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21 LAWYERS TO RECEIVE FLORIDA BAR PRO BONO AWARDS IN SUPREME COURT CEREMONY JAN. 25


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 8, 2018
CONTACT:
Mark Hohmeister, [email protected],
The Florida Bar
TELEPHONE:
850-561-5764


The Florida Bar will recognize 21 lawyers for their work on behalf of poor and indigent clients at a Jan. 25 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 Michael J. Higer will present the 2018 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 more than 1.5 million hours of pro bono services to those in need and more than $5.5 million to legal aid organizations.

This year's awards ceremony is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 25, at 3:30 p.m. at the Supreme Court of Florida. Watch it live at http://wfsu.org/gavel2gavel as well as on Facebook at www.facebook.com/floridasupremecourt.

Here are the 2018 circuit honorees. Recipients' photographs are linked.

Antonio Bruni (photo)
1st Judicial Circuit (Escambia, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton counties)

Antonio Bruni has been part of the Pensacola legal community since Hurricane Ivan blew him into town in 2004, just a few months after he earned his J.D. from the University of Houston Law Center. He has been with Michles & Booth, P.A., in Pensacola since 2012 and is admitted to the U.S. District Court-Northern District of Florida. In November 2016, Legal Services of North Florida gave Bruni a special assignment: Put together a seminar that would teach attorneys how to take a Social Security disability claim from application through appeal to a hearing with an administrative law judge. Bruni leaped at the chance to go beyond helping clients he could see on a daily basis. He put together a comprehensive yet practical guide on handling both adult and child disability claims, covering everything from jargon used by Social Security workers to the cross-examination of vocational experts at an actual hearing. Bruni continues to help Legal Services of North Florida, working at Veterans Stand Down events and sharing his knowledge whenever he can.

Dan B. Hendrickson (photo)
2nd Judicial Circuit (Franklin, Gadsden, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty and Wakulla counties)

Dan B. Hendrickson retired in 2014, after 25 years as an assistant public defender in Tallahassee. But he hasn’t stopped representing people in need, donating at least 1,000 hours a year in pro bono services. Hendrickson has spent his life in public service, first as an aide in a state hospital and then organizing community services in Appalachia, where he has his roots. Eighteen years after he graduated from college, he earned his J.D. in 1988 from Stetson University College of Law, and in 1989 he began his long career as a public defender, mostly representing Baker Act and other mental health clients. Since his retirement, he has devoted his time to numerous veterans projects. His most recent is the Tallahassee Veterans Legal Collaborative, which he created in 2015 to bring together several organizations to serve the legal needs of veterans. Hendrickson also helped create the legal services program for the first North Florida Homeless Veterans Stand Down, and he has continued to coordinate the program for the last five years. He also mentors law students, and in 2018, the FSU Veterans Legal Clinic will offer services using Florida State University law students supervised by a professor.

John J. Kendron (photo)
3rd Judicial Circuit (Columbia, Dixie, Hamilton, Lafayette, Madison, Suwannee and Taylor counties)

John J. Kendron has spent his career practicing in Lake City, where he helped form Robinson, Kennon & Kendron, P.A., in 2005 and specializes in estate planning, probate and elder law. In rural North Florida, home ownership and real property problems are common and complicated. These cases are a priority for Three Rivers Legal Services, but the staff at TRLS would be unable to meet the demand alone. That’s where Kendron steps in. He has been volunteering with Three Rivers Legal Services for more than 15 years, helping mostly low-income and elderly homeowners clear title to their property so they can be eligible for funding to make their homes safe and habitable. Additionally, Kendron has provided training to the staff attorneys of TRLS and has served as a mentor to the attorneys regarding probate and guardianship matters. Kendron also received the President’s Pro Bono Service Award for the Third Judicial Circuit in 2006 and 2009. He is a graduate of Florida State University and received his J.D. there in 2000.

