21 FLORIDA LAWYERS TO RECEIVE PRO BONO AWARDS
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 20, 2011
CONTACT: Dorohn A. Frazier; firstname.lastname@example.org,
The Florida Bar
The Florida Bar will recognize 21 lawyers for their work on behalf of poor and indigent clients at a Jan. 27 ceremony at the Florida Supreme Court.
In 2009-10, Florida lawyers provided 1.6 million hours of pro bono services to those in need and $4.6 million to legal aid organizations.
The Florida Bar President's Pro Bono Service Awards were established in 1981. They are intended to encourage lawyers to volunteer free legal services to the poor by recognizing those who make public service commitments and to raise public awareness of the substantial volunteer services provided by Florida lawyers to those who cannot afford legal fees. President Mayanne Downs, of Orlando, will present the 2011 awards.
The awards recognize pro bono service in each of Florida's 20 judicial circuits and one Florida Bar member practicing outside the state of Florida. They are presented annually in conjunction with the Tobias Simon Pro Bono Service Award, which is given by the chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court. Awards recognizing pro bono contributions will also be presented for Distinguished Judicial Service, Law Firm Commendation, Voluntary Bar Association and Young Lawyer during the Jan. 27 ceremony.
By circuit, the 2011 recipients are: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th and Out-of-state Florida Bar member.
Valerie Erwin Prevatte
First Judicial Circuit (Escambia, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton counties)
Valerie Erwin Prevatte is a supervising attorney at the Department of Children and Families in Pensacola. Her primary area of practice is children’s legal services. In her last few years as a solo practitioner, she donated more than 200 hours primarily through Legal Services of North Florida’s Private Attorney Involvement Program and the Escambia-Santa Rosa Bar Association. Prevatte spends time mentoring new attorneys and aspiring attorneys by accompanying them to court proceedings and to networking opportunities. Over the past eight years, she donated approximately 80 hours to teaching students about the perils of drunken driving and has worked with law enforcement and families of victims on DUI Awareness programs before high school proms and graduations.
Elizabeth Willard Willis
Second Judicial Circuit (Franklin, Gadsden, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty and Wakulla counties)
Elizabeth Willard Willis is a sole practitioner in Tallahassee. Her principal areas of practice are child and family law, dependency, guardianship, dispute resolution and mediation. Legal Services of North Florida, the Tallahassee Bar Association and her private offices have received more than 400 hours of her pro bono service, which totals regularly about 100 hours per year. Her volunteer attorney work sometimes takes her as far as Marianna and Panama City. Weekly, she participates in Legal Services of North Florida’s hotline program for the public, answering legal questions on topics such as dissolution of marriage, custody, bankruptcy and probate. The position of court-appointed counsel for a number of children is also a part of her schedule.
D. Todd Doss
Third Judicial Circuit (Columbia, Dixie, Hamilton, Lafayette, Madison, Suwanee and Taylor counties)
D. Todd Doss is a sole practitioner in Lake City. His principal areas of practice are bankruptcy, criminal appellate law and criminal defense. Doss has provided innumerable hours pro bono as local counsel sharing his knowledge and insight of state and federal capital post-conviction proceedings. Doss also regularly represents individuals pro bono in bankruptcy proceedings, obtaining debt relief and saving homes from foreclosure. Doss has served as lead counsel pro bono in two separate death penalty cases in the last year. The knowledge and expertise of Doss -- coupled with the diligent, dedicated work of the collaborating law firms -- resulted in a life sentence for one of the clients. He also has been a public defender in the Third Circuit.
Bryan Scott Gowdy
Fourth Judicial Circuit (Clay, Duval and Nassau counties)
Bryan Scott Gowdy is a partner and shareholder at the law firm of Creed & Gowdy, P.A., in Jacksonville, practicing primarily appellate and criminal law. The focal point of Gowdy’s pro bono service involves improving the lives of low- income clients, by helping ensure that Jacksonville Area Legal Aid continues to effectively respond to the legal needs of the poor. He has donated more than 350 hours of pro bono service during the last 12 months. He also makes pro bono recruitment presentations at area law firms, and he’s been instrumental in facilitating placement of the appeals of legal services clients with appellate attorneys across the state.
