'I didn't know anyone was watching': Wagner wins Tobias Simon Pro Bono Service Award. (Florida Lawyers).
Instead of cowing him into accepting the social norms of the day, the incident ignited a passion for social justice within Maurice Wagner that burns to this day.
For more than half a century, Wagner, 80, has been a crusader for civil rights by taking on the cause of those who do not have the financial resources to pay for legal representation.
"The overriding theme of his career became the quest for equal rights and he is still working on it today," said Chief Justice Charles Wells, who presented Wagner the 2002 Tobias Simon Pro Bono Service Award -- the profession's highest honor -- during a special ceremony at the Supreme Court.
"I started back in 1950 and here we are 52 years later," said Wagner, in most likely the shortest acceptance speech in the history of the Simon Award. "I didn't know anyone was watching."
Also honored during the ceremony March 14 was the Miami firm of Markowitz, Davis, Ringel & Trusty, which received the Chief Justice's Law Firm Commendation, and the Jacksonville Bar Association, which won the court's Voluntary Bar Association Pro Bono Service Award.
A lawyer from each circuit also was honored with The Florida Bar President's Pro Bono Service Awards, and Lawrence H. Kolin received the Young Lawyers Division Legal Aid Public Service Award for his work as a guardian ad litem.
Chief Justice Wells told the award recipients it is they "who are carrying out on a daily basis the promise that each of us who are lawyers have made -- and that is the promise of justice for all."
Wells said since 1845 the Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized that the practice of law is a privilege that carries with it certain responsibilities and obligations, including providing access to the justice system to those who could otherwise not afford it.
"Too often we read and hear statements disparaging our legal system in general and lawyers in particular," the Chief Justice said. "Yet, despite an all too prevalent public perception to the contrary, you and I know that our profession is unselfish."
Wells noted that in 2000 Florida's lawyers provided $1.2 million worth of pro bono work and contributed another $1.6 million in cash contributions to legal aid organizations. That, he said, is in addition to the "many more hours" of volunteer work lawyers provide in their communities.
Bar President Terry Russell said the award recipients are role models for the profession because they lead by example.
"Today is a day of celebration," Russell said. "Today we honor special people; we honor lawyers that care. Lawyers who share a passion and commitment to access to justice for those less fortunate."
One of Wagner's earliest experiences as a law clerk in Miami was having the honor of actually working with Tobias Simon on a beach access case. Though they were unsuccessful in removing the barriers in that case, the experience was one Wagner said he never forgot. He attributes his work with Simon as part of his lifelong commitment to pro bono.
Wagner's wife, Fay, said her husband's passion for helping others took root during the early days of the civil rights movement when he "saw injustice and wanted to correct it." She said growing up poor also contributed to his calling to assist those less fortunate than himself.
Jeffery Wagner, his son, said he takes on the causes of others because it is the right thing to do. "He has a great sense of right and wrong and pursues justice the right way," he said.
"In the last 20 years I really haven't done anything except pro bono work," Wagner said after the ceremony, adding that he is currently representing a small farmer trying to save his 10-acre orange grove. "I'm always available."
Admitted to The Florida Bar in 1950, Wagner settled in Volusia County, where he quickly became known as a advocate for minority clients without the financial resources to pay for legal representation. In the 1950s, Wagner represented anyone who came to him for assistance whether they could afford to pay for his services or not, including the late Mary McLeod Bethune and Bethune-Cookman College. Wagner worked closely with Bethune-Cookman faculty member Alvis Lee on civil rights matters.
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Wagner handled all of the NAACP local chapter organization and legal documentation, and worked with the organization in its efforts to release jailed civil rights protesters. In the 1960s, Wagner became a lifetime NAACP member and continues to serve the local NAACP.
In 1957, Wagner represented a client in Brevard County who had lost her husband in a jailhouse fire because no staff was on the scene when the fire broke out. The man had no way to escape the flames and smoke. As a result of his efforts, Wagner was successful in changing Florida state law in a landmark stare decisis ruling. (Hargrove v. Town of Cocoa Beach, 96 So. 2d 130).
In addition to his pro bono work with various clients and the NAACP, Wagner has made himself available to Central Florida Legal Services' pro bono endeavors in whatever capacity his services are needed. He has represented CFLS clients and provided brief advice at legal advice clinics since the CFLS Pro Bono Program began in 1966. He continues to meet with clients and provide brief services at the CFLS legal advice clinics in DeLand.
Wagner said young lawyers should make time for pro bono work because "it will give them a lot of satisfaction that you don't get when you get a fee."
Wagner also said he has no plans to rest on his laurels.
"I'm going to do this right on," he said. "I'm always on call and I'm glad to do it."
RELATED ARTICLE: Pro Bono Awards.
THE LAW FIRM COMMENDATION
Presented by Chief Justice Charles Wells
The purpose of the Law Firm Commendation is to recognize, when appropriate, a law firm which has demonstrated a significant contribution in the delivery of legal services to individuals or groups on a pro bono basis.
Unlike the Tobias Simon and Florida Bar President's Pro Bono Awards, the Law Firm Commendation is not an annual award.
Markowitz, Davis, Ringel & Trusty, P.A. Miami
The law firm of Markowitz, Davis, Ringel & Trusty, P.A. was established in 1980 by longtime friends Jerry M. Markowitz, Joseph I. Davis, Jr., and Thomas Ringel. This union has resulted in the growth of a multi-disciplinary, midsized civil practice law firm with a remarkable devotion to community service, dedication to the needs of employees, knowledge of the law and commitment to its clients. The lawyers are. Passionate about their pro bono work, a labor of love that has touched the lives of thousands -- single mothers, working families and senior citizens facing financial difficulties; immigrants unable to communicate in their own language; grieving families and clergy facing 'end of life' decisions; the victims of domestic violence; and the elderly, poor and disadvantaged in need of legal counsel and advice. In 2001. the firm's. partners and associates devoted more than 2,200 hours to pro bono work, and for many years, 100 percent of the firm's lawyers have delivered pro bono legal services. This statistic is merely the most recent manifestation of a deeply held belief that the grant of a license to practice law comes with the responsibility to serve those who do not have the financial ability to hire a lawyer.
Each of the firm's five shareholders are active community leaders, some serving as officers and directors of some of South Florida's leading civic and charitable organizations. Since its inception, the firm has received any number of pro bono clients through referrals from the federal and state trial and appellate courts. For over a decade, individual lawyers have worked thousands of hours on pro bono cases. In the early 1990s the firm formalized a relationship with Put Something Back, a joint pro bono project of the 11th Judicial Circuit and Dade County Bar Association, to provide the indigent with access to the civil court system in Miami-Dade County and regularly takes pro bono cases to provide representation to the indigent community in the Southern District of Florida.
Jerry M. Markowitz, managing shareholder, is one of South Florida's leading business and bankruptcy reorganization law practitioners. Markowitz is listed in the directory of Best Lawyers in America. He is a founding member and treasurer of the Florida Receivers Forum, past vice chair of The Florida Bar 11th Judicial Circuit "J" Grievance Committee, and founding sponsor of the Bankruptcy Bar Association of the Southern District of Florida. As the founder,
of the Annual Bankruptcy Skills Workshop, he gives his time each year as a program co-chair and serves as volunteer, mentor and lecturer at the Bankruptcy Assistance Clinic, a joint program of the Bankruptcy Bar Foundation of the Southern District of Florida, Put Something Back, and the St. Thomas University School of Law. The Bankruptcy Assistance Clinic is the first of its kind in Florida and only one of several such programs nationwide. Currently, the clinic is comprised of 12 law students who, under the guidance of lawyers from the association, including Markowitz, provide free legal services to indigent clients. In addition, he is among a handful of local attorneys who have agreed to act as mentors in the Mentoring Attorney Professionalism Program (MAPP) that provides guidance to newly admitted members of The Florida Bar and instills the importance of professionalism.
