21 LAWYERS WILL RECEIVE FLORIDA BAR PRO BONO AWARDS IN SUPREME COURT CEREMONY JAN. 19
TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Bar will recognize 21 lawyers for their work on behalf of poor and indigent clients at a Jan. 19 ceremony at the Supreme Court of Florida.
Established in 1981, The Florida Bar President’s Pro Bono Service Awards 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. Florida Bar President William J. Schifino, Jr. will present the 2017 awards.
The awards recognize pro bono service in each of Florida’s 20 judicial circuits as well as service by 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 also will be presented in the categories of Distinguished Judicial Service, Distinguished Federal Judicial Service, Law Firm Commendation, Voluntary Bar Association and Young Lawyers Division.
In the most recent 12 months reported, Florida lawyers provided about 1.7 million hours of pro bono services to those in need and nearly $5.4 million to legal aid organizations.
This year’s awards ceremony is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 19, at 3:30 p.m. at the Supreme Court of Florida. Watch it live at http://wfsu.org/gavel2gavel. Here are the 2017 circuit honorees. Recipients’ photographs are linked.
Joseph D. Lorenz (photo)
1st Judicial Circuit (Escambia, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton counties)
Joseph D. Lorenz has performed pro bono service throughout his 43-year legal career in Okaloosa County. In 1998, he received The Florida Bar President’s Pro Bono Service Award for the First Judicial Circuit, and almost 20 years later he is being honored again. Notably, said his nominators with Legal Services of North Florida, the body of pro bono work he has engaged in over the last two decades is almost double the amount for which he was first honored.
Lorenz’s specialty is marital and family law. In one case, he provided more than 60 hours of pro bono work in a dissolution of marriage that involved domestic violence and custody of the children. More recently, he has worked on other domestic cases. He provides his pro bono work directly as well as through Legal Services of North Florida.
Lorenz also has provided service through the Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program, which delivers appellate services to veterans with disabilities through the federal Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. He also has volunteered as an attorney for the First Circuit Guardian Ad Litem Program and has worked as an attorney for the state’s Child Protection Team, to ensure the safety of children believed to have been abused. Lorenz earned his law degree from the University of Florida’s Levin College of Law.
David H. Abrams (photo)
2nd Judicial Circuit (Franklin, Gadsden, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty and Wakulla counties)
David H. Abrams received his law degree 10 years after he graduated from college and set off to become a registered professional nurse. He still describes himself as a nurse who practices law.
While still at the City University of New York School of Law, Abrams became involved with Florida State Professor Paolo Annino’s Children in Prison project, and he was the lead author on a clemency petition for a young woman who imprisoned for a first offense at age 13. As a lawyer, he Abrams continued his pro bono efforts and earned the Lone Star Legal Aid Project Award for representing a Texas mother whose child was kidnapped in a custody battle.
Since opening his own office in Tallahassee in 2004, Abrams has taken on some challenging pro bono cases. He represented a transgender student who was expelled from Leon County schools for wearing opposite-gender clothes and further represented the child in delinquency proceedings. He used his nursing background in helping a pregnant woman who was fighting her court-ordered bed rest in a hospital. Abrams spent more than 100 hours representing a cognitively impaired child in dependency court and through the child’s recent adoption. He also organized and sponsored “Saving Homes for the Holidays” for the homeless defense program of Legal Services of North Florida.
Christina Nieto Seifert (photo)
3rd Judicial Circuit (Columbia, Dixie, Hamilton, Lafayette, Madison, Suwannee and Taylor counties)
When Christina "Tina" Nieto Seifert went into private practice in 2009, after spending most of the first 14 years of her legal career with the State Attorney’s Office, legal aid was the big winner. Seifert immediately signed up with Three Rivers Legal Services as a volunteer, and since then she has provided pro bono assistance to nearly 60 family law clients, spending as much as 60 hours on just one divorce case.
Family law cases always are difficult to place with volunteer attorneys. That’s why Seifert, whose solo practice in Lake City concentrates on family and criminal law, is so valuable to Three Rivers. Her pro bono clients often are victims of domestic violence, and they often are facing a crisis in their lives. Seifert’s nominators said she is exceptionally patient and understanding of her clients’ needs, and the clients in turn become more comfortable and at ease, recognizing that Seifert truly enjoys working with them.
