Is Pro Bono Work 'Anti-Social'?
Speaking to a gathering of the Federalist Society (where he was preaching to the choir), Judge Dennis Jacobs, chief judge of the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, told the crowd that pro bono work is an anti-social activity. He particularly dislikes pro bono work for environmental causes, which he considers "legal activism."
"No public good is good for everybody," Jacobs said.
Perhaps Judge Jacobs meant to distinguish the helping hands that lawyers lend to the indigent in divorce and domestic abuse cases, landlord-tenant disputes, social security disability and veterans benefits cases, and all the other kinds of legal work that help individuals rather than the broader public. Even if that's so, it's shocking to think that a federal judge would disparage pro bono representation in lawsuits against the government. Making the government obey the law isn't an invitation to judicial "activism."
Helping society for free, rather than corporate clients for a healthy hourly rate, isn't anti-social. It's in the finest tradition of the bar to use the judicial system to help improve lives. Lawyers who do so should be praised, not scolded.
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