Andrea P. Reyes (photo)
4th Judicial Circuit (Clay, Duval and Nassau counties)

Andrea P. Reyes was born in Bogota, Colombia. After serving as secretary and president of the Colombian Student Association and being involved in Amnesty International and the Hispanic Student Union during her undergraduate years at Florida State University, she knew that her calling was immigration law. That dedication to a cause did not lessen when she received her J.D. from Florida Coastal School of Law in 2012. As a solo practitioner in Jacksonville, she devotes 100 percent of her practice to immigration issues. She also devotes many pro bono hours – more than 300 over the last three years – to represent immigrants before the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of State and the Executive Office of Immigration Review. Her fluency in Spanish helps her reach members of the community who often are voiceless and overlooked. Pro bono cases Reyes has accepted include Certificate of Citizenship, asylum, naturalization waivers, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, removal defense and U-Nonimmigrant status, for victims of certain crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse.

Danialle Riggins (photo)
5th Judicial Circuit (Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion and Sumter counties)

Danialle Riggins says she does pro bono because “people matter.” Her commitment to pro bono service dates to her years at the Florida A&M University College of Law, during which she worked as a law clerk with Withlacoochee Area Legal Services (the predecessor of Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida). Since earning her J.D. and being admitted to the Bar in 2005, Riggins has provided pro bono legal services to low-income residents of Marion County. She participates in Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida’s landlord-tenant legal advice clinic, providing more than 100 hours of free legal services per year. Riggins was instrumental in helping CLSMF establish the landlord-tenant legal advice clinic, which is held monthly at the Marion County Courthouse. She also participates in community legal education events, making tenants aware of their rights and responsibilities. In 2008, she opened Riggins Law Firm, P.A., in Ocala, where she specializes in employment law, family law, landlord-tenant matters and real property.

Erica K. Smith (photo)
6th Judicial Circuit (Pasco and Pinellas counties)

Erica K. Smith has been an invaluable volunteer with the Community Law Program in St. Petersburg, as well a Guardian ad Litem. She also is active in her legal and local communities, all while being a shareholder at Fisher & Sauls, P.A., in St. Petersburg. It’s a daunting workload, but then Smith has faced bigger obstacles. In her senior year of college, Smith was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Though facing an uncertain future, she applied to the Stetson College of Law, was accepted, and joined the honors program. However, the illness forced her to drop out for a year. Still, she returned and, in 2007 received her J.D. In her first year as a lawyer, Smith joined the Guardian ad Litem program and became a GAL to two teen mothers. She also served as a visiting GAL, making monthly visits to 12 children. When the program had difficulty finding a volunteer to take a case involving five children, Smith jumped in. She has been involved in about 20 cases involving children in the dependency court system who were abused, abandoned or neglected.

Pamela R. Masters (photo)
7th Judicial Circuit (St. Johns, Volusia, Flagler and Putnam counties)

Pamela R. Masters has donated her legal expertise almost from the day she began practicing law, and today she is more involved than ever. Fresh out of the University of Florida Levin College of Law in 1986, Masters volunteered with the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation and was recognized for 10 consecutive years of pro bono work. Later, during her almost six years with the Fifth District Court of Appeal in Florida, as a director of central staff attorneys and then clerk of court, Masters worked with local appellate practitioners to develop a pro bono appellate program. In 2016, she returned to private practice, as a collaborative family law practitioner and mediator with Cobb Cole, P.A., in Daytona Beach, and she immediately offered her services to the Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida legal clinic. She also takes referral cases from legal aid and looks for other local family law lawyers to take cases that need full representation. In her first 13 months volunteering with Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida, Masters provided almost 200 hours of pro bono assistance to 39 clients.

Raymond F. Brady (photo)
8th Judicial Circuit (Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Gilchrist, Levy and Union counties)

In 1997, Raymond F. Brady received The Florida Bar President’s Pro Bono Award for the Eighth Judicial Circuit. After 20 years, his enthusiasm for pro bono work remains. Brady, who received his J.D. from the University of Florida Levin College of Law in 1985, has been volunteering with Three Rivers Legal Services since the early 1990s. Using his expertise in personal injury and wrongful death cases, he has helped Three Rivers clients deal with the insurance and health care industries. Brady, who works with Perry, Vloedman & Brady in Gainesville, recently spearheaded the creation of a Senior Medical Legal Partnership with Three Rivers Legal Services, the Florida Department of Elder Affairs and UF Health. The project helps seniors who are at risk of abuse, neglect or exploitation and addresses their legal needs. In 2015, Brady helped create an Ask-A-Lawyer project soon after the opening of Grace Marketplace, a service center and shelter for people who are homeless. Through the project, nearly 30 lawyers have volunteered, providing more than 700 hours of service to about 260 clients.