Daniel Lee Hightower
Fifth Judicial Circuit (Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion and Sumter counties)
Daniel Lee Hightower is a trial attorney at his own firm in Ocala practicing workers’ compensation, personal injury, car and work accidents, wrongful death, Social Security disability and bankruptcy law. Recognizing the need for low-income individuals to have access to quality legal services, he served on the original Board of Directors for the Marion County Legal Aid Society that formed in the mid-1970s. During the 1980s and 1990s, his pro bono support expanded to Withlacoochee Legal Services, where he donated financial assistance, provided legal advice and brief services, and gave full representation to low-income individuals in Marion County. During the last year, Hightower and members of his firm have given more than 100 hours of pro bono service to the indigent.
Murray Bruce Silverstein
Sixth Judicial Circuit (Pasco and Pinellas counties)
Murray Bruce Silverstein is a partner and shareholder at Shutts & Bowen LLP. His principal areas of practice are administrative law, appellate practice, business law, civil litigation, civil trial, commercial litigation, dispute resolution, advocacy, mediation and trial law. As a trial attorney, Murray often enjoys taking on cases that use his complex litigation skills, and in doing so, he often pays the court costs associated with these cases. Silverstein has contributed well more than 500 hours of his own time, plus at least an additional 300 hours of time of his staff to donating free legal assistance to the poor in the form of representing individual clients and participating in legal advice clinics at Community Law Program.
Shimene Ashlie Shepard-Ryan
Seventh Judicial Circuit (Flagler, Putnam, St. Johns and Volusia counties)
Shimene Ashlie Shepard-Ryan is a sole practitioner in Port Orange. Her principal areas of practice are bankruptcy, family law and general civil litigation. Shepard-Ryan started her pro bono career by helping Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida’s Volunteer Lawyers Project establish its first bankruptcy legal advice clinic. The model that she helped to develop is currently being used by volunteer bankruptcy attorneys in a 12-county service area. In addition to assisting individual clients, she has donated her time on Saturdays assisting clients in day-long workshops with completing the forms necessary for them to file Chapter 7 bankruptcies pro se. She has also assisted Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida in recruiting volunteer attorneys for legal advice clinics and pro se workshops.
Margaret Mitchem Stack
Eighth Judicial Circuit (Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Gilchrist, Levy and Union counties)
Margaret Mitchem Stack is a sole practitioner in private practice in Gainesville. Her principal areas of practice are criminal defense, family law and general practice. Stack’s availability to assist individuals in need of family law help is particularly valuable, especially her willingness to represent victims of domestic violence. Some of her other pro bono cases have involved a complicated dissolution of marriage for a disabled woman with division of real property; dissolution of marriage for a victim of domestic violence; and a paternity matter for a domestic violence victim. She also has attended many of the training events held by Three Rivers Legal Services to solidify her expertise in handling referrals.
Neal Jonathan Blaher
Ninth Judicial Circuit (Orange and Osceola counties)
Neal Jonathan Blaher is a sole practitioner and proprietor at The Law Offices of Neal J. Blaher in Maitland. His principal areas of practice are trademark and copyright, franchise law, arbitration, commercial litigation, dispute resolution and business trial and securities/investment arbitration. Starting in 1986, Blaher began taking on pro bono cases, largely through the Legal Aid Society of The Orange County Bar Association. He has served as a Guardian ad Litem for 96 children, working with sibling and difficult teenager cases. Blaher has contributed more than 1,400 hours on closed pro bono cases, and has won multiple awards for his pro bono service.
Stephen Russell Senn
Tenth Judicial Circuit (Hardee, Highlands and Polk counties)
Stephen Russell Senn is a partner and shareholder at Peterson & Myers, P.A., in Lakeland. His principal areas of practice are appellate, labor and employment law, contract litigation, commercial litigation, legal malpractice, trial and trial advocacy. Senn’s primary method of pro bono involvement is through his affiliation with Florida Rural Legal Services Inc. He has served on its board of directors since 1998, and presently serves as president of that board. In addition, he’s on the board of directors and is president of the Florida Equal Justice Center and Pro Bono Committee for the Tenth Circuit, contributing approximately 80 hours of service to each of these organizations. His pro bono cases have been diverse, and representing youth and the disadvantaged is also very important to him.