Founding shareholder Joseph I. Davis, Jr., is a distinguished litigation attorney and is active in the Jewish community. He serves as co-chair of the Holocaust Survivors Committee of Jewish Community Services of South Florida, is a board member of Jewish Community Services, is a member of its legal issues committee and is also co-chair of its Food Service Committee. Davis is a founding member of the University of Florida Hillel Alumni Council and has served as a committee chair for the Maccabi Games hosted by the Dave and Mary Alper Jewish Community Center.
Thomas Ringel, an accomplished real estate practitioner for almost a quarter of a century, has served in leadership roles on many of South Florida's civic, cultural and religious charities. Most recently, he has been named one, of the five founding members of the Charter Commission for the Village of Palmetto Bay. The Charter Commission is charged with the. responsibility of drafting the first municipal charter in order to balance the needs of area residents' desire for local government with the need not to unduly harm the remainder of the unincorporated county.
Candis Trusty, a probate, guardianship and elder law attorney, is a longtime champion of pro bono legal services to the poor and disadvantaged. Trusty is repeatedly called upon by the probate court for the 11th Judicial Circuit in and for MiamiDade County to represent, on a pro bono basis, incapacitated indigent persons. For years, in situations where, because of insufficient resources, the Public Guardian is statutorily prohibited from accepting additional appointments, Trusty has accepted court appointments as a pro bono guardian ad litem to investigate, report and recommend to the court on 'end of life' decisions. For many years, Ms. Trusty has played a major role in educating other lawyers about probate and guardianship law. Through the Dade County Bar Association Guardianship and Probate Committee and in conjunction with Put Something Back, Trusty has helped organize, develop and establish ongoing seminars. During her tenure as the president of the South Miami Kendall Bar Association, Trusty helped orga nize and create a free legal help table. Staffed by lawyers, the effort was organized to reach people who would not ordinarily seek the counsel of lawyers, but who nevertheless have questions about the law. In 1992 and 1994, Trusty received the South Miami-Kendall Bar Association Pro Bono Volunteer of the Year Award.
Thomas Messana, a noted bankruptcy attorney, was the 2000 President of the Bankruptcy Bar Association of the Southern District of Florida. He has spearheaded the effort to create the Bankruptcy Bar Foundation of the Southern District of Florida whose goal is to raise $500,000 within five years. To date, the foundation has raised in excess of $100,000. One of the foundation's inaugural programs is to underwrite a Bankruptcy Assistance Clinic.
Messana has worked with other attorneys on-a consumer education project which helps educate indigent prose debtors about their rights in bankruptcy.
Through Messana's effort, the consumer information guide has been translated into Spanish and Creole and distributed to these underserved communities who reside in large numbers throughout the state of Florida.
Inspired by its shareholders, the law firm's philosophy inculcates all attorneys into a culture committed to providing pro bono legal services. For example, in 1999, the firm's lawyers led the charge to meet a critical unmet need for volunteer lawyers in emergency domestic violence situations by creating domestic violence training seminars. Since the initial seminar conducted in their offices, Mark Gatica, an attorney with the firm, has distinguished himself in providing hundreds of volunteer hours to clients referred by Put Something Back. Typically, a client will appear on short notice before a scheduled hearing on a victim's request for a permanent injunction against domestic violence. Gatica has obtained many injunctions in spousal and domestic abuse cases to protect victims who do not have the ability to pay attorneys' fees.
For the past three years, firm lawyers Darrel T. King and Jonathan S. Leiderman have conducted clinics on small claims court. These clinics are designed to help pro se litigants understand the court process and to assist them in advancing their claims. By jurisdiction, all of these matters are less than $2,500 in controversy, and experience shows most of these matters are less than $1,000; however, to the aggrieved party, who are often on the verge of poverty, every dollar is significant.
Gerald W. Pierre, an attorney with the firm, mentored a high school student enrolled in a legal magnet program at Miami Senior High School. Rachel Lopate Rubio, a law clerk awaiting admission to the Bar, serves as a guardian ad litem and works on cases for Lawyers for Children.
The firm's practice areas focus on bankruptcy and workouts, receiverships, creditors' rights, mediation-arbitration services, commercial litigation, probate and guardianship, elder law, civil litigation, family and real estate law. The firm was the 2000 recipient of the Dade County Bar Association Put Something Back Pro Bono Award as the "Exceptional Law Firm," and in 1999 was honored with a Certificate of Appreciation from Metropolitan Dade County for its pro bono contributions to the community. In 1998, the firm received the Dade County Bar Association "Put Something Back" Pro Bono Award for Probate and Guardianship.
Markowitz, Davis, Ringel & Trusty, P.A. is guided by a different spirit, a rare kind of caring for the needs of others matched by an abiding respect for professional excellence and the law. By any measure, the lawyers of Markowitz, Davis, Ringel & Trusty, P.A. demonstrate the finest tradition of volunteer service to the poor and disadvantaged that the Bar has to offer.
THE VOLUNTARY BAR ASSOCIATION PRO BONO SERVICE AWARD RECIPIENT
Jacksonville Bar Association
The Jacksonville Bar Association is a voluntary bar which has served the greater Jacksonville Area (Duval County, Baker County, Clay County, St. Johns County, and Nassau County) since 1897. It has been a long-standing tenet of the Jacksonville Bar Association to not only serve the legal community, but the community in general. As a result, numerous programs and services have been provided throughout the years by members of the Jacksonville Bar including, but not limited to, the Special Olympics, Teen Court, Holiday Project for the Elderly, Holiday in January for children associated with the Department of Children and Families, the Mentor Program, Law School for the Public, and various seminars and forums held for both the legal community and the community at large. In keeping with their tradition of assistance and support, the Jacksonville Bar Association, in conjunction with Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, established a legal in-take clinic at the I.M. Sulzbacher Center for the Homeless in 2001.
In essence, since the homeless do not have access to the legal community in a convenient forum, the legal community has gone to the homeless. Specifically, the legal clinic is held on the third Tuesday of each month from 6:45 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the I.M. Sulzbacher Center for the benefit of the guests at the center. Each session includes a minimum of four attorneys: two attorneys who specialize in general litigation, a family law attorney, and a public defender. The center provides a staff liaison, Freda Hodges, to assist Alan Pickert, a private attorney with the law firm of Brown, Terrell, Hogan, who coordinates the project for the Jacksonville Bar, and Sarah Jones Fowler, director of Jacksonville Area Legal Aid's Public Service Projects, who oversees the in-take project for Legal Aid. Both Pickert and Fowler participate each month to provide continuity while the other volunteer attorneys who participate rotate through the program. Additionally, many presentations are also conducted during the course of th e year at the center in conjunction with the legal clinic in-take, covering various substantive topics including employment, divorce, housing, and criminal concerns.
