March 14, 2008
Working for fair and impartial courts
In response to increasing cynicism about the fairness and equity of the legal system and the judiciary being held up as the scapegoat for hot-button socials issues, the Columbus Bar created a Committee to defend the judiciary against unjust criticisms. The Committee, over the past three years, has been charged with assisting the public in understanding the difficult burden of the courts and judges to strike a proper balance between individual constitutional rights and the rights of society as a whole. When criticisms are misdirected at local judges and where unwarranted criticisms can have a significant negative effect on the community, the Committee strives to respond quickly by correcting any inaccuracies through a public statement, generally by way of a Letter to the Editor or news release.
At its outset, the Committee was first challenged by the attacks of Fox News Commentator, Bill O’Reilly against a local judge for his sentencing of an admitted child molester. The Committee promptly issued a public statement that received national attention.
Though the Committee has not been called upon frequently to react to unjust criticisms since then, its actions have been swift and thoughtful to prevent any misconceptions about the justice system. “The Columbus Bar prides itself on being an advocate for justice,” notes President Genshaft. “This is but one of our many committees that work diligently, with little recognition. I think it’s important that our members are aware of the continuing efforts made by the bar association to improve the public’s perception about the fairness and impartiality of our courts.”
Committee members are appointed by the Board of Governors and currently includes Columbus Bar President Nelson Genshaft, President Elect Kathleen Trafford, Past Presidents Belinda Barnes, Sally Bloomfield, Sam Weiner, and Frank Ray; and Columbus Bar members Dave Hardymon and David Goldberger.
Among other bar efforts to preserve a fair and impartial system of justice:
- Judicial Performance & Preference Polls: evaluating local judges to uphold the integrity of the judiciary
- Judicial Campaign Advertising Committee: pre-screening judicial campaign materials to ensure clean campaigns
- Professionalism, ethics & discipline: investigating and prosecuting attorney misconduct to protect the public and preserve the integrity of the profession; promoting professionalism and civility among the local bar
- Prosecuting the unauthorized practice of law: protecting vulnerable citizens from obtaining legal advice from non-lawyers uneducated in the law
- Diversity: increasing the number of attorneys of color recruited, hired, trained, retained, and invited to join the partnership ranks in Columbus's law firms
- Pro Bono Services: providing free legal services to the poor
- Legal assistance for military personnel: providing free legal services to active military personnel facing legal actions resulting from their call to active duty
- Columbus Bar Foundation: public charity committed to promoting access to justice, public education about the law and judicial system, professionalism, and innovation in the administration of justice.