[Deathpenalty]death penalty news-----LA., FLA., MISS., MASS.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sun Mar 5 20:20:25 CST 2006
Women on death row
Brandy Holmes arrived Feb. 23 at Louisiana Correctional Institute for
Women at St. Gabriel and was issued the standard death-row inmate uniform:
a red jumpsuit.
Sentenced to death Feb. 16 in Caddo Parish for killing a local retired
minister, former Shreveporter Holmes, 26, was the 1st new death-row inmate
at LCIW in nearly 11 years. Antoinette Frank, a New Orleans policewoman
sentenced to death in late 1995, now has company.
Historically, few women in Louisiana or the rest of the nation have been
given the ultimate judicial penalty. But is that changing?
15 years ago, in 1991, there were 36 women under death penalty sentences
in the United States, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. At
the end of 2005, there were 48 women on death row, according to the latest
statistics from a leading academic researcher.
Women serving death sentences reached a high of 54 in 2000, according to
Justice Statistics numbers. Yet executions of women remain rare: 1 in
2005, compared to 59 executions of men nationwide.
The "stereotypical image" of women has kept many off death row, said
Marianne Fisher-Giorlando, professor of criminal justice at Grambling
"It's simply (the idea) that women aren't capable of doing such a thing,"
The last woman executed in Louisiana was Shreveporter Toni Jo Henry in
1942. Before her, only 2 women were put to death in the 20th century.
Besides the 2 on death row now, one other Louisiana woman was sentenced to
death, Catherine Dodds, but her sentence was reversed in 1976.
The last man in Louisiana to be executed was Leslie Martin, of Calcasieu
Parish, on May 10, 2002. He had been convicted in the killing of a college
student and had been on death row since September 1992.
Louisiana men are put to death by lethal injection at the men's prison,
Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.
That's also where a woman would meet her fate, after being transported
from St. Gabriel.
Yet as death penalty appeals go on for years, it may not be soon that
either Louisiana woman on death row will be executed.
Equal treatment for crimes
One reason the nation may be seeing more women receiving death sentences
is that as women have sought equal status with men on many levels -- work,
education opportunities, social status -- juries seem to be applying
justice with equality in mind as well.
"Juries think women want to be considered equally. ... OK, you want to be
treated equally and we'll convict you also," Fisher-Giorlando said.
Experts say it's difficult to pinpoint a trend regarding women and the
death penalty, since their numbers are small. Since 1973, only 155 death
sentences have been handed down to women, compared to 7,544 for men,
according to research by Ohio law professor Victor L. Streib.
Year by year, the statistics go up and down.
For example, 5 women received death sentences in 2004, 2 in 2003, 5 in
2002 and 2 in 2001, according to Streib.
"There have always been so very few," said Streib, a leading researcher on
women and the death penalty and a professor at Ohio Northern University
College of Law in Ada, Ohio. His report, "Death Penalty for Female
Offenders, January 1, 1973, through June 30, 2005," is considered the
statistical bible on the subject.
"The conventional wisdom has been the more the client is represented as
the traditional feminine woman, she won't get sentenced to death," Streib
said last week. "The more she is seen as tough and aggressive, the more
likely she is to be sentenced to death."
In Louisiana, the expectation is that men are more likely to make up the
state's death-row population. Example: Angola has 101 cells reserved for
death row inmates, with 83 occupied.
LCIW has only 4 cells dedicated for women on death row.
Dan Cain, associate professor of criminal justice at Bossier Parish
Community College, agreed with Fisher-Giorlando that juries mostly have
been kinder to women.
"I think juries tend to look at females with a little more special
consideration. ... What aggravates me is I see so many females given such
a lenient consequence to their behaviors. Had the same thing been
committed by any male, he would have been held accountable in a much more
serious way," he said.
"Our society, in general, is trying to find a reason and excuse to allow
females more opportunities to be rehabilitated, given that special chance.
I surely don't see that quite as much with the male."
But death penalty juries may be reversing that trend, Cain said, as more
women commit crimes. Since 1990 the number of female defendants convicted
of felonies in state courts has grown at more than 2 times the rate of
increase in male defendants, according to the Bureau of Justice
Statistics. And in 2001, women made up 6.6 percent of state prison
inmates, up from 6 % in 1995.