The I.M. Sulzbacher Center averages 278 homeless guests on a daily basis, and a great number of these guests have legal problems which require an attorney's attention. Those individuals who sign up to meet with an attorney for the legal in-take are then interviewed by the attorney and their case is either accepted by the attorney or referred to Legal Aid staff or pro bono attorneys for further follow-up. However, numerous times counsel's advice during the in-take session resolves many of the problems.
Since its inaugural debut in February 2001, over 50 private attorneys have extended their already busy day to interview over 200 guests of the Center with issues ranging from child support to record sealings. Thus far, attorneys have donated almost 300 hours to this program, interviewing guests, administrating the project, and handling the cases pro bono for the guests.
The Sulzbacher Center already views the clinic as a tremendous success. As Hodges, a life skills educator for the center, stated: "We are inundated with legal questions throughout the course of any given day by our guests. The questions can range from divorce/child custody issues to landlord/tenant disputes, to workers' compensation or employment cases. The guests want real answers, and quite frankly we do not have the answers. The guests are always excited and look forward to being able to meet with attorneys to address their needs and to know that there are individuals out in the world who care about them."
One such example of the impact of the program was illustrated at the center's annual fundraiser, "Transformations," which was attended by Fowler and the past chairperson of the project from the Jacksonville Bar Association, Marianne Lloyd Aho. During the fundraiser, the Center honors its partnership with organizations and recognizes the successful transformations of its guests. One such successful transformation concerned a guest who was wrongfully denied unemployment compensation benefits that she desperately needed to support her family until she found future employment. By utilizing the program, the grateful guest was justly awarded the benefits that had been wrongly denied her, thereby moving her one step closer to achieving her goal of self-reliance for her and her children.
Every month brings an entirely new flow of guests requiring legal assistance. Everyone involved in the project works diligently to refer guests to the clinic with the hope of helping them remove yet one more barrier toward their independence. As one individual stated, legal assistance was the "missing piece of the puzzle" for the Center. Now the picture is complete thanks to the Jacksonville Bar Association.
THE FLORIDA BAR PRESIDENT'S PRO BONO SERVICE AWARD
The Florida Bar President's Pro Bono Service Award was established in 1981. Its purpose is twofold: "to further encourage lawyers to volunteer free legal services to the poor by recognizing those who make such public service commitments, and to communicate to the public some sense of the substantial volunteer services provided by Florida lawyers to those who cannot afford legal fees."
This award recognizes individual lawyer service in each of Florida's specific judicial circuits. It is presented annually in conjunction with the Tobias Simon Pro Bono Service Award given by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the State of Florida.
THE FLORIDA BAR PRESIDENT'S PRO BONO SERVICE AWARD RECIPIENTS
Alex D. Littlefield, Jr.
Second Judicial Circuit
Alex D. Littlefield, Jr. graduated from the University of Florida law school in June 1950 and was also admitted to The Florida Bar that same year. He was in the general practice of law in Daytona Beach from 1950 until September 1966, involving trials, workers' compensation, automobile negligence cases, and criminal law.
In 1966, he moved to Tallahassee and became staff counsel for the old Florida Industrial Commission, which, under the Governmental Reorganization Act of 1969, became part of the Department of Labor and Employment Security. He handled workers' compensation and unemployment security matters, developing in the latter an expertise in bankruptcy matters. He was assistant chief counsel in the Department of Labor's Office of General Counsel.
In May 1986, he retired from the state and was employed by the firm of Barton, Davis, and Fernandes in Gainesville. He practiced primarily in matters of probate and workers' compensation.
In March 1987, Littlefield retired from the practice of law and returned to Tallahassee. In November 1989, he began an association with Legal Services of North Florida, Inc., as a volunteer attorney.
In October 1993, Littlefield began seeing persons over 60 years of age one day a month at the Senior Citizens Center in Tallahassee. Legal Services of North Florida provides free legal services to this group. For more than eight years, Littlefield provided extensive legal services to the elderly and to the poor in the form of preparing wills, living wills, powers of attorney, advance health care directives, and giving advice concerning nursing home and Medicaid and Medicare matters. From 1989 until September 2001, he provided 1,714 hours to this work.
Since August 1994, Littlefield has been the attorney member of a Long-Term Care Ombudsman Council that oversees the care of persons residing in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. The volunteer services of this counsel involve complaints of alleged abuses and inspection of the facilities. The Local Ombudsman Council is the Florida Long-Term Ombudsman Council that comprises 14 counties in the Panhandle.
Littlefield has been married to his wife, Elva, for 55 years. They have five living children.
Thomas E. Stone
Third Judicial Circuit
Tom Stone was born in Jacksonville, where he was raised and attended school until he was 16. He graduated from Palmetto Senior High School in Miami in 1965. He received a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Florida in 1969. He served as an officer in the United States Army until 1973, including a tour of duty in South Vietnam. He then obtained his law degree from the University of Miami in 1975.
Since gaining admission to the Bar he has practiced law in Madison, primarily in a solo practice. His practice includes family, criminal, probate, and real estate law. He provides legal services for child support enforcement for the Florida Department of Revenue and is a part-time public defender.
Stone has served as a member and as chair of the Board of Trustees of North Florida Community College and has received that college's Outstanding Service Medal. He was voted an Outstanding Citizen by the Greater Madison County Chamber of Commerce and has served as chairman of the March of Dimes Superwalk in Madison County.
Stone has been active in bar activities serving as president of the Third Circuit Bar Association and chairman of the Third Circuit Bar Grievance Committee. He has been a member of the legal services panel of Three Rivers Legal Services for many years, providing services to a number of clients referred to him by that panel. He is also involved in a Senior Citizens' Pro Bono Guardian Program.
Robert L. Peters, Jr.
Fourth Judicial Circuit
Robert Peters has owned his own firm since 1999. His solo practice is limited to real property law. Peters has provided pro bono services through participation in the Nassau County Bar Association Pro Bono Project for the past five years, which entailed interviewing Legal Aid clients in the evening and accepting individual case work. Additionally, Peters was the Nassau County representative to Jacksonville Area Legal Aid and accepted individual cases from Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, primarily involving spousal abuse, dissolution, and child custody. Peters' interest in assisting Legal Aid stems from Jacksonville Area Legal Aid's representation of his mother in her dissolution 25 years ago.
Peters joined the United States Air Force at the age of 17 serving as a communications analyst. He received a Bachelor of Science in accounting and real estate from Florida State University and was employed by Price Waterhouse in its Tampa office. He attended Florida State University College of Law and graduated cum laude in 1993. Peters accepted one of only 15 internships offered by the United States Army for service in Europe and assisted in criminal defense and international law at NATO Headquarters, SHAPE, Mons, Belgium. Peters subsequently served as a special agent for the FBI, and prior to founding his firm taught business law and real estate courses at the Florida State University College of Business.
Peters and his wife have three children. His community involvement includes serving on the board of the YMCA for the past three years, serving as counsel for the Tumor Registry Association of Florida for the past five years, serving as president of the Nassau County Bar Association for two years, serving as a director for the Nassau County Association for Retarded Citizens for three years, and helping organize and serve as a director of First National Bank of Nassau County.
John M. Keller
Fifth Judicial Circuit
John M. Keller was born on July 8, 1953, in Brooklyn, New York, and raised in both Melbourne and Linton, Indiana. After graduation from high school he served in the United States Navy from January 1972 to January 1976. After leaving the service, Keller received an Associate of Arts degree from Brevard Community College in Melbourne, in 1978. He then transferred to Indiana University in Bloomington, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science in 1982. He graduated from the University of Dayton School of Law, in Ohio, in 1986.