Eleventh Judicial Circuit (Miami-Dade County)
Benjamine Reid is a shareholder and trial attorney at Carlton Fields, P.A., in Miami. His principal areas of practice are commercial, business, trade regulation, environmental, antitrust, product liability, tort law and class action litigation. Reid has dedicated hundreds of hours to assuring that the poorest citizens are afforded competent legal counsel. Over the years, his pro bono clients have included rural farm workers; a community-based organization designed to foster economic development in a local minority neighborhood; a number of churches in Miami’s inner-city neighborhoods; residents of the Scott Housing Project in Liberty City; and several Death Row inmates. During the past two years alone, he contributed approximately 150 hours to pro bono matters.
Troy Harold Myers, Jr.
Twelfth Judicial Circuit (DeSoto, Manatee and Sarasota counties)
Troy Harold Myers Jr. is a partner and shareholder at Icard, Merrill, Cullis, Timm, Furen & Ginsburg, P.A., in Sarasota. His principal areas of practice are immigration law, federal and state income and estate tax, business law, offshore organizations, foreign and domestic asset protection, family law, contracts and trust law. At any given time, Myers is representing several Legal Aid clients with pressing foreclosures matters. Dissolution of marriage and immigration are other types of diverse pro bono cases that he’s litigated. In just the last two years, he has donated more than 300 hours of pro bono service volunteering at the Legal Aid of Manasota, Inc.
Rosemary E. Armstrong
Thirteenth Judicial Circuit (Hillsborough County)
Rosemary E. Armstrong is a sole practitioner in Tampa. Her principal areas of practice are criminal defense, family and general practice. Growing up in a working poor family and raised by a single mother, Armstrong knows the desperate need for support and the relief of receiving help that is experienced by many of her pro bono clients. As a volunteer with Bay Area Volunteer Lawyers Program (BAVLP) since 1986, she has donated more than 1,000 hours providing direct legal services to low-income clients. In 1996, members of the Hillsborough Association for Women Lawyers collaborated with the BAVLP and the local domestic violence shelter -- The Spring of Tampa Bay -- to address the need for legal assistance for victims of domestic abuse seeking protection.
Rudolph Carroll Shepard Jr.
Fourteenth Judicial Circuit (Bay, Calhoun, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson and Washington counties)
Rudolph Carroll Shepard Jr. is a partner at Appleman, Shepard & Trucks Law Offices, P.A., in Panama City. Shepard’s principal areas of practice are criminal defense and Social Security disability. He has served as chair, coordinator and volunteer attorney for the “First Saturday” Pro Bono Program sponsored by the Bay County Bar Association and Legal Services of North Florida, Inc. As chair, he was charged with recruiting attorneys and volunteers to staff the First Saturday Clinic; while as a volunteer attorney, he met with First Saturday clients both at the clinic and at his office. Some of his pro bono cases have covered child custody, divorce, grand theft, accidental property damage, slander and landlord dispute.
Alan Roy Crane
Fifteenth Judicial Circuit (Palm Beach County)
Alan Roy Crane is a partner at the law firm of Furr & Cohen, P.A., in Boca Raton practicing state and federal litigation and appellate law. Although Crane primarily represents debtors, creditors and bankruptcy trustees in bankruptcy matters, he also practices family and real estate law. In 2010, Crane was the recipient of a pro bono award for bankruptcy for his work on a complicated adversarial bankruptcy case. Through countless hours of representation, Crane was able to save that particular client’s home. Over the years, he has donated almost 350 hours of pro bono service to clients in the area of bankruptcy and family law. In addition to his direct representation, he has volunteered to assist in training attorneys for the Mortgage Foreclosure Project.