John R. Dierking (photo)
9th Judicial Circuit (Orange and Osceola counties)

John R. Dierking became a member of the Bar in 1992, after a career in banking, and joined Holland & Knight in Orlando that same year. He also became a member of the Orange County Bar Association and the association’s pro bono panel. As a specialist in mergers and acquisitions, Dierking thought he would accept some pro bono nonprofit incorporation work from legal aid. But his wife, who had become a lawyer nine years earlier, was handling Guardian ad Litem cases from legal aid, and she shared her stories about the children and their problems. Helping children appealed to Dierking, and he accepted his first GAL case. After 25 years and cases involving more than 125 children and more than 2,500 hours on closed cases, Dierking is still advocating for children who have been victims of neglect, abuse or abandonment. Dierking, who earned his J.D. at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, is still with Holland & Knight, as a partner in the Orlando office and a member of the firm’s Mergers and Acquisitions Team.

Stephen R. Senn (photo)
10th Judicial Circuit (Hardee, Highlands and Polk counties)

Stephen R. Senn is no stranger to the annual Pro Bono Awards ceremony, having also earned The Florida Bar President’s Pro Bono Service Award in 2006 and 2011. Senn, who received his J.D. from Florida State University in 1989, has been engaged as counsel in pro bono matters throughout his career. Over the years, he has taken on cases as varied as a migrant farmworker whose truck was sold by a repair shop, a woman who was victimized by identity theft, a child who did not want to be returned to her father after her mother’s death, a Turkish family that lost its half-interest in a restaurant, numerous foreclosure actions and a dispute between Friends of the Ritz and the leadership of the historic Ritz Theater in Winter Haven. In 2017, Senn reported more than 430 hours of pro bono service. Senn, who is Board Certified in Appellate Practice, has been with Peterson & Myers, P.A., in Lakeland since 1991 and has been a shareholder since 1999.

David Alschuler (photo)
11th Judicial Circuit (Dade County)

Over the years, David Alschuler has performed about 2,000 hours of pro bono work. He regularly volunteers with the Put Something Back Pro Bono Project and also has volunteered with the Dade County Bar Association, the Miami Beach Bar Association, the Florida Department of Children and Families, the State Attorney’s Office, the League of Prosecutors, the Miami-Dade chapter of the Florida Association for Women Lawyers, the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers-Miami Chapter and various voluntary bars and committees, as well as area law schools and high schools. He mentored one young man for a year through the “I’m Ready” program, a sort of alternative boot camp, after the young man had been convicted of serious offenses. He also mentors law students, colleagues and new pro bono attorneys and has taught about 400 lawyers how to serve as Guardians ad Litem in foreclosure cases. Alschuler, who earned his J.D. in 1985 at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, is a solo practitioner in Miami Beach.

Robert L. Young (photo)
12th Judicial Circuit (DeSoto, Manatee and Sarasota counties)

Robert L. Young earned his J.D. from the University of Illinois College of Law in 2013, with a pro bono notation for public service, and became a member of The Florida Bar that October. But he didn’t wait for his first paying job before he went to Legal Aid of Manasota, volunteering to do pro bono work as an unpaid clerk and then as a full-time attorney. Legal Aid of Manasota said he was an “extraordinary” volunteer, assisting with many cases, and that dedication to pro bono service didn’t stop when he joined Icard Merrill in Sarasota the following February. Young continued to take on numerous family law cases, which can be the most difficult for legal aid groups to place. In 2014, Young helped launch a pilot program in the 12th Circuit designed to provide Guardians ad Litem for children involved in high-conflict divorce and custody cases. All the volunteers were from Icard Merrill. In the four years he has been a lawyer, Young has worked on more than 70 pro bono cases, donating more than 500 pro bono hours.