Keller passed the Florida bar exam in 1986, and was hired as an associate in Brooksville, with the Law Office of Richard Tombrink, Jr., where he was employed until 1989. From 1989 until 1999, Keller was an associate with the Law Office of Merritt & Mason, and in January 1999, he and his partner formed the firm of Merritt & Keller where they are currently practicing. Keller is also very fortunate to have the assistance of his wife of 14 years, Nanette, who is his secretary.
In his early years of practice, Keller served four years on the Board of Directors of the Withlacoochee Area Legal Services, Inc., where he first learned of the importance of legal aid groups and pro bono service to persons in need. He is also fairly active in veterans affairs, and is a longtime member of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts. Being the resident attorney in his Spring Hill American Legion Post, Keller does some periodic pro bono work for the post as the need arises. He was also previously a member of the Spring Hill Kiwanis Club for 11 years. Most of his pro bono work is done in the area of family law, where he assists as requested by the coordinator of the Fifth Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Project in her Pro Se Divorce Clinics. Keller also meets clients at the courthouse approximately two hours or more per week in regard to the Hernando County Bar Association Legal Clinic; and he participates in the Hernando County Ask-A-Lawyer Program that is coordinated through the local co urthouse. He is frequently appointed as a guardian ad litem (some pro bono and some fee-based) for minor children during their parents' domestic disputes, where he attempts to do an investigation and ultimately draft a report that recommends the most appropriate placement and/or visitation for the children.
James C. Runyon
Sixth Judicial Circuit
James C. Runyon graduated from the University of Florida in 1984 with a Bachelor of Arts in Criminology. In 1988, Runyon received his Juris Doctor from Stetson University College of Law. During law school, he clerked in the Elder Law Clinic where he developed an appreciation for the need for pro bono attorneys.
Upon admission to The Florida Bar in 1989, Runyon went to work for the law firm of Mensh and McIntosh in St. Petersburg as a contract attorney for the Department of Revenue.
In 1990, Runyon opened a solo practice concentrating in all matters relating to family law. In 1995, he closed his practice and headed the family law department for the law firm of Battaglia, Ross, Dicus, and Wein. Feeling the need for independence, he re-opened his solo practice in St. Petersburg in July 2000, as a family law attorney.
Runyon spends time each month at the Community Law Program where he assists pro se litigants. He also accepts pro bono clients from the Community Law Program. Runyon was awarded the 2001 David L. Stout Pro Bono Award for Pinellas County. Runyon also serves as a pro bono attorney for the Guardian ad Litem Program in Clearwater where he has handled over 100 cases, many involving complex termination of parental rights issues. Currently, he is the chair of the St. Petersburg Bar Liaison Committee between the clerk's office and the court. He is a longtime member of the St. Petersburg Florida Canakaris Family Law Inn of Court.
Runyon and his wife, Ruth, celebrated their silver wedding anniversary in March. They have two daughters, Jennifer and Rebecca, ages 20 and 11.
Seventh Judicial Circuit
Maurice Wagner has practiced law in Florida since the late 1940s. After receiving an honorable discharge from the United States Air Force in 1945, Wagner attended the University of Illinois and later Stetson University, where he received his A.B. in 1948 and his L.L.B. - J.D. the following year.
One of Wagner's earliest experiences as a law clerk in Miami was having the honor of actually working with Tobias Simon on a beach access case. Though they were unsuccessful in removing the barriers, the experience was one that Wagner will never forget. He attributes his work with Simon to his lifelong commitment to pro bono service. He was admitted to The Florida Bar in 1950, and settled in Volusia County, where he quickly became known as a crusader for minority clients who did not have the financial resources to pay for legal representation. Wagner learned firsthand the value of his pro bono work in the minority community. In 1950, he appeared before a Justice of the Peace, defending an African-American man in a misdemeanor case. The first time Wagner referred to his client as "Mister," the Justice of the Peace chastised him for using the term of respect reserved, in his opinion, for Caucasians. When Wagner proceeded to address his client as "Mister" for a second time, he was cited for contempt and jailed.
Rather than dampen his spirits, the experience merely fanned the flame of justice for minorities within Wagner. In the 1950s, he represented anyone who came to him for assistance whether they could afford to pay for his services or not, including the late Mary McLeod Bethune and Bethune-Cookman College. Wagner worked very closely with Bethune-Cookman faculty member Alvis Lee on Civil Rights matters. Throughout the 50s and 60s, Wagner handled all of the NAACP local chapter organization and legal documentation, and worked with the organization in their efforts to release jailed civil rights protesters. In the 1960s, Wagner became a lifetime NAACP member. Although he is semi-retired, Wagner continues to serve the local NAACP. In 2000, he was honored with the Pathfinders for Excellence Award for more than 30 years of pro bono service to the NAACP ideals, members and mission. That same year, The Florida Bar also honored Wagner for 50 years of service.
In 1957, Wagner represented a client in Brevard County who had lost her husband in a jailhouse fire because no staff was on the scene when the fire broke out. The man had no way to escape the flames and smoke. As a result of his efforts, Wagner was successful in changing Florida state law in a landmark stare decisis ruling. [Hargrove vs. Town of Cocoa Beach -- 96 So. 2d 130]. His untiring work on this case earned Wagner the ALR award.
In addition to his pro bono work with various clients and the NAACP, Wagner has made himself available to Central Florida Legal Services' pro bono endeavors in whatever capacity his services are needed. He has represented CFLS clients and provided brief advice at legal advice clinics since the CFLS Pro Bono Program began in 1966. He continues to meet with clients and provide brief services at the CFLS legal advice clinics in DeLand.
N. Albert Bacharach, Jr.
Eighth Judicial Circuit
N. Albert Bacharach, Jr., is a solo practitioner in Gainesville. He has a Bachelor of Arts from the. Honors and Interdisciplinary Studies Department of Queens College of the City University of New York (1973) and a Juris Doctor from the University of Miami School of Law (1975). In addition to being a member of The Florida Bar, Bacharach is a member of the bars of the United States District Courts for the Northern, Middle, and Southern Districts of Florida; the United States Circuit Courts for, the 7th, 9th, 11th and Federal Circuits, and the United States Court of Veterans Appeals.
After graduation from law school, Bacharach worked for Florida Rural Legal Services in the Homestead and Ft. Pierce offices for three years. He then worked at Central Florida Legal Services in Palatka for three years. In 1982, Bacharach went into private practice with his late partner, the noted feminist, Judith Benninger Brown.
Because of his belief in the rule of law, Bacharach has strived to make the provision of legal services to the poor a consistent and integral part of his practice. Since entering private practice, Bacharach has represented over 400 people and a number of organizations on a pro bono basis with regard to a myriad of legal issues. Representation has included: bankruptcy, child custody and support, child support enforcement, collections, creation of non-profit corporations, childrens' SSI claims, criminal defense in state and federal court, defamation, dependency, dissolutions, education of handicapped children, employment, food stamps, foreclosures, guardianship, habeas corpus, landlord-tenant, Medicare payments, modifications, probate, real estate, replevin, spousal abuse, unemployment, and union benefits. Upon request, Bacharach has also served pro bono as both an attorney ad litem and a guardian ad litem.
