TWENTY FLORIDA LAWYERS HONORED FOR PROVIDING FREE LEGAL SERVICES TO THE POOR Twenty lawyers will receive The Florida Bar President's Pro Bono Service Award for their commitment to providing free legal services to the poor. The awards ceremony well be held at the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday, Feb.16, at 3:30 p.m. The Florida Bar President's Pro Bono Service Award was established in 1981 as a way to recognize individual lawyers within Florida's judicial circuits who are committed to providing free legal services to those who cannot afford legal fees. The term "pro bono," derived from the Latin phrase "pro bono publico," means "for the good of the public." In 2004-05, Florida lawyers donated more than 1.5 million pro bono hours and $3.79 million dollars in monetary contributions. Other awards to be presented during the ceremony include the Tobias Simon Pro Bono Service Award. Given by the Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court, this award recognizes a lawyer who has made outstanding contributions to his community by providing free legal services for the poor. Chief Justice Barbara J. Pariente will present this year's award to Miami attorney Katherine W. Ezell. The Distinguished Judicial Service Award will be presented to the Honorable Charles A. Francis of Tallahassee. The Clearwater law firm of Johnson, Pope, Bokor, Ruppel & Burns, LLP will receive the Law Firm Commendation Award The Hispanic Bar Association for Stetson University College of Law will receive the Voluntary Bar Pro Bono Service Award . The Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division will present the Young Lawyers Division Pro Bono Award to attorney Joseph F. Summonte Jr. of Sarasota. The 20 recipients of The Florida Bar President's Pro Bono Service Award are: MICHAEL J. STEBBINS – Pensacola -- First Judicial Circuit From October 2004 to January 2005, Stebbins volunteered at a free legal clinic for hurricane victims at a FEMA center in Gulf Breeze. He provided more than 70 hours of free legal services, assisting nearly 160 families and individuals. In addition, Stebbins handled seven pro bono cases and provided pro bono consultations to 15 individuals on a variety of legal topics. GWENDOLYN P. ADKINS –Tallahassee -- Second Judicial Circuit Adkins has provided pro bono services to indigent persons through the Legal Aid Foundation of the Tallahassee Bar Association since 1992. In one pro bono case she provided more than three years and 170 hours of legal work that not only resulted in a grandmother being granted custody of her grandchildren, but also laid the foundation for a subsequent case decided by the Florida Supreme Court that clarified the rights of adoptive parents. JOHN J. KENDRON –- Lake City -- Third Judicial Circuit Kendron has dedicated many pro bono hours to clients of Three Rivers Legal Services, Inc. His pro bono work includes estate planning for indigent families and veterans of foreign war. In addition he has proved assistance with public benefits eligibility for families in his community and served as attorney Ad Litem for children in dependency proceedings. JOHN S. MILLS –- Jacksonville -– Fourth Judicial Circuit Mills provides pro bono work for Jacksonville Area Legal Aid and indigent parties who contact him directly, as well as by appointment from the Florida Supreme Court and the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. One pro bono matter he handled resulted in a victory in the Supreme Court of the United States in favor of 1200 “Mariel” Cubans challenging indefinite detention. As a result, the Eleventh Circuit now recognizes the right to court-appointed counsel under the Criminal Justice Act for habeas petitioners in immigration matters. MARY B. STEDDOM – Ocala -– Fifth Judicial Circuit Steddom handles pro bono cases referred by the Pro Bono Program of Mid Florida and takes on pro bono clients independently. Over the past 50 years she has provided 640 hours of pro bono legal work. In addition she has donated 160 hours to the Fifth Circuit Public Guardian Corporation and serves as both a board member and secretary. ELISE K. WINTERS – Clearwater -- Sixth Judicial Circuit Winters has not only provided pro bono representation and support for Gulf Coast Legal Services, Clearwater Bar Foundation and Clearwater Bar Association over the past 25 years, she has also worked diligently to encourage and recruit attorneys to do pro bono work. In addition, Winters has also established the Peoples’ Law School and the Community Law School; two programs that have helped educate and assist thousands of people in understanding and resolving the legal issues that affect them. JULIA SOERPEBOEL – Palm Coast -- Seventh Judicial Circuit Soerpebel provides pro bono legal services through Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida and the Volunteer Lawyers Project. Each month for the past two years she has provided assistance at Pro Se Divorce Workshops and family law advice clinics in Palm Coast and Bunnell. P. AUSE BROWN JR. – Gainesville -- Eighth Judicial Circuit Brown has been providing pro bono services since the 1960’s when he served on the legal aid committee of the Eighth Circuit Bar Association. He has also represented clients through Three Rivers Legal Services Volunteer Attorney Program for more than 35 years. Over the