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Joint Statement from the Office of the District Attorney, the Bar Association of San Francisco, and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights in Regards to Recent Commentary on Homelessness


May 19, 2008
-- In response to recent commentary on homelessness, the Office of the District Attorney, The Bar Association of San Francisco, and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights (LCCR) emphasize that we share a common perspective.

We strongly disagree with the notion that volunteer lawyers in legal matters involving homeless defendants are barriers to justice or dangerous to their clients' well-being. Our judicial system depends on the active engagement of lawyers in the process. Lawyers who donate their time and expertise to represent homeless people facilitate justice, not impede it. Moreover, volunteer attorneys provide millions of dollars worth of legal services to homeless and impoverished individuals and families in San Francisco, every year assisting hundreds of the City's poorest residents to access government benefits, housing and services. We therefore reject the suggestion that the LCCR, or any lawyer, could in any way be responsible for a homeless person's death as a result of their successful legal representation.

The solution to homelessness does not lie within the criminal justice system. Neither the Court nor the District Attorney currently has the ability to connect homeless defendants directly to services or ensure that services are available. Moving forward, we are jointly committed to working with the Courts and the City to change this, so that homeless defendants can be effectively connected with services that will help bring them out of homelessness. We look forward to working collaboratively in the coming months to improve the current Court process.

Read the Editorial by VLSP Executive Director Tiela Chalmers and Oren Sellstrom, Interim Executive Director of Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area.


The Bar Association of San Francisco (BASF) is a nonprofit voluntary membership organization of over 8,000 attorneys, law students and legal professionals in the Bay Area. Founded in 1872, BASF is one of the largest and most dynamic metropolitan bar associations in the U.S., with a long and distinguished record of community action, public service and service to the legal profession.

Questions about media relations, BASF issues currently in the news, San Francisco Attorney magazine, marketing and communications:

Contact:
Ann Murphy, Director of Communications & Public Relations
Email:
amurphy@sfbar.org
Phone:
(415) 782-9000 x8792

For general communications inquiries:

Contact:
Sayre Happich, Assistant Director of Communications & Public Relations
Email:
shappich@sfbar.org
Phone:
(415) 782-9000 x8104