Chief Justice of Pennsylvania Ronald Castille is reminding attorneys in the state of their ethical duty to provide public service. Justice Castille also thanked lawyers who provided direct pro bono service to the poor in 2011.
Last year, lawyers statewide provided free service equal to the work of more than 60 full-time attorneys. Castille said lawyers are doing some good work during tough economic times.
"A lot of people are jobless and they're still in need of legal services," said Castille. "So we're asking the attorneys to step up to the plate and give even more pro bono services for the individuals who can't afford it but are in desperate need for legal services."
Castille said many attorneys volunteer through community legal services. He said many also work in veterans courts as mentors and in mortgage foreclosure programs "trying to renegotiate mortgages or payment schedules for individuals whose houses are being foreclosed."
He said that without lawyers offering pro bono service many people would be forced to represent themselves.
"But that can be really difficult if you're going up against a bank," said Castille. "You know someone who's trying to take your house or some tricky marital type things, marital disputes and wills. It's always great to have somebody that knows the system."
Castille said it's becoming more important for lawyers to offer free services because many community legal services are being forced to reduce staff due to budget cuts in Harrisburg and Washington D.C. He hopes when lawyers in legal services offices are laid off, more private attorneys will offer free services to make up the difference.