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June 15, 2017
Southern Legal Counsel celebrates 40 years at Annual Convention

This year, Southern Legal Counsel celebrates 40 years of impact in the public interest and pioneering justice in cases that have changed the legal landscape for low income individuals and communities in areas such as disability rights, special education, health care, and constitutional rights.

Join Southern Legal Counsel at The Florida Bar's Annual Convention to celebrate its 40th Anniversary. The reception is sponsored by the Hickey Law Firm, and will be from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 22, in the Royal Palm Ballroom IX at the Boca Raton Resort & Club. Newly published “SLC: 40 Years of Impact: Pioneering Justice and Protecting Civil Rights” will be available to pick up.

SLC is a Florida statewide not-for-profit public interest law firm that is committed to the ideal of equal justice for all and the attainment of basic human and civil rights. SLC was created to fulfill a special role. While some low income people have access to legal aid or to free or pro bono lawyers, many do not. And many individuals come upon the same obstacles that they cannot fix so the resolution requires a systemic approach to end unlawful or discriminatory practices. SLC has focused on the people and issues that are in greatest need of civil legal assistance.

In 1977, Jon Mills was the director of the newly formed Center for Governmental Responsibility at the University of Florida College of Law, and was heading the school’s Executive Impoundment Project, working with Congress investigating then-President Nixon. Mills, Chesterfield Smith, then-law school Dean Joseph Julin, Michael McIntosh and Joseph Onek formed SLC as a separate entity to be able to litigate independent of the law school.

A hallmark of SLC has always been its independence. It receives no governmental funding, allowing it to work on improving local, state and federal systems without fear of repercussions. SLC uses the power of the law to obtain positive social change, reform systems and institutions, strike down unjust laws and policies, and hold government accountable to the people.

Peg O’Connor, board chair, said: “My passion for SLC began when I realized that the organization takes up the fight on issues that affect the largest number of Floridians, from children to people with disabilities, from seniors to people experiencing homelessness. In contrast to other legal aid services that provide valuable assistance on an individual level, SLC engages in litigation that has an impact across the state. It is truly “the small firm that does giant things.”

William A. Van Nortwick, Jr., SLC board member, said: “From my service as a judge on the First District Court of Appeal and as a director and officer of The Florida Bar Foundation, I have seen the importance of Southern Legal Counsel first hand. SLC is a leader in undertaking vitally important impact and law reform work. With the dramatic decrease in funding for legal services organizations, there are less resources available to devote to handling complex impact work. Without SLC taking on the challenging issues, Florida’s justice system is less able to meet the needs of low-income and vulnerable populations and to solve legal problems at a systemic level. I am honored to be able to serve on the SLC Board of Directors.”

[Revised: 04-28-2018]