In honor of Memorial Day, we asked our partners at the ABA Military Pro Bono Project to contribute a guest post about their work. You can learn more, and get involved, at www.militaryprobono.org.
This Memorial Day, the American Bar Association Military Pro Bono Project encourages the legal community to consider the importance of pro bono work on behalf of veterans, servicemembers, and their families. It is important to remember that our nation’s military families, many of whom constitute low- to moderate-income households, encounter unique difficulties in achieving access to justice for their civil legal problems. Frequent relocations, overseas deployments, and recurring mobilizations place strains on military families, which can result in civil legal needs in family law, foreclosure prevention, creditor issues, and even trust and estate matters. Often unable to afford full-cost legal counsel to handle these civil matters, military members must turn to pro bono legal assistance, such as that provided by the ABA Military Pro Bono Project.
The story of Sergeant Jacob Wilson is an illustrative example. Sergeant Wilson served multiple deployments in combat zones. However, after returning from his last deployment, he faced a new battle at home: protecting his daughter. When he returned to the United States, Wilson found that his daughter was in an unfit home with his ex-girlfriend, as she was living in an overcrowded small apartment where illicit drug use and physical abuse were open and frequent.
The soldier went to his JAG to discuss his concern for his child’s safety and his desire to seek a custody order. But, as is common, the JAG was not authorized to represent Wilson in state family court, andWilsoncould not imagine how he could hire a civilian attorney with his limited income. What Wilson’s JAG could do, however, was to refer his case to the ABA Military Pro Bono Project, which located a volunteer attorney who successfully helped with Wilson’s legal battle by obtaining a custody order that alleviated his concerns of his daughter’s safety.
Although the names in this story have been changed, it is based on a real case and illustrates how pro bono legal help is necessary to ensure that our men and women in uniform are not distracted from their missions by an inability to resolve legal problems.
Join the ABA Military Pro Bono Project in Helping Our Servicemembers
The ABA Military Pro Bono Project accepts case referrals from military attorneys across the country and around the world, and it matches these cases with pro bono volunteer lawyers. Joining the Project is easy. Register on the Project website at www.militaryprobono.org, and you will be contacted to consider volunteer opportunities for servicemember cases matching your geographic and practice profile. When registering, you may also join the Operation Stand-By list, through which you volunteer to provide occasional lawyer-to-lawyer consultations to military attorneys seeking substantive guidance, thereby helping these lawyers better assist their military clients. Whether providing full pro bono representation or simply giving advice through Operation Stand-By, the time you give through the Project is entirely at your discretion.
The Project also welcomes the opportunity to coordinate and collaborate with the many existing legal aid, pro bono, and state and local bar programs serving military members to best leverage the strengths of all of our efforts on behalf of those in uniform.
If you are an attorney interested in giving back to the men and women of the armed forces this Memorial Day, please visit www.militaryprobono.org to further explore how you can help by joining the Project roster or by making a tax-deductible financial contribution. Lend a hand to our military personnel and their families, recognizing the sacrifices they make on behalf of us all.