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U.S. Judge: Pro Bono Is Antisocial

Judges sometimes say the darndest things. Take Dennis Jacobs, chief judge of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. At a Federalist Society event this week in Rochester, N.Y., he argued that pro bono work by lawyers is "antisocial" and "self-serving." The legal newspaper The Daily Record reported his comments, which were picked up and posted on the American Constitution Society Blog. Here is how The Daily Record reported it:

Pro bono work primarily is an "antisocial" and self-serving activity lawyers use to develop their skills, firms use to recruit and "give solace" to associates, and nonprofits use to further a political agenda, Judge Jacobs argued.

In particular, litigation against the government and government officials and impact litigation are attempts to improperly expand the courts' reach in legislative matters, the judge said.

"No public good is good for everybody," the report quoted the jurist as saying. "Unlike government lawyers, [pro bono attorneys] don't have to take responsibility for their wins and losses," he continued. "Many of the public interest groups and pro bono [attorneys] honor each other, sometimes over and over again."

Jacobs became the 2nd Circuit's chief judge in 2006. President George H.W. Bush appointed him to the bench in 1992. Formerly, he was a partner with the New York law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett. Ironically, the 2nd Circuit maintains its own pro bono panel and Judge Jacobs's name appears prominently on an April 2008 announcement soliciting members for the panel. Nowhere does the announcement describe pro bono as antisocial or self-serving.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on October 13, 2008 at 09:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

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