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Remarks from Robert Juceam

Robert E. Juceam, of counsel at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP,  received the Chesterfield Smith Award at the 2013 PBI Annual Conference reception on March 15. Read Mr. Juceam’s remarks below.

Judge [Katzmann] thank you for your kind and very generous introduction.  I’m honored and really privileged – somewhat, frankly, overwhelmed to be blessed by your friendship.  And the judge is right, it was about six years ago when he was preparing his seminal and much heralded modern lecture in New York on immigrant representation [and] the immigrant poor.  And then he started a Katzmann study group and just look it up on the Internet, he has had six years of great accomplishments.

But little did you know then that I had known of you and had kind of admired you from afar for the book you wrote in 1995. Esther was part of the book on the issue of the law firm and the public good.  But you also didn’t know that it broke my bank for three years when I gave gift books and I don’t know if we got you to number one on the hit parade, but you must have been close.

Now, I have a number of thoughts I want to share and I will try to be brief.  But first I want to congratulate Merck and Bruce Kuhlik for [winning] the Laurie Zelon Award and [New York Chief] Judge [Jonathan] Lippman for [winning] the Chesterfield Smith Award.  I’m privileged to share this evening with each of you because it puts me in the very best of company.  Thank you, too, for the Pro Bono Institute deciding that I should be the recipient and for giving me the chance to be a founding board member, serving with very accomplished and distinguished board colleagues.

I’m amazed – you’re probably by now amazed – but not surprised by the indefatigable Esther Lardent, our Pro Bono [Institute] staff, and the advisory committees that have put this program together.  No other organization so strongly advocates or heightens such awareness of need or nurtures the development of pro bono spirit as does PBI.  Esther, I treasure the days that we have been working together.

I want to say a word about Chesterfield Smith.  He was a mentor and friend to me as he was to so many.  His long career, you will remember, had several overarching things to it.  He started a little law firm in Tallahasee and today it’s a 3,000-person global firm called Holland & Knight.  That was Chesterfield’s vision and it came to be.  He was the ABA president at a time when President Nixon wanted to get rid of his attorney general during the Watergate scandal and Chesterfield, with courage, persistently spoke out against the president, saying that this was not Constitutionally permissible.  And he also was one of the founding leaders of talking about and helping to promote diversity in all its forms – sex, national origin, and otherwise – both in his law firm and in the organized bar.  Things that would never have been seen as controversial today were difficult for Chesterfield to advocate for.

My first relationship with Chesterfield, however, did not get off well at all.  Imagine my being in highly publicized injunction cases in Miami and the district judge decides because of public outrage and other reasons to appoint him along with some others as monitors. They sat in the jury box during days of testimony and as evidence came in and arguments were made – you know kind of see what’s happening over in the jury box although there’s no jury – Chesterfield would wink approval, and he would nod disapproval.  Suffice it to say, I did not get my share of approval.  When the case was determined to be meritorious and an injunction granted, however, he got people together, sat with lawyers on both sides, and fashioned what became one of the largest pro bono efforts in our history: The American Bar Association, the American Immigration Lawyers [Association], and the Dade County Bar, serving thousands of detained Haitians in Miami and elsewhere.  In short, he was a staunch colleague, smart, and we had many intersects.  Having an award that is testament to him is personally satisfying and especially rewarding.  Thank you, Holland & Knight for sponsoring it.

There are two points as I come to a close.

The first is personal recognition.  Pardon me for some thank you’s.  I am indebted beyond words to my law firm Fried Frank and my colleagues there.  Thinking back to Max Campbellman, Todd Shriver, and Leon Silverman when I was a young lawyer who were mentors.  Through decades of practice, they and the firm encouraged and supported pro bono activities and my efforts and saw to it that we had adequate resources.  Thank you, too, to my children, Daniel, Gregory, and Jackie, who are here tonight, and my wife, Eleanor, who could not be here. They are people who suffered through hearing me at home on my arguments and then finding me absent.  I always was forgiven.  Thank you to my parents, Ben and Millie Juceam, who when I was young, instilled in me the values that I hope I still share.  All tolerated me repeatedly.

Second I want to highlight for you two of what I think are the great and worrisome challenges ahead that affect all of us.  I mean, at the same time as we know that these challenges are coming there is an astounding and growing litany of unmet representational needs.  No amount of explanations or excuses should let us be silent, tolerant, or complacent when the unrepresented cannot access the courts, or if case outcomes are unjust, or if relief or vindication is so delayed that in practical terms it is no relief or vindication at all.

Studies have shown 80 percent of our population are indigent who are unrepresented with respect to civil legal problems.  That should dwell on all of us.  Now I know here with like-minded people it comes as no surprise, but we don’t let others know the depths to which that need is unmet.  The Chesterfield Smith Award gives me an occasion to pause and rededicate my own efforts.  It also prompts me to ask what lawyers who seek equal justice for all, fairness, and due process are doing to insist on – I guess there are three overarching points.

What are we doing about getting the Legal Services Corporation affiliates increased funding and staffing?  What are we doing about expanding, not just preserving, funding for our judiciary and judicial compensation? No surprise, not enough in my view.

More concretely, there will soon be 5 to 7 million people in this country who now are not seeking help if the immigration reform occurs who will be looking for guidance.  Seven hundred-thousand alone in my home city of New York.  Who will be there to assist them?  What are we doing as a community to prepare? Let’s ask you as you go home and think about your own town.  Will you give some attention to how to organize now for what is going to come in whatever guise or however narrow?  Will you talk to colleagues and your bar associations, your law firms in your city, law clinics?  Government lawyers who don’t show up a lot in pro bono, but have no conflicts.  Yea, too, members of the judiciary and private practice lawyers to help step in the breach.  It should be nothing more than a travesty of justice if our society does not ensure that there will be no repetition of 1986 when over 1 million aliens had no representation or guidance in that amnesty program.   So in coming to grips with this certain need, let’s provide the spirit to go back and tackle the issues now.

I close with a simple admonition.  It invariably was something Chesterfield said when he was departing, always with a twinkle in his eye and a warm smile.  Do good, be good.

Thank you all very much.