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Pro bono work leads to Animal Legal Defense Fund award

October 4, 2012 | Alumni

The Animal Legal Defense Fund conducted an investigation of a poorly-operated animal shelter located in Louisville, Ky., last year. The shelter, which was infested with mange and parvovirus, fed the animals food mixed with feces, and urine splayed across the shelter’s floor.

Junis Baldon ’09 took the lead on the case in representing ALDF on a pro bono basis. The group sued local officials under Kentucky’s animal rights statute, and Baldon negotiated a settlement with neighboring municipalities to work out a shared animal shelter agreement.

“When we finished the case, it was nice talking to the folks at the Animal Legal Defense Fund and seeing some results in our case. This was one of those cases where you actually see visible results,” Baldon said. “You actually got to see the change you were working toward.”

It was Baldon’s first animal rights case, and it earned him the 2011 Advancement in Animal Law Pro Bono Achievement Award from the ALDF. But for him, the case was merely an opportunity to practice in his favorite areas – constitutional and civil rights law. He said he was first turned onto those areas on a prospective student visit to The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. Baldon sat in on Professor Daniel Tokaji’s 14th Amendment lecture. As a 3L, he ended up taking the class at Moritz.

Currently an associate at Frost Brown Todd, LLC in Louisville, Ky., Baldon specializes in business litigation but admits of his practice, “I’m actually more interested in the constitutional law, civil rights area. The reason I like business litigation is because of the variety of disputes that I see.”

Baldon said he joined Frost Brown Todd for its pro bono commitment, something which he said satisfies his enjoyment for practicing his favorite areas of the law and his initial career sights of going into nonprofit work.

“For me to do pro bono work is not out of the ordinary. I do it as a way for me to get civil rights experience, constitutional law experience,” Baldon said. “I think I do enough pro bono work that I’m extremely satisfied at my firm.”

In addition to working with the ALDF, Baldon also actively does pro bono for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and American Civil Liberties Union.

In his second year of practice, Baldon took on a pro bono First Amendment case for the ACLU, which concerned the public display of the Ten Commandments and went to the United States Supreme Court. He wrote a portion of the brief in opposition for the case and won.

“Some people can practice a lifetime without having the opportunity of practicing in the Supreme Court,” he said with pride.

In another pro bono case for the ACLU, Baldon challenged a Kentucky campaign finance statute in federal court that limited school board candidates to receiving no more than $100 per individual donations. He wrote the briefs for the case, and the statute was declared unconstitutional.

Baldon said he handles four to five pro bono cases per year and takes his work one case at time. “They are few in numbers, but a lot of the cases are very significant,” he said.

“People view us as over-arching advisors, so it’s important for lawyers to take on a leadership role,” Baldon said. “I think as a lawyer you have an obligation to give back.”

This article was written by Sarah Pfledderer.