A new award created by the Alabama State Bar honoring leadership in providing free legal services will be presented this month to U.S. District Judge W. Harold Albritton III. Incidentally, and most fitting, Judge Albritton is the man for whom the award is named. While State Bar president (1990-91), Judge Albritton helped create the organization’s Volunteer Lawyers Program to provide free legal service to the poor and disadvantaged. Some 25% of the state’s lawyers participate in the program. Jim Pratt, the current State Bar president, said in a news release:
Judge Harold Albritton has demonstrated a selfless commitment to increasing access to justice for Alabamians. His extraordinary work provides us with inspiring examples of what is possible and helps raise public awareness of the importance of access to justice for all, not just for those who can afford it.
Asked during his 1991 confirmation hearing before a U.S. Senate committee about the need for lawyers to provide free legal service, Judge Albritton described it as the profession’s “highest calling,” telling the Senators:
It is something that should not be done grudgingly, but should be embraced willingly. They will never receive a fee during their entire career that will make them feel more pride in being a lawyer than they will by the grateful tears on the cheek of someone who cannot afford legal services benefitting from their help.
Judge Albritton is certainly deserving of this honor. I can think of nothing better than a public official being recognized for really having a concern for the poor. Judge Albritton is to be commended for his work in this area of concern.
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