Balch & Bingham Celebrates 2023 Pro Bono Week
At Balch & Bingham, we are deeply committed to expanding access to justice and equality within the legal system to the most vulnerable members of our communities. Our commitment to serving the regions where our firm operates is a decades-long journey. We are proud of and appreciate the opportunity to make a positive impact on the lives of many individuals, businesses and communities across our footprint.
"We firmly believe in the power of pro bono service to make a positive difference in people's lives," said Stan Blanton, Managing Partner at Balch & Bingham. "Our commitment to expanding access to representation is deeply ingrained in our culture, and it drives our firm-wide pro bono efforts."
Through a network of community partnerships and our own program, Balch Business Boost, we serve veterans, minority & women-owned businesses and nonprofit organizations, children who are victims of abuse or neglect, survivors of domestic violence, innocent individuals wrongfully convicted, unaccompanied minors, undocumented adults facing deportation, low income clients seeking housing and many others.
In honor of the American Bar Association's 2023 National Celebration of Pro Bono, we are proud to share a glimpse into the impactful work we have accomplished over the past year.
- Balch & Bingham attorneys actively serve the Mississippi Center for Justice (MCJ), a non-profit dedicated to racial, economic, and social justice. MCJ’s work includes, but is not limited to, representation of Black farm workers who were wrongfully discriminated against in connection with misuse of the federal visa process; issuance of a study documenting the devastating impact of COVID-19 on underserved school districts; and efforts to overturn Mississippi’s felony disenfranchisement provisions based on racial discrimination. Our own Walter Boone serves as Chair of the MCJ Board of Directors, supporting efforts including oversight, administration and strategic vision. Balch’s Armin Moeller, Ashley Cannady and Patrick Everman have all dedicated time to assisting MCJ’s meaningful work.
- Balch’s pro bono client, The Lovelady Center (TLC), received $2 million from the 2023 federal budget to support critical capital needs, after members of Balch & Bingham’s Public Policy & Government Relations Practice led advocacy and education efforts highlighting the center’s mission and needs. TLC, based in Birmingham, Alabama, helps women rebuild their lives after challenges including incarceration, addiction, domestic violence and homelessness, allowing mothers to bring their young children with them to the largest facility of its kind in the nation. Steve Still, Brian Rell and Michael Davis helped lead this effort.
- Audrey Momanaee, along with Chris Caudill in the firm’s Houston office, continue to serve Houston Volunteer Lawyers, with a focus helping indigent parents seeking legal guardianship over their adult children. Audrey emphasized the need for this type of work, sharing the story of one of her clients with The Texas Lawbook in March. She has dedicated hundreds of hours to guardianship cases, building a passion and efficiency for this needed work. Additionally, Audrey serves as a member of the board for the Houston Volunteer Lawyers and Chris serves as Co-Chair for the Houston Young Lawyers Association’s (HYLA) Pro-Bono committee.
- Balch attorneys are seeking sentencing reviews for pro bono clients who received life without the possibility of parole (LWOP) as juveniles, supporting criminal justice reform efforts following the Supreme Court’s decision in Miller vs. Alabama, which found that the imposition of an LWOP sentence to juveniles was presumptively unconstitutional, and required that the courts considered certain factors before imposing such a sentence. Jackson Partner Walter Boone currently represents Leon Trotter, who was convicted of murder for events which occurred while he was 17 years old, and was ultimately sentenced to LWOP. Leon has maintained that he was merely present at the murder, had no prior knowledge that a murder would occur, and was simply in the “wrong place at the wrong time.” Walter’s case does not seek to immediately set Leon free, but to make him parole eligible, so that the Parole Board can consider his actions while he was a juvenile, and whether serving almost 20 years for this crime was sufficient punishment for those actions. Walter previously represented William Davis, another juvenile with an LWOP sentence, successfully got his LWOP sentence vacated, got him regular parole hearings and he has now been released.
- As a committed law firm partner to Volunteer Lawyers Birmingham (VLB), Balch attorneys regularly volunteer their time and expertise to those in need in the Birmingham metropolitan area. Balch attorneys regularly volunteer at VLB help desks, including the Bankruptcy Help Desk and Civil Help Desk. Through these and other help desks, Balch attorneys engage directly with clients, offering guidance and assistance on a wide range of legal matters. In addition to their involvement at the help desks, Balch attorneys often take on extended representation matters, providing comprehensive legal support to clients who require ongoing assistance. Scott Grover serves as treasurer for the Volunteer Lawyers Birmingham Board of Directors and is Chair of Balch & Bingham’s Pro Bono Committee.
- Members of Balch's Gulfport office provide leadership and support for a joint pro bono effort of the 8th Chancery Court District Judges, Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project, Mississippi Access to Justice Commission, and Catholic Charities Kinship Navigator Program to host regular pro bono temporary child custody clinics. Recognizing the great need for this initiative in their community, a dozen attorneys from the firm’s Gulfport office dedicate time to serving at the clinics, with Balch’s Susan Stutts and Rodger Wilder serving as coordinators for the program, which provides assistance to families in need who are seeking temporary custody of a child. Volunteer lawyers help clients pro se from start to finish, including petition drafting, giving testimony before the court, and getting temporary custody orders signed and filed with the clerk’s office. Their efforts have assisted hundreds of children with safe, stable, and loving homes.
- Attorneys in the firm’s Atlanta office provide pro bono legal work for Hearts to Nourish Hope, a non-profit based in Georgia dedicated to advancing opportunities for youth and young adults aged 16 - 24. Josh Archer and Katherine Carey helped the organization through a legal issue, successfully finding a resolution that gained judicial approval, aiding in the organization’s mission to house women and children escaping abusive situations. Their work was coordinated through the Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta, which aims to strengthen its community by engaging volunteer attorneys to provide nonprofits with business legal services.
- Attorneys from our Jackson office regularly volunteer at the weekly free legal clinic at Stewpot Community Services. This nonprofit organization provides food, clothing, shelter, and mentorship to people in need in the community. During Stewpot’s free legal clinics, Balch attorneys advise or refer on family law, vital records, housing, expungements, disability, and financial matters. In addition to supporting its legal clinics, Balch supports Stewpot through its annual participation in the Red Beans & Rice Festival, which supports the organization.
- Balch attorneys from Jackson and Gulfport are providing pro bono legal work for the Rolling Fork Tornado Relief Foundation to support the ongoing rebuilding efforts in the aftermath of last year's devastating tornadoes. Patrick Everman and Stephen Broadus have been instrumental in the formation and organization of the foundation, which has applied to be recognized as an organization exempt from taxation under Section 501(c)(3).
- With a shared commitment for helping organizations focused on safeguarding the well-being of children, Armin Moeller, Ashley Cannady and Russell Dumas in the firm’s Jackson office regularly work on trademark, license, and contract issues for the Children’s Advocacy Centers of Mississippi, a membership organization consisting of local child advocacy centers throughout the state. Their involvement in addressing trademark, license, and contract matters contributes to the organization's ability to effectively serve the community and protect vulnerable children.