Seifert also regularly volunteers to conduct the Three Rivers Legal Services pro se divorce clinic. Outside of her pro bono service, Seifert is active in the legal and local community. She is a graduate of the Stetson University College of Law.
Laura J. Boeckman (photo)
4th Judicial Circuit (Clay, Duval and Nassau counties)
Laura Boeckman has donated hundreds of hours of pro bono service and also has been a vocal advocate advancing the availability of civil legal services for low-income people.
Two years after receiving her J.D. in 2001 from the Indiana University School of Law in Bloomington, Boeckman joined Jacksonville Area Legal Aid as a staff attorney. In 2005, she joined the faculty of the Florida Coastal School of Law and was the supervising attorney for the school’s Consumer Law Clinic. She helped dozens of people through the clinic while providing hundreds of hours of pro bono work on an individual basis, accepting cases from Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, the Federal District Court, and the American Bar Association’s Military Pro Bono Project. mostly focusing on consumer disputes.
Now, as North Florida Bureau Chief in the Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General’s Office, Boeckman still participates in pro bono efforts. As the current president of the Jacksonville Chapter of the Federal Bar Association, she has supported participation of members in the Legal Information Program, in which federal practice attorneys help guide pro se litigants. The pilot program was so successful that it is being expanded to Tampa and Orlando. Boeckman also is co-chair of the Pro Bono Committee of the Jacksonville Bar Association.
Samuel Pennington (photo)
5th Judicial Circuit (Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion and Sumter counties)
Samuel Pennington didn’t get around to taking The Florida Bar exam until 1988 – 18 years after he was honorably discharged from the Navy and nine years after he graduated from the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University. Instead, he worked for several years with Christian Prison Ministries. Since becoming a lawyer, he has kept a focus on helping people through pro bono legal services. In 1996, Pennington was recognized for his pro bono services by the Greater Orlando Legal Services and the Lake County Bar Association. And in 2015, he was named the Lake County Pro Bono Attorney of the Year by Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida.
Pennington joined the pro bono panel of Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida in July 2015 and was instrumental in the establishment of a recurring bankruptcy legal advice clinic in Lake County. He also recruited attorneys to staff the clinics and has mentored new pro bono attorneys as well as staff attorneys for Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida. During the past year, Pennington has provided more than 100 hours of pro bono assistance to Community Legal Services clients. In addition to providing legal advice at clinics, he has provided full representation to clients in Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies. The Pennington Law Firm has offices in Tavares and Orlando.
Lynn Katz Hanshaw (photo)
6th Judicial Circuit (Pasco and Pinellas counties)
Lynn Katz Hanshaw was a single mother of three who was holding down a full-time job and needed 20 years to get her undergraduate degree, but that wasn’t going to keep her from becoming an attorney.
Hanshaw entered the Stetson College of Law when she was 40. While there, she interned with the legal aid organization Gulfcoast Legal Services and received the college’s William F. Blews Pro Bono Service Award. Upon her graduation in 1999, she was offered an opportunity to return to Gulfcoast Legal Services, and she stayed there until going into private practice in 2006.
But she never forgot her pro bono roots. Hanshaw has volunteered at intake sessions at the Community Law Program, participated in every Lawfest (a community law event in south St. Petersburg), helped establish the first fair-housing consortium in the Pinellas-Hillsborough area, and made arrangements to take every caller to Stetson’s veterans program with a landlord/tenant issue. You’ll still find her working the 7 a.m. shift at the monthly Ask a Lawyer program offered by the Hillsborough County Bar Association. Before she accepted her current job with Langford & Myers, P.A., in Tampa, she explained that she would do so only if she could continue her pro bono work.
(Hanshaw’s office is in the Thirteenth Circuit; she is being honored for work done in the Sixth Circuit.)
Jay S. Grife (photo)
7th Judicial Circuit (St. Johns, Volusia, Flagler and Putnam counties)
Jay S. Grife had a successful career as a physician and podiatric surgeon and might have retired comfortably after his health wouldn’t allow him to continue. Instead, he chose a second career as an attorney, earning his J.D. from the University of Florida