The Florida Bar


January 13, 2016
Mark Hohmeister,,
The Florida Bar
(850) 561-5764

TALLAHASSEE - The Honorable Catherine Peek McEwen (photo) of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Middle District of Florida, Tampa, will be the first recipient of the Chief Justice’s Distinguished Federal Judicial Service Award. The new award, which recognizes an active or retired federal judge for outstanding and sustained service to the public, especially as it relates to the support of pro bono legal services, will be presented by Chief Justice Jorge Labarga at a Jan. 28 ceremony at the Supreme Court of Florida.

McEwen’s commitment to pro bono service reaches far back into her legal career, when she was an active participant in the Bay Area Volunteer Lawyers Program, so her appointment as a bankruptcy judge in 2007 simply offered her new opportunities to serve.

She first focused on the problems faced by pro se consumer debtors. She worked with the local bankruptcy bar and other judges to produce a video on bankruptcy basics. That video now is available online in English, Spanish and Creole, and it has been used as a template for national versions.

McEwen has served on the 13th Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee since 2007, and she is the immediate past chair. In 2015, she helped organize a judicial pro bono summit, to educate state and federal judges on what they can do to encourage pro bono service – and how they themselves can contribute.

In 2013 and 2014, while McEwen was president of the Ferguson-White Inn of Court, she worked to found the Wm. Reece Smith Jr. Litigation American Inn of Court for the Tampa area. The Wm. Reece Smith Jr. inn adopted the H.E.L.P. program (Homeless Experience Legal Protection) as its pro bono project.

McEwen has an unusual background, having been a sportswriter in Tampa in the 1970s. She graduated from the Stetson University College of Law in 1982, and was an attorney and later shareholder at Moffitt, Hart & Herron, which merged with what is now Akerman LLP in 1991. She then had a private practice in Tampa before moving to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Middle District of Florida.

Note: Support of pro bono legal services by members of the bench is an activity that relates to improvement of the administration of justice. Accordingly, a judge may engage in activities intended to encourage attorneys to perform pro bono services, including, but not limited to: participating in events to recognize attorneys who do pro bono work, establishing general procedural or scheduling accommodations for pro bono attorneys as feasible, and acting in an advisory capacity to pro bono programs.

This year's awards ceremony, which also honors individual, circuit, young lawyer, state judicial, law firm and voluntary bar pro bono efforts, is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 28, at 3:30 p.m. at the Supreme Court of Florida. The ceremony will be streamed live at

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[Revised: 01-27-2016]