Rider Receives Equal Access to Justice Award

Posted on January 22nd, 2008 at 12:00 AM
Rider Receives Equal Access to Justice Award

Remarks by Danna Rich-Collins on presentation of the award:

Each year as I prepare for this evening I agonize over how to keep interest in the “awards” ceremony after 20 years. But the truth is that the interest is not in this event nor the novelty we are able to afford (this year, however, I do think that it looks good!!!!!!) but in the work that you do for so many clients who otherwise would not have access to the legal system.

One thing that Legal Services attorneys have to deal with on a fairly regular basis is responding to the often heard “well I can’t afford a real lawyer comment from our clients.” I don’t think they mean to insult but have this notion that those working for Legal Services are not “real lawyers”. But then there are the fortunate ones–those that get sent to real lawyers–our pro bono volunteers.

When we look at Association members , we see that there are those who volunteer in areas in which they regularly practice, there are those who are willing to learn a new area of law in which to volunteer and those who use their skills in non representation areas such as clinics, research and mentoring.

Tonight’s Equal Access to Justice recipient specializes in an area of law that may seem remote to a legal service client, Estate law and real estate law. But without having to learn a new area he has been able to fulfill his pro bono commitment for each of the last 20 years within his own field. His most recent referral called to play all his expertise (well his legal expertise that is) when he undertook to represent a young disabled man whose mother died leaving him and his brother alone in the family home completely unable to deal with any aspect of daily living. They were discovered by a local codes officer who took them under his wing as well as did a local service group. Many, many hours were spent under very difficult circumstances to help the man be able to remain in his home, settle his mothers affairs, deal with the numerous tax and other issues that had been ignored since her death. It was a community project!

Over the last 20 years our recipient has helped many clients, mainly disabled individuals who have had tax and estate matters that required attention–no money to be inherited but matters that needed to be resolved so they could continue to receive their disability benefits. He has also helped Legal Services staff with issues that were outside our expertise-- always willing to be called on to mentor and share his knowledge of the particular law in question.

In addition to helping clients directly and mentoring staff he has lent his services voluntarily over the last 30 years to help our organization when we have had issues ourselves which would fall within his purview. He has taken a leadership role in fund-raising efforts to benefit Legal Services.

This well deserved Equal Access to Justice Award for 2007 goes to an exceptional “Real Lawyer” –Joseph L Rider