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Birmingham Bar Association Bulletin Fall 2016

President’s Message Robert P. MacKenzie, III From the President It was the early morning of Saturday, July 23rd, when they first started to arrive at Boutwell Auditorium. Men and women of all ages, from all parts of Jefferson County and all walks of life, stood side by side. They had two things in common. They were homeless, and they needed help. Welcome to Project Homeless Connect. By the time the doors opened at 8:00 a.m., the line stretched for over a block. Once inside and for the next eight hours, people found the services which we probably all take for granted. There were doctors, dentists, optometrists, and even barbers, along with a place to obtain a State ID card and information about where to sleep at night. And yes, lawyers were there. Over 50 current and former judges, lawyers, and law students volunteered under the leadership of Nancy Yarbrough and Lisa Borden to help those who needed help most. The lawyers at Boutwell represented diverse practices – plaintiff and defense, solo and big firm, transactional and public defenders -- all who took their day off to assist these men and women in need. We heard stories unlike any from most clients we have ever represented. Some told stories like Chris, in his early 30’s, and living at the Firehouse Shelter. Chris had been so captive to a heroin addiction that he “stole” his own dishwasher out of his house while his wife was away so he could sell it to satisfy his habit. After borrowing a friend’s car, Chris was stopped and ticketed because the car did not have proper lighting. Chris had no means to pay the fine and “decided” he did not want to attend the hearing. The failure to appear plus the fines led to Chris’ driver’s license being suspended. Without a license, Chris had no valid identification. Chris lost his job, “... the measure of success for our Bar has been and will always be how we protect the rights of others and make their lives better.” his family, and their home. Now Chris was sitting at a table across from two volunteer lawyers describing his plight. The lawyers listened, acted, and within a couple of hours, Chris’ life had been changed. The warrants for his arrest had been withdrawn, a reasonable payment plan was in place for the ticket, and appropriate identification was in his pocket. Chris walked out of Boutwell with prospects for a new job, home, and life thanks to the work of Birmingham lawyers. I share this real life story with you for one reason. As you continue to read the President’s Message outlining how our Bar is doing, there will be mention of building improvements, increased economic value for our members, and lots of fun social gatherings. All of these are important, and you should be as proud as I am of our progress. Yet, I am reminded that the measure of success for our Bar has been and will always be how we protect the rights of others and make their lives better. There could be no better example of our success than the work that was done by our members on July 23rd. The summer has been busy, and thanks to the hard work of many people, we continue to make progress in multiple areas. The Task Force on Building Improvements led by Bruce Rogers remains focused on the best use of our building. The first stage of construction was the Noojin Courtyard, and it has now been completed. A re-dedication was held on June 29th and attended by over 200 friends and family of Ronnie Noojin. Leon Ashford provided a warm welcome and told fond stories about Ronnie. The event exemplified the fellowship that Ronnie brought to others. As it was intended, the Courtyard will remain a place for us to enjoy each other’s company, and it is being put to good use. Over the summer, several Sections and Committees held their meetings and social gatherings there. With a stage and audio equipment, chairs, coolers, and fans, the 8 Birmingham Bar Association


Birmingham Bar Association Bulletin Fall 2016
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