Our Firm's Long-Term and Ongoing Commitment to Pro Bono and Community Service
Sutherland initiated a long and distinguished commitment to pro bono and community service with our founding partners, Bill Sutherland and Elbert Tuttle. Tuttle took Johnson v. Zerbst to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1938. The case established that in the absence of a competent and intelligent waiver, the Sixth Amendment right to counsel in a criminal matter is absolute, and that a conviction obtained without counsel in such circumstances is void. Tuttle and Sutherland also represented Angelo Herndon, an African-American communist organizer who had been convicted of an “attempt to incite insurrection” in violation of Georgia law when he attempted to pass out communist literature on the Atlanta post office steps. After lengthy court fights, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the Georgia statute unconstitutionally vague and Herndon was freed from his sentence of 18 years on a chain gang.
The tradition of community service that Sutherland, Tuttle and their colleagues began continues today through the efforts of our many lawyers and staff who provide civic leadership and pro bono legal representation to individuals and institutions within our communities. We are proud that the pro bono and community service activities in which we engage are self-directed efforts of the lawyers and staff who choose to become involved, and that the firm provides strong encouragement for these activities. While our pro bono projects and cases provide significant training for our lawyers, are helpful in recruiting excellent lawyers for whom pro bono work is important, and give us favorable exposure in high profile matters, our commitment to pro bono and community service work derives primarily from our sense of professional obligation. The enormous legal needs of the poor would be unmet if lawyers like us did not help. Our lawyers are deeply gratified to be able to make positive differences in people’s lives.
Whom Do We Serve?
The majority of our pro bono work over the past four years includes death penalty cases, property law, work for non-profit charitable organizations, civil rights, habeas corpus, criminal appeals, immigration and asylum appeals, trafficking litigation, affordable housing, public benefits, domestic violence cases, child custody disputes, wills and probate. A representative list of organizations through which we provide pro bono legal services includes:
- Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
- Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs
- Atlanta Legal Aid Society
- Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation
- Georgia Legal Services Program
- DC Bar Pro Bono Program
- Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta
- Lawyers Alliance for New York
- State Bar of Georgia Fee Arbitration Program
- Bread for the City (DC)
- Georgia Asylum and Immigration Network
- Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program
- New York Lawyers for the Public Interest
- Georgia State University Tax Clinic
The firm also sponsors, in various legal service organizations, Equal Justice Works fellows with whom lawyers in the firm often participate in pro bono projects.