"Prohibition on the requirement of donation of professionalservices": Keeping Voluntary, Voluntary
March 15, 1999Issue Backgrounder
: House Bill 1301 forbids the state government from forcing licensed professionals(such as doctors, lawyers, and architects) to donate their services for free.
The Colorado Constitution:
The Colorado Constitution: Forcing someone to work for someoneelse, for free, is "involuntary servitude," which is outlawed by the Thirteenth Amendment of theU.S. Constitution, and the Article II,section 26 of the Colorado Constitution. The ColoradoConstitution allows "slavery or involuntary servitude" only "as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted." Receiving a license to practice law or medicine is notthe same as being convicted of a crime; therefore, imposing involuntary servitude on doctors,lawyers, and other professionals violates the Constitution.
Honest Language: HB 1301 is brief, less than a hundred words, and if passedwould, unlike so many other laws, help keep the English language clear and honest. The word"voluntary" would continue to mean "voluntary" here in Colorado.Last year, Colorado Supreme Court considered imposing mandatory pro bono on lawyers. Butmandatory pro bono would be an abuse of the Supreme Courts authority to regulate the legal profession. Passage of HB 1301 would be a timely reminder that words do have real meanings.Just as "voluntary" means "voluntary," rather than "coerced," the Colorado Supreme Courts power to "make and promulgate rules" means the power to regulate attorney behavior, not toconscript lawyers into involuntary servitude.
Policy Issues: While the language of HB 1301 encompasses all regulated professions, the impetus behind it has been the push from a strong minority on Judicial AdvisoryCouncil (which came within 1 vote of a majority) that the State Supreme Court require lawyers to"donate" a minimum hours of legal work to the poor. Or pay $1,000 in lieu of the "pro bono"service.The mandatory lawyer servitude proposal some practical flaws, such as: How would such a rule be enforced? What about regular clients who dont pay, and the attorney continues hisrepresentation? Would that count? Doesnt the fact of compulsion obliterate the whole concept of
?When one reads the Advisory Councils report, three things become evident: The Council isconcerned with cutbacks in federal and state funded legal aid; the Council looks to an increase in pro bono
activity (including mandatory pro
) to fill the gap; and the Council profoundly