The Florida Bar


January 14, 2009
Dorohn A. Frazier,
The Florida Bar

Russell E. Carlisle of Fort Lauderdale has been selected as the recipient of the 2009 Tobias Simon Pro Bono Service Award. The award will be presented by Chief Justice Peggy A. Quince at a Jan. 29 ceremony at the Florida Supreme Court in Tallahassee.

The Tobias Simon Pro Bono Service Award commemorates Miami civil rights lawyer Tobias Simon. Simon was well-known throughout Florida and beyond as a tireless civil rights attorney, a crusader for prison reform and an appellate authority. He practiced law for 30 years and counted Martin Luther King, Jr. among his clients. Simon died of cancer in 1982, at the age of 52. 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 in this area.

Carlisle is a former chair of The Florida Bar Commission on Elder Law and its Elder Law Certification Committee. He has been board certified in Elder Law since 1998. In more than 50 years as an attorney, Carlisle has been dedicated to pro bono legal service to the poor both in its funding and leading others to render such service.

Carlisle was founding president of the Legal Aid Service of Broward County in 1975. The following year he joined the Board of Directors of Florida Legal Services. As vice-president of Florida Legal Services, he briefed and argued the first petition for Interest on Trust Accounts (IOTA) before the Florida Supreme Court. Carlisle became president of The Florida Bar Foundation in 1979 and devoted the next two years to obtaining the tax and regulatory approvals for IOTA. Carlisle and others took the program to other U.S. jurisdictions and it is now available in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It is the second largest provider of funds for legal services to the poor in the U.S.

In 1981, Carlisle was elected president of the Broward County Bar Association, where he established its pro bono services program, Broward Lawyers Care, which now has 1,250 members. Through Broward Lawyers Care, Carlisle and others provided legal asylum representation for Haitian refugees from the Duvalier regime to guardianship and elder law matters. Carlisle received The Florida Bar President's Pro Bono Award in 1982 and again in 2008.

In 1989, Carlisle chaired The Florida Bar Commission on the Elderly. This led to the establishment of a Department of Elder Affairs by the Florida Legislature. Mr. Carlisle was the founding president of the Academy of Florida Elder Law Attorneys and has been active with the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys in both Florida and New Hampshire since 1993. In 2004 he co-authored an amicus curiae brief in the Florida Supreme Court, Bush v. Schiavo, on behalf of The Florida Bar Elder Law Section, the Academy of Florida Elder Law Attorneys and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, successfully advocating the position that the actions of the governor and Florida Legislature attempting to overrule the court decisions allowing removal of Terry Schiavo’s life support violated the separation of powers provisions of the Florida Constitution.

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 Florida Supreme Court Building in Tallahassee.

The awards ceremony, which also honors young lawyer, law firm, voluntary bar and judicial pro bono efforts, is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 29, 2009, at 3:30 p.m. at the Florida Supreme Court. In addition, the ceremony will be broadcast live, unless pre-empted, on the Florida Channel (check local cable listings for the channel number) and on the Internet at

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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: 01-14-2009]