Everyone deserves equal access to justice. At Bradley, we are forceful proponents of the ethical obligation to help address unmet legal needs of indigent individuals and charitable institutions. Our commitment to pro bono service in the communities where our lawyers live and practice is of vital importance to our attorneys and staff.
Accordingly, we expect our lawyers to spend a significant amount of time on pro bono work and community service. In support of our commitment, Bradley attorneys and staff performed more than 19,800 hours of pro bono service valued at more than $7 million in 2018. The firm also donated more than $900,000 to nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations.
Among the many areas where our pro bono program supports people and groups in need of legal representation are death penalty cases, adoptions, evictions, human rights, privacy rights, prisoner rights, services for people in recovery from addiction, representation of start-up charitable nonprofits, and intellectual property work for low-income inventors, artists and entertainers.
A number of Bradley attorneys have received industry recognition for their pro bono service. Most recently, Bradley has received the following honors:
As part of serving our communities, we are the only Alabama-based firm that is a challenge member of the Law Firm Pro Bono Project of the Pro Bono Institute (PBI). Challenge member firms commit at least 3 percent of their hours to charitable work. As a signatory to PBI’s Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®, our firm has publicly demonstrated its commitment to pro bono work and access to justice.
The Douglas Arant Public Interest Fellowship, named after a founding partner who helped imbue the firm with its dedication to community service, offers Bradley summer associates the opportunity to work with public service organizations of their choice, subject to the approval of the firm’s Pro Bono Committee. Some of the worthy organizations that have been approved as partners in our fellowship program include the Southern Poverty Law Center, Equal Justice Initiative of Alabama (death penalty representation) and Legal Services of Alabama. Fellowship recipients work a minimum of six weeks at a Bradley office and at least four weeks for their chosen organizations while still being compensated by the firm.
Douglas Arant was known for his good judgment, tenacity and overall ability, and he maintained notable civic and charitable commitments throughout the state. Upon learning of Mr. Arant’s death, Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr., of the United States Supreme Court noted that “apart from being a distinguished lawyer with a national reputation, he was a superb human being.” We believe this fellowship keeps these sterling characteristics alive.
Bradley has a long history of representing individuals on death row, particularly in Alabama, which has unique death penalty challenges and the highest death sentence rate in the country. Alabama is also the only state where judges override jury recommendations of life without parole.
Bradley is currently representing 21 death row prisoners and annually devotes more than 1,000 pro bono hours to death penalty work. Over the years, we have had four clients removed from death row.
One recent case involved Clemente Aguirre, formerly an inmate on Florida’s death row, who was convicted and sentenced to death in 2006 for two murders he did not commit. Aguirre, a Honduran immigrant and the victims’ neighbor, was arrested after he told authorities that he found the stabbed bodies and voluntarily gave police the clothes he had been wearing, which were stained by the victims’ blood.
Despite Aguirre’s consistent claim of innocence, his appointed trial counsel never viewed the evidence, hired experts or investigated other suspects. After Aguirre’s conviction, newly discovered DNA evidence – buttressed by new forensic expert testimony – not only excluded Aguirre but also pointed strongly toward another suspect.
After the trial court denied Aguirre’s motion for a new trial, the Innocence Project asked Bradley to represent Aguirre before the Florida Supreme Court, which unanimously reversed Aguirre’s convictions and ordered a new trial. At Aguirre’s request, Bradley stayed on for his retrial.
In preparation for the new trial, Bradley developed additional exculpatory evidence and impeachment evidence against the State’s witnesses. On the eve of opening statements for the new trial, prosecutors announced they were dismissing all charges against our client. This sudden dismissal reflected Aguirre’s innocence and the legal team’s unwavering five-year resolve to set him free. Aguirre was immediately released and is now a free man.
In recognition of our pro bono work, Bradley received an Exceptional Service Award from the American Bar Association (ABA) Death Penalty Project in 2012.
Scott E. Adams, a partner in our Birmingham office, donated over 1,000 hours in 2013 and 2014 in serving a one-year commitment as a Fellow with the International Justice Mission (IJM) in Uganda. IJM is a human rights agency that seeks to rescue people victimized by horrendous abuses such as slavery, sexual exploitation, land grabbing, and other forms of violent oppression. Often, bereaved widows and orphans in Uganda have powerful neighbors, or even relatives, who take their homes and farmland through force or deception, leaving the victims not only homeless but also unable to support themselves even by subsistence farming. Through his work, Scott helped Ugandan attorneys prosecute land grabbers and helped local courthouses organize land records so property rights could be enforced. Because he could not appear in court, his help focused on writing appellate briefs, analyzing and investigating cases, and organizing courthouse records so they might be searched and used to enforce legal rights.