Lightfoot is committed to pro bono work not just because it is the right thing to do and an essential part of our professional obligation as lawyers, but also because pro bono matters allow our new lawyers critical opportunities to take responsibility in court and with clients to gain valuable experience early in their careers.
From our most senior partner to our newest associate, our attorneys donate their time and talent to providing pro bono legal assistance to those in need. From small claims court to death penalty appeals, our lawyers have handled a wide variety of pro bono matters and are often called upon by local judges to take over pro bono matters on the eve of trial. Here are a few recent examples:
Partnership with the Federal Public Defender. We have a trial program with the Office of the Federal Public Defender here in the Northern District. Kevin Butler, the Federal Public Defender, has been enthusiastic about our participation. From time to time, Lightfoot lawyers—with the blessing of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama—are appointed “Special Assistant Federal Public Defenders” in cases where we can be of assistance to the FPD. Our contribution has been especially appreciated in this era of federal sequestration, and it has been great trial experience for our younger lawyers.
Section 1983 and Habeas Cases. The local federal court frequently calls upon us to represent indigent persons in these kinds of cases.
Eleventh Circuit. Occasionally, a judge or panel from the United States Court of Appeal for the Eleventh Circuit will ask us to represent a party on appeal.
Birmingham Volunteer Lawyers Program. Many of our attorneys participate in the Birmingham Volunteer Lawyers Program which provides legal services to low-income residents of Alabama. Founding partner Sam Franklin also serves on the board of the Program and is highly involved in strategic planning and oversight. In addition, since 2008, Lightfoot has partnered with Legal Services of Alabama to provide pro bono legal advice to Jefferson County citizens in landlord-tenant disputes. Virtually every Lightfoot associate has participated in this program, and through their advocacy (both in and out of court) they have helped ensure that dozens of people were able to find and maintain safe and affordable housing.
Equal Justice Initiative. Our lawyers also devote their time and expertise through the Equal Justice Initiative which provides legal counsel to impoverished people who have been treated unfairly by the justice system. Since 2009, for example, we have represented Patricia Blackmon. In 2002, Ms. Blackmon was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in Houston County, Alabama. Lightfoot’s lawyers seek to overturn Ms. Blackmon’s conviction and death sentence. After three days of hearings, the Circuit Court of Houston County denied Ms. Blackmon’s requests for relief. Lightfoot’s lawyers appealed that decision to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals. The Criminal Court of Appeals requested oral argument which took place on April 19, 2016. Ms. Blackmon’s appeal remains pending.