In one notable case, Bacharach prevented the Alachua County School Board from warehousing an autistic child. The matter settled with the child, attending his neighborhood school and the resulting creation of an outstanding E.S.E. program at that school. In another case, Bacharach negotiated a settlement on behalf of deaf clients with a major hospital wherein the hospital agreed to come into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act by providing sign language interpreters to deaf clients, as well as T.T.Y. telephones in the, emergency room. Recently, Bacharach assisted a foreign national accused of domestic violence based on the testimony of his wife. Interestingly, the wife spoke little or no English and the arresting officer only spoke English.
Bacharach regrets this award-came after the death last summer of his beloved mother, Toba R. Bacharach, who would have appreciated his receipt of this award even more than he does.
G. Charles Wohlust
Ninth Judicial Circuit
G. Charles Wohlust is the owner of G. Charles Wohlust, P.L.C. His practice is almost exclusively focused on estate planning, probate administration, and probate litigation. He is certified by The Florida Bar, in Wills, Trusts, and Estates.
Wohlust received his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Florida in 1966 and graduated from their law school in 1969. He continued his education and received an LL.M. in taxation from the University of Miami in 1971. He was admitted to The Florida Bar in 1969 and to the U.S. Tax Court and U.S. Claims Court in 1972.
Wohlust is a Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel. He has been a member of The Florida Bar Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section Executive Council since 1978. From 1979 -- 1985 he served as chair of The Florida Bar's Probate Law Committee of which he has been a member, since 1978. Wohlust has also been a member of The Florida Bar's Trust Law Committee since 1995. He has been a member of the Orange County Bar since 1971 and was the chair of its Estate, Guardianship and Trust Committee from 1982 -- 1983. Other memberships include the Central Florida Estate Planning Council, Central Florida Tax Roundtable, and the American Inns of Court. Wohlust is also a member of Orlando Regional Health Care Foundation's Advisory Committee on Gift Giving Program and has previously served on both the Winter Park Code Enforcement Board and the Winter Park Board of Adjustment as well as the Board of Directors for Planned Parenthood of Central Florida.
Wohlust has been an active pro bono attorney in the Guardian ad Litem (GAL) Program since its inception over 30 years ago. Since 1981 he has handled 35 pro bono cases through the Legal Aid Society's pro bono program. All but three of those cases were GAL appointments. He has represented 55 children and three other clients and has donated over 1600 hours.
Wohlust moved to Orlando in the mid-1950s and has returned after each stint at higher education. He has practiced law in the Central Florida area for all of his legal career. This lifetime connection has given him a strong sense of community and encouraged him to help children who are struggling in this community.
Merette L. Oweis
10th Judicial Circuit
Merette L. Oweis was born in Wayne, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit, on July 10, 1969. In 1980 her family moved to Orlando. She graduated from the University of Central Florida in 1989 and received her Juris Doctor from Texas Southern University in 1994. During law school, she clerked for Judge Calvin Botley, magistrate, for the U.S. District Court, in Houston, Texas. She is admitted to both the Florida and Texas Bar. In 1996, she became associated with the firm of DiCesare, Davidson & Barker, P.A., in Lakeland, practicing in the area of employment and dependency law. Oweis has provided over 200 hours of service as a Dependency Guardian ad Litem for Polk County.
Oweis is very grateful to the office of the Guardian ad Litem of Polk County for submitting her nomination. She considers it an honor and a privilege to be allowed to be involved in the lives of the children in need of Polk County.
Patricia A. Redmond
11th Judicial Circuit
Patricia A. Redmond is a shareholder at Stearns Weaver Miller Weissler Alhadeff & Sitterson, P.A. in Miami, where she specializes in the areas of bankruptcy and insolvency law. Redmond received her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the University of Miami in 1975 and graduated from the University of Miami School of Law in 1979. She is a member of the Iron Arrow Honor Society, the highest honor attainable at the University of Miami. Upon graduating from law school in 1979, she was admitted to the bar of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and in 1980 to The Florida Bar. During her career, Redmond has dedicated a significant amount of time each year during her 22 year legal career representing the poor.
Redmond's commitment to helping the poor started immediately upon her admission to The Florida Bar. Because bankruptcy and poverty are so closely interrelated, Redmond found many opportunities to help people struggling with debt to obtain a fresh start and a new beginning. In the early 1980s, Redmond assisted Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc., with pro bono representations, acted as a mentor to public interest lawyers and volunteers, and taught seminars to educate their attorneys with respect to consumer bankruptcy law. Redmond continued her pro bono efforts during the 1980s and 1990s by individually devoting not less than 300 hours a year to pro bono representations and educating lawyers in consumer bankruptcy law in exchange for their commitment to accept pro bono cases.
In the mid 1990s, the Judge A. Jay Cristol, then chief judge of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Florida, had an idea which would channel the talents and energies of law students in helping poor and disadvantaged people who were waiting for a volunteer lawyer to handle their bankruptcy cases. Redmond was determined to make that idea a reality. In the fall of 2000, her dream came true with the establishment of the St. Thomas School of Law Bankruptcy Assistance Clinic. Redmond served as an adjunct professor of law with Laurel Isicoff, a shareholder in the Miami law firm of Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton, P.A. Students began working on Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 cases, and the results were astounding - both from the perspective of the clients (who had been awaiting representation for some time) and from the reaction of students, many of whom are now strongly driven to provide pro bono services upon graduation. The clinic has made a difference in the lives of its clients, including two grandmothers who, as matriarchs of their respective families, were the sole source of food and shelter. Both saved their homes through successful Chapter 13 cases. Recently, at the closing interview, one of the happy grandmothers remarked how fortunate she was to be picked to be represented by the Bankruptcy Assistance Clinic and Redmond.
Redmond continues to teach and coordinate the Bankruptcy Assistance Clinic today, where students and mentors from the Bankruptcy Bar help the poor and disadvantaged have access to the bankruptcy system. Additionally, Redmond has presented the model clinical program of St. Thomas at national conventions to facilitate the implementation of similar clinics nationwide. As a result, a clinic has been started at Roger Williams School of Law in Providence, Rhode Island.
At Stearns Weaver Miller, a full-service law firm with offices in Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, and Tampa, Redmond practices in the area of commercial transactions and bankruptcy with concentration in creditors' rights and insolvency counseling in both the United States Bankruptcy Court and out-of-court restructurings. She has extensive experience in representation of trustees, creditors' committees, secured creditors and debtors in Chapter 11 cases.
Redmond is currently an adjunct professor of bankruptcy law at the University of Miami School of Law. A former president of the Bankruptcy Bar Association for the Southern District of Florida, she presently serves on its board of directors and has served as chair of the Continuing Legal Education Committee for that organization. She also served as the 1998-99 chair of the Bankruptcy Law Section of The Federal Bar Association.
Redmond is a frequent lecturer both locally and nationally on various aspects of bankruptcy, particularly issues involving Chapter 11. Since 1995 Redmond has been named as one of the Best Lawyers in America, and in 1999 she received the Dade County Bar Association Pro Bono Award.
