Our legal system is far from being perfect, legal advice can be expensive and therefore can be a limiting factor for the innocent and needy. They may be forced to suffer unjustly because they cannot afford to maintain their legal rights. However, there is an alternative that some people are lucky enough to come across. Pro bono lawyers everywhere are fighting for the public and working extra hard to make sure that justice prevails for the disenfranchised. For those without the financial means to defend themselves, these lawyers are the only hope they have for avoiding legal ramifications. Here we list some of the top ten lawyers whose heroic actions have changed both the lives of people and have changed the laws designed to protect them.
Tony Tolbert, offered his home to a single mother and her four children for an entire year. The family had previously been staying in a homeless shelter so they were ecstatic to hear that Tony was offering them a place to stay rent free. He learned his generous nature from his father, also a lawyer, who also welcomed others to stay in his home while they got back on their feet.
“I think if we can share some of that and have more stories about people doing nice things for other people, and fewer stories about people doing horrible things to other people, that’s a better world.” -Tony Tolbert
Jose Petrierra is an immigration lawyer that spends his spare time on a spanish language television show, answering the public’s questions about immigration laws. Petrierra also answers the legal questions of those who call his office. Petrierra takes cases from immigrants all around the world but his most notable case has been when he worked for the father of Elian Gonzalez and won him back the custody of his son.
“It’s always good to be on the side of the poor,”- Joe Petrierra
Recipient of “Young Layer of the Year” in 2013 by the state of illinois, Todd Belcore has been a tremendous help to the poor communities of his state.
He helps low-income people with crimes on their record and helps them find jobs despite of all the legal barriers placed in front of them. Not only has he helped countless individuals with employment and housing needs but he has also contributed to policies. He has helped pass six laws to help these people and has also helped to lower the incarceration rate.
He is constantly active in community service and has even recently created the Chicago International Social Change Film Festival.
Abascal took on over 200 pro bono cases to help fight for farmer’s, welfare recipients, the elderly, disabled, and poor. His work is responsible for the ban on DDT today and an 80% ban on pesticides in the 70’s. Abascal fought against the government’s attempt to cut federal funding from welfare, won against a proposed ban of illegal immigrants from public colleges, helped draft the 1986 federal immigration reform law, advocated women’s right to choose, and helped change the way states throw out their toxic chemicals. His accomplishments go on and on.
Wilmer Hale Law Firm
This firm has handled some touchy subjects but their most noticeable is their defense of six algerian suspects held without charges in Guantanamo bay.
They provided approximately $17 million in legal help to these prisoners and were able to persuade the supreme court to rule in their favor. Congress was found to have improperly taken away the constitutional rights of these individuals. Despite their efforts, laws were later passed by congress which prevented prisoners from challenging their detention.
David Smith is listed as one of the best lawyers in America. He has represented plaintiffs in Cobell v. Salazar, a suit on behalf of a half million native americans. It was a landmark case that held the government accountable for breaching its responsibilities towards Native americans. Since then it has led to various lawsuits filed by Native tribes. David Smith has also received countless awards for his pro bono services, mostly from helping abused children.
Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP
This Atlanta based firm has helped lower income grandparents and and the relatives of the children they adopt as a result of neglect and abuse. They doing this work they ensure that children are being kept in loving family homes and out of foster care. With their assistance grandparents can adopt their grandchildren in cases where they might not have been able to due to financial restrictions.
David Bryson advocated for the poor for years. As temporary director and deputy director for the National Housing Law Project of Oakland, CA, Bryson offered twenty years of pro bono work and advocacy. He received multiple awards, including the Loren Miller Legal Services Award, the highest offered by the Bar association. He was also responsible for winning a Supreme Court case for the right of public housing residents to sue over violations of housing laws.
Blasi first became an advocate for social justice when he assisted in the defense of Vietnam veteran and antiwar activist Ronald Kovic. Kovic was arrested protesting Nixon’s re-election in Los Angeles. He also took action when he noticed a high eviction rate of tenants in lower income los angeles neighborhoods. He took part in creating a Tenant Action Center where free legal services could be obtained by tenants. Blasi continued to fight for the poor for the next 40 years. Currently he is a professor and founder for the UCLA School of Law’s Epstein Program in Public Interest Law.
Also a winner of the Loren Miller award, Sid Wolinsky has participated in disability rights advocacy and created several programs to help the poor with legal problems. He has helped create low-income housing in San Francisco, participated in the win for equal funding in California education, and made Los Angeles consider disabled people when planning for disasters. Wolinsky’s continues to work in New York and still fights for wheelchair accessibility in cabs and subways, and for disabled veterans.