Summer 2010-#1. ABA/NLADA Equal Justice Conference.

Authorby Mary C. Ashcroft, Esq., and Angele Court

Vermont Bar Journal


Summer 2010-#1.

ABA/NLADA Equal Justice Conference

THE VERMONT BAR JOURNALVolume 36, No. 2Summer 2010ABA/NLADA Equal Justice Conferenceby Mary C. Ashcroft, Esq., and Angele CourtThe Vermont delegation debated whether to attend this year's Equal Justice Conference. This annual event sponsored by the American Bar Association and the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, was held in Phoenix in mid-May-immediately after the enactment of Arizona's new controversial immigration law.

In protest, the NLADA-whose members represent poor and immigrant populations-withdrew from the conference just days before it started. The ABA went forward, bolstered by pleas from local Arizona legal services providers who saw the advantage of gathering like-minded public interest and pro bono attorneys in their embattled state.

Vermonters did attend: Bob Paolini and Mary Ashcroft represented the VBA, Angele Court went from Vermont Volunteer Lawyer Project, and Eric Avildsen represented Vermont Legal Aid. Some attendees from other states traveled to Arizona carrying passports to prove U.S. citizenship. Demonstrators chanted outside the opening session, while the first speaker, a man of color, reminded us that we were on the side of the angels ...

The Equal Justice Conference brought together legal aid and private attorneys, bar associations and law firm pro bono proponents, judges and law school professors, all engaged in providing access to justice to the poor and disadvantaged. Their dedication is awe inspiring. One woman flew to the conference after working until 10 p.m. the previous evening at a legal clinic. She paid her own way when her legal services program could not fund her travel expenses.

To exchange ideas about new programs and innovative technology, successes, and near misses with such professionals is invigorating-and daunting. That is where Vermont advocates for the underprivileged get our ideas for things to try in coming months. For example, the Vermont Military Family Law Project launched last summer was inspired by similar projects in other states as showcased at the 2009 Equal Access Conference.

This year's conference had more good ideas for legal service delivery. Here is a rundown on what our delegation thought worth sharing.

Kids in Need of Defense

Keynote Speaker Sonia Nazario, author of the book Enrique's Journey, followed the compelling journey of the son of her Guatemalan housekeeper-one of four children left behind when the mother sought employment in the United States. When he was twelve, Enrique joined the estimated 100,000 in the "small army of children" who travel north toward the United States each year. Some are as young as seven when they set out to find their missing parent. If they survive hunger, thirst, and the bandits, and...

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