January 01, 2013

Launching the Special Committee on Public Service

Neil Johnston

Established during the 2012–2013 year, the Special Committee on Public Service will assist the Section and its committees implement, coordinate, and develop public service programs. The Special Committee will provide a centralized mechanism to collect information about existing public service programs, support Section members’ (and others’) participation in and development of innovative public service activities, structure, budget, and approval processes. The Special Committee will provide an organized conduit for interaction among all Section committees who are emphasizing public service and those who would like to do more.


I. THAT there are many established public service programs and materials that can be found the Section’s Public Service webpage, including the ABA-EPA Law Office Climate Challenge, which recognizes law offices that adopt one or more of the four component programs: best office paper management practices, EPA’s WasteWise Program, EPA’s Green Power Partnership Program, and EPA’s Energy Star Program. You can find the enrollment forms here.

II. THAT over 28 Section members, spouses, friends, law students, and staff participated in the public service project for the 20th Section Fall Meeting on Wednesday, October 10, 2012, at the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders (grades 6–12), an innovative institution in Austin, Texas.

As you can see, the participants, in cooperation with Keep Austin Beautiful, planted trees and improved the grounds as part of the Section’s One Million Trees Project to plant one million trees across the nation by 2014. To date, the Section has planted over 20,000 trees. With the support of the full ABA, one million may not be far from achievement.

III. THAT the Waste and Resource Recovery Committee sponsored a Stream Cleanup Public Service Project (kudos to co-chairs Deborah Tellier and Nandra Weeks) on Wednesday, October 10, 2012, in Austin’s Palm Park and Waller Creek during the 20th Section Fall Meeting.

IV. THAT the Section is now offering meeting attendees the opportunity to offset their carbon, with the funds going to plant trees and to renewable projects on tribal and farm lands. At the most recent Section Fall Meeting, 37 people elected to offset their carbon. At the prior Fall Meeting, in Indianapolis, our offsets went to the Iowa Farms Wind Project, in northern Iowa. This wind energy project will create 92,000 metric tons, verified carbon standard. Our offset partner is Native Energy.

V. THAT the Special Committee has also set up (so far) three project-specific subgroups to focus on those public service projects that you can join:

VI. THAT the American Bar Association has recently adopted the One Million Trees Public Service Project and is encouraging all ABA members to participate.

VII. THAT the Air Quality Committee recently held a One Million Trees event on November 3, 2012, at Swan Creek Park in Fitchburg, Wisconsin. For more information contact Phil Bower.

VIII. THAT YOU can participate. See the Public Service webpage for the Special Committee of Public Service chair and vice chairs contact information and other information.

Neil Johnston

Neil Johnston is a practice group leader at Hand Arendall in Mobile, Alabama, and the chair of the Special Committee on Public Service.