Richard Barton Ray
12th Judicial Circuit
Ray was born in Memphis, Tennessee, on June 21, 1961 and moved to Florida in 1966. He earned his undergraduate degree in business at Tulane University in New Orleans. In 1987, Ray graduated from Stetson University College of Law. His first position after law school was as an associate in a small practice in Englewood. After approximately three years, he moved to Bradenton where he went into practice with his stepfather, Saul Paster. Ray has been with the law firm of Paster, Ray & Cohen ever since and practices in the areas of real estate, family law, personal injury, and estate planning. He is also licensed to practice in the Middle District of Florida. Ray is a member of the Manatee County Bar Association and is the Manatee County representative to the 12th Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee. He currently sits on the board of directors for the Manatee County Bar Association and is the director in charge of youth-related activities, which includes the 12th Judicial Circuit Mock Trial Competition. He is lega l counsel for three 501(c)(3) corporations, Bradenton Ballet Repertory, Inc., Sarasota Firefighter Benevolent Fund, Inc., and Manatee County Off-leash, Inc. He currently takes cases for Legal Aid of Manasota and Hope Family Services, as well as donating time to the pro bono clinic in Manatee County. He accepts cases in the areas of domestic violence, grandparent adoption, and obtaining insurance benefits.
Ray has been involved with Legal Aid of Manasota, Inc., since its inception in 1991 and has donated hundreds of hours of service. Ray has consistently accepted pro bono cases mainly in the area of family law. It is rare for a case to be referred to him that he does not willingly accept. Often, while his other pro bono cases are still pending, Ray will call the office requesting another case. In addition to handling pro bono cases, Ray also helps to staff a Saturday morning Free Legal Advice Clinic for indigent clients.
An active member of the Manatee County Bar Association, Ray was elected to the board of directors this year. He is also a member of The Florida Bar and the American Bar Association. Ray's benevolent work extends beyond his pro bono commitment, as he is also actively involved in his community. He has been involved with the high school's mock trial team as a coach. The Sarasota Firefighters Benevolent Fund has also recognized him for his continued support of their organization.
Ray resides in Bradenton with his wife, Danita, and their daughter, Courtney.
Hala A. Sandridge
13th Judicial Circuit
Hala Sandridge is the supervising shareholder of the Appellate Group for Fowler White Boggs Banker P.A. She specializes in commercial appeals and is Board Certified in Appellate Practice. Sandridge chairs Fowler White Boggs Banker's Pro Bono Committee. A full service law firm, Fowler White Boggs Banker has over 170 attorneys in six Florida offices.
Sandridge received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Florida in 1981 and graduated with honors from Florida State University College of Law in 1984. While in law school, she interned at the Florida Supreme Court for Justice Leander J. Shaw, Jr., and was a member of Law Review.
During her 17 years of practice, Sandridge has represented many indigent clients in civil and appellate matters. Her civil pro bono cases have consisted of a variety of commercial, juvenile, and family law matters. In the early and mid-1990s, she donated many hours to Hillsborough County's Teen Court program, designed to handle the needs of first-time juvenile offenders. Sandridge presided as "judge," while local high school students prosecuted or defended these first-time juvenile offenders.
Sandridge has donated well over 1,000 hours to pro bono matters. Her pro bono commitment began with her involvement in the Hillsborough County Bar Association's Availability of Legal Services Committee in 1990. Sandridge was actively involved in that committee's creation of the Legal Services Directory. She then went on to help develop the Courthouse Assistance Project that helped the "GAP Group," those families and individuals whose income level may disqualify them from receiving publicly funded legal assistance but do not earn enough money to hire an attorney. In addition to encouraging Fowler White Boggs Banker to adopt the project, which they did in 1994, Sandridge personally provided hundreds of hours at the project and ensured its smooth operation in coordination with Hillsborough County, Bay Area Legal Services, and the clerk of the 13th Judicial Circuit.
Last year, working with Bay Area Legal Services, Sandridge developed the idea of a law firm/corporate partnership to create and staff a family law position at the Project. Fowler White Boggs Banker teamed up with TECO Energy to "endow" a position to Bay Area Legal Services, to provide the local community with family law expertise at the project. The donation operates much like an endowed chair at a university.
Jerry W. Gerde
14th Judicial Circuit
Jerry W. Gerde graduated from Duke University in 1965, and began practicing law in Panama City the following year. He has practiced with the law firm, now named Johnson, Harris, Gerde, & Jelks, PA., continuously since 1966. He has been a charter board member of the Bay Area Hospice, Inc., the Junior Museum of Bay County, Inc., and the Bay County Teen Court, Inc. Regionally, he has served as president of the Panama City Jaycees, and as legal counsel to the Florida Jaycees; he also served on the Florida Audubon Society Board of Directors from 1977 to 1984 (serving as vice chair from 1983 to 1984). He served on the Board of Trustees of the Florida Supreme Court Historical Society from 1987 to 1995. He also served as chair of the Coastal Plains Regional Commission, Citizens Advisory Committee, from 1976 to 1981 (serving as chair from 1980 to 1981). He was appointed by the Governor as a delegate to the 1985 Governor's Conference on Florida Endangered Species, and from 1988 to 1996 was chair of the Bay County Repu blican Executive Committee; he presently serves as Bay County's state committeeman. He was Member of the Panama City Music Association Board of Trustees from 1977 to 2001, and served on the Board of Governors of St. Andrew Bay Yacht Club from 1989 to the present (serving as commodore in 1991). He served on The Florida Bar Board of Legal Specialization and Education from 1977 to 1989 (serving as chair in 1989).
He has also served on the board of the American Spectator Educational Foundation since its inception in 1976. He has also served as a charter member of the 14th Circuit Pro Bono Committee, performing duties as the acting secretary since the inception of the Pro Bono Committee. He has assisted with the coordination of delivering pro bono services between the Legal Services of North Florida organization and the First Saturday Legal Clinic (a creation of the Bay County Bar Association), since its beginning - a clinic that meets on the first Saturday of each month, at which volunteer members of the Bay County and 14th Circuit Bars volunteer their time to handle the overflow of cases which go beyond the ability of Legal Services of North Florida to intake and process. From time to time, he hikes the Appalachian Trail, as well as the battlefields of the Civil War.
Robert T. Bergin, Jr.
West Palm Beach
15th Judicial Circuit
Robert T. Bergin, Jr., practices law in West Palm Beach as a sole practitioner in the firm of Robert T. Bergin, Jr., P.A. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree and his Juris Doctor from the University of Florida. He has been a member of The Florida Bar since 1977 and has been a Florida Bar Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer since 1983. Bergin primarily represents plaintiffs in personal injury and wrongful death cases with an emphasis on medical negligence cases. He is a member of The Florida Bar, American Bar Association, Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers (Eagle Patron), American Board of Trial Advocates (Palm Beach County Chapter President 1995-1997, National Board Representative 2000 to present), Palm Beach County Trial Lawyers Association (Member Board of Directors, 1999 to present). Bergin has also served on The Florida Bar Civil Trial Law Certification Committee (Chair 1995-1996), Palm Beach County Bar Association Circuit Court Civil Practice Committee, and the 15th Judicial Circuit Grievance Committee. Bergin has been a longtime supporter of the Palm Beach County Legal Aid Society.
David P. Kirwan
16th Judicial Circuit
David P. Kirwan obtained a Bachelor or Arts in History from Florida State University in 1970 and graduated from Florida State University College of Law in 1972. Kirwan began his career as the sole assistant public defender assigned to the Middle and Upper Keys in Monroe County. Later, he served as both a county court judge and a circuit judge. Since 1987, Kirwan has been a sole practitioner in Marathon. For the past six years, he has coordinated the assignment of cases to Middle Keys lawyers on behalf of Legal Services of the Florida Keys. Kirwan, Board Certified in Real Estate Law since 1996, has acted pro bono as guardian and administrator ad litem and as counsel for indigent parties in several real property related suits. A Certified Civil Mediator, Kirwan has participated pro bono in both circuit and county court mediations.
