Oct. 28, 2021
Column critiquing Paraprofessional Program unfairly characterizes IAALS
Danny Abir’s recent column unfairly characterizes an organization and individuals with a proven record in expanding access to justice.
I was sorry to read Danny Abir's Oct. 23 column, "Ulterior motive behind push for new legal service models?" While I don't doubt Mr. Abir's sincerity, and there certainly is room for good-faith disagreement about some of the regulatory reforms currently being considered, the column unfairly characterizes an organization and individuals with a proven record in expanding access to justice.
I served as a trial judge in California's state and federal courts for 30 years before relocating to Washington, D.C. to become director of the Federal Judicial Center, which oversees training and education for the federal judiciary. Before becoming a judge, I directed a legal services program for people with chronic mental illnesses and developmental disabilities, populations that have been underserved and misunderstood for decades. I currently serve as executive director of the Berkeley Judicial Institute at Berkeley Law School, whose mission is to promote an accountable, resilient and independent judiciary.
I'm also privileged to be a member of the Board of Advisors of the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System (IAALS), the organization that is the principal target of Mr. Abir's attacks. One of the many remarkably talented and dedicated people I've met at IAALS, who also is a focus of Mr. Abir's criticism, is Zack DeMeola. While it would take another article to explain the ways in which Mr. Abir's allegations bear little relation to what IAALS and Mr. DeMeola actually have done and continue to do to expand access to legal services, suffice it to say that in my judgment IAALS is exemplary in the quality of its research, the professionalism of its staff, and the thoughtful commitment and non-partisanship of its governing board. A national justice needs survey conducted by IAALS earlier this year provides evidence of a host of areas in which our current system is inadequate either to provide litigants with counsel or to help them address the life needs that underlie their legal problems.
-- Hon. Jeremy Fogel (ret.)
Berkeley Judicial Institute
UC-Berkeley Law School