Policy dictates justice
Changes in police arrest policies and in sentencing guidelines have
influenced the way the justice system deals with violent women offenders,
"Criminal justice doesn't have the leeway it used to have when it looked
at a woman," said Fisher-Giorlando, citing mandatory arrest policies in
domestic violence cases and judicial guidelines that set sentences for
Caddo District Attorney Paul Carmouche said there are "plenty" of cases of
2nd-degree murder charges against women, but few that fit the definition
of 1st-degree murder, which, for example, would involve armed robbery,
rape or aggravated burglary and would automatically be a death penalty
case. That's one reason there are fewer women under death sentences, he
"We don't normally see women defendants in those circumstances where it
fits the definition," Carmouche said, adding that he could not recall any
cases where the Caddo office sought the death penalty against a woman
before the Holmes case.
Yet these kinds of cases may become less rare in the future, he said.
"That's an unfortunate fact, based on the fact that women are getting
involved in more violent crimes," Carmouche said. "It's just a matter of
time until we have more cases where there is the definition of 1st-degree
Women and the death penalty
In the past 100 years, only 40 women have been executed in the United
States, including 11 since 1976.
The most recent execution of a woman was Frances Newton in Texas on Sept.
Since 1973, 155 death sentences have been imposed on female offenders.
North Carolina, Florida, California, Ohio and Texas account for almost
Current ages range from 26 to 72.
The average length of time a woman serves a death sentence is 7 years and
11 months, 27 months less than a man on death row.
In Louisiana, 3 women have been put to death in the past 100 years: Ada
LeBoeuf in 1929, Julia Moore (aka Powers, Williams) in 1935, and Toni Jo
Henry in 1942.
(Source: Death Penalty Information Center; "Death Penalty for Female
Offenders," by Victor L. Streib, professor of law, Ohio Northern
University College of Law; Bureau of Justice Statistics )
(source: The Shreveport Times)
Should he have been set free? -- Both sides of the death penalty debate
hold up John Ballard's acquittal as an example of what's wrong.
John Ballard left Florida's death row in the middle of the night, whisked
away by his mother and sister.
The state Supreme Court, in a highly unusual move, had acquitted Ballard
on Feb. 23 in the murders of a young Naples couple, saying there was not
enough evidence to convict him.
But there was no news conference, none of the huge fanfare usually
associated with the release of people who have been spared a death
Still, those on both sides of the death penalty debate seized on the case
as an example of what's wrong with the system. Opponents say it shows how
innocent people can be executed.
"Here's a guy who survived death row, who was wrongly convicted," said Abe
Bonowitz, director of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.
Supporters say it shows how the guilty can go free. There was no DNA
evidence to prove Ballard was innocent, but rather the evidence used to
convict him was all circumstantial, the court said.
"There's no doubt in my mind" Ballard was guilty, said Kami Jones,
stepmother of victim Jennifer Jones. "I've been over it 1,000 times and
put it together over and over. I bet the judges didn't do that as many
times as we did. But it all made sense."
Bonowitz, who at one point was in touch with Ballard's family, thinks the
37-year-old may have gone to be with family in California. "I know this
sounds crazy, but when you just kick someone out on the street . . . and
some people still think he's a murderer, it's not out of the question to
try to protect him."
Wherever Ballard is, questions remain about his involvement in the murders
of Jones and her fiance, Willie Ray Patin Jr. But he can never be tried
for their murders again.
The families of the victims say their only hope for justice now lies with
two unsolved murders from 1999 in Naples. Ever since his arrest, Ballard,
a manual laborer who is married with 3 children, has been linked by the
Collier County Sheriff's Office as a suspect in the murders, according to
local news reports.
Last week, the Sheriff's Office denied making those statements.
Patin, 22, and Jones, 17, were supposed to move to Texas the day their
bodies were found.
A boilermaker, Patin had gotten a job working with his father in his home
state of Texas. On March 6, 1999, two days before their departure, the
couple had a small party amid the boxes in their two-bedroom duplex.
Jones, who had worked as a personal assistant, dealt marijuana out of her
bedroom, according to court records. That night a friend at the party saw
her with $1,000 in cash. Ballard, who lived across the street from the
couple, was at the party, but at least one partygoer told police he left
before she did.
2 days later, Jones' father and one of her friends broke into the
apartment. They found Jones naked in her bedroom, her skull shattered.
Patin was in the spare bedroom, his head in a similar condition.
Jones' Mazda was missing and so was the $1,000. The car turned up on a
nearby street where Ballard's family once lived. Patin's blood was in the
The week before the murders, a man affiliated with a street gang shot
through the couples' window over a dispute involving Jones. But Collier
County investigators began to suspect Ballard in the murders.
