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Home / Expert Opinion / GRAWA President’s Message: 2012 Campaign for Justice is under way

GRAWA President’s Message: 2012 Campaign for Justice is under way

Kimberly Duguay

It’s that time of year again! The Campaign for Justice is under way and desperately needs our community’s support.

The Campaign for Justice began in 1986 and currently raises over $200,000 annually to provide critical support for three local legal service providers: Volunteer Legal Services Project, Monroe County Legal Assistance Center and the Legal Aid Society of Rochester.

Hannah S. Cohn, who served as the executive director of the Volunteer Legal Services Project for almost 20 years before her untimely death in 2002, was the architect of the Campaign for Justice. The campaign also provides funding for the Hanna S. Cohn Equal Justice Fellowship, which is a two year fellowship for a recent graduate to work in the area of poverty law at the Empire Justice Center.

Private funding for these civil legal service programs is essential to providing even the minimum legal representation for our community’s poor. In 2010, Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman created The Task Force to Expand Access to Civil Legal Services in New York to establish a comprehensive approach to providing counsel to low-income New Yorkers in civil cases.

In 2011, the task force generated a report that found “at best, no more than 20 percent of the legal needs of low-income families and individuals are met, because civil legal services providers simply lack the resources to meet them.”

The report also recognized that “no dollar amount can be placed on the life-changing impact that the provision of civil legal assistance can have for vulnerable low-income families and individuals who can remain in their homes, escape domestic violence, stabilize their families, maintain or obtain subsistence income, or gain access to health care or an education — truly the essentials of life” (the full report can be found at: www.nycourts.gov/ip/access-civil-legal-services/PDF/CLS-2011TaskForceREPORT_web.pdf).

Our community has consistently recognized the critical work that our legal services agencies provide and has generously responded year after year making the Campaign for Justice one of the most successful legal services fundraisers in the country.

The Campaign for Justice follows a phone-a-thon format during which over a hundred volunteers, including myself and several other GRAWA members, will call local attorneys and businesses seeking pledges of support. This year those calls will be made during the evening on Nov. 13 and during the day on Nov. 28 with a goal of raising $250,000.

Donations for the Campaign for Justice can also be made online by visiting VLPS’ website at www.vlsprochester.org. There is so much work to be done and every donation makes a difference in someone’s life. The Campaign for Justice provides an opportunity for everyone to contribute to this vital cause.

Kimberly Duguay is the 30th president of the Greater Rochester Association for Women Attorneys and an appellate attorney at the Monroe County Public Defender Office, where she practices in the areas of criminal and family law.