By Anne M. Daly
I love being a lawyer. I love being a lawyer because of the impact we can make to better individuals' lives and our community. We have the ability to give those who live in the shadows of society an equal voice and a place to be heard, and a chance to be treated with dignity. We are teachers, advocates, mentors, storytellers, confidants and rebels.
I love the King County Bar Association because it is about empowering lawyers. The KCBA is such an impressive entity and I am honored to serve as its president for the next year. In thinking about the year ahead, I've been reflecting on what it is I so appreciate about KCBA. I appreciate your indulgence of my reflections.
KCBA embodies all that is good about being a lawyer. Our association was founded more than 125 years ago by a group of lawyers who organized themselves to condemn and censure attorneys who participated in an attempt to remove Chinese residents from Seattle through illegal means. This small group of founding lawyers effectuated significant change for good. They were courageous. They were rebels willing to stand up for what was right regardless of the consequences.
KCBA has stayed true to its founding principles in a variety of ways. As the largest volunteer bar association in the state, KCBA has marshaled the good in lawyers to serve thousands of low-income King County residents through numerous pro bono programs.
KCBA is often a leader on controversial policy issues. Aware that some members will disagree with our positions, KCBA, through its diligent and hard-working Board of Trustees, still does what it is right. KCBA was a strong supporter of same-sex marriage, long before this past year's vote on the issue; KCBA has been a national leader in drug policy reform, long before our state legalized marijuana; KCBA supported the end of life sentences without the possibility of parole for juveniles before the U.S. Supreme Court came to the same conclusion.
KCBA has a robust public policy committee looking at issues of importance in our community. This organization does not shy away from "sensitive" or "touchy" issues; rather, this organization embraces the opportunity to engage in a civil, lively conversation.
Let's jump back to 1963 for a moment. In Florida, Clarence Earl Gideon was charged and convicted of burglary. He hand wrote a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court asking for an attorney to be appointed to his case as he could not afford to hire one. Thus was born the cased of Gideon v. Wainwright, decided 50 years ago, which established the right of poor people facing a loss of liberty to have counsel appointed at no cost.
Having chosen to spend my legal career in public defense, this 50th anniversary of the Gideon v. Wainwright decision, its impact and its intent are important to me. While we celebrate the decision, we are not yet able to celebrate the fulfillment of the promise of Gideon as thousands of individuals facing charges in our state are not provided counsel as required under Gideon. So, what does this have to do with KCBA and all that I love about KCBA?
As the largest provider of pro bono services in the state, KCBA understands the importance of providing legal counsel to those who cannot afford to hire their own attorney. While Gideon applies only to criminal cases, there has been much talk and hope over the years of a civil Gideon. Through its pro bono programs, KCBA comes closer to meeting the promise and spirit of a civil Gideon than any other organization in all types of cases involving low-income individuals. And this is all accomplished with volunteer attorneys.
At the heart of KCBA are its members. KCBA members are generous with their time, talent and dollars. Volunteer attorneys serve more than 10,000 clients a year through our Neighborhood Legal Clinics, the Housing Justice Project, Family Law Programs, and Volunteer Legal Services.
KCBA members have donated almost $1 million to the King County Bar Foundation Endowment. This endowment will fund pro bono services and scholarships to Seattle University and the University of Washington law schools with the goal of increasing the diversity of our legal community and providing opportunities to lower-income individuals to pursue careers in law. KCBA members chair a variety of committees and sections all focused on maintaining a strong bar and bench; all focused on professionalism in our practice; all focused on making our legal community vibrant and strong.
Lastly, KCBA has incredible staff - helpful, responsive, creative, collaborative and committed to the KCBA mission. I applaud all that they do to keep KCBA thriving.
As you reflect on all that is good about being a lawyer and being a KCBA member, I hope you feel proud of all this organization stands for and has accomplished. I am proud to be your president. I look forward to working with KCBA staff, the Board of Trustees, the bench and our members over the next year and welcome your feedback on how to best keep KCBA a living testament to all that is good in lawyers.
KCBA President Anne M. Daly is executive director of Society of Counsel Representing Accused Persons and can be reached by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone (206-322-8400 ext.3134).