Bar to recognize 20 lawyers today for pro bono service
The Florida Bar will recognize 20 lawyers for their work on behalf of low-income and disadvantaged clients today at a 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 Mike Tanner will present the 2022 awards.
The awards recognize pro bono service in each of Florida’s 20 judicial circuits. They are presented annually in conjunction with the Tobias Simon Pro Bono Service and other service awards, which are given by the chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court.
In the most recent reporting period from July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021, Florida lawyers provided more than 1.5 million hours of pro bono services to those in need $6.7 million to legal aid organizations.
Here are the 2021 circuit honorees.
C. LEDON ANCHORS, FIRST JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
(Escambia, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton counties)
It is estimated that C. LeDon Anchors, senior partner at Anchors, Smith, & Grimsley in Okaloosa County, has represented over 100 legal services or legal aid clients over the past 10 years. In the last year alone, Anchors has taken on more than 10 cases from Legal Services of North Florida. His work includes renegotiating custody and support in family law cases; preparing wills, powers of attorney and health care surrogates for elderly clients; and help with liens and deeds related to real property. Currently, Anchors is working diligently to help a family that believes its grandmother was duped into signing a will that left everything to the nurse who had been caring for her. In addition to his pro bono work, Anchors founded the first legal aid organization in Okaloosa County and served as its first president.
MARC E. TAPS, SECOND JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
(Franklin, Gadsden, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty and Wakulla counties)
Marc E. Taps was the senior attorney in the Legal Services of North Florida’s (LSNF) Tallahassee office for over 30 years and has been a faithful volunteer on LSNF’s helpline since his retirement in 2011. Last year, during the pandemic, he gave over 100 hours of volunteer service. When it was safe to return, he was the first volunteer back in the office. No matter where he is though, Taps is always willing and happy to take client calls that are difficult or need more help. In addition to the helpline, Taps has assisted in presentations at the Leon and Wakulla county senior centers and mentors younger staff. Taps also generously funds the Joy Aukema Taps Children’s Advocate Award, named for his late wife, which recognizes outstanding leadership and compassion in children’s legal cases throughout LSNF’s service area. Taps is currently an emeritus lawyer with The Florida Bar.
HEATHER H. MCINNIS, THIRD JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
(Columbia, Dixie, Hamilton, Lafayette, Madison, Suwannee and Taylor counties)
During the past few years, Heather H. McInnis has provided more than 30 hours of direct pro bono legal service for the benefit of Three Rivers Legal Services (TRLS) clients with probate, estate planning and guardianship matters. She has also provided training and mentorship to TRLS staff attorneys. When TRLS filed two guardian advocate cases and the court appointed attorney for the wards declined the appointments, McInnis, without hesitation, agreed to represent the developmentally disabled individuals, pro bono. In another case, she helped a father become his developmentally disabled and medically fragile son’s guardian advocate. McInnis is the director, Public Guardianship Office, for the 8th Judicial Circuit and attorney/owner of the Law Office of Heather McInnis, PLLC, in Branford.
BRYAN S. GOWDY, FOURT JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
(Clay, Duval and Nassau counties)
Bryan S. Gowdy has handled multiple cases on a pro bono basis, most recently before the Florida Supreme Court on behalf of 26 past presidents of The Florida Bar Foundation on proposed changes to the administration of Interest on Trust Accounts (IOTA) funds. In the U.S. Supreme Court in 2009-10, Gowdy represented Terrence Graham on a pro bono basis in Graham v. Florida, in which the Court declared unconstitutional life-without-parole sentences for juvenile offenders convicted of nonhomicides. In the 10-plus years since that decision, Gowdy has continued to represent Graham in trial and appellate proceedings and has represented on a pro bono basis many other juvenile offenders facing lengthy prison sentences. Gowdy is scheduled to argue in the U.S. Supreme Court in January 2022 on behalf of a Medicaid beneficiary in the case of Gallardo v. Marstiller. Gowdy, a board-certified appellate lawyer with Creed & Gowdy, P.A., in Jacksonville, has received several awards for his pro bono service.
