My visceral response to this question as to whether an attorney at law should be required to provide at least SOME “billable” hours free of charge was “hell, yes!”. But, considering the details and implications of such a mandate, and in so doing clarifying my own thoughts such that, to this citizen’s satisfaction anyway, that instinct must stand up to scrutiny and yield to reason, has pushed me to discover that I do NOT believe a lawyer is obligated to work for nothing, but that my conviction is nonetheless as hard and permanent as ever that it is an absolute *right* of all citizens to have *adequate* and competent access to all services necessary to successfully navigate and utilize the legal and/or criminal justice systems completely and at our will.
But, on whom, then, does this responsibiity fall? It falls on US. It falls upon we the people. We pay for the government to govern – to do the job of keeping the country and the states and municipalities within it running things according to values that make us who we are. Some of your “law and order” folk would say that that means we expect the law to come down hard on those folks who would violate these standards. And they would by and large be correct. But – we the *PEOPLE* means that as humans we are fallible and vulnerable to many frailties. Among these is the confusion and bias and subconscious impressions we often have, not only of the government, but of each other.
That is precisely WHY we have law and order – and a legal and criminal justice system designed to ensure that it works. We NEED it. And that means that we all need it – and we all need equal and unfettered ability to pursue and protect our lives, liberty and happiness. To then say that in order to utilize this monolithic and gargantuan body of law, you will need to pay EXTRA money – as an INDIVIDUAL! – is not only a breach of the promise of this country, but of the very values we claim to live by.
It is therefore also unfair to expect that an INDIVIDUAL attorney should bear the burden one case at a time, one client at a time, one performing of the duty of an administrator of the due process to which all citizens are entitled. It is a fiscal responsibility. It is a social and moral responsibility.
It is a collective responsibility.
As a *people*, that is as a community of human beings who are in fact bound by some greater Law, as only our own consciences can discern and compel, we are morally and ethically bound to some idea of treating each other with respect and dignity. But, it seems we haven’t yet figured out how to get the Golden Rule to pass through the bureaucracy and the “sausage making” that is law-making, and get said articulated principle of decency signed into law once and for all. If we as a society – as a democracy and a freedom-loving people! – cannot afford to serve ALL the tax-paying governed, then we absolutely cannot afford to impose the obligation of obedience and compliance with the myriad rules and ordinances upon those folks we cannot or will not represent.
Pinning a badge on the chest (and a gun at the waist!) of somebody who “promises” to protect and serve, bestowing a robe and gavel unto he or she who has “sworn” to be subserviant to the rule of law and to interpret it soberly, consistently, and fairly does NOT guarantee that these oaths will be upheld *each* and *every* time for *EACH* and *EVERY* citizen! But, as one of those citizens, you can be damned well certain that I am indeed entitled to NOTHING LESS. And so are you. The constitution provides no doctrine indicating that our forefathers intended for the constitution and the laws of the United States of America to apply to and protect only those individuals who can afford to pay a legal scholar some $400 an hour to see that the law of the land is upheld.
Until the law can protect and govern every single citizen equally and always, it should apply to none. Were said anarchy to become a reality, you watch how quickly our fiscal conservatives and “law and order” politicians would reach a workable consensus and get the job done.
To expect the citizenry to pay for the principles of our Constitution and then not have access to all the privileges and representation promised therein, is nothing short of tyranny, and is absolutely unAmerican.