by Rob Taylor Jr.
Courier Staff Writer
Black History has been made once again.
Entering into the spotlight for such a distinction this time is attorney Barbara Griffin, a Washington, Pa., native and current Squirrel Hill resident who recently became the Chair of the Pennsylvania Lawyers Fund for Client Security Board. Griffin was appointed Chair on Jan. 19 by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
She’s the first woman and first African American to hold the position.
Griffin was originally nominated for a position on the board by Pa. Supreme Court Justice Debra Todd.
The Pennsylvania Lawyers Fund for Client Security was established by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in 1982 to reimburse clients who had suffered a loss as a result of a misappropriation of funds by their Pa. attorney, the organization’s website said. Examples of such instances include an attorney accepting a retainer from a client, then not doing any work or returning it, or an attorney representing a client, reaching a settlement, then keeping the money rather than giving it to the client.
In the organization’s mission statement, the Pa. Lawyers Fund for Client Security strives to “preserve the integrity and protect the good name of the legal profession, and to promote public confidence in the legal system and the administration of justice” in the state.
The organization’s board members total seven, all volunteers, comprised of five lawyers and two non-lawyers. Board members hold three-year terms and can serve for a maximum of six years. Griffin was named to the board in Feb. 2018, and now holds the title as Chair.
The Pa. Lawyers Fund for Client Security is funded by members of the Pa. Bar through an annual fee which each Pa. licensed lawyer must pay in order to keep their law license active, according to the organization’s website. Of the $225 annual fee each lawyer must pay, the Pa. Lawyers Fund for Client Security is allotted $60.
In a statement, Griffin said she is “honored to do this work on behalf of the citizens of Pennsylvania. The Lawyers Fund for Client Security is crucial part of our legal system that helps protect those who have been wronged by attorneys they trusted to represent them.”
Griffin’s other high-profile position is Director of the Allegheny County Bar Foundation’s Pro Bono Center, where she creates, manages and supports programs that provide free legal services to individuals and families classified as low-income that are facing legal issues. Many of those legal issues threaten the person’s basic human needs.
Some of the organizations that the Pro Bono Center partners with include: Christian Legal Aid of Pittsburgh; Education Law Center; Neighborhood Legal Services; Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council (Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts); Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force; and “Save Your Home” Mortgage Foreclosure Conciliation Project.
“As Director of the Allegheny County Bar Foundation’s Pro Bono Center since 2007, Barbara Griffin has established an impeccable reputation for integrity and public service,” Justice Todd said, in a statement to the Courier. “This is why I was happy to nominate her in 2018 for appointment to the Pennsylvania Lawyers’ Fund for Client Security Board. Based on her outstanding commitment and performance as a member and Vice Chair of that Board, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has now appointed her as the incoming Chair. I am confident that this important board will accomplish great things under her stewardship.”
Although she began her career in private practice at both large and small law firms, Griffin has mostly been a public interest lawyer, according to a release from the Allegheny County Bar Association. Griffin served as an Assistant Attorney General for the state of Texas, where she provided general counsel to the agency and wrote advisory opinions on a wide range of issues. She worked for the Texas House of Representatives, writing reports and summaries of legislative developments on public policy issues for state legislators. Griffin also served as a law clerk to the Hon. Eugene Strassburger in the Civil Division of the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas.
In 2018, the accomplished Griffin was named the Tanya Niemen Pro Bono Professional of the Year by the National Association of Pro Bono Professionals. The Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network, Inc., named Griffin winner of the 2017 Excellence Award, which recognizes exceptional individuals who have demonstrated excellence in their efforts to expand access to justice for those who have nowhere else to turn for help when facing critical legal problems, the ACBA said.
Griffin is a member of the ACBA, Pa. Bar Association and Pa. Civil Legal Justice Coalition. She served on the 2011 PBA Task Force on the Interbranch Juvenile Justice.
Griffin earned her J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law in 1991, where was as an Executive Editor of the Texas Law Review. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Foreign Service from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
Griffin, who’s married with three children, currently is an Associate Professor at Duquesne University School of Law, teaching the Civil Rights Clinic. There, she works with students on cases involving employment discrimination, criminal records expungement and pardons.