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February 15, 2013

Wayne Heslby, right, and Bruce Blackwell
TRIAL LAWYERS SECTION Chair Wayne Heslby, right, presents a $75,000 donation check to former Foundation President Bruce Blackwell.

Trial Lawyers Section renews its gift to the Bar Foundation

The Florida Bar Trial Lawyers Section has provided a second gift of $75,000 to The Florida Bar Foundation to support the work of the Trial Lawyers Section Children’s Legal Services Fellow for one more year.

The section made its initial gift in January 2011 in response to the impending loss of legal aid attorney positions due to the prolonged and steep decline in revenue from Florida’s IOTA program.

The gift has enabled Jessica Rae, an attorney with more than 10 years of experience representing foster youth, to continue the Transitioning Dependent Youth Project at the Community Law Program in St. Petersburg, where over the last nine months she has helped 85 teenagers as they transition out of the dependency system.

“The Trial Lawyers Section is delighted to once again provide The Florida Bar Foundation with this gift of $75,000,” Trial Lawyers Section Chair Wayne Helsby said. “As trial lawyers, we fully understand and appreciate the importance of obtaining legal representation in the course of our judicial process. So many Floridians are simply unable to afford that representation. We collectively feel a deep sense of responsibility to assist The Florida Bar Foundation in helping others obtain representation, especially our state’s foster children.”

Helsby said the section hopes its gift will again prompt other Bar sections to contribute to “this most worthwhile cause.”

The Trial Lawyers Section’s initial gift was instrumental in encouraging other Bar sections to contribute to The Florida Bar Foundation over the last year. The combined generosity of the Bar, its sections and divisions, and their members resulted in gifts of more than $620,000 to the Foundation last year.

The leadership of the Family Law Section made a $75,000 contribution to the Foundation’s Children’s Legal Services Grant Program. The Real Property, Probate, and Trust Law Section launched an effort that brought in $85,000 to support Children’s Legal Services, a significant portion of which came from individual RPPTLS members. The Young Lawyers Division made a $100,000 gift, which the Foundation used to help fund its Law School Loan Repayment Program to help legal aid organizations retain staff attorneys. The Criminal Law Section approved a $25,000 gift, and the Alternative Dispute Resolution Section gave $1,000. The Bar also waived the Foundation’s booth fee at the Annual Convention, allowing the Foundation to recruit additional fellows at no cost.

The second year of funding for the Trial Lawyers Section children’s legal services fellow comes at a crucial time, said Kimberly Rodgers, executive director of the Community Law Program, adding that, like most legal aid organizations, the Community Law Program is still in the midst of a sharp decline in funding from all sources that is not expected to level off anytime soon.

“Despite this outlook, this incredibly generous gift from the Trial Lawyers Section, which has been repeated, has helped us build a formidable wall of protection for young people who need it the most,” Rodgers said. “Many stakeholders in the child welfare community have taken notice of the tremendous impact Jessica’s advocacy has made, which is something our organization would never have been able to accomplish without this section’s financial support.”

[Revised: 04-24-2014]