Robert C. Josefsberg, a Miami attorney known for his half century of counsel to governors, judges, and clients ranging from a rock star to the poorest of the poor, has been selected to receive The Florida Bar Foundation’s 2013 Medal of Honor Award for a lawyer, the Foundation’s highest award.
The late Chesterfield Smith, in his successful nomination of Josefsberg for the 2000 ABA Senior Lawyers Division Pro Bono Award, noted his long pro bono service to individual clients and to local, state, and national legal services organizations.
“Robert Josefsberg, over many years, has been a leader among all American lawyers in the legal representation on a pro bono basis of persons or organizations directed to securing and protecting the civil rights, the civil liberties, and the public rights of people,” Smith wrote.
A trial lawyer and senior partner with the Miami firm of Podhurst Orseck, Josefsberg is well known for his defense of Doors lead singer Jim Morrison, who was posthumously acquitted of indecent exposure, but South Florida’s poor have been the beneficiaries of his countless hours of work outside the public spotlight.
When accepting pro bono cases from Dade Legal Aid’s “Put Something Back” program, Josefsberg often says, “Give me the ones no one else wants,” even if the cases are not in his areas of expertise.
“They are the right clients,” Josefsberg said, “and they make us the right lawyers. I have learned more representing people pro bono than I have representing some corporate clients, and I’ve received some more gratitude, which I love.”
He has also volunteered his services to dozens of charitable and community organizations, including the Guardian ad Litem program, the Community Partnership for the Homeless, and Spectrum Drug Rehabilitation Center. His pro bono work was also recognized with the 2010 Tobias Simon Award from the Florida Supreme Court.
Josefsberg has been published extensively and has spoken to bar groups around the world on the topic of civility. He has served the judiciary and the organized Bar in numerous capacities. He is past president and dean of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, and has served on the ABA Standing Committee on the Judiciary, as chair of the Southern District of Florida Judicial Evaluation Committee, as a member of the Florida Federal Judicial Nominating Commission, and as an assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida. He has been a member of numerous commissions and task forces in the area of criminal law and served as general counsel to Gov. Bob Graham.
Judge Bill VanNortwick of the First District Court of Appeal said he knew of no one more deserving of the Medal of Honor.
“Bob serves as a role model for all of us. He is a true ‘lawyer’s lawyer.’ He is recognized as one of the best trial lawyers in the country and is extensively involved in his firm’s practice,” Van Nortwick said. “He is equally devoted, however, to assuring access to justice. Throughout his career, he has undertaken extensive pro bono legal services for the poor — representing many, many individuals who could not afford to hire any lawyer, much less the best, as well as handling significant law reform litigation. In addition, he has been a leader on numerous task forces and commissions which worked to improve the justice system.”
For his lifelong commitment to duty and service to the public, to improving the administration of justice, and advancing the science of jurisprudence, Josefsberg will receive the Medal of Honor June 27 at The Florida Bar Foundation’s 37th annual reception and dinner, to be held in conjunction with The Florida Bar Annual Convention at the Boca Raton Resort & Club.
Also being honored at the dinner is Arthur J. England, Jr., former chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court, who will receive the IOTA Founder’s Award.
The cocktail reception will begin at 6:30 p.m., with dinner from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Tickets are $100 per person. To order tickets, print out and complete the reply card at and mail it with your check to The Florida Bar Foundation, P.O. Box 1553, Orlando, FL 32802-1553.
The Foundation Medal of Honor Award Program was established in 1977. For a list of past recipients, go to www.flabarfndn.org/about/award-programs/medal-of-honor.