The Blog of the Legal Times is reporting that last week a panel of legal experts at the American Constitution Society’s annual conference discussed the question of how to improve the indigent defense system. Stephen Bright, president and senior counsel at the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta, Ga., outlined a series of problems facing the criminal justice system including a lack of a “true adversarial system” in many parts of the country, ineffective indigent defense programs, the use of the process to punish people unduly, and “no real way to put a check on the process.” In response, Laurence Tribe, the former Harvard law professor who in February was selected to lead the Justice Department’s newly formed Access to Justice initiative, argued that the answer could in part come from big law fimrs pitching in more frequently on a pro bono basis. Go here for more on the story. Given that we have always expected and encouraged "Big Law" to contribute pro bono services, I am not sure I would count on this as the solution to the problem.
Also, as an aside, it is comments like the ones by Tribe that remind me why it is upsetting to me to see that some states (like Illinois) are actually eliminating the rule that encourages pro bono services from their Rules of Professional Conduct.