The Florida Bar


January 17, 2012
Dorohn A. Frazier,
The Florida Bar
(850) 561-5764

Tampa attorney Rosemary E. Armstrong is the recipient of the 2012 Tobias Simon Pro Bono Service Award, the highest statewide pro bono award. The award will be presented by Chief Justice Charles T. Canady at a Jan. 26 ceremony at the Supreme Court of Florida in Tallahassee. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Tobias Simon Pro Bono Service Award.

The award commemorates the late Miami civil rights lawyer Tobias Simon who was well known as a tireless civil rights attorney, a crusader for prison reform and an appellate authority. The award is intended to encourage and recognize extraordinary contributions by Florida lawyers in making legal services available to persons who otherwise could not afford them, and to focus public awareness on the substantial voluntary services rendered by Florida lawyers.

Armstrong has been dedicated to providing pro bono legal services to low-income and other vulnerable residents in the Tampa Bay area for 25 years. As a volunteer with Bay Area Legal Services' Volunteer Lawyers Program since 1986, she has donated nearly 1,200 pro bono hours in direct legal services to those in need. In 1988 and again in 2011, Armstrong received The Florida Bar President's Pro Bono Service Award for her efforts. This year she is receives the profession's highest honor – The Tobias Simon Pro Bono Service Award.

Armstrong is a sole practitioner in Tampa. Her principal areas of practice are criminal defense, family and general practice. Inspired by her own experience as a child from a working poor family and raised by a single mother, Armstrong knows the desperate need for support and the relief of receiving help experienced by many of her pro bono clients.

Armstrong has worked with Bay Area Legal Services staff attorneys on elder law, housing and juvenile dependency cases; interviewed applicants for legal aid at client intake sessions held in evenings or Saturday mornings; represented clients in contentious family law cases; helped pro se litigants complete family law forms; and assisted victims of domestic violence file petitions for injunction.

Providing assistance to victims of domestic violence is especially important to Armstrong. As a young teenager, she witnessed violent arguments between her mother and stepfather. Although the marriage was short-lived, Armstrong can still remember feeling scared and helpless. In 1996, members of the Hillsborough Association for Women Lawyers collaborated with Bay Area Legal Services and the local domestic violence shelter, The Spring of Tampa Bay, to help victims of domestic abuse. The result was the creation of the Domestic Violence Assistance Project, which provided attorneys to assist victims of domestic violence in completing and filing petitions for injunction. Armstrong became a regular volunteer for the project.

Armstrong was elected to the Bay Area Legal Services' Board of Directors in 1989. She has served as a board member continuously for 22 years, including terms as its president in 1993, 1995 and 2001. During her time on the board, Armstrong initiated and implemented numerous projects that enabled Bay Area Legal Services to improve and expand the provision of pro bono legal services in the community.

According to Bay Area Legal Services' Executive Director Dick Woltmann, "Rosemary joined us as a volunteer attorney in 1986 and never left. No other attorney has dedicated as much personal time and money to support our clients and mission. Her impact has been immeasurable. I can't imagine Bay Area Legal Services without her."

Armstrong received her Juris Doctor degree from Columbia University School of Law, where she was the administrative editor of the Human Rights Law Review. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of Washington, Magna Cum Laude.

The Tobias Simon award was created in 1982 and is believed to be the first of its kind in the country conferring recognition by a state's highest court on a private lawyer for voluntary, free legal services to the poor. A permanent plaque listing the names of all award recipients hangs in the lawyers' lounge of the Supreme Court in Tallahassee. In this 30th year celebration of the Tobias Simon Pro Bono Service award, a special collection of letters, articles and various honors received by Mr. Simon will be on display at the Supreme Court between Jan. 20-27.

This year's awards ceremony, which also honors
circuit, law firm, young lawyer, voluntary bar and judicial pro bono efforts, is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 26, at 3:30 p.m. at the Supreme Court of Florida at the Supreme Court of Florida and will be webcast live from The program will be rebroadcast taped-delayed on the Florida Channel at a later date. Check local cable listings for details.

Tampa attorney, Rosemary E. Armstrong, is the recipient of the 2012 Tobias Simon Pro Bono Service Award, the highest recognition of providing legal assistance to the poor.

Tobias Simon, the late Miami civil rights lawyer, was well known as a tireless civil rights attorney, a crusader for prison reform and an appellate authority.

PHOTO 3 (Courtesy of Roberta Simon)
One of Tobias Simon's pro bono clients was legendary civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who sent Simon this signed photo in gratitude of his service.

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EDITORS: Please note The Florida Bar is not an association and "Association" is not part of our name. Proper reference is "The Florida Bar." Local bar organizations are properly termed "associations."

[Revised: 07-08-2012]