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Give so all may have justice

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In Utah, lawmakers do not feel the need to appropriate money so that the poor and elderly can afford quality legal care. Perhaps this is because attorneys, spurred on by campaigns such as the annual one called, "And Justice for All," have been unusually generous in recent years, donating money for this purpose. But the need keeps growing larger, and that means attorneys, and all others with the means, have a greater obligation to help.

This year, the "And Justice for All" campaign is suffering from some of the same problems facing other charitable organizations after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. Individual and corporate donations remain strong, but so far no large organization has stepped forward with a big challenge grant, as has happened in each of the past three years.

That means the responsibility for giving is greater now than ever.

Utah's poor and disadvantaged need all types of legal help, from dealing with domestic abuse to protecting limited assets in old age. This campaign provides financial assistance to agencies that regularly deal with these problems and know how best to direct the resources.

Hard as it is to believe, the campaign is only in its fourth year. Three years ago, thousands of people in Utah went without competent legal representation because the resources simply weren't available. Back then, the Disability Law Center, Legal Aid Society and Utah Legal Services combined received less than $75,000 in donations from lawyers and other legal professionals. Since then, "And Justice for All" has raised $1.3 million. More than one-third of the Utah Bar, 2,221 attorneys, have contributed. Organizers say this is one of the highest rates anywhere in the nation. The giving hasn't been limited to attorneys. Philanthropists, corporations and other private entities have donated more than $368,000.

None of these contributors can afford to let up now, especially with the economy suffering both locally and nationally. And the two-thirds of the Utah Bar that does not donate needs to step up. Unemployment rates are up. Bankruptcy rates are higher than ever. The need never has been greater.

As we have in recent years, we strongly urge all who can to consider "And Justice for All" an ethical responsibility.