By: Nora A. Jones//March 15, 2019
By: Nora A. Jones//March 15, 2019//
To celebrate the successful conclusion of the 2018 Campaign for Justice — an annual campaign to support access to legal services in civil cases — CFJ Co-Chairs Sharon Stiller, Tom Durkin, and Jonathan Falk each spoke briefly at the March 14 Justice Society Reception held at the Memorial Art Gallery.
More than $235,000 was raised in support of services and programs provided by the Legal Aid Society of Rochester, Legal Assistance of Western New York and Volunteer Legal Services Project, Inc.
Stiller welcomed everyone to the event and thanked them for their support. Then she recognized the loyal and massive effort Michael Schnittman has put into the CFJ for many years with a surprise announcement.
A word from CFJ leaders
“This past campaign, Michael secured 77 pledges,” Stiller said. “In recognition, we establish the
Michael Schnittman Award, which you will not get, Michael, but which you will have the honor of presenting to the first winner, Richard Curtis.”
CFJ Co-Chair Falk helped connect guests with representatives from the sponsor organizations by acknowledging attendees from each: GLC Services, Constellation Brands, Bond Schoeneck & King PLLC, Bowman Personnel, Brown & Brown, Buckingham Properties, Toshiba, Crossroads Abstract, LexisNexis, Stewart Title, Council Press, Stonebridge Business Partners, Closing USA and Computer Reporting Service.
Every dollar matters
Barbara Heyne, who was recognized in 2018 for her pro bono work with VLSP by the New York State Bar Association as part of the Attorney Emeritus Program, was one of those attending. She has helped in the Federal Pro See Assistance Program, as well as assisted with name changes, debt collection, standby guardianships and wills.
Most of you reading this have never faced foreclosure or eviction, but likely recognize how hopeless the situation would be if the homeowner or renter had no legal representation because their final situation precluded hiring an attorney.
“Access to legal services makes the difference; every dollar matters,” noted Legal Aid Society President Carla Palumbo.
LawNY Managing Attorney Lori O’Brien said the Rochester office helped 4,500 households secure
housing and medical assistance last year.
Leveling the playing field
CFJ Co-Chair Durkin had the honor of introducing U.S. District Court Judge Elizabeth Wolford, who has been at the Western District of New York court since February 2013.
Wolford spoke about the Sixth Amendment promise of a right to assistance of counsel and the
impact of Gideon v. Wainwright, acknowledging that those who cannot afford counsel should still be entitled to representation in a criminal case.
“But even that precedent can be challenged,” Wolford pointed out, talking about a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in which Justice Clarence Thomas’ dissenting opinion indicates there is no
constitutional right to counsel in criminal cases in state court. Other justices agreed.
“There are no constitutional assurances of representation in civil matters,” Wolford said, commending all in attendance for helping to level the playing field in civil matters that are often as basic as the right to housing and the right to be in the United States.
Nora A. Jones is a Rochester-area freelance writer.