Gruber Hurst Johansen Hail Shank LLP Launch Access to Justice Campaign
by Alicia Hernandez
Access to justice is a hallmark of our society. The final phrase of our pledge of allegiance sums up the American dream of access to our courts—“and justice for all.”
Many of us grew up reciting those words, taking them for granted, and believing in the promise that justice would be served. But, every day the promise rings hollow for the many who are denied access to a judge or jury simply because they cannot afford a lawyer.
Many of these people, the working poor, are simply struggling to get by. Once they pay the rent, put food on the table, and clothe their children, there is simply no money left for lawyers. And, without a lawyer, they find it nearly impossible to protect themselves from abuse, save their homes, or keep predators from trampling their rights.
Many will find their way to legal aid programs, and some are helped. But, with only one legal aid attorney in Texas for every 11,512 people who qualify for free legal help, many, many people in need simply go without.
Without access to justice, “Sue,” an abused mother of two, will not be able to protect her children from their abusive father who has hired a lawyer. She has no money and no training to ensure that the court hears what she has to say. “Blake” and his wife will be evicted from their apartment while their landlord disregards the law and keeps what little family possessions they own. “Joe” will lose his car to an unscrupulous mechanic, making it impossible for him to get to and from work every day.
Out of desperation, some people take matters into their own hands, oftentimes making ill-fated attempts to represent themselves. They will do their own research, draft their own pleadings, and try to be heard. Some are brave and defiant, but most are scared to death about trying to help themselves.
This is the reality of our justice system today, but it does not have to be this way.
Every year, the Dallas Bar Association and Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas join forces to promote access to our justice system through its annual fund raising campaign for their joint pro bono program, the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program (DVAP). And, every year, law firms and attorneys heed the call to action to renew the promise of justice for all.
The lawyers of Gruber Hurst Johansen Hail Shank LLP have answered the call. The firm has kicked off this year’s Equal Access to Justice Campaign with a $25,000 gift.
“As trial lawyers, we see daily the impact that bench and jury trials have on our clients. Having access to that type of justice shouldn’t be limited to those people who can afford it,” said Michael K. Hurst, partner at Gruber Hurst Johansen Hail Shank and Chair of this year’s campaign. “We are very pleased to be able to support the campaign and make our system more accessible to everyone.”
Gruber Hurst’s support of DVAP is no surprise, and the firm’s trial practice is not the only thing that makes them devoted to the cause. The firm’s attorneys not only have a strong commitment to legal aid to the poor, but they are also involved in numerous community service activities.
Hurst, a past President of the Dallas Association of Young Lawyers, is a Big Brother through Amachi and has chaired the DBA’s Education Symposium and the DBA’s Law Day, Law in the Schools and Mentoring Committees, all projects that promote both public education and law-related educational opportunities for the underprivileged. Mike Gruber, honored earlier this year with the Justinian Award for his longstanding volunteerism, is an avid community volunteer for many groups, including Habitat for Humanity and North Texas Big Brothers and Big Sisters. Mark Johansen is a past Director for North Texas Big Brothers and Big Sisters and has also served with Launch Ability, United Way and the March of Dimes. Brian Hail is a past and founding board member of the National Breast Cancer Foundation, is active in Hillcrest Church and serves as an advisor to multiple Christian overseas mission organizations. Mark Shank, a past President of the DBA and a past chair of the Equal Access to Justice Campaign has been a strong supporter of DVAP for nearly 20 years.
For more information on the Campaign or the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program, please contact Alicia Hernandez at (214) 220-7499 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Recognition levels and donor benefits are available at www.dvapcampaign.org. In addition, all individual donors at the $1000 level and above and all firm and corporate donors at the $5,000 level and above who pledge by December 10, 2012 will be recognized in a full-page ad in the Dallas Morning News on Sunday, December 16, 2012 and in Texas Lawyer in February 2013.
Alicia Hernandez is the director of the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program and the DBA director of community services. She can be reached at email@example.com.