Jo Ann Palchak (photo)
13th Judicial Circuit (Hillsborough County)

In her almost 12 years of practice, Jo Ann Palchak has donated about 5,500 hours of pro bono service. Palchak offered pro bono services while she was still at Stetson University College of Law, working with the immigration office of Gulf Coast Legal Services. She also donated research materials on gender crime to the International Criminal Tribunals of Rwanda and Yugoslavia. Palchak earned her J.D. in 2005, and after working as a law clerk and assistant public defender, she entered private practice in 2008. She now has her own firm, Jo Ann Palchak, P.A., in Tampa. Since entering private practice, she has contributed at least 200 hours of pro bono service every year, topping 1,000 in some years. She handled one case from the Innocence Project for more than eight years; has served as attorney ad litem to children through Crossroads for Florida Kids and through direct appointment; joined other lawyers in bringing a federal lawsuit to ensure the rights of migrant workers; and represented a federal inmate who was being denied AIDS medication.

Jennifer Wintrode Shuler (photo)
14th Judicial Circuit (Bay, Calhoun, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson and Washington counties)

Jennifer Wintrode Shuler devotes herself to pro bono legal services wherever she goes – which happens to be a lot of places. As a student at the Santa Clara University School of Law in California, Shuler participated in the school's Criminal Defense Clinic, helped found the Santa Clara University Innocence Project and volunteered full-time at a legal aid domestic violence restraining order clinic in Richmond, California. She received her J.D. in 2001 and began practicing law in the Detroit area while regularly volunteering in a legal aid restraining order clinic. After moving to Florida in 2004, she provided pro bono defense to the Panhandle Animal Welfare Society (PAWS). When she formed her own law firm in Bay County, Shuler became a regular volunteer for Legal Services of North Florida, first participating in and accepting cases from the First Saturday Clinic and later providing pro bono legal representation. Since 2014, Shuler, who now lives in Bristol and is the deputy assistant county attorney for Bay County, has accepted approximately 30 case referrals from LSNF, mainly assisting low-income clients in domestic violence and family law cases.

Louis Marc Silber (photo)
15th Judicial Circuit (Palm Beach County)

Louis Marc Silber is known for his advocacy in two unrelated areas: the rights of homeowners facing fraudulent foreclosure practices, and the reproductive rights of women. His legal victories on the foreclosure front resulted in much-needed windfalls for legal aid, while his pro bono work has helped keep a West Palm Beach women’s center in operation. Silber and his team of lawyers have provided more than $400,000 to the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County through cy pres awards from lawsuits related to foreclosure fraud. Silber’s relationship with the Presidential Women’s Center began when the center opened in 1980. He played a lead role in blocking Florida’s counseling law from going into effect and has provided local counsel against a law that would have limited some later term abortion procedures, all on a pro bono basis. Silber, who earned his J.D. in 1973 from the Georgetown University Law Center, formed Pariente & Silber, P.A., with now-Justice Barbara Pariente. That firm lasted until 1993, with Pariente’s elevation to the bench, and eventually become Silber & Davis.

Ashley N. Sybesma (photo)
16th Judicial Circuit (Monroe County)

Ashley N. Sybesma was a new member of The Florida Bar in 2005, the last time before 2017 that a major hurricane had made landfall in Florida. Twelve years later, when Hurricane Irma came ashore on Sept. 10 at Cudjoe Key with 130 mph sustained winds, Sybesma was ready to offer assistance to her fellow residents of the Keys. Sybesma helped with organizing disaster assistance clinics and volunteered at some as well. She was involved in advising Monroe County Bar Association members of pro bono opportunities available after the storm. Even before Irma hit, Sybesma has provided pro bono legal assistance and has actively promoted pro bono service as an officer with the Monroe County Bar Association and as a member of the 16th Circuit Pro Bono Committee. Sybesma earned her J.D. from the University of Miami School of Law. She worked at law firms in Miami and Fort Lauderdale before landing in Key West as a litigation associate with Smith Hawks in 2015.

Hilary A. Creary (photo)
17th Judicial Circuit (Broward County)

Hilary A. Creary began volunteering with legal aid as a law student at Nova Shepard Broad Law Center, from which she earned her J.D. in 1997. Over the past 20 years, she has taken nearly 50 full-representation pro bono cases. She also volunteers with Legal Aid Service of Broward County and Coast to Coast Legal Aid through their joint pro bono project, Broward Lawyers Care. Part of her service with Broward Lawyers Care involves staffing its Legal Aid Advice & Counsel Hotline. Creary’s specialty is family law, and the bulk of her full-representation pro bono cases have involved divorce, separation, annulment or domestic violence. However, in 2017 she also took on several landlord-tenant cases. Creary also has conducted pro se litigation workshops for litigants in family law cases and has led seminars on family law at churches. From 2006 to 2015, Guardian ad Litem work became her vocation. She returned to private practice in 2015, joining Sheena Benjamin-Wise, P.A., which resulted in the creation of a new partnership, Benjamin-Wise Creary, PLLC, in Pompano Beach.