Investigators had examined hundreds of hairs and fingerprints found in the
apartment. One print on the frame of the couple's water bed - directly
above where Jones' body was found - belonged to Ballard.
They also examined six hairs found in Jones' hand. One had a bulb root on
it that allowed investigators to test it for DNA. It matched Ballard's
Before 1999 was over though, investigators had two more murders to solve -
both with connections to Ballard's sister, Karen Hoffman, 47.
In November 1999, Hoffman and her husband, Glenn Soos, were found in their
Naples home injured. Soos, who was terminally ill with cancer, had
suffered a blow to the head. Hoffman had cuts all over her body.
A friend found the couple and called 911.
"There is blood everywhere. You got to get here," yelled the woman into
the phone to 911. "Oh God, please hurry. . . . the one man has cancer and
he don't have long to live anyway. Jesus Christ."
Hoffman got on the phone with 911.
"Yes, my husband's going to go ahead and drive me," Hoffman said. "I went
to . . . and I hit my head.
"Okay and just you're hurt? No one else in there?"
"No, no one. My husband's going to drive me . . ."
12 hours later, though, Soos, 42, was dead at the hospital. His death was
ruled a homicide, but remains an open investigation. No one has been
The Collier Sheriff's Office declined to discuss the case. But the Naples
Daily News has reported that, "Hoffman was either not able or not willing
to provide details of the attack due to her mental state."
A month later on Dec. 24, 1999, a sports bar server who had lived with
Hoffman was found dead in her Naples home by her 6-year-old son.
Alberta Walsh, 36, had complained to co-workers about a man who was
stalking her. Like Patin, Jones and Soos, Walsh was beaten to death. The
case also remains unsolved.
Hoffman got probation. Ballard received a year in jail.
On May 30, 2001, Ballard was charged in the deaths of Jones and Patin. He
was still in jail on the drug charges.
A month later, the Collier County Sheriff's Office was calling Ballard a
suspect in the murders of Soos and Walsh, according to the Naples Daily
Ballard's trial began in April 2003.
Prosecutors had his hair and fingerprint. But defense lawyers argued that
Ballard was a regular visitor in Jones and Patin's apartment.
At issue: whether the arm hair found in Jones' hand had been forcibly
removed. Prosecutors argued that there was enough skin on it to show it
was, but defense lawyers said it could have simply come out by Ballard
brushing his arm against something.
The jury took 4 hours to convict Ballard, and recommended death, 9-3.
"It was the hair actually in the closed hand and the location of the
fingerprint," said Dianne Heenan, 59, a Naples retiree who was a juror in
Ballard's case. "We just felt as though it was pretty convincing, and it
was probably not from a previous visit, particularly the hair because it
was in her hand. ... There were a number of jurors who felt unequivocably
that he was guilty."
Ballard's family tried to save him. They talked about how he was neglected
as a child by a mother who had 6 children but was never there; how he was
raised by his 11-year-old sister; how as a toddler he ran away often from
day care, and then as he got older slept on convenience store roofs for
two days at a time. And how he had been physically abused and received no
medical care so that a neglected ear infection gave him permanent hearing
The judge sentenced Ballard to death.
The Florida Supreme Court's acquittal of Ballard was rare, something that
has happened perhaps just two other times in the past 30 years. He is the
26th prisoner to be released from death row since 1972.
Michael Orlando, Ballard's public defender, said he was a victim of
pressure. There was media scrutiny, tight security, a packed courtroom and
2 sets of families demanding justice.
"You're dealing with the intensity of the courtroom in this particular
case," Orlando said. "All these things tend to put a lot of pressure on
But Assistant State Attorney Michael Provost still thinks Ballard was
"I don't want to make it sound like sour grapes, but we thought we had
enough evidence to convict and the jury did, too," Provost said. "There
was one hair you could identify in that whole apartment and it happened to
be John Ballard's and it happened to show up in her hand. I don't think
that's probable unless he's a really unlucky guy. Same with the
Jones' and Patin's families agree.
"I don't understand how the Supreme Court could overrule a 12-person jury
that found him guilty and 9 out of 12 of them sentenced him to death,"
said Hazel Patin, Patin's mother in Orange, Texas.
The families are now watching to see whether Ballard is arrested in the
murders of Soos and Walsh. The Naples Daily News has reported over and
over that he is a suspect in those murders. One April 2003 article quoted
the Collier County sheriff's spokeswoman saying, "he does remain the
primary suspect in both. He has a direct tie with each victim." Other
articles have referred to him as a "suspected serial killer."