DAVID C. SASSER, FIFTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
(Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion and Sumter counties)
David C. Sasser has made pro bono a part of his practice from day one, whether through organized pro bono cases with Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida (CLSMF) or by assisting members of the public who reached out directly to him. Sasser has been volunteering with CLSMF for over 10 years. During that time, he has helped clients with foreclosure, estate planning and guardian advocacy matters. His pro bono service ranges from full representation to legal advice and help with pro se forms. In addition to providing direct client services, Sasser has been instrumental in the recruiting and mentoring of other pro bono attorneys. Sasser is a Board-Certified Specialist in real estate law and a Certified Public Accountant (license inactive). Based in Brooksville, he has served as chairman of the Hernando County Bar Association Pro Bono Committee and past president of the Hernando County Bar.
MISCHELLE TAYLOR D’ANGELONE, SIXTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
(Pasco and Pinellas counties)
Mischelle Taylor D’Angelone understands the plight that many struggling families face. D’Angelone shares her history in foster care to encourage her colleagues to volunteer and to inspire and give hope to her community through her work with Bay Area Legal Services (BALS). Last year, D’Angelone provided approximately 300 hours of pro bono legal work to clients through BALS and as a Guardian ad Litem. D’Angelone has provided pro bono services, from extended consultations through full representation, to clients in guardian advocacy, probate, family law, and adoption cases. She often takes on several pro bono cases at a time, even those with emergencies. To date, she has served as a Guardian ad Litem on over 40 cases. D’Angelone is a managing partner of Taylor D’Angelone Law, P.A., a female-led firm in Pasco County.
VICTORIA C. ZINN, SEVENTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
(St. Johns, Volusia, Flagler and Putnam counties)
Victoria C. Zinn began volunteering with Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida (CLSMF) in October 2019 at its Annual Walk-In Clinic and has been volunteering continuously ever since. Zinn actively participated in CLSMF’s weekly in-person legal advice clinics until the pandemic and has assisted clients virtually since then. Zinn has assisted 46 clients with legal advice, pro se forms assistance, and full representation in matters ranging from estate planning, landlord/tenant issues, guardian advocacy, and a variety of family law issues. In addition to donating more than 150 hours of pro bono work, Zinn prepared an instructional video that CLSMF uses to onboard new pro bono attorneys. She is the founder of Zinn Legal, P.A., in Daytona Beach.
SHARON T. SPERLING, EIGHTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
(Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Gilchrist, Levy and Union counties)
Sharon T. Sperling, who practices bankruptcy law in Gainesville, became a volunteer with Three Rivers Legal Services in 1994 and is a strong and enthusiastic advocate for the needs of those facing financial hardship. One of very few attorneys in the 8th Judicial Circuit who has made herself available for bankruptcy cases, her services are extremely valuable and greatly needed. Sperling has provided well over 100 hours in the past 15 years, however, that number is likely much higher. Many of Sperling’s pro bono clients are facing the loss of their homes, through foreclosure or repossession. Some are just overwhelmed by debt due to illness, divorce, age and complicated life situations. Whether she is representing clients in Chapters 7 and 13 bankruptcies or participating in the Ask-A Lawyer project, an outreach clinic for those facing homelessness, Sperling is always available to assist.
JAMIE BILLOTTE MOSES, NINTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
(Orange and Osceola counties)
Jamie Billotte Moses is a zealous advocate for dependent children, dedicating extensive pro bono time and talent to the Defending Best Interests (DBI) Project. The project is an initiative of the Statewide Guardian ad Litem Office (GAL) to protect the best interests of children by recruiting pro bono attorneys to write answer briefs in appeals of cases where a judge has determined that a termination of parental rights is in the child’s best interests. Moses began volunteering with the DBI Project in 2017 and has been a consistent volunteer. She has represented nearly 20 children in 16 different appeals, and has so far donated 217 hours of her time to the program. Moses also devotes considerable time and effort to improving the legal community at large. She has created an extensive list of pro bono and other trainings to help appellate and trial practitioners hone their skills, and she has been instrumental in promoting and publicizing the availability of board certifications to elevate the practice of law in Florida. Moses is currently an Orlando litigation attorney with Holland & Knight’s appellate team.
AIMILEE M. STUCKEY, 10TH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
(Hardee, Highlands and Polk counties)
Amilee M. Stuckey, a general practice attorney in Lake Wales, is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who consistently puts in about 185 hours of pro bono work each year to help fellow veterans and others in need. Volunteering with Veterans Treatment Court and mentoring veterans accounts for about 125 pro bono hours per year, but Stuckey also participates in special events at the VFW and Marine Corps League service organizations. Here she helps with power of attorneys and preparing other documents needed by veterans. This is all in addition to taking on other pro bono cases, consults, and representation for low-income or indigent clients, all of which adds up to invaluable amounts of time spent proving pro bono work for those in need. Stuckey’s reputation is that of a tireless worker for veterans and other clients who are in need.
