We may already be into February, but it’s never too late for a resolution—especially when it involves access to justice.

Here I share my editor’s column from the January 2015 Arizona Attorney Magazine. You can read the entire (terrific!) issue here.

Kevin Ruegg (left) and Lillian Johnson were honored at a November 2014 Morris Institute for Justice event.

Kevin Ruegg (left) and Lillian Johnson were honored at a November 2014 Morris Institute for Justice event.

 

Are you a big advocate of New Year’s Resolutions?

Me either. But a recent event has me rethinking my position.

In late November, a parade of respected lawyers and judges gathered to laud some folks who have offered tremendous service to the legal profession, and to those who rely on it. Through their incredible contributions, the two individuals also have served the cause of increasing access to justice—even through the toughest of times.

Kevin Ruegg, of the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services & Education, and Lillian Johnson, of Community Legal Services, were the people recognized that night at the University Club in Phoenix. And the kind and accurate words offered in their praise highlight our good fortune in Arizona. But they also highlight the unmet need (and our shared 2015 resolution; more on that soon).

The assembled speakers were luminaries themselves, and they called themselves privileged to be asked to praise the two women.

Judge Joe Kreamer said that they care deeply about those who require legal services—and just as deeply about those sitting in front of them or working in their offices.

Judge Kreamer told listeners how Lillian is committed to the collaborative aspects of access to justice, and attorney Marc Kalish added, “Anyone who has ever served on the CLS board ends his or her service with one emotion: love.”

I think it can safely be said that is a rare characteristic indeed of board service.

Of Kevin Ruegg, Todd Lang said, “She’s a healer for our community and for her staff. She has made a difference in so many ways.”

It is accurate, I believe, to apply an element of Todd’s praise to Kevin, Lillian and Ellen Katz, Executive Director of the William E. Morris Institute for Justice: They are “among the special heroes for justice.” (Todd brought smiles when he described the passionate but mild-mannered Katz as “relentless and remorseless.”)

That night, we also heard remarks from Chief Justice Scott Bales, Judge Larry Winthrop, and Judge Roxanne Song Ong (who said she headed up the “Kevin Ruegg Fan Club”).

So what do we take away from the fact that two of the most humble but hardest-working people in Arizona were honored?

For that—our Resolution—I turn to Todd Lang.

He reminded everyone that those who gathered that night had already given much. The room was filled with folks committed to legal aid, and access to justice, and legal education. Badgering those people to do more is probably not the solution.

Perhaps you fall within one of those esteemed groups. If so, thank you. But if not, digging deep and giving what you can to a legal aid organization can make a tremendous difference. And for both groups, you may still have a Resolution to offer: As Todd said, “Get your friend to give.” That’s right, commit to becoming an unabashed advocate for access to justice issues. Decide today that you will become a royal pain to colleagues and friends in 2015, the one they can count on to beat that lonely drum.

You never know; you may start a band.