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January 8, 2018
Mark Hohmeister, [email protected],
The Florida Bar

The Hon. Patricia Seitz (photo), senior judge in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Florida, is the 2018 recipient of the Chief Justice’s Distinguished Federal Judicial Service Award. The award, which recognizes an active or retired federal judge for outstanding and sustained service to the public, especially as it relates to the support of pro bono legal services, will be presented by Chief Justice Jorge Labarga at a Jan. 25 ceremony at the Supreme Court of Florida.

“Judge Seitz, throughout her life, both while a prominent and distinguished lawyer, as the first woman president of The Florida Bar, and continuing throughout her lengthy service on the Federal District Court, has strongly championed all manner of pro bono initiatives, and essentially walked the talk daily,” said Bruce Blackwell, executive director of The Florida Bar Foundation.

Seitz was in on the ground floor of the effort to provide access to justice through pro bono legal service. When she was sworn in as president of The Florida Bar in 1993, the Bar’s rule on pro bono service was brand new, and Seitz spent much of her year as president encouraging lawyers to embrace the rule.

After more than 20 years in private practice and a short stint with President Bill Clinton’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, Seitz was named to the federal bench by Clinton in 1998.

As a judge, Seitz has devoted her pro bono efforts recently to three major projects:

Florida Pro Bono Matters: This matchmaking service was born at a 2016 meeting arranged by Seitz and ABA President Hilarie Bass and including The Florida Bar Foundation and other ambassadors of pro bono service. The initiative answers a request from lawyers that there be one website where all pro bono programs list their available cases.

CARE Court: Seitz volunteered to spearhead this program, which offers mentoring and a special court for prisoners re-entering the community after extended sentences.

Federal Bar Association: Seitz has offered inspiration and encouragement for federal practitioners to expand their pro bono service. For years, Seitz has spearheaded the Southern District’s Pro Bono Week activities, enlisting the assistance of the district's three chapters of the Federal Bar Association. Under her stewardship, the South Florida Chapter, the Broward Chapter and the Palm Beach Chapter of the Federal Bar Association have increased their proactive efforts to promote pro bono by sponsoring volunteer attorney training, pro se clinics, pro bono volunteer recognition receptions and luncheons, and volunteer attorney registration drives.

Seitz earned her J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center in 1973. She took senior status as a judge in 2012.

Note: Support of pro bono legal services by members of the bench is an activity that relates to improvement of the administration of justice. Accordingly, a judge may engage in activities intended to encourage attorneys to perform pro bono services, including, but not limited to: participating in events to recognize attorneys who do pro bono work, establishing general procedural or scheduling accommodations for pro bono attorneys as feasible, and acting in an advisory capacity to pro bono programs.

This year's awards ceremony, which also honors individual, circuit, law firm, voluntary bar, young lawyer and state judicial pro bono efforts, is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 25, at 3:30 p.m. at the Supreme Court of Florida. The ceremony will be streamed live at as well as on Facebook 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: 01-12-2018]