Sixteenth Judicial Circuit (Monroe County)
Michael Halpern is a sole practitioner at Michael Halpern, P.A., in Key West. His principal area of practice is pro bono representation, civil and criminal. During the past 10 years, Halpern converted a "for profit" law firm, which previously specialized in trial practice, corporations, land use law and real estate development, into a law firm that now specializes in pro bono representation. Today, more than 80 percent of Halpern’s clients are represented on a pro bono basis. Almost all of the firm's clients are facing serious matters that do not involve the types of representation that are normally accepted by legal aid agencies. Halpern draws no salary or distributions from his law firm. In fact, he invests his personal capital in the law firm to support its pro bono mission.
Lawrence G. Marin
Seventeenth Judicial Circuit (Broward County)
Lawrence G. Marin is the founding partner at the Law Offices of Izquierdo & Marin in Fort Lauderdale. His principal areas of practice are admiralty and maritime, criminal defense, civil trial, immigration and nationality and personal injury. Marin has been an active pro bono participant at Hispanic Unity of Florida, working with the organization for more than four years. As an integral part of the Broward Legal Immigration Program committee, he is involved in organizing full-day clinics, which assist clients with a variety of immigration-related issues. He does everything from recruiting private practice immigration attorneys to purchasing breakfast for all the volunteers to taking on pro bono cases.
William W. Fernandez
Eighteenth Judicial Circuit (Brevard and Seminole counties)
William W. Fernandez is a sole practitioner at The Law Offices of William W. Fernandez, J.D., in Winter Springs. His principal areas of practice are real property, probate and trust law and wills. Since 1994, he has given free legal services to poor families referred to him by the Seminole County Bar Association Legal Aid Society, Inc. pro bono program. He has never refused a referral from this program. Typically, Fernandez sees approximately three pro bono clients each afternoon on a bimonthly basis. During these consultations, he provides brief legal services in different areas of the law such as housing, child support, timesharing, paternity and other family law matters. He has contributed more than 700 hours of pro bono representation since 2005.
Thomas Warren Tierney
Nineteenth Judicial Circuit (Indian River, Martin, Okeechobee and St. Lucie counties)
Thomas Warren Tierney is a partner and shareholder at Rossway Moore Taylor & Swan law firm in Vero Beach. His principal areas of practice are civil litigation and commercial litigation, labor and employment law, trial advocacy and probate and trust litigation. Tierney is pro bono chairperson of the Indian River County Bar Association, a position he has held for the past two years. His dedication as a liaison between Florida Rural Legal Services Inc. and the Indian River County Bar Association resulted in 100 percent placement of referred cases. He matched more than 130 low-income clients with volunteer attorneys. Overall he has spent hundreds of hours contributing pro bono legal services.
Russell Thomas Kirshy
Twentieth Judicial Circuit (Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry and Lee counties)
Russell Thomas Kirshy is an owner and sole practitioner at Russell T. Kirshy, Esquire, P.A., law office in Port Charlotte. His principal areas of practice are criminal law, personal injury, pardons and restoration, and sealing and expungements. Kirshy’s pro bono work is special because he sometimes provides counsel to clients charged with felony offenses. He believes that people should be given a fair chance, and he doesn’t judge his clients based on their charges. Kirshy has been dedicated to pro bono service for his entire career, especially taking on an array of cases over the last 12 years while contributing at least 1,500 pro bono hours. He contributed at least 300 hours to pro bono representation in the past year alone.
Out-of-State Florida Bar member
Noah Clements is an associate attorney at Sidley Austin LLP in Washington, D.C. His principal areas of practice are litigation and transportation law. Over the last two years, he has taken a few notable pro bono cases. In one case, he helped a former sports star who had been tortured by the Yemeni government for 40 days get relief under the Convention Against Torture (a form of relief usually with a less than 2 percent success rate). In another high-profile case, he helped a 69-year-old Burmese man get asylum in immigration court. In 2009, Clement performed 332 hours pro bono service and in 2010, he worked 598 hours pro bono. His work stems from the belief that he should use his skills to help others not as fortunate as he.
This year's awards ceremony is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 27, at 3:30 p.m. at the Florida Supreme Court. The program will be broadcast taped-delayed at a later date. Check local cable listings for details and on the Internet at http://wfsu.org/gavel2gavel.
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."