Remarks by Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers
2 nd  Pro Bono Summit
LOB, Room 2C
May 14, 2014
 
 
 Good afternoon, and welcome to the second Connecticut Pro Bono summit.  This
subject matter remains among my top priorities as Chief Justice, and I am extremely
appreciative that each of you has made time in your busy lives to attend today's event.
 
 Before I continue, I want to thank members of the Judicial Branch’s Pro Bono
Committee, headed by Judge Bill Bright, for again putting together the summit.  In
addition, I would be remiss if I did not mention Attorney Jonathan Shapiro, who worked
closely with Judge Bright to plan the summit, along with Krista Hess, Roberta Palmer
and Cheryl Halford.
 
 I also want to thank Senator Eric Coleman, who will make closing remarks.  As
you know, Senator Coleman, as co-chair of the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee, is
both a valued member of the bar and a veteran lawmaker, and we not only welcome
him today but also thank him for his continued support of the Judicial Branch.
 
 Finally, I want to thank the “rising stars” who took time out of their schedule to
attend the summit.  The managing partner and general counsel of your firm or
corporation identified you as an up-and-coming member of your organization who
should be at the table as we discuss new and innovative pro bono projects.
 
 So, why are we here today?  Once again, we are asking everyone in this room to
make pro bono services a top priority.  Many people who represent themselves do so
because they have no choice, and I continue to be extremely concerned that access to



 
justice may be compromised if individuals are not represented by counsel.  These Pro
Bono summits are the perfect forum for brainstorming ideas and energizing people who
care about our legal system to make sure that we are doing all we can to ensure that
people are represented whenever possible.
 
 When the first Pro Bono Summit occurred in 2011, I think it’s fair to say it was an
extremely positive first step.  What occurred afterward, however, was even more
exciting.
 
 Simply put, your firms and corporations answered the call and I’d like to highlight
just a few of the initiatives that followed the summit.  By way of example, one of your
firms developed a signature project to provide assistance in Probate Court with pro
bono appointments as conservators.  There’s also now a cooperative pro bono project
to provide medical/legal intervention for indigent clients in domestic violence cases,
housing cases involving children and employment cases.
 
 The Young Lawyers Section of the Connecticut Bar Association stepped up to
the challenge as well through its Pro Bono Service Campaign, which went from March
to May of 2013.  Nearly 50 individuals and/or law firms signed the pledge, and the
number of pro bono hours performed in connection with the campaign was double what
was anticipated, equaling more than $2 million worth of pro bono services.
 
 On the other side of the coin, the Judicial Branch has worked hard to keep up
with all of you.  For example, we’ve worked closely with the bar to implement Volunteer
Attorney Programs in family and foreclosure law.  We have programs for foreclosures in
six judicial districts, New London being the latest addition, and for family, in three
judicial districts.  Thousands of self-represented parties have taken advantage of this



 
program, and it is yet another example of what we can do when we put our heads
together.
 
 So that's just some of the good news.  However, there’s also a cautionary note in
that the problem we’re addressing remains daunting.  I’ll provide just a couple of
numbers to illustrate my point: in fiscal year 2012-13, the percentage of family cases
with at least one self-represented party stood at 85 percent.  On the civil side for the
same time period, the percentage of cases with at least one self-represented party was
24 percent.  Nationally, the numbers are worse and it is absolutely clear this is a trend
that is not going away anytime soon.
 
 With that, I’ve talked long enough, and we have a full agenda before us.  Thank
you again for attending today’s summit and for stepping up to make a difference in the
lives of people who need your advice, often at the most vulnerable moments of their
lives.
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