Walmart Announces Donation and Pro Bono Program

On November 18, 2010, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation announced a joint gift of $115,000 to the Arkansas Access to Justice Campaign. The generous gift is the largest donation in the history of the campaign.  $75,000 of that amount will be used for the provision of civil legal services to low-income Arkansans.  “On average, it costs our legal aid providers about $500 to handle one case, so a gift of this magnitude will will make a substantial impact,” said Amy Johnson, Executive Director of the Arkansas Access to Justice Commission.  The remaining $40,000 will go to Legal Aid of Arkansas to continue funding for a medical-legal partnership with Mid-Delta Health Systems. “As a result of the Walmart Foundation’s generosity, we are able to make a positive impact on the health and well-being of patients through legal interventions,” said Lee Richardson, Executive Director of Legal Aid of Arkansas.  Walmart has further demonstrated its commitment to increasing access to justice in Arkansas by announcing an in-house pro bono program as the 100th signatory to the national Corporate Pro Bono Challenge. Below is the full text of the press release.

Walmart Announces Pro Bono Legal Services Program

Walmart and the Walmart Foundation Donate $115,000 to Arkansas Legal Aid Organizations

Bentonville, Ark., November 18, 2010 – The Walmart Legal Department announced plans to undertake an in-house pro bono program in which its attorneys, paralegals, and support staff will participate in legal aid projects in the Arkansas community.  In doing so, Walmart has become the 100th signatory to the national Corporate Pro Bono Challengesm, a voluntary benchmark developed and administered by Corporate Pro Bono (CPBO), a partnership project of the Pro Bono Institute (PBI) and the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC), designed to encourage and promote pro bono service with in-house lawyers and legal departments.

In addition, the Walmart Legal Department and the Walmart Foundation today announced a $115,000 donation to Legal Aid of Arkansas and the Arkansas Access to Justice Commission. The grant will help the Commission continue its efforts to address key issues raised by low-income clients, including family law, consumer practice, financial, housing, and employment matters.

“Our pro bono effort is a natural extension of our company’s overall belief in being a good corporate citizen,” said Jeff Gearhart, executive vice president and general counsel of Walmart. “Helping to ensure that access to legal services is a reality for all of our citizens, regardless of their ability to pay, is consistent with Walmart’s commitment to making a difference in the communities that we serve.”

“We are delighted to have Walmart sign on as the 100th Signatory to the Corporate Pro Bono Challenge,” said Esther Lardent, president and CEO of PBI.  “As one of the largest companies in the world, Walmart’s commitment to pro bono, including the hiring of a dedicated pro bono staff lawyer, sets a high bar for the corporate community.”

Among the state’s legal aid champions, many believe that Walmart’s program will have a domino effect on other Arkansas corporations.

Jim Julian, president of the Arkansas Bar Association added, “I cannot overstate the significance of the pro bono commitment that Walmart has made at a corporate level.  This commitment will result in the provision of services worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to Arkansans needing help with civil legal issues.  In addition, Walmart’s leadership in implementing such a program will serve as a model to other corporate legal departments and law firms in the state that are looking to increase their pro bono involvement.”

“Walmart has once again demonstrated its commitment to empowering low-income Arkansans through the mobilization of both the financial and human resources needed to ensure that all citizens of our state have access to civil legal help,” said Justice Annabelle Imber Tuck, chair of the Arkansas Access to Justice Commission.  “Financial support and pro bono involvement are both necessary if we are to close the justice gap in Arkansas, and we are tremendously grateful for Walmart’s leadership on both fronts.”

The $115,000 award from the Walmart Foundation will assist Legal Aid of Arkansas in funding its Medical-Legal Partnership with Mid-Delta Health Systems, which serves patients in six of Arkansas’ poorest counties, located in the Mississippi River Delta area.