past several years, he has provided more than 200 hours in free legal services helping clients with a variety of legal issues. MATTHEW G. BRENNER – Orlando -- Ninth Judicial Circuit Throughout his career, Brenner has provided pro bono legal services on behalf of the Legal Aid Society of the Orange County Bar Association. Brenner has handled over 100 cases providing almost 1000 hours of free legal work on closed cases. Specific volunteer work he has done includes serving as a guardian ad litem for neglected and abused children, and teaching the Pro Se Divorce Clinic. Currently he is providing free legal services to Habitat for Humanity. STEPHEN R. SENN – Lakeland -- 10th Judicial Circuit A Board Certified attorney in Appellate Law, Senn has handled pro bono matters primarily involving litigation matters in state and federal cases through Florida Rural Legal Services, Inc. and his firm. In addition to providing well over 500 hours in free legal work over the past several years, Senn has donated many hours to service on the boards of Florida Equal Justice Center and Florida Rural Legal Services, Inc., as well as the Pro Bono Committee for the Tenth Judicial Circuit. JOHN KOZYAK – Coral Gables -- 11th Judicial Circuit Kozyak has accepted pro bono cases for more than 25 years through the Dade County Bar Association Put Something Back Pro Bono Project. In addition he has helped raise money for pro bono recruitment and training seminars on behalf of the American College of Bankruptcy’s Pro Bono Committee. JOSEPH F. SUMMONTE JR. – Sarasota -- 12th Judicial Circuit Summonte, through the American Bar Association-Young Lawyers Division Disaster Legal Services Program, provided legal services to those impacted by the 2004 hurricanes. His work primarily involved protecting families from landlords’ refusal to return security deposits and the threat of eviction proceedings. In each case, residents remained in possession of their homes until they could locate alternative housing. CHARLES H. SCRUGGS III – Tampa -- 13th Judicial Circuit Scruggs has done extensive legal wok with the poor, including donating hundreds of hours as an intake attorney for Bay Area Legal Services. He also mentors less experienced attorneys in his community through the Volunteer Lawyers Program. Scruggs is co-founder and director of D.W.I. counterattack, a local program developed to educate and rehabilitate individuals convicted of drunk driving that has since been adopted statewide. DOUGLAS J. SALE -- Panama City -- 14th Judicial Circuit Sale has provided free legal services for his community primarily through the Bay County Bar Association’s First Saturday Legal Clinic as well as through individual referrals. In one pro bono case Sale took on, he defended an elderly woman whose neighbor had illegally obtained the deed of her home. LARRY D. MURRELL JR. -- West Palm Beach -- 15th Judicial Circuit Murrell has been involved in pro bono work throughout his career, regularly accepting cases from his local legal aid society. Most Notably, Murrell worked for four years on behalf of a young man wrongfully convicted of first degree murder. As a result of his work, his client was released from prison after 13 years in custody and reunited with his family. HOWARD M. TALENFELD -- Parkland -- 17th Judicial Circuit Talenfeld volunteers hundreds of hours annually to protect foster children and the developmentally disabled. In 2002, he co-founded Florida’s Children First, a nonprofit organization that advocates for at-risk children. As president, he helped obtain the passage of critical legislation for foster children to improve their representation, protect their educations and obtain access to their records. THOMAS G. FREEMAN – Altamonte Springs -- 18th Judicial Circuit Freeman has represented clients of the Seminole County Bar Association Legal Aid Society with divorce, paternity and landlord-tenant issues. In 2004, the SCBA Legal Aid Society recognized his contributions by presenting him with a Life Achievement Award. During the past two years, Mr. Freeman helped the SCBA Legal Aid Society procure a new facility for its operations that will assist in providing indigent clients with legal help for many years. BRIAN J. CONNELLEY – Vero Beach -- 19th Judicial Circuit Connelly serves as the Indian River County Pro Bono Liaison for the 19th Judicial Circuit and regularly accepts cases form Florida Rural Legal Services, Inc. Throughout his legal career Connelly has handled more than 75 pro bono cases and donated more than 500 hours of free legal services. JANEICE T. MARTIN – Naples -- 20th Judicial Circuit Martin has taken on pro bono cases on an individual basis and through the Legal Aid Society of Collier County throughout her career. As a member of the Board of Directors for the Legal Aid Society of Collier County Martin helped lead the organization while it quadrupled in size, and helped develop an organized pro bono program allowing private attorneys to contribute their time. BRYANT M. RICHARDSON – Washington, D.C. -- Out-of-State Division Richardson donates time to various pro bono transactional matters and pro bono matters that help children. Most notably, he contributed more than 300 hours of work on a special education project for his law firm, Piper Rudnick Gray Cary LLP.
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