But last week, the Sheriff's Office denied making those statements. "I
don't think we ever called him a suspect in those murders," said the
current spokeswoman, Stephanie Spell.
Neither Ballard nor his family members could be reached for comments. They
have been lying low and trying to protect their brother from what they
think is "a witch hunt," Bonowitz said.
Heenan, the juror, said she still thinks the jury made the right decision
- even as she wonders at the Florida Supreme Court's ruling. "I liked
seeing how the whole justice system worked and yet in the end, it sort of
(source: St. Petersburg Times)
Hearing for new trial set amid twists, turns
While lawmakers debate broadening Mississippians' right to kill intruders,
Cory Maye is fighting to get off death row for shooting a Prentiss police
officer who raided his home.
On Jan. 23, 2004, a Marion County jury sentenced Maye to die by lethal
injection. Now, more than 2 years later, a hearing on whether Maye, now
25, deserves a new trial is set for June 20.
"I honestly believe there's been an injustice," said his new attorney, Bob
Evans of Monticello. "It's a tragedy no doubt that Officer Ron Jones lost
his life, but a double tragedy is that Cory, who wasn't out seeking
trouble, ends up on Mississippi's death row."
"The MSM (mainstream media) hasn't paid any attention to this story, but
it should. And I hope the Mississippi Supreme Court will be paying lots of
attention, too." - The Volokh Conspiracy
"This case is an interesting test of the power of the blogosphere. Though
the apparent injustice is two years old, it seems to have attracted
exactly zero attention in the mainstream media, at least according to a
Google News search for 'Cory Maye.'" - Mark Kleiman at Huffington Post
"I've witnessed a couple police raids, and they're noisy as all-get-out
.... It's kinda hard to believe that Maye would have been asleep through
all the racket, even before his door was kicked in." - flick100785 on
Public Eye at CBSNews.com
"Maye's case is an outrage. Prentiss, Mississippi, clearly violated Maye's
civil rights the moment its cops needlessly and recklessly stormed his
home in the middle of the night. The state of Mississippi is about to add
a perverse twist to that violation by executing Maye for daring to defend
himself." - Radley Balko on theagitator.com
Maye, who had no prior criminal record, testified he had fallen asleep in
the chair when officers raided his duplex the day after Christmas in 2001
in search of drugs. He had been watching his 18-month-old daughter while
his wife worked a late shift.
Officer Ron Jones lost his life in a 2001 drug raid gone wrong. But does
the death penalty for his shooter bring justice or compound the tragedy?
He testified he didn't hear police announce themselves, grabbed his
.380-caliber pistol and fired in self-defense.
But prosecutors say jurors didn't believe Maye's story, and neither should
After receiving a tip from a confidential informant regarding possible
drugs, the Pearl River Basin Narcotics Task Force raided the duplex where
Jamie Smith, 21, lived. The warrant listed his name, but not Maye's.
Assistant District Attorney Doug Miller said police knocked on Smith's
door and announced themselves. Miller said Smith surrendered to police,
and he was charged with sale of cocaine.
Miller said officers testified they saw a light turned on inside Maye's
duplex. Officers also testified they knocked on Maye's door and announced
themselves, but they got no answer.
Jones - a K9 officer who got the tip on the location of the drugs from a
confidential informant - assisted the task force by breaking down the door
into Maye's duplex.
Maye fired 3 bullets, one of which struck Jones just below his bulletproof
vest, killing him. According to testimony, Jones never removed his gun
from his holster.
Searching for drugs, authorities found only remnants from a marijuana
cigarette in Maye's duplex. Smith was charged but never prosecuted, Evans
said. He skipped bail and has never been found.
On the Internet, bloggers have turned Maye's case into a cause celebre.
Last December, Radley Balko, a policy analyst with the Cato Institute in
Washington and a biweekly columnist for FoxNews.com, stumbled upon the
case while doing research for a paper on paramilitary-style drug raids.
He wrote on his Web site, theagitator.com: "Maye's case is an outrage.
Prentiss, Mississippi, clearly violated Maye's civil rights the moment its
cops needlessly and recklessly stormed his home in the middle of the
night. The state of Mississippi is about to add a perverse twist to that
violation by executing Maye for daring to defend himself."
Soon, others took up the cause.
But prosecutors say bloggers are barking without the facts. "Most of the
information I've seen on the Internet is wrong," Miller said.
In his trial, Maye testified he fired because he was trying to protect his
daughter, but Miller said Maye "never explained why he put the baby on the
bed in front of him."