In 1991, Kirwan initiated the founding of Habitat for Humanity of the Middle Keys and was its first president. In addition to his hands-on participation in the building of three Habitat homes, and in many fundraising projects, Kirwan has represented Habitat for Humanity in the acquisition of land and other matters. Kirwan is a member of the Fisherman's Hospital Board of Trustees and a member of the Ethics Committee of Hospice of the Florida Keys. He also is a member of the 16th Circuit Grievance Committee and is chair of the 16th Judicial Nominating Commission. Kirwan is a mentor in the Take Stock in Children program.
He resides in Marathon with Mary, his wife and paralegal, who has always encouraged and joined in his community involvement.
John T. David
17th Judicial Circuit
John T. David was born and raised in Hollywood. David earned his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology from Valparaiso University, in Valparaiso, Indiana. He obtained his Juris Doctor in 1984 from Nova Southeastern University. Since 1985, David has owned and operated the Law Offices of John T. David, P.A., in the city of Ft. Lauderdale, where he is a sole practitioner. His areas of practice encompass criminal defense, commercial litigation, and admiralty law.
Throughout the years, he has been affiliated with several legal, civic, and religious organizations. He has been admitted to practice before the General and Trial Bar of the District for the Southern District Court of Florida, and the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.
In March of 1999, David began providing representation to Arnold Abbott and Love Thy Neighbor Fund, Inc. Abbott owns and operates a Homeless Feeding Program in which he provides food for the homeless people of Ft. Lauderdale, The City of Ft. Lauderdale had threatened to arrest Abbott for conducting this feeding program at the public picnic area at the South Beach area of Ft. Lauderdale Beach, citing the violation of city zoning codes and park rules. After substantial discovery, the case went to trial and the court found that the City of Ft. Lauderdale had violated Abbott's right to practice his religious convictions to feed the homeless under the Florida Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1998. The case was then-appealed by the City in which David continued representation for Abbott and Love Thy Neighbor Fund, Inc. After successfully defending the appeal in the Fourth District Court of Appeal, the matter came back for further proceedings before the trial court at which David prevailed once again. The matte r is once again on appeal. Additionally, he has represented Arnold Abbott and Love Thy Neighbor Fund, Inc., in a trade name dispute brought before the federal courts in Michigan and subsequently transferred to the Southern District of Florida.
Since the inception of this case, David has spent hundreds of hours representing the homeless and those who attempt to help them. On November 1, 2001, his efforts for the homeless were recognized as he was named the recipient of the 2001 Homeless Advocate of the Year award by the Broward Coalition for the Homeless. Not only does David put forth his efforts to the homeless, he also provides free, or at cost, legal services to many lower-income families on a regular basis.
James J. Partlow
18th Judicial Circuit
James J. Partlow was born and raised in Sanford and graduated from Seminole High School in 1988. He earned a Bachelor of Science cum laude in Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida State University in 1991 and earned his Juris Doctor from Mississippi College School of Law in 1994, where he was a member and advisor on the Moot Court Board and a member of The National Trial Competition Team. After graduation from law school, he joined the law firm of Stenstrom, McIntosh, Colbert, Whigham and Simmons, P.A. and-was named partner in December 1999. He focuses his practice in the areas of marital family law, probate and general civil litigation.
Since entering private practice, Partlow has provided pro bono representation for those less fortunate in the areas of complex child custody, child abuse and spousal abuse cases. Partlow is appointed by the court on a regular basis to represent dependent children and adults in dependency, Hal Marchman, and guardianship cases. Over the past 12 months, Partlow has volunteered over 70 hours in these areas.
During Law Week 2000 and 2001, Partlow sponsored two high school students who shadowed his practice as much as possible and introduced the students to the private practice of law, the judicial system, local attorneys and local circuit judges to give back to the same program that exposed him to Stenstrom law firm in 1987. He has also given presentations to local schools about the practice of law and the need for continuing education.
Partlow is a member of The Florida Bar, the Supreme Court of the United States of America, the United States District Court, Middle District of Florida, the Seminole County Bar Association, the Volusia County Bar Association, the Florida Family Law Section, the Florida Civil Trial Lawyers Section, and the Seminole County Family Law Section. He currently serves as a director and treasurer-elect for 2001 of the Seminole County Bar Association and director for the Seminole County Legal Aid Society, where he has served in this capacity for the past two years. He received the 2000 Pro Bono Attorney Award from the Seminole County Legal Aid Society. Partlow actively participates in fundraising events for the local bar association as well as the legal aid society. In addition, he provides legal services to those in need at his church, Palmetto Avenue Baptist.
Partlow and his wife, Chandra, have one child, James Ross, who was born on June 5, 2001.
Thomas R. Bakkedahl
19th Judicial Circuit
Thomas Bakkedahl grew up in Stuart, and attended Martin County High School. He went to Florida State University where he graduated magna cum laude in 1988 with a Bachelor's of Science Degree in Political Science. A die-hard Seminole, Bakkedahl continued his education at Florida State University College of Law and obtained his Juris Doctor in 1991, graduating with high honors. Bakkedahl and his wife Laura are the proud parents of two children, Jake, 5, and Ellie, 3.
Bakkedahl was admitted to The Florida Bar in 1991, and took a position as an assistant state attorney under Bruce Colton, State Attorney for the 19th Judicial Circuit. From 1991 to 1996 he prosecuted all varieties of criminal cases from DUI through first-degree murder, and to date has handled over 100 jury trials. In 1996, he was promoted to the attorney-in-charge of the state attorney's Martin County office, and in 2000 he was once again promoted from the head of the Martin County office to the attorney-in-charge of the state attorney's St. Lucie County office, the largest office within the 19th Judicial Circuit. While his duties now entail extensive administrative responsibilities (the supervision of 17 attorneys and a support staff of 16), he continues to prosecute major criminal cases.
Bakkedahl respects the awesome responsibilities with which the people of the State of Florida have entrusted him, and it is with great pride that he seeks justice on their behalf.
In 2000, Bakkedahl became the pro bono liaison for the State Attorney's Office to the 19th Judicial Circuit's Pro Bono Committee. In 2000, Bakkedahl was the recipient of the 19th Judicial Circuit's Pro Bono Committee and Florida Rural Legal Services, Inc., Pro Bono Liaison of the year award for St. Lucie County. In 2001, he again received the Pro Bono Liaison award for St. Lucie County and the l9th Judicial Circuit's Tobias Simon Nominee L.B. Vocelle Pro Bono Service Award.
State Attorney Bruce Colton, recognizing the moral and ethical imperative that Florida's lawyers provide legal services to the indigent, while at the same time having a concern that his assistants not to engage in a practice of law that is inconsistent with their legal duties and responsibilities to the State of Florida, directed Bakkedahl to formulate a plan that would address both concerns. Bakkedahl, under the guidance of Colton, developed the circuit's first collective satisfaction plan. Bakkedahl's collective satisfaction plan outlines four specific types of legal service that assistant state attorneys in the 19th Circuit can provide.
