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January 5, 2017
Mark Hohmeister, [email protected],
The Florida Bar
(850) 561-5764

TALLAHASSEE - The Hon. Laurel Myerson Isicoff (photo), chief judge of the United States Bankruptcy Court of the Southern District of Florida, is the 2017 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. 19 ceremony at the Supreme Court of Florida.

Judge Isicoff has been a leader in pro bono representation, diversity, inclusion and professionalism throughout her 35-year legal career.

Isicoff is a native New Yorker who came to Florida to finish her law degree, which she earned from the University of Miami School of Law in 1982. She was in private practice from 1984 to 2006, and while practicing as a bankruptcy lawyer, she served a year as president of the Bankruptcy Bar Association of the Southern District of Florida and was the Pro Bono Task Force chair from 2000 to 2006. As president of that bar association, she formed the Bankruptcy Bar Foundation to provide financial support for the bar’s pro bono program.

Isicoff was sworn in as the first female bankruptcy judge in the Southern District of Florida in 2006, and she spoke of the importance of pro bono work in her acceptance speech. Last year, she organized a Pro Bono Bankruptcy Summit for the district.

Before taking the bench, Isicoff taught a clinical course at St. Thomas University School of Law, in which students, mentored by attorneys, gave pro bono assistance to parties in active bankruptcy cases. Isicoff still mentors students in those clinical programs, which have expanded to four law schools in South Florida.

To encourage pro bono participation among lawyers appearing before her, Isicoff allows pro bono volunteers to appear first (and usually out of turn) at motion calendar hearings, recognizes pro bono attorneys in a monthly bulletin posted in a conspicuous place at the entry to her courtroom, and often refers debtors who are trying to represent themselves to the Bankruptcy Bar Association or to the intake attorney for such cases at the Dade County Bar Association’s “Put Something Back” program. She also wears a pro bono pin on her robe.

Isicoff has been an active member of the Pro Bono Committee of The Florida Bar’s Business Law Section and the Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services.

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. 19, at 3:30 p.m. at the Supreme Court of Florida. The ceremony will be streamed live 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: 12-21-2017]