RESOLUTION IN SUPPORT OF ESTABLISHING EMERITUS BAR ADMISSION STATUS FOR ATTORNEYS TO PROVIDE PRO BONO LEGAL SERVICES

WHEREAS, the Philadelphia Bar Association is committed to the fundamental principle of access to justice for all Pennsylvanians; and

WHEREAS, the Philadelphia Bar Association has a long and distinguished record of pursuing efforts to expand access to justice for all those in the Commonwealth who cannot afford to retain an attorney, including but not limited to creating in 2009 the Civil Gideon and Access to Justice Task Force, a blue-ribbon panel of judges, lawyers and others seeking to establish a right to counsel for low-income persons in adversarial legal proceedings in areas where basic human needs are at stake; and

WHEREAS, the Philadelphia Bar Association has worked in close cooperation with the Pennsylvania Bar Association, which has been a leading partner in the coordination of statewide efforts to advance the goal of equal access to justice, including participating with the Pennsylvania Bar Association as full partners in the statewide Civil Legal Justice Commission created in 2013 and that has focused much of the past year in supporting hearings across the Commonwealth conducted by the Senate Judiciary Committee on access to justice issues; and

WHEREAS, many individuals in Pennsylvania with low incomes are unable to afford an attorney to assist them with legal issues that affect their basic human needs; and

WHEREAS, current national and statewide financial conditions have led to an increase in the number of low-income individuals who are in need of legal services in order to be able to achieve access to justice, and Pennsylvania and national studies have shown that only twenty percent of low-income individuals who need help with a legal problem are able to obtain help from an attorney; and

WHEREAS, funding for legal aid in Pennsylvania has decreased significantly due to federal and state budget cuts and continued low IOLTA interest rates, which has resulted in reductions in staff positions, offices and services, and has made it increasingly difficult for these organizations to meet the legal needs of all who seek assistance; and

WHEREAS, non-profit legal services organizations and other legal aid programs ("legal aid programs") in Pennsylvania that render legal assistance to qualified recipients regularly use the services of both staff attorneys and pro bono volunteers, and generally provide professional liability coverage at no cost for all volunteers; and

WHEREAS, the Senior Lawyers Professional and Public Service Committee of the Philadelphia Bar Association has a distinguished record of providing pro bono services to the courts and the public, and its members are available to render additional service if relieved of the financial burdens of registration fees and continuing legal education expenses; and

WHEREAS, members of the Association's Senior Lawyers Committee and other highly-qualified retired and voluntarily inactive attorneys ("emeritus attorneys") who might otherwise provide pro bono legal services are unable to do so under current provisions of the Pennsylvania Rules of Disciplinary Enforcement, and paying attorney registration fees and charges for continuing legal education programming has made the active practice of law cost-prohibitive for many such attorneys; and

WHEREAS, legal aid programs regularly screen matters referred to pro bono volunteers, supervise and mentor volunteers, and provide training and legal education to volunteers, often at no cost to those who commit to taking on pro bono work; and

WHEREAS, permitting emeritus attorneys to render pro bono services under the auspices of qualified legal aid programs that provide supervision and training would significantly benefit the residents of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, and the judicial system itself, by greatly expanding the pool of lawyers able and willing to provide such services; and

WHEREAS, many jurisdictions across the nation, including thirty-five states and U.S. territories, have recognized the crisis in access to justice due to growing numbers of persons with unmet legal needs and declines in legal services funding, and in response have established emeritus bar admission standards for attorneys in various forms;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Philadelphia Bar Association respectfully recommends that the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania establish a category of retired and voluntarily inactive attorneys who would be permitted to practice law solely for the purpose of providing pro bono legal services to low-income individuals in legal need, provided that such services be rendered under the auspices of qualified legal aid programs that regularly provide supervision, legal training in the relevant practice areas, and professional liability insurance coverage for all volunteers; and that emeritus attorneys practicing solely on a pro bono basis be exempt from the annual registration fees otherwise required of practicing attorneys.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association may take any and all appropriate steps in furtherance of this Resolution as the Chancellor, as a matter of discretion, may deem proper.

PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION
BOARD OF GOVERNORS
ADOPTED: April 24, 2014