Timothy A. Moran (photo)
18th Judicial Circuit (Brevard and Seminole counties)

Timothy A. Moran recently handled a case that showed the difficulties and the rewards of pro bono service. An elderly couple, both with hearing impairments and other disabilities, faced bankruptcy. The man, a veteran, and his wife were receiving collection calls and feared losing everything. They were not judgment-proof, but Moran went out of his way to provide the accommodations necessary for them to complete credit counseling and debtor education. His pro bono representation resulted in a discharge of debts and gave them peace of mind. Since 2009, he has donated more than 1,900 hours of pro bono legal services through Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida, Volunteer Lawyers Project. Moran was awarded the Community Legal Services 2017 Champion of Justice Award, which will be renamed in 2018 as the Timothy A. Moran, Champion of Justice Award. In 2012, he received The Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division Pro Bono Service Award. Moran received his J.D. from the University of Florida Levin College of Law in 2004 and was admitted to the Bar in 2007. His Law Office of Timothy A. Moran is in Oviedo.

Jeffrey Paul Battista (photo)
19th Judicial Circuit (Indian River, Martin, Okeechobee and St. Lucie counties)

At one of the first Florida Rural Legal Services Ask-A-Lawyer events Jeffrey Paul Battista helped organize, an elderly man said he was worried that he would die with nothing to leave his children. He then handed Battista a weathered deed for a plot of land he bought for $25 when he returned from World War II. Battista’s research found that the forgotten land was beachside property worth nearly $1 million. Battista, a managing partner at Menz & Battista in Vero Beach since 2004, routinely donates at least two hours per week to pro bono work, through programs with FRLS and on his own. Recent cases he has taken include helping a man in a nursing home get a divorce from his absent wife and regain control of his finances, serving as attorney ad litem for a mentally disabled and abused child, representing a homeless 17-year-old in an emancipation case and acting as guardian ad litem for a child victim of sex trafficking. Battista earned his J.D. in 2000 from the University of Florida Levin College of Law.

Colette J. Kellerhouse (photo)
20th Judicial Circuit (Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry and Lee counties)

Colette J. Kellerhouse is willing to take on complex family law cases that involve intensive litigation. She often represents victims of domestic abuse for the Legal Aid Service of Collier County, and her compassion and her ability to speak Spanish help her overcome barriers while putting clients at ease. One recent case, a family law matter that took about two years to litigate to conclusion, involved a foreign-born victim of domestic violence. Legal aid provided the resources needed to ensure the safety of the client and her 8-year-old son, who had post-traumatic stress disorder after witnessing horrific abuse by his father against his mother. A second case involved a mother of three young children who became homeless when her husband ignored the terms of a marital settlement agreement. Kellerhouse ultimately negotiated the full and immediate release of all proceeds, more than $50,000. Kellerhouse, who received her J.D. from Ave Maria School of Law in 2013, worked for 12 years as a paralegal with David F. Garber, P.A., in Naples before deciding to go to law school. She remained with the firm after joining the Bar.

Anayansi Rodriguez (photo)
Out-of-state

Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson, LLP, which is based in Washington, D.C., requires 20 pro bono hours from associates for bonus consideration and set 50 hours as an aspirational goal. Anayansi Rodriguez had no problem meeting that; she donated more than 430 hours of pro bono service in 2016 and had 250 for 2017 at last count in early November. A native Spanish speaker, Rodriguez works closely with clients in immigration matters. She has helped children, teenagers and adults achieve legal status in the United States, dealing with Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJS), asylum, U visa and green card cases, to name a few. This has gone beyond pure legal work, often involving numerous telephone calls explaining to clients in Spanish about the status and next steps in their cases. She accompanied one SIJS client to his medical exam, not only to translate for the examination itself but also to make sure the client got to the appropriate place and obtained his medical report in a timely fashion. Rodriguez, who is temporarily based in London – taking “Out-of-State” to new lengths – earned her J.D. from Harvard Law School in 2012.
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