STEVEN KELLOUGH, 11TH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
Steven Kellough retired from the active practice of law in 2019, but that has not stopped him from helping others. Kellough has been volunteering with Legal Services of Greater Miami since 2018, but since Oct. 2020 alone, he has assisted on over 450 cases and has dedicated more than 413 hours of pro bono service. Each week, Kellough works in the Legal Services of Greater Miami Consumer Unit helping low-income clients who are in a financial crisis and need assistance to keep their families stable. He has helped low-income clients who are facing foreclosure or garnishment of wages and bank accounts, as well as clients with lemon-law cases, student loan issues, credit debt, and bankruptcy. It is because of Kellough’s hard work and dedication to pro bono service that many families in the greater Miami area are bouncing back.
JOHN JAY WASKOM, 12TH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
(DeSoto, Manatee and Sarasota counties)
John Jay Waskom has been handling pro bono cases through Legal Aid of Manasota for close to 30 years. In 2008 his law firm, Icard Merrill, adopted and approved a comprehensive Law Firm Pro Bono Plan. The primary purpose of the plan was “to exercise leadership to address the legal needs of the poor in our community and assist in building a local pro bono culture.” Waskom is just one shining example of the firm’s leadership in pro bono service. In the past 10 years alone, Waskom has donated over 570 hours of pro bono service to those in need. He has assisted clients with their legal issues including guardianships, wills, probate matters and mortgage foreclosures. In addition, he has been appointed as a Guardian ad Litem for children in high conflict family law cases. Without Waskom’s expertise, many of the people seeking help through Legal Aid of Manasota would have nowhere else to turn. Waskom is dedicated to providing equal access to justice in Sarasota and Manatee counties.
MARK J. WOLFSON, 13TH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
Mark J. Wolfson began volunteering with the Bay Area Legal Services’ Volunteer Lawyers Program (VLP) in 1995. During the course of his pro bono service, Wolfson donated 450 posted hours through October 2021 and is currently working on 11 open cases. Wolfson also serves on Bay Area Legal Services’ Intake Clinic panel and mentors other attorneys. Early on, Wolfson noticed many guardianship cases on the list of cases needing pro bono placement. When he learned that the cases are difficult to place, he took all of them and has continued to take these cases regularly. Wolfson is Foley & Lardner Tampa office’s pro bono chair. In that role, he has increased the number of his firm’s lawyers doing pro bono work, including business lawyers who work on nonprofit matters through VLP as well as through other organizations.
SUSAN V. CARROLL, 14TH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
(Bay, Calhoun, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson and Washington counties)
Susan V. Carroll was devoted to pro bono service in Panama City where she practiced family law from 1996 until her passing on May 26, 2021. Over the course of her 23-year legal career, Carroll consistently represented individuals who were unable to pay for their family law matters. She would meet with clients at no cost and then help by representing them or identifying another pro bono attorney who could. Carroll had been actively involved in the Legal Services of North Florida First Saturday Legal Clinic – Panama City, where she was often the last to leave so she could meet with all who came seeking help. Carroll went through the rigorous process of obtaining a trained emotional support animal to comfort abused children testifying in court or undergoing stressful experiences such as medical exams and interviews. She helped facilitate a family law pro bono clinic after Hurricane Michael devastated Bay County and surrounding areas, leaving families confused and stranded. Over the years, she always had at least one pro bono case open and as many as three at once.
RYAN C. TYLER, 15TH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
(Palm Beach County)
Ryan C. Tyler has provided over 135 hours of pro bono service and continued to work diligently on cases throughout the pandemic. Tyler agreed to take two appellate cases through Legal Services of Greater Miami in early October 2020 and is still assisting the lead staff attorney on this matter many appeals later. The two cases involved an unscrupulous nonattorney landlord who violated the eviction moratorium and defied the Rules of Court by ignoring Court Orders, engaging in ex parte communications with the court, moving to recuse multiple judges on the same case, harassing the tenant client and terminating the tenant’s electric. Tyler never wavered, staying with the case through seven appeals in total. Throughout the pandemic, Tyler also continued to work on cases for the Guardian ad Litem Program and helped other legal aid organizations through the Appellate Section Pro Bono Committee. Tyler is an attorney with Ratzan Weissman & Boldt, in Miami.
