Senate Armed Services Panel Praises ABA Pro Bono Project for Troops
Report calls on Pentagon to identify ways to support the initiative, which seeks volunteer lawyers
An American Bar Association pro bono project that supports the troops and their families was recently acknowledged by the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, whose report on the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act called for more federal attention to the ABA initiative.
“The committee is grateful for the support provided to military members by the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Military Pro Bono Project,” the report stated, noting that the project is directed by the ABA Standing Committee on Legal Assistance for Military Personnel.
The ABA Military Pro Bono Project connects junior enlisted, active-duty military personnel and their families to civilian lawyers who provide free representation for civil legal issues beyond the scope of services provided by military legal-assistance offices.
Housed at militaryprobono.org, the project accepts case referrals from JAG officers across the country and around the world and connects service members with pro bono lawyers throughout the United States. The project also includes Operation Stand-By, through which lawyers may volunteer to provide lawyer-to-lawyer consultations to military attorneys.
Lawyers who want to offer their pro bono services to the project may volunteer at militaryprobono.org.
Since its founding in 2008, more than 1,000 cases have been referred to the project on behalf of service members, many of whom, as the Armed Services report noted, were deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The Military Pro Bono Project has provided military legal assistance attorneys with a centralized referral point for pro bono counsel and overseen an efficient complement to existing military legal assistance programs,” the report stated. It noted that the judge advocates general or their counterparts with the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard have formally expressed their appreciation for the ABA’s network of civilian legal support for service members.
The Senate Armed Services Committee report said the Defense Department’s general counsel should identify ways the Pentagon and the armed services can expand the support they provide to the Military Pro Bono Project “in a budget-neutral manner.” It directed the secretary of defense to study the issue and recommend “methods through which additional resources and support can be given to the Military Pro Bono Project.”
“More can and should be done to supplement the ongoing efforts of the ABA to consolidate state and local programs aimed at expanding the availability of highly qualified civilian attorneys with service members who are most in need of pro bono assistance,” the report stated.