Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) today delivered the following statement on the House floor in support of the POWER Act (S. 717). The POWER Act encourages pro bono legal representation for survivors of domestic violence.
Chairman Goodlatte: Today I am pleased to be voting on S. 717, the “Pro bono Work to Empower and Represent Act of 2018” otherwise known as the ‘‘POWER Act.” The POWER Act directs that each year, the Chief Judge in each judicial district across the country hold at least one event, in partnership with domestic violence service providers or volunteer lawyer projects, to promote pro bono legal services for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Lawyers play a critical role in combating domestic violence. Not only do government prosecutors enforce criminal laws, but in the civil realm, lawyers may provide legal representation in matters such as civil protection order applications which ultimately help keep victims safe from their abusers. While victims are able to apply for these orders pro se, as this bill makes clear, legal representation increases the possibility of successfully obtaining a protective order against an attacker, which prevents further mental and physical injury to a victim and his or her family. One study has found that 83 percent of victims represented by an attorney were able to obtain a protective order, whereas only 32 percent of victims without an attorney were able to do so.
Federal courts already promote many pro bono programs in their judicial districts and have access to local attorneys who may be able to volunteer to work with domestic violence victims. This bill not only requires a public event in each federal judicial district for every year during a four-year period, it also requires an additional public event to be held every two years during the four-year period in districts that contain tribes or tribal organizations that specifically focus on encouraging pro bono legal services for Indian or Alaska Native victims of domestic violence.
I’d like to thank Senator Sullivan from Alaska for introducing this bill and shepherding it through the Senate and would like to thank Mr. Kennedy from the great commonwealth of Massachusetts for introducing this bill in the House. This is an extremely important issue and I hope it will make a real difference in increasing legal services to victims.
I urge my colleagues to support the POWER Act.
Thank you Mr. Speaker. I reserve the balance of my time.