Prosecutors sought to discredit his self-defense argument by showing the
bullet that killed Jones was traveling downward. They told jurors this
suggested Maye was standing, not cowering in fear.
But Evans responded another bullet fired by Maye, found in the door frame,
was traveling upward. Depending on Jones' stance, Maye could have still
fired the gun from a crouched position, Evans said.
He also pointed to the autopsy report in which pathologist Dr. Steven
Hayne concluded the fatal wound was consistent with a "reentry wound."
Hayne explained that bullet wounds are typically round or oval in shape,
but if a bullet strikes another object first, that "reentry wound" can be
"My supposition is that it went through some other object (before striking
Jones)," he said.
Prosecutors said the bullet that killed Jones went through a can of Skoal
in his jacket pocket before striking him.
Miller said there's no indication the can caused the bullet to change
In requesting a new trial, Evans said Maye's trial should have been held
in Jefferson Davis County. His original attorney sought a change of venue,
and Circuit Judge Michael Eubanks moved the trial from Jefferson Davis
County (57-% black) to Lamar County (85-% white). Maye is black.
After Maye complained, Eubanks transferred the trial to Marion County
(67-percent white), Evans wrote. "This court erred when it refused to
allow (Maye) to assert his fundamental right to be tried in Jefferson
More than 4 years after the death of the well-liked officer, feelings
still run deep in Jefferson Davis County.
Evans, who serves as public defender in Jefferson Davis County, said he
lost his job as a public defender in Prentiss after he agreed to represent
Jones' father, then-Prentiss Police Chief Ronald Jones, stepped down after
his son's death. He would not comment on the case or Maye's attempt to get
a new trial, but has previously said, "The hurt will never go away."
In his filings in Jefferson Davis County, Evans said Maye's original
attorney, Rhonda Cooper of Jackson, failed to meet enough with her client
or to have expert witnesses testify. She said Friday she wasn't interested
in discussing the case.
Asked about this defense claim, Miller commented, "Whenever you're
convicted, it's your attorney's fault."
Maye's hearing for a new trial originally had been scheduled for last
month, but was postponed when a new law firm, Covington and Burling, with
offices in Washington, D.C., began to assist Evans.
"I've asked for additional time to let them learn the nuts and bolts of
what happened," Evans said. "The judge has graciously allowed us some
Miller said he sees no defense motion that demands a new trial, but said
deciding the matter is "the judge's job."
Under Mississippi law, people who believe intruders will do them "some
great personal injury" in their homes have the right to defend themselves.
Senate Bill 2426 and House Bill 882 now before the Legislature would
expand that right to include businesses, vehicles and place of employment.
Senate Bill 2426 has passed both chambers but was amended in the House.
For it to move forward, the House and Senate must agree on a compromise.
House Bill 882 is pending in the Senate.
Maye's grandmother, Mavis Brown of Silver Creek, said if she had faced
that situation, she would have pulled the trigger. "I would have done the
same thing if they broke my door down and didn't say, 'This is the
(source: Clarion Ledger)
The pro bono dilemma
Boston's lawyers pride themselves on the work they do for free. It's a way
for them to give back, and it's a major recruiting tool. But as top firms
cast an increasingly critical eye on the line between public service and
profit, some fear good will could end up lost in the balance.
Bingham McCutchen LLP readily boasts of the important legal work it does
for free: petitions on behalf of Guantanamo Bay detainees, death penalty
appeals, support for women's reproductive rights.
But for Bingham and Boston's other largest law firms, balancing pro bono
legal services with money-making work is a challenge. Retroactive to Dec.
1, according to a memo obtained by The Globe, Bingham soon will require
any lawyer who approaches 150 hours a year of pro bono work to meet with a
supervisor to discuss the ''scope" of those activities.
Senior partners at Bingham said the new guideline, which will create a
uniform pro bono policy following a merger, is a management "flag" meant
not to discourage pro bono work, but to ensure that its lawyers are
involved in projects that further their professional development.
"These check-ins are not going to be some big sit-down with someone
yelling at you," said Nora C. Cregan, chairwoman of the Bingham committee
helping to craft the new policy. "We're going to say, 'Tell me how this
case is going. Do you need help? Where do you expect to go from here? Are
you getting good experience?'"
Still, some associates at the firm, as well as lawyers elsewhere, said the
guideline could curb pro bono activities by suggesting a 150-hour cap on
work done by highly compensated attorneys that by definition doesn't
directly bring in revenue.
