The term “pro bono”, when applied to the law, has come to mean to provide legal representation at no cost to the client. But that is not what the term literally means. “Gratis” is the Latin word for “free”. “Pro bono” is short for pro bono publico — “for the public good”.
The New York State Bar Association’s Pro Bono Guidelines states,
Pro Bono Legal Services will include all uncompensated legal services that are: (a) rendered directly to poor persons in civil matters or in criminal matters or related to simplifying the legal process for, or increasing the availability and quality of legal services to, poor persons; (b) rendered to charitable, public interest organizations with respect to matters or projects designed predominately to address the needs of poor persons, (c) rendered to individuals, groups, or organizations seeking to secure or protect civil rights, civil liberties or public rights, (d) rendered to charitable, religious, civic, community, governmental or educational organizations in matters in furtherance of their organizational purposes, where the payment of standard legal fees would significantly deplete the organization’s economic resources or would be otherwise inappropriate, or (e) involve societal issues, such as pre-approved special projects or cases involving significant legal issues such a death penalty case or cases assigned to attorneys by the Court, for which they receive no fee or a nominal fee (such as prisoner civil rights cases).
Boy, I’m sure glad every one of the 3,300 people currently on death row in this country all have great lawyers, much better than former Assistant United States Attorney, and Gibson Dunn partner, Jim Walden!
Because Mr. Walden, Esq, is busily interpreting pro bono to mean representing former DOT Commissioner Iris Weinshall, and former deputy mayor Norman Steisel, er... “Neighbors For Better Bike Lanes”, in their effort to have the Prospect Park West bike lane removed; against the expressed wishes of the vast majority of the community, and the Community Board which has repeatedly voted in support of it.
But kudos to Walden, our own Atticus Finch, who strives to be the voice of voiceless former deputy mayors and Senator’s wives. In continuance of his good work carrying water for his downtrodden Prospect Park West luxury co-op clients, he appeared yesterday on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer show, and attempted to gratuitously f*ck up the career of a DOT employee.. saying,
“I think is just awful conduct for a public official. We filed this lawsuit three weeks ago, and not one of those DOT employees has been put on administrative leave. I find that just shocking.”
The shocking crime? Possession of proof that the bike lane is delivering on its goals of traffic calming and getting bikers off the sidewalk. Streetsblog has a good rundown of why the suit, filed on behalf of the Orwellian-named group, and its sham-brethren, “Seniors for Safety”, is not likely to go anywhere — namely its meritless-ness and lack of facts.
My attempts to speak to Mr. Walden, as well as Scott Edelman, the partner in charge of pro bono work at Gibson Dunn, have not yet born fruit, but like my hero of To Kill A Mockingbird, I’m not giving up.