The highest ranked judge in the State of Tennessee, Chief Justice Gary Wade, graciously attended the Pro Bono Attorneys Hall of Fame Reception at Legal Aid of East Tennessee on Thursday, October 17. The reception honored attorneys who over the years have consistently supported LAET with pro bono work and advocated for equal access to justice. Justice Wade spoke with warm gratitude, humility, and humor to a small gathering at Legal Aid’s downtown office about the importance of pro bono work.
“Like many of you, I received calls to do pro bono work – and my reaction was always the same: ‘I have too much to do,’ or ‘I have a mountain of work undone for clients who have paid me,’ or ‘That’s a terrible case. Who in the world would want to try it?’” Justice Wade said. “But Paula Voss, who was with Legal Aid, was a strong-willed woman, and so nice when asking that I nearly always said yes.”
Justice Wade concluded his comments by thanking the dozen attorneys who currently make up LAET’s Hall of Fame.
“Perhaps those of you to whom we are paying tribute tonight have more enthusiasm for doing pro bono work than I did when I was called upon,” he said. “Thank you for what you’ve done.”
Pro Bono Project Director Charlie McDaniel said in his opening remarks that the Hall of Fame, launched in 2011, honors the people LAET “couldn’t thank enough.”
“We wanted to honor those who consistently support Legal Aid of East Tennessee, who wow us with their pro bono work, and who have advocated for equal access to justice on a statewide level,” he said.
Russell Fowler, associate director of the ten-county LAET Southern Region, then read the names of the Hall of Famers in alphabetical order and offered a brief comment about each one:
Max Bahner: “He’s been a champion for instilling the pro bono spirit at his firm, and he’s always there when we need him.”
Bruce Bailey: “He’s an outstanding pro bono attorney.”
Tom Caldwell: “He’s worked to make a strong pro bono presence in Chattanooga since the 1960s.”
Bill Carriger: “He’s put in a record number of pro bono hours throughout his career and is always there for people who need an attorney but can’t afford one.”
Dick Crotteau: “He’s taken some unbelievably complex cases. Complexity has never scared him.”
Buz Dooley: “He couldn’t be here tonight, but he’s here every Wednesday doing pro bono intake. If you’re a lawyer, I’m sure you’ve gotten a call from Buz trying to place a case.”
Marcy Eason: “She’s always been here for us and our clients.”
Sam Elliott: “He’s done outstanding pro bono work and promoted equal access to justice statewide as the president of the Tennessee Bar Association.”
Richard Ruth: “He does so much pro bono work, he has his own office here with his name on the door.”
Hal Schwartz: “He’s one of the most creative and energetic advocates of equal access to justice I know.”
Joe Simpson: “He’s our run-to source for anything probate. He’s also done many clinics for seniors and low income people.”
Glenn Stophel: “He’s always been there for legal aid on a national level. He was on the first board of directors of the Legal Services Corporation of Washington, D.C., which was appointed by President Ford.”
Also attending the event were several judges, including Judge Christie Sell, Judge John McClarty, Judge David Bales, Judge Don Poole, Judge Lila Statom, and Chancellor Frank Brown. State Senator Todd Gardenhire, and Stewart Clifton, who was there representing the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services. Clifton called LAET “one of the stars in Tennessee for legal aid.”
During a reception held before and after the public event, guests enjoyed wine, punch, and snacks, viewed photographs of the Hall of Famers hung in the main hallway, and voted on artwork submitted to the “Champions of Justice” elementary and high school student art contest.