"There's a constant tension, no question," said David L. Ferrera, a
partner at Nutter McClennen & Fish LLP who co-chairs a pro bono committee
for the Boston Bar Association. The bar supports the Supreme Judicial
Court's "aspirational goal" that Massachusetts lawyers work at least 25
pro bono hours a year.
"We're a for-profit entity, and we're able to do pro bono work because
we're in business," Ferrera said. "But no one wants to be flagged if
you're an associate. It sends a message to attorneys, subliminal or
otherwise, that after some given amount of time pro bono clients are less
worthy of your work than paying clients."
Pro bono, which in Latin means "for the good," has long been a proud
tradition of the legal profession. It is rooted in a belief that because
lawyers are often among society's most highly paid and skilled
professionals, they should give back to the community. The principle is
reflected in a widely circulated cartoon in which one lawyer says to
another: "Remember, we can only afford to do all this pro bono work
because of how much the anti-bono pays."
Pro bono programs are also major recruiting tools, used to attract clients
and lure law school graduates.
At most firms, both junior and senior lawyers do pro bono work, but young
associates in particular tend to cherish it because it taps the idealism
that drew some of them to the profession. It also teaches valuable legal
skills they may be unlikely to get from paying clients early in their
careers, such as taking depositions and arguing appeals.
Oddly enough, pro bono work, which usually must be approved by a firm
before a lawyer takes it on, can also boost the pay of the lawyers who do
it. At most firms, billable hours are primarily how lawyers earn their
keep, and generally refer to hours billed to paying clients as well as
hours spent working for nonpaying clients.
At Bingham and many other big firms, associates are expected to bill
around 2,000 hours a year to be eligible for annual bonuses, and pro bono
hours can often count toward that goal.
The new policy at Bingham -- which handles local legal matters for The
Boston Globe -- is still among the most liberal, allowing unlimited hourly
credit for approved pro bono projects. Still, three Bingham associates
said it could put a chill on pro bono work but wouldn't allow their names
or comments to be used, saying they were concerned about workplace
The memo describing Bingham's planned policy tries to anticipate such a
reaction: "It is critical that folks understand that the intent of this
sit down is not to set a 'bar' or otherwise to deter attorneys from
performing pro bono hours; rather, its intent is merely to discuss with
the attorney the scope of the pro bono activities s/he has been performing
. . . and/or whether it is appropriate for the firm to get other attorneys
involved in a given matter."
"It's a delicate balance, because it's important to have senior attorneys
checking in to make sure pro bono representation is useful," said Robin A.
Dumas, a former Bingham lawyer who said she billed 400 to 500 pro bono
hours a year when she was there. Dumas left last year to become general
counsel for one of her former pro bono clients, Partners In Health, which
still receives pro bono services from Bingham.
"But people at a large firm where there's a lot of pressure to bill could
interpret that message in a negative light or as the point where you're
yanked off a case," Dumas said. "So the challenge for Bingham's management
is how it's going to play out in practice."
The American Bar Association does not require its members to do pro bono
work, but says all lawyers have a "professional responsibility" to provide
at least 50 pro bono hours a year.
Large law firms nationwide have increased their pro bono activities in
recent years, even among firms that did not increase headcounts and
despite competitive pressures that have spurred a trend toward
consolidation, according to Esther F. Lardent, president of the Pro Bono
Institute, a Washington, D.C., group that encourages firms to devote 3 or
5 % of their total hours to pro bono.
Bingham's new policy, which is still being drafted, attempts to meld
separate pro bono policies that have existed since the 2002 merger of the
Boston firm Bingham Dana and San Francisco's McCutchen, Doyle, Brown &
Bingham placed no limit on pro bono credit. McCutchen gave unlimited
credit only for what it called "impact" pro bono work, meaning
high-intensity cases that often require high numbers of hours.
Senior partners at Bingham, which has grown in recent years to nearly
1,000 lawyers, said the 150-hour marker is a tool to better manage
firmwide pro bono activity.
They noted that lawyers are already asked to touch base with a superior on
their pro bono work, and that work for paying clients is similarly
They also said the average Bingham lawyer did 85 hours of pro bono work in
2005, up from 47 hours in 2003 -- well below the 150 hours that would
cause pro bono work to be flagged.
Neil McGaraghan, a 7th-year Bingham associate who said pro bono work
accounted for 565 of his 2,215 billable hours last year, said he believes
the new policy will be constructive.
"I actually think the message that it's good to sit down and evaluate
whether or not your pro bono workload is furthering your professional
development is pretty positive," McGaraghan said.
(source: Boston Globe)
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