The Florida Bar


January 23, 2014
Francine A. Walker;,
The Florida Bar
(850) 561-5666

Tampa attorney Karen Meyer Buesing, a shareholder at Akerman LLP in Tampa, is the recipient of the 2014 Tobias Simon Pro Bono Service Award, the highest statewide pro bono award. The award will be presented by Chief Justice Ricky Polston at a Jan. 30 ceremony at the Supreme Court of Florida in Tallahassee.

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.

Buesing will also be recognized with The Florida Bar President’s Pro Bono Service Award for the 13th Judicial Circuit (Hillsborough County).

In her more than 30 years in practice, Buesing has counseled and represented management in employment law matters before local, state and federal agencies, courts and arbitration panels. She also assists health care providers in complying with their obligations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act to patients and companions who have disabilities or are of limited English proficiency. She became a member of The Florida Bar in 1982 and is Board Certified in Labor and Employment Law.

Buesing has provided pro bono legal services to the poor in the Tampa Bay area throughout her 30-year career. In the last year alone, she logged more than 180 hours of pro bono service.

For more than 20 years, Buesing has chaired a selection committee that recommends candidates to serve in the attorney seats on the board of directors of Bay Area Legal Services. According to Amy Singer of the Hillsborough Association for Women Lawyers, “Her participation has ensured focus on the organization’s goals, and a steady pool of outstanding applicants. The stellar board has helped make BALS one of the model legal services corporations in the country.”

Buesing was instrumental in founding the Prosperity Campaign of Hillsborough County to spread the word about available tax credits for the working poor, including the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The campaign arranged for volunteer tax preparers to assist in filing for the tax credits and worked closely with local banks to provide financial literacy and an opportunity to maintain checking accounts. The EITC could be claimed going back four years, and in many instances provided enough to buy a used car, make a down payment on a home or repay a student loan. The dollars had been available for years but never claimed, largely because of a lack of awareness. During its first year, the Prosperity Campaign captured more than $11 million in EITC dollars for the working poor in Hillsborough County.

As an employment lawyer representing management, Buesing has provided hundreds of hours of pro bono services to non-profit organizations, including a charity that provides youth sports opportunities, after-school care and foster care transition services; a statewide program that advances programs for children, including early childhood education; and a church in Clearwater. In the past two years, Buesing has donated more than 50 hours of legal services to Project Akilah, an organization that opened a school for young women in Rwanda who were orphaned by the genocide. The school graduated its first class of women last year. Their lives have been forever changed by the opportunity to have an education and jobs.

Perhaps Buesing’s most profound pro bono services benefit homeless youths. Beginning more than six years ago, she took in the first of several youths who lacked stable homes. Since that time, she and her husband have taken in five young people. Buesing arranged for education, medical care, transportation and provided food, clothing, shelter and a loving home. Two of them still live with her family today and attend college. The Lazydays Homeless Youth Program was founded to call attention to the plight of homeless children and teens and provide outreach services.

Buesing has worked with legislators on behalf of the Lazydays program to secure legislation benefitting homeless youth, including laws passed during the 2013 session that enable them to secure their own birth certificates, sign themselves out of school for medical care and become emancipated when necessary so that they can take actions for themselves. Last summer in Tampa, Buesing helped organize Hillsborough County’s first ever Homeless Youth Forum at which a number of homeless youths told their stories. Gov. Rick Scott attended. Buesing has directed staged readings for a professional theater company, Stageworks Tampa, to benefit the group’s at-risk teens program. Her staged reading of “Sylvia” in January 2012 raised a record $8,000 in a single night for at-risk teens.

Buesing received a B.S. degree with high honors in 1975 from the University of Florida College of Journalism and a J.D. degree with honors in 1982 from the University of Florida Levin College of Law.

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.

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. 30, at 3:30 p.m. at the Supreme Court of Florida and will be webcast live from The program will be broadcast taped-delayed on the Florida Channel at a later date. Check local cable listings for details.


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[Revised: 12-23-2014]