RICHARD A. MALAFY, 16TH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
Richard A. Malafy has consistently been a beacon of light and hope for the Florida Keys community. Malafy volunteers with Legal Services of Greater Miami’s pro bono clinics in Key Largo, Marathon, and Key West, most recently helping families impacted by COVID-19. But he also works with local civic groups and churches to provide several residents of Monroe County who are in dire need of legal services the ability to connect with staff and attorneys. Malafy’s efforts have resulted in favorable outcomes for tenants facing eviction, homeowners still trying to rebuild after Irma, and clients whose lives have been upended by COVID-19. He has dedicated countless hours of pro bono services helping low-income residents rebuild their shattered community after each disaster. Malafy is currently assisting multiple community members with COVID related issues, including filling out applications for benefits and aid.
MORGAN L. WEINSTEIN, 17TH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
Morgan Weinstein is a committed, passionate advocate for dependent children in Florida. For more than five years, Weinstein has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the Statewide Guardian ad Litem Office (GAL), donating nearly 500 hours of his time to handle 36 separate appeals for the Defending Best Interests Program. Through his work with the GAL Program, Weinstein has helped more than 60 children reach permanency. He has also volunteered an additional 30 hours writing a pro bono brief as an attorney ad litem in Tampa, and a pro bono brief on behalf of a former wife who had successfully dissolved her marriage with an abusive husband in Jacksonville. Weinstein is devoted to increasing the public’s access to quality pro bono appellate representation. Beyond his substantial work on individual cases, he promotes pro bono service and recruits volunteers through his membership on the Appellate Practice Section’s Pro Bono Committee. Weinstein wrote a Florida Bar Journal article about the need for pro bono trial and appellate attorneys to represent victims of domestic violence.
JOHN HOWARD KING, 18TH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
(Brevard and Seminole counties)
Through his donation of time and expertise, John Howard King has made legal services available to those who need it the most. King volunteers with the Seminole County Bar Association Legal Aid office Monday through Thursday, where he provides the disenfranchised members of the community with over 50 years of legal experience. He has volunteered over 400 hours assisting those in need with housing and senior matters. In his time with Legal Aid, King has provided legal advice and guidance to over 80 tenants. He provides guidance on available community resources, making certain every community member he meets with is aware of programs such as the Seminole County Emergency Rental Assistance Program or the Opportunities for Utilities and Rental Assistance (OUR) Florida Program. King helped a mother who had been served with an eviction and was instrumental in obtaining the signed Order Granting Motion to Quash Service. King also helped the mother get approved to receive over $5,000 in rental assistance from the OUR Florida Program, which paid off her past due base rent and late fees. In 2021, King was certified as an emeritus lawyer by the Florida Supreme Court.
JESSICA M. VANVALKENBURGH, 19TH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
(Indian River, Martin, Okeechobee and St. Lucie counties)
Jessica M. VanValkenburgh has spent well over 100 hours providing full representation pro bono service through Florida Rural Legal Services Inc. She has helped many individuals and families with family law matters while also dedicating time regularly to volunteer at the Pro Se Family Law Clinic where she guides clients through the legal process. VanValkenburgh and her firm, McCarthy, Summers, Wood, Norman, Melby & Schultz, P.A., provided another 50 hours of work for a client whose first language is Filipino. Cases where the client’s fist language is not English are especially hard to place pro bono but VanValkenburgh implemented strategies to overcome any language barrier. Another case VanValkenburgh was involved in went on for almost three years. This case was a post judgment matter involving motions, mediation, and lengthy representation including successful reunification therapy for the adverse party.
JOHN S. LONG, 20TH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
(Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry and Lee counties)
John S. Long found his passion for families and children as a teacher in underprivileged neighborhoods but decided he could do more to help those in need by practicing law. After graduating from Whittier Law School in California and working in his father’s family law practice for several years, Long opened his own practice, Long & Associates P.A., in 2017. During a challenging 2020, Long was a dependable force that kept Legal Aid Services of Collier County (LASCC) Collier Lawyers Care going strong. One of Long’s greatest assets is his ability to speak fluent Spanish. This fluency, coupled with Long’s strong interpersonal skills, help him earn the trust and confidence