Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Promise of Justice

What a good thing Adam had. When he said a good thing he knew nobody had said it before.

Mark Twain

I really enjoy a good quote or a good speaker. I admire how someone can succinctly use words to communicate a powerful message. I will scramble for a pen and paper to write down what was said so that I can share it. I do not have this gift, which is why my family refers to me, I hope affectionately, as “the Babbler”.

There is an annual statewide Equal Justice Conference organized through the hard work of the staff at the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services (TALS) and the Tennessee Bar Association. More than 200 lawyers, advocates, administrative staff, and support staff from Legal Aid Society and other public interest advocacy organizations attended the conference. It is a time to renew friendships, to learn, and to recharge spirits with the energy to pursue justice.

The highlight of the first day is a dinner with a keynote speaker. Ashley Wiltshire, Jr., former Executive Director of LAS, was the keynote speaker and provided inspirational words to all of us. As I sat there and listened to him, it made me feel greater appreciation for what he has done and inspired me to carry it forward.

The next day we were fortunate to have the President of the Tennessee Bar Association, Marcia Eason, join us for the lunch. Marcia practices law in Chattanooga, so everyone appreciated the effort it took to be there. In addition to her presentation, Marcia titled her “President’s Perspective” column in the October 2007 Tennessee Bar Journal “Low-income Tennesseans Get Legal Help, But it’s Not Enough.”

She emphasized how important it is for private attorneys to provide pro bono legal services or contribute to help fund pro bono programs. It gives hope to legal aid programs and to poor people when they see a leader in the legal community make equal justice such an important message.

Later, Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Cornelia A. Clark delivered the luncheon address titled “Passing the Torch-Assuring the Promise of Justice.” Again, traveling to Manchester took effort and Justice Clark made it very clear why she made the effort. Delivering the promise of justice is her dream. She closed her speech with a call to all of us to persevere in the fight. She shared that it was her dream that the light of equal access to justice would be passed to all persons who need it.

As people left that luncheon, you could feel the energy of community and perseverance. You could feel the energy of hope.

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