Richard Zorza once wrote that, after his death, he would continue to blog from hell. I would not be surprised if Richard, who died April 13 at the age of 69, is still blogging somewhere, but I am quite certain it isn’t hell.
On my short list of must-read blogs, Richard’s Access to Justice Blog was at the top. Since 2010, he wrote there about access to justice — and about the use of legal technology to enhance access to justice — with the passion and insight that reflected his more than 25 years of advocacy for A2J.
A prolific writer, it was only natural that, when he was diagnosed with cancer several years ago, he started the Richard Zorza’s Health Updates Blog to keep his friends updated on his medical situation. His last post there, on March 31, was poignantly titled, Maybe Moving Towards the End, I Fear.
Two weeks later, his wife Joan Zorza and stepson Arloc Sherman posted news of his death. He wanted everyone to know, they wrote, that he was profoundly thankful to everyone for the support given to him and for the support given to “the many individuals who lack access to justice in a number of ways.”
Richard was a Harvard Law School graduate who devoted his career to public service work. Early in his career, he was a public defender and legal services attorney. In 2005, he was the driving force behind the founding of the Self-Represented Litigation Network, an organization devoted to ensuring due process and equal protection for self-represented litigants.
One measure of Richard’s impact over the years is the many honors he received. Among them:
- In 2014, the American Bar Association honored him for lifetime achievement with its Louis M. Brown Award for Legal Access. “Since the 1990s,” the ABA said, “he has been a catalyst for discussion, analysis and scrutiny of our system of justice and the way it treats those who turn to it for relief.”
- In 2014, the Conference of Chief Justices and Conference of State Court Administrators recognized him with a resolution honoring his “unfailing commitment to improving the state courts of this nation.”
- In 2014, the National Center for State Courts presented Richard with its Distinguished Service Award for having made a significant contribution to the justice system and enhancing access to justice, especially for self-represented litigants.
- In 2012, the ABA and the National Legal Aid and Defender Association presented him with its Innovations in Equal Justice Award.
The most recent honor came just a few weeks before his death. On March 25, the Legal Services Corporation passed a resolution honoring Richard “for his devotion to making the promise of justice in America real, for his thought leadership in using technology to advance access to justice, and for his invaluable collaboration with LSC over the past fifteen years.”
For those curious to learn more about Richard, visit zorza.net, where there is a catalog of his writings and the blogs to which he contributed. His wife Joan — also a lawyer and lifelong advocate, particularly for women and victims of domestic violence and sexual assault — says that Richard’s blogs will remain online through the end of 2019.
It says something about Richard that in 2016, well into his cancer treatment, he launched yet another blog, this one devoted to politics and humor. He was spurred, he wrote in his first post, by a May 3, 2016, Washington Post editorial that said:
Someday, everyone involved in American politics will be called upon to account for his or her behavior during Mr. Trump’s run for the White House.
Richard’s contributions stand up to any accounting — not just during the Trump era, but for some four decades.
Richard’s last update to his Access to Justice Blog was published Jan. 1. I’m sad that there won’t be more of his posts to look forward to, but thankful for the inspiration he provided me and many others and for all he did to further access to justice and, to that end, wider use of technology.