Pro Bono

350 Lawyers Trek to San Angelo, Charging 'Billables for the Soul'

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Gearing up for what surely will be among the largest child custody cases in U.S. history, scores of attorneys are converging upon San Angelo, Texas, to represent pro bono the 416 children and parents caught up in the raid of a polygamist sect’s compound.

Some 350 lawyers from throughout Texas have responded to the bar’s call for volunteers and are reportedly headed to or are already in the West Texas city for Thursday’s momentous hearing. The State Bar of Texas received so many volunteers it announced that the current need for counsel had been met.

“We’ve got a saying in this pro bono business here that it’s ‘billable hours for your soul,’ ” said Dallas attorney Ken Fuller, the Associated Press reports. Fuller jokingly added: “We’re just redneck lawyers. We’re just going down there to make sure due process is followed.”

State officials argue that the children who were removed from their homes were being physically and sexually abused. They’re pushing for the children to be placed in foster care or put up for adoption.

The AP also noted that Stewart Gagnon, who practices family law at Fulbright and Jaworski, is one of a dozen lawyers form his Houston office making the trek. All the lawyers are expected to face what already is a confusing situation, in which many children have yet to be matched to parents.

“I think it’s important for lawyers to be involved where they’re trained to be,” he’s quoted saying.

But the first hurdle for the lawyers will be finding lodging. Then the volunteers will need to figure out where to access technology they will need, learn how they’ll all fit in the county’s small courtroom, and then meet their clients.

“The logistics of this judicial proceeding are staggering, and it is important that our judicial system meet this extraordinary challenge. We are confident that it will,” State Bar President Gib Walton of Houston said in a release updating the bar on the status of volunteer activity and the bar’s coordination efforts.

More coverage: “Huge 416-Child Custody Hearing in Texas Ranch Raid Involves 350 Lawyers”

Salt Lake Tribune: “Mainstream Mormons feel torn over polygamous ranch raid”

Houston Chronicle: “Officials say children are doing well away from parents”

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