The Louisiana State Bar Association recognized with prestigious Harrison Tweed Award

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(Pictured L to R): Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice John L. Weimer, 2022-23 LSBA President Stephen I. Dwyer, 2023-24 LSBA President Shayna L. Sonnier, and 2023-24 LSBA President-Elect Patrick A. Talley, Jr.

The Louisiana State Bar Association (LSBA) recently received the Harrison Tweed Award, a significant and important national honor, for its volunteer efforts to help impoverished citizens of our state with invaluable and needed legal services.

The LSBA was honored with the Harrison Tweed Award for its creation of innovative Legal Help Access Points. Made possible through a National Center for State Courts (NCSC) Justice for All grant, the Legal Help Access Points provide access to legal services in underserved areas of the state where civil legal in-person services and resources are further than a 45-minute drive. (The Louisiana Bar Foundation was the fiscal agent for the grant.) With assistance from local courts, public libraries, and non-profit community agencies, Harrisonburg, Lake Providence and Vidalia currently have access points. The LSBA’s Access to Justice Commission hopes to continue beyond the grant to establish access points throughout the state.

The Harrison Tweed Award recognizes the extraordinary achievements of state and local bar associations that develop or significantly expand projects or programs to increase access to civil legal services to persons living in poverty or criminal defense services to indigents, and is presented by the ABA’s Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defense (SCLAID) and the National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA).

“NLADA is honored to co-present this year’s Harrison Tweed Award to the Louisiana State Bar and the Louisiana Access to Justice Commission,” said Radhika Singh, Vice President, Civil Legal Services and Strategic Policy Initiatives for the National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA). “Harrison Tweed believed that legal aid was an obligation of the bar and essential to secure the success of the adversary system. Those of us who work to advance equal justice know that legal services are vital to securing justice and basic human needs, but remain inaccessible to so many. The efforts of the State Bar and Access to Justice Commission working together and partnering with others across to weave legal aid into the fabric of human services is an inspiration to all of us across the country.”

“The Justices of the Louisiana Supreme Court and I congratulate the Louisiana State Bar Association on being selected as the recipient of the 2023 Harrison Tweed Award,” said Chief Justice John L. Weimer. “I am immensely proud that the attorneys and staff of the Louisiana State Bar Association received this richly deserved significant national recognition. By establishing Legal Help Access Points in underserved areas of Louisiana, the LSBA continues to rightly and positively address access to justice issues faced by certain of our state’s citizens, utilizing technology and available resources to assist in ‘civil legal deserts’ to provide a starting point for legal help in those communities. This award appropriately publicly recognizes that Louisiana attorneys are dedicated to assisting the needy and less fortunate and ensuring that all have access to justice. This recognition underscores that our state’s attorneys voluntarily devote that which is irreplaceable, namely their time, training and talent, plus their financial support in doing so much for so many who have so little but such great needs,” Chief Justice Weimer added.

“The Supreme Court district from which I am elected contains the most economically depressed areas in the United States,” said Justice Jay B. McCallum. “It is encouraging that the people of this area have taken the lead in implementing this program for the benefit of their fellow man. We may be poor, but we are concerned and resourceful.”

“The LSBA’s commitment to ‘Serving the Public’ has been an ongoing, long-term goal. We are privileged and honored to have our access to justice work recognized by the ABA with the prestigious Harrison Tweed Award,” said 2022-23 LSBA President Stephen I. Dwyer.

“The Legal Help Access Points are the most recent demonstration of the LSBA’s promise to ensure access to justice. The ABA’s recognition of our access to justice work with the Harrison Tweed Award reassures us that these efforts are important and should continue,” commented 2023-24 LSBA President Shayna L. Sonnier.

The award was created in 1956 and was named for Harrison Tweed, an outstanding leader in the promotion of free legal services to the poor. Harrison Tweed served in many areas of public service, including as chairman of the legal aid committee of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York; and president of the Legal Aid Society of New York, the National Legal Aid & Defender Association, the New York City Bar Association, and the American Law Institute.

The LSBA was presented with the 2023 Harrison Tweed Award at the American Bar Association (ABA) Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado on August 4, 2023. The presentation took place during the annual joint luncheon of the National Conference of Bar Presidents, the National Association of Bar Executives and the National Conference of Bar Foundations.