Don’t paint all lawyers in Valley with the same corruption brush

Don’t paint all lawyers in Valley with the same corruption brush

As a Youngstown resident, I have become increasingly frustrated with the news reports involving wayward attorneys. Within just a few days Judge Belinky left the bench while under state investigation, and prominent Trumbull County attorney and past prosecutor Robert Johnson was ordered to stop practicing law for failing to answer allegations that he mismanaged client funds.

Lawyers are commonly perceived as being corrupt and greedy and, unfortunately, recent events are feeding that perception. But we should not let the misdeeds of a few Mahoning Valley attorneys skew our perception of the many hard- working and civic-minded lawyers practicing in our region.

Without lawyers, access to justice would be severely curtailed. Lack of access is a serious problem for our legal system. People who lack access to affordable legal services are often left with no justice at all.

The Trumbull County public defender’s office attempts to fill this void by providing legal representation to the indigent in criminal matters. In Mahoning County, judges provide court-appointed counsel for indigent people who face jail time.

Community Legal Aid, which serves Trumbull and Mahoning counties, consists of a community of lawyers and volunteers who help to ensure that the civil legal needs of the indigent are cared for. It is important to note that legal counsel is a constitutional right for criminal defendants facing a loss of liberty, but not in civil matters. As an underfunded nonprofit organization, Community Legal Aid is able to help many, but cannot possibly help every qualified person with a legal need.

In addition to the work of the public defenders, court appointed counsel, and Community Legal Aid, most lawyers provide free or reduced fee services to the indigent or organizations that serve the indigent. The results of a scientific poll published by the American Bar Association in 2013 stated that 80 percent of attorneys provided some free or reduced- fee services to people of limited means.

Lawyers are, in large part, decent people who have dedicated their lives to serving others through the law. Lawyers as a whole should not be judged by the acts of a few bad eggs.

Keith Larew, Youngstown

Keith Larew is a second-year student at the University of Akron School of Law.