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D'Alemberte wins Simon Pro Bono Award.

Reeling off a 45-year litany of public service achievements, Chief Justice Fred Lewis presented Sandy D'Alemberte with the Tobias Simon Pro Bono Service Award, the Supreme Court's highest honor for providing pro bono services.

"His contributions are so remarkable I can only describe him as a true Renaissance man of the legal profession," Chief Justice Lewis said during a special ceremony of the Supreme Court in Tallahassee January 25. Also recognized were the firms of Hogan & Hartson and Messer & Messer, receiving the Chief Justice's Law Firm Commendation; the Bankruptcy Bar Association for the Southern District of Florida, winning the court's Voluntary Bar Association Pro Bono Service Award; and Judge Lauren L. Brodie, receiving the Distinguished Judicial Service Award.

A lawyer from each circuit also was honored with The Florida Bar President's Pro Bono Service Awards, and Mac Richard McCoy of Tampa received the Young Lawyers Division Pro Bono Service Award.

"It is noteworthy that this ceremony comes on the heels of a national government representative castigating the pro bono efforts of lawyers in this nation--including Florida lawyers--who volunteer their efforts to represent Guantanamo detainees," Bar President Hank Coxe said. "What those lawyers do--and what you do--is the highest calling of this profession--and I mean the highest. You have the unqualified commitment of The Florida Bar that we will always applaud and--as importantly--defend what you do. It is you who makes us all proud to enjoy the privilege of practicing law."

In his first appearance before the Florida Supreme Court in 1962, D'Alemberte swore an oath that included the words, "'I will never reject, for any reason personal to myself, the cause of the defenseless or oppressed."

"Now almost 45 years later I am delighted to be before you, still nervous and awed, but very proud to be with the lawyers you recognize today," D'Alemberte said.

In 1962 D'Alemberte, a former ABA president who now practices with Hunton & Williams, was named president of the Junior Bar Association of Dade County. Concerned with a tremendous backlog of cases in the Public Defender's Office, especially in the area of appeals, he took on cases of his own while recruiting other young lawyers to offer their services on a pro bono basis. Later, while serving as the Florida State University law school dean, he established a pro bono publico requirement for all students. In 1990, D'Alemberte was the lead lawyer in what has become known as the "D'Alemberte Petition," which urged the Florida Supreme Court to make it clear that all members of The Florida Bar have a duty to provide legal services to indigents when ordered by a court.

With the fall of the Berlin Wall, D'Alemberte was the co-founder of what is now known as the Central European and Euro Asian and Eastern European Law Institute, the largest pro bono program in the ABA and, perhaps, the largest single pro bono project in the history of American law. More than 5,000 American lawyers, judges and legal scholars have served without pay as volunteers, living and working in 218 countries and providing more than $180 million in pro bono legal services.

During his tenure as FSU president, D'Alemberte established the Center for the Advancement of Human Rights and a campus office that promotes public service among all students.

D'Alemberte has provided pro bono representation to four Florida death row inmates. In 2005, he represented Wilton Dedge, who had been imprisoned for 22 years for a rape that DNA evidence later showed he did not commit. Although his innocence was demonstrated beyond a legal doubt, there was reluctance on the part of some lawmakers to pass a claims bill compensating Dedge for his wrongful imprisonment. D'Alemberte worked for more than a year to loosen the legislative purse strings, which resulted in a $2-million-plus award, plus educational benefits. D'Alemberte said it has been "Florida's destiny" to be the venue for important developments in legal services; the state where Gideon and Argensinger were litigated, and where the Interest on Lawyers' Trust Accounts program was initiated; where simplified rules have been adopted; and dispute resolution has been implemented.

"No other state bar can point to a record that exceeds that of Florida lawyers, and no court has done more to make legal services available to the poor, the defenseless, and the oppressed," D'Alemberte said.

"You have called Florida lawyers to service and asked that they provide pro bono services and that they report on their efforts," he said. "In its last report on this subject, The Florida Bar reports that Florida lawyers delivered over 1.4 million hours of pro bono legal assistance to the poor and donated more than $3.4 million to legal services organizations serving the needy. Thank you for watching and for making Florida the leading jurisdiction in the United States in providing for legal services."

D'Alemberte said one benefit of doing pro bono work is that you learn to appreciate the people who are so important to our system of justice--public defenders, legal services lawyers, the public interest lawyers who work in large firms, and those in small, underfunded offices representing prisoners with bona fide claims of innocence.

"All serve in ways that honor justice," D'Alemberte said.

Theresa E. Davis

Assistant Editor
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Title Annotation:Sandy D'Alemberte
Author:Davis, Theresa E.
Publication:Florida Bar News
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 15, 2007
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