First, assistant state attorneys (ASA) may assist the 19th Circuit's office of Florida Rural Legal Services, Inc., in the placement and screening of pro bono cases. Bakkedahl assumed the responsibility of placing pro bono cases with local attorneys throughout St. Lucie County for the past two years. Through some arm-twisting and cajoling, Bakkedahl was able to place over 90 indigent clients with local St. Lucie County attorneys. Bakkedahl logged over 150 hours during 2001 in this endeavor alone. Second, assistant state attorneys within the circuit are encouraged to participate in Teen Court and mock trials. In the Teen Court scenario, the ASA acts as a judge while a juvenile offender is adjudicated by a jury of his peers. Mock trials afford the ASA an opportunity to act as a prosecutor or legal advisor to a student prosecutor. The ASA may also participate in mock trials conducted by local civic organizations and citizen groups. The mock trials and teen courts provide the ASAs with a dynamic teaching instrume nt to educate students and the public on the workings of the criminal justice system. Third, the ASAs are encouraged to engage in the legal education of various local civic, community, governmental, and educational groups.
The ASAs' speaking engagements vary from local town hall meetings to lecturing in the classroom setting. These speaking engagements are designed to educate the public on their rights and responsibilities as citizens of this state. The ASAs are also heavily involved in continuing legal education of law enforcement throughout the circuit. Law enforcement is kept abreast of recent developments in the law with a particular emphasis on the unique aspects of domestic violence investigations and prosecutions. Finally, ASAs within Bakkedabl's office have the ability to participate in truancy court. At the request of the superintendent of the St. Lucie County School Board, an ASA with the office will make him or herself available after hours to prosecute truancy matters for the school board.
Bakkedahl recognizes the unique circumstances with which public sector attorneys are confronted in fulfilling their moral and ethical obligations to the state's indigent citizens. It is his hope that his collective satisfaction plan can serve as a model to all public sector lawyers, and thus tap a great reservoir of legal expertise in the pursuit of equal access to justice for all citizens of the State of Florida. Bakkedahl believes that pro bono service is a natural extension of a public sector lawyer's dedication to the service of others.
Celia Ellen Deifik
20th Judicial Circuit
Celia Ellen Deifik is a shareholder with Rochman, Deifik, Lanier & Ross, PA. of Naples, and has been Board Certified in Real Property Law since 1990. Her current practice focuses on commercial, real estate and family law litigation as well as commercial and residential transactions. She received both her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in Finance cum laude (1974) and her Juris Doctor (1977) from the University of Florida. While at the University of Florida she served on the Board of Directors of the Student Credit Union and was a member of the Moot Court.
Upon graduating from law school, Deifik received her first exposure in representing the indigent as a sole practitioner for Lee County Legal Aid in 1978. Thereafter, Deifik went on to practice law in both Lee and Collier counties. Due to her knowledge in family law and juvenile dependency, she was frequently appointed or called upon to represent pro bono cases or to as act as a guardian or attorney ad litem. Marriage to a prosecutor gave her a unique window on the criminal, as well as the civil, side of the law. Through the years Deifik has worked on numerous pro bono matters coordinated by the Collier County Bar, Catholic Services and Florida Rural Legal Services. She is an active member of the Collier County Bar Association and received an award for creation and presentation of a legal secretary educational program in the 1980s. Deifik was one of many assisting in the set up and policy formation of the Collier County Family Legal Aid Society. She has further served the Bar as a member of the 20th Judicial C ircuit Grievance Committee from 19971999. Deifik also presents seminar topics for Florida Gulf Coast University's business outreach program. She has served the community as a member of the Code Enforcement Board for Collier County from 1996-1998. Deifik is an agent for Attorneys' Title Insurance Fund and First American Title Insurance, Co.
Leo G. Rydzewski
Leo G. Rydzewski earned his Bachelor of Arts in Economics in 1990 from Georgetown University and his Juris Doctor summa cum laude in 1996 from The Florida State University College of Law. Rydzewski is an associate in the Washington, D.C., office of Holland & Knight LLP, where he practices primarily in the areas of general commercial and intellectual property litigation.
Rydzewski previously served on Holland & Knight's Community Services Team, which has had a long-standing history of providing pro bono counsel to people, groups, and causes that otherwise could not afford legal representation. Rydzewski has litigated a wide variety of claims on behalf of the poor. His current cases include claims alleging that the State of Mississippi is providing indigent criminal defendants with the ineffective assistance of counsel, and that the State of Mississippi is providing inadequate medical care to HIV positive inmates, is unlawfully segregating these inmates based on their medical status, and is permitting select prison officials to violate the inmates' First Amendment rights and subject them to cruel and unusual punishments, including physical violence. In Florida, Rydzewski previously represented a class of dependent and delinquent juveniles with mental health and substance abuse needs in a suit, now settled, alleging that the state unconstitutionally is failing to exercise the a ppropriate professional judgment in attending to their care. In Washington, D.C., where he practices, Rydzewski helped draft the recently promulgated regulations governing the licensure of youth residential facilities in the District, including youth group homes. On a national basis, Rydzewski helped prepare two amicus briefs to the Supreme Court of the United States arguing that Congress intended for the Americans With Disabilities Act to apply to state prisons and that the application of the Americans With Disabilities Act to state governments is a constitutional exercise of congressional authority. Rydzewski also serves as guardian ad litem to 12 juveniles in the Washington, D.C., child welfare system. Based on this extensive history of pro bono service, the Georgetown University alumni magazine profiled Rydzewski in an article titled "Attorney in Service" in its summer 2001 edition.
THE YOUNG LAWYERS DIVISION LEGAL AID PUBLIC SERVICE AWARD
The purpose of the Young Lawyers Division Legal Aid Public Service Award is to recognize the outstanding contributions by a public sector attorney to those in need of free legal services.
THE YOUNG LAWYERS DIVISION LEGAL AID PUBLIC SERVICE AWARD RECIPIENT
Lawrence H. Kolin
Lawrence H. Kolin was born in New York, New York, and earned his undergraduate degree from Trinity College in 1991, and his Juris Doctor from the University of Miami in 1994. While attending the University of Miami School of Law, he was executive editor of the University of Miami Entertainment & Sports Law Review, 1993-1994. Kolia authored "Caught in the Net," a Book Note published at 10 University of Miami Entertainment & Sports Law Review 303, 1993. He was also a member of the Editorial Board, University of Miami Yearbook of International Law, 1992-1994. In 1992 and 1993, he served as a law clerk for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Orlando. Kolin practices in all areas of professional liability with an emphasis on medical malpractice, premises liability, as well as entertainment and intellectual property litigation. He has been a member of The Florida Bar since 1994 .and is admitted to practice before all Florida State Courts, the United States District Court for the Northern, Middle and Southern Districts of Florida, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit and the United States Supreme Court He is also a member of the American Bar Association, the Orange County Bar Association and the American Inns of Court. He is also a Certified Mediator. Kolin has served as a pro bono Guardian ad Litem since 1995, and has been appointed GAL to several multi-sibling families. Kolin has also been an Orange County Teen Court judge and advisor. For his efforts, he received a Special Award of the Legal Aid Society of the Orange County Bar Association at the Juvenile Justice Center on April 4, 1997.
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|Author:||Killian, Mark D.|
|Publication:||Florida Bar News|
|Date:||Apr 1, 2002|
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