A Message from Jo-Ann Wallace: Thank You

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Thank you for being a part of a community that is bound together by a commitment to the values of justice and equality. These are our guiding principles, foundational to our work and cherished in our personal lives. The recent election campaign was deeply unsettling because it directly challenged these values, elevating a discourse of divisiveness and prejudice that is diametrically opposed to our ideals. We must now prepare to face many of these same voices in shaping national law and policy. Our resistance to these voices must be resolute. If campaign rhetoric becomes political reality, it is our clients who will suffer first and suffer most. We are advocates for our country’s poorest – those most threatened by widening economic inequality, and for our country’s most marginalized – those who most rely on protections from discrimination and constitutional safeguards. We all understand the scale of what is at stake for both of these constituencies, and we know what we need to do.

NLADA exists to protect and advance equal justice in America. We support a national community of advocates who serve individuals and families throughout our country when they need help to retain and obtain basic necessities such as a place to live, adequate health care, education, safety from physical abuse, and freedom from being unjustly incarcerated. This support means fighting to preserve and expand the resources necessary for civil legal aid and indigent defense advocates so they can continue to provide effective counsel to individuals and families to defend their basic rights without regard to where they live, their socioeconomic status, race, gender identity, or sexual orientation. It means reforming laws that unjustly and ineffectively use incarceration to address social problems. Most importantly, it means hearing, representing, and responding to the clients and communities who seek our assistance.

For more than a century, NLADA has stood with this community as advocate and as counsel. I and the staff of NLADA pledge that we will only stand taller going forward. We have weathered storms before, and we have never been so well positioned to do so again. We have been preparing for a moment like this, building partnerships and alliances with those who believe in our cause on both sides of the political aisle, and in peer organizations, the business community, and the private bar. We are ready to amplify your voice to demonstrate that legal aid and public defense are basic necessities that are fundamental to the promise of justice upon which our nation was founded – a promise that this community exists to realize.

Our world has changed. We are committed to facing new challenges, but we cannot do it alone. We will need each and every one of you to actively participate in the urgent work ahead, and in the coming weeks and months we will be asking for your help. We must not back down. We must continue to fight to defend our unifying principle: justice for all.