William Waddell Jr. Honored with Lawyer Community Legacy Award

On Thursday September 15th, the Arkansas Bar Association announced that Arkansas Access to Justice Commission member and Arkansas Access to Justice Foundation President Mr. Bill Waddell has been honored with their Lawyer Community Legacy Award.  Mr. Waddell has been nothing short of instrumental in the growth of the Commission and a key player in the establishment of the Foundation. Throughout his time at Friday, Eldredge & Clark, Mr. Waddell has devoted countless hours to pro bono legal service in a myriad of legal fields, including over two hundred adoption cases. This award is to honor him for his devotion to Arkansans in need.

Chief Justice and Incoming Bar President Discuss Access to Justice

During the 2010 annual meeting of the Arkansas Bar Association, Chief Justice Jim Hannah and incoming Arkansas Bar Association President Jim Julian urged Arkansas lawyers to fulfill their obligations under Rule 6.1 of the Rules of Professional Conduct.  These obligations include handling 50 hours of pro bono work each year and contributing financial support to legal aid programs in Arkansas.

“We as an association must take the lead in addressing this challenge,” said Mr. Julian.  “We must assure that those in need can have access to justice in Arkansas.  We can do that by supporting the work of the Arkansas Access to Justice Commission.”

Below, we have posted videos of the portions of Chief Justice Hannah’s and Mr. Julian’s speeches in which they discuss the status of access to justice efforts in Arkansas.  The Access to Justice Commission is extremely grateful to Chief Justice Hannah and Mr. Julian for their leadership in addressing the justice gap in Arkansas.

Chief Justice Jim Hannah

“Contrary to the fear and concern expressed by a few, this work [access to justice] is not about encouraging or enabling members of the public who could otherwise secure the paid services of an attorney to represent them.  Rather it seeks to make available an array of tools and programs which better enable our citizens to access the legal advice and services they need.”

Arkansas Bar President Jim Julian

“You have heard two or three times at this bar association meeting about our obligations under the model rules of professional conduct: 50 hours of pro bono service per year.  If we all made that commitment, access to justice would not be the concern that it presently is.  As individuals and collectively, we can make a difference in the lives of so many people who are in need.  Donate your time; donate your talents.  Make a difference in this area.”

Commissioner Awarded 2010 Equal Justice Distinguished Service Award

The Arkansas Bar Foundation presented Commissioner Annabelle C. Imber Tuck, former justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court, with its 2010 “Equal Justice Distinguished Service Award.”  The Foundation presented the award on June 10, 2010, during the Arkansas Bar Association’s annual meeting.

Ann Pyle, executive director of the Arkansas Bar Foundation, prepared the following remarks in honor of Justice Imber Tuck:

A statewide award was developed to recognize commitment to and participation in equal justice programs for the poor, including pro bono efforts through legal services programs.   The Equal Justice Distinguished Service Award is given this year to Justice Annabelle C. Imber Tuck.

In addition to leading an illustrious career as a lawyer, judge, and ultimately Justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court, she has been a tireless advocate for access to justice efforts in Arkansas.  Since 1977, she has dedicated her professional career to fostering equal access to justice for those without the resources to afford legal representation.

Justice Tuck is a member of the Arkansas Access to Justice Commission, serving in this capacity since October of 2005.  She regularly speaks to attorneys and judges throughout the state about the importance of pro bono work.  She currently chairs the Commission’s Education Committee and led the planning of the Commission’s first statewide “Promise of Justice Conference.”  Justice Tuck played an integral role in the completion of the Commission’s DVD entitled “Forging the Road to Civil Justice.”  In addition, she presented the Commission’s proposal to the Supreme Court to allow members of the Commission to establish the Arkansas Access to Justice Foundation, Inc.

No words could better summarize Justice Tuck’s commitment to equal justice than this statement from her nominator:  “She has worked diligently to raise the awareness among attorneys and judges about the need for legal aid and about each attorney’s ethical obligation to perform pro bono services….These accomplishments demonstrate Justice Tuck’s ongoing commitment to improving access to our state’s legal system for low-income Arkansans.”

It gives me great pleasure to present this year’s Equal Justice Distinguished Service Award to Justice Annabelle Imber Tuck.