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A Salute to Pro Bono Service - Helping the Less Fortunate Access Legal Services

Reuniting immigrant children with their families, protecting teens from domestic violence, obtaining life-saving medical benefits and helping homeowners avoid foreclosure are a few of the ways South Florida attorneys demonstrate their commitment to pro bono service.

To serve their communities, many attorneys also volunteer their time and raise funds to support worthy non-profit organizations like Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc. (LSGMI), Dade Legal Aid, Legal Aid Service of Broward County, Coast to Coast Legal Aid of South Florida and the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County.

Here is a closer look at South Florida attorneys who were recognized this spring for their exceptional pro bono services to clients in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties.

Miami-Dade

In January, TotalBank hosted a January 28 awards reception for The Florida Bar’s 11th Circuit pro bono award winners and for Legal Services of Greater Miami, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary (see related sidebar article).

TotalBank AwardeesTotalBank President Jay Pelham organized the reception after serving as the community representative on The Florida Bar’s pro bono awards selection committee. “We read the heart-wrenching stories of children and parents who desperately needed legal assistance, and the hundreds of hours of pro bono support provided by these attorneys,” he said. “That convinced us to sponsor the reception for them and to help Legal Services of Greater Miami kick off its 50th anniversary year. Our bank is proud to serve South Florida attorneys and their firms, and the event was our way of giving back to the legal community.”

Leslie Lott, a founding partner of Lott & Fischer in Coral Gables, chaired the committee that selected Lyndall M. “Lyndy” Lambert, Holland & Knight, as winner of The Florida Bar President’s Pro Bono Service Award for the 11th Judicial Circuit for her dedicated advocacy work with children.

“Our committee was deeply impressed by the caliber of the nominations, and we decided to recognize seven additional attorneys for their pro bono service,” said Lott. “While many attorneys are stretched to the breaking point, these individuals found time to give back to the needy in our community.”

Three Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton attorneys – Javier A. Lopez, a partner in the litigation department, and litigation attorneys Chauncey D. Cole, IV, and Stephanie Moncada – were recognized for providing a combined 600 hours of pro bono legal services to community organizations last year.

“Although Stephanie Moncada has only been in practice for a year, she provided very meaningful and effective service on behalf of indigent children,” Lott said. “Javier Lopez and Chauncey Cole won a $240,000 settlement on behalf of a man who had been mistreated in a Hollywood police brutality case.”

Jamie Vining, Friedland Vining P.A., was honored for launching a “patently impossible” competition to raise funds for Dade Legal Aid, which provides legal services for the needy through the Dade County Bar Association’s “Put Something Back” program.

Alex Annunziato, an attorney with the Office of Miami-Dade Commissioner Esteban Bovo, Jr., who teaches constitutional and criminal law at Miami Dade College, was recognized for preparing child custody and parental agreements for a victim of domestic violence in an abusive family situation.

Cristina Alonso, Carlton Fields Jorden Burt, was honored for her advocacy work on parental rights for same-sex couples “so that children could be placed with loving caring parents,” Lott said.

Sandra Millor, Akerman LLP, was a leader in a Cuban American Bar Association juvenile pro bono project to assist unaccompanied minor children seeking to escape gang violence, human trafficking and other problems. Millor provided pro bono services to a child from Honduras who wanted to stay in the U.S. with her mother.

Broward

Broward Lawyers Care, the pro bono project of Legal Aid Service of Broward County (LAS) and Coast to Coast Legal Aid of South Florida (CCLA), announced its 2016 award winners on May 6 during the annual Law Day Luncheon hosted by the Broward County Bar Association.

“The ongoing need for volunteer legal assistance to the poor and disadvantaged affects the daily life of many in our community, including veterans and families,” said LAS in a press release. “These awards honor attorneys who recognize that need and have committed themselves to serving the community.”

The Broward winners were:

  • 2016 Attorney of the Year - Russell M. Thompson. A longtime advocate for the disadvantaged in Broward County, Thompson has represented 22 pro bono clients, including veterans, survivors of domestic violence, and child survivors of abuse and neglect.
  • Law Firm of the Year - Farmer, Jaffe, Weissing, Edwards, Fistos and Lehrman PL. The firm has a history of supporting the mission of LAS and CCLA. Collectively and individually, attorneys at the firm volunteer their time to represent veterans and other pro bono clients, mentor law students and serve on the LAS and CCLA Board.
  • Spirit of Justice Award – Scott D. Owens of Scott D. Owens, P.A. This award is presented annually to a person or group who furthers the mission of legal aid providers like LAS and CCLA and embodies the “spirit” of ensuring access to justice for all. Owens’ participation ranges from mentoring and coaching staff attorneys in the Consumer Unit, to advocacy for and the direction of Cy Pres awards, service on the LAS and CCLA Board, and overall support and participation in fundraising events and activities.

The official awards will be presented at the 15th Annual “For the Public Good” event to be held October 27, 2016. This is the annual fundraiser for Legal Aid Service of Broward County and Coast to Coast Legal Aid of South Florida. Proceeds benefit families and individuals in gaining access to equal justice.

Palm Beach

Shutts & Bowen team

The Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County honored nine attorneys, a private investigator, a community volunteer and Shutts & Bowen during its 28th annual Pro Bono Recognition Evening on May 7 at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach.

“As a firm, we are honored to receive this award, and I am proud of the dedication our team has to giving back to the community,” said Arthur J. Menor, managing partner of the West Palm Beach office of Shutts & Bowen LLP, who received the award on behalf of the firm.


PBC Award Winners

The honorees supported causes for domestic violence survivors; abused, abandoned and neglected children; exploited seniors; foster children; and housing and employment discrimination victims. The individual award winners were:

  • And Justice For All Award - Greg Coleman, CLC Law and immediate past president of The Florida Bar 
  • Appellate Law Award – Robert J. Hauser, Pankauski Law Firm 
  • Civil Litigation Award – Amanda Rae Keller, Richman Greer
  • Community Service Award – Anthony P. Vernace, Greenberg Traurig
  • Family Law Award – Staci Burton, Roig Lawyers
  • Immigration Law Award – Holly Tabernilla, West Palm Beach
  • Non Profit Award – Lisa Markofsky, and Andrew Thomson, Proskaer
  • Special Services Award – Bob Goldberg, Surveilx
  • Suzanne Foley “Serving Justice” Award – Patience A. Burns, retiring executive director, Palm Beach County Bar Association
  • Veterans Advocacy Award – Maria J. Patullo, West Palm Beach

The Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County was founded in 1949 and provides free legal services to disadvantaged children, families, elders and individuals in Palm Beach County.


Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc. Celebrates 50th Anniversary 
Marcia Cypen

Since its founding in 1966, Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc. (LSGMI) has provided free legal services to the most vulnerable residents of Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties. “By helping them, we build stronger families and make the community a better place for all of us,” said Marcia K. Cypen, who has served as executive director since 1983. Under her leadership, LSGMI has grown to be a $7-million law firm with 30 attorneys. “We rely on support from the community, and thank the countless volunteers who have helped our organization through the years,” she added.

This year, Legal Services of Greater Miami is celebrating its 50th anniversary of serving the region. Widely recognized as a model legal services program, its diverse staff provides clients with legal services in three languages from regional offices located in Miami and south Miami-Dade, and neighborhood offices throughout its service area. Noted “alumni” of the non-profit include the late U.S. Judge Wilkie Ferguson, Jr., former U.S. Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart, and Miami-Dade County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava.

“We are launching a major gifts campaign in our anniversary year,” said Cypen. “Our objective is to create a $25 million endowment fund whose proceeds would support attorney salaries. That would go a long way toward assuring our ability to serve the needy men, women and children in Miami-Dade and Monroe for the next 50 years.”

Legal Services of Greater Miami recently purchased a new building at 4343 West Flagler Street. “This central location will make our main office more accessible to clients to the south and west,” Cypen said. “We know that transportation is a challenge for everyone, and have also invested in our phone and online intake system to get the legal process started faster and more efficiently.”

The non-profit organization holds regular small claims clinics and divorce clinics staffed primarily by volunteer attorneys. “We also have strong pro bono relationships with many South Florida law firms,” Cypen said. “When we get a case, we send them an eblast, which they forward to their own attorneys. That has proven to be a very effective method for helping clients with challenging cases.”

For example, Legal Services of Greater Miami took on a pro bono case for the residents of a mobile home park in El Portal that was being closed after its sale to a developer. “We filed a lawsuit alleging that the city violated state statutes and achieved a settlement that brought some relief to the tenants,” she said.

Reflecting on her 40 years of service to the organization, Cypen said, “When I started here in 1976, one of the first cases I handled in federal court involved a cutback in Medicaid benefits and another was about improving living conditions for tenants in a rental building run by an absentee landlord. Today, we are still handling those kinds of cases. But the need for our services is greater because there are more people in poverty who are facing the same basic legal issues.”

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07/01/2016

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