50, stated that the public schools in Clarendon County, S.C., are 95 percent black. It should have emphasized that the description applies only to Clarendon District 1, the public school system in Summerton, which was the location of the Briggs v. Elliott challenge to segregation.
Clarendon County has two other public school districts, one in Manning (District 2) and the other in Turbeville (District 3). I am white, a native of Turbeville, and I attended public schools in District 3. In that part of the county, the percentages in the public school system are approximately 60 percent white and 40 percent black.
Readers of the Journal should note that all white students in that county do not flee from public schools. I am proud of my education there and proud that the citizens of Clarendon County led the fight against segregation in public schools.
Michael E. Scurry
Grand Forks, N.D.
PROUD OF PRO BONO
On behalf of Holland & Knight, I thank reporter Molly McDonough for “Marching Orders,” April, page 30. It is an honor that she chose to feature our firm’s management techniques to encourage pro bono.
I write to respectfully bring to your attention a small error: “Melton says he wants the memo to convey that he considers pro bono time—up to 100 hours annually—a core value at the firm to be treated the same as time spent on paying clients.”
Our firm does not cap attorneys’ pro bono legal services at a maximum 100 hours. Rather, according to our policy, “Pro bono work in excess of 100 hours in a single year must be approved in advance.” Last year, 106 timekeepers—21 partners, 69 associates, 5 senior counsel and 11 paralegals—completed and were compensated for more than 100 hours.
Our 100-hour rule has proven to be an effective management tool to ensure that we have the right people at the right time in their professional careers providing pro bono services.
Howell W. Melton Jr.
New York City
There are various reasons why young lawyers may not participate in pro bono activities, including a rigorous workload, and the fact that many lawyers do not reside in the area primarily served by the law firm. The best solution is that described in your article, namely leadership from the top of the firm.
I must take exception to defining “pro bono" primarily in the context of providing legal services, however. I would give just as much credit to volunteer work with local institutions such as the United Way, the YMCA, libraries and the like. This approach even has the advantage of enabling a lawyer to meet a number of the decision-makers in his or her community.
James B. Lyon
Thank you so much for Steven Keeva’s “Managing Mortality,” April, page 86. While I generally enjoy his column, this one reached a new level. I can think of far too many people, most of them not lawyers, who might benefit from his insights.
While I’m not quite ready to embrace the idea that I would be grateful for cancer or a similar fate, it is reassuring to know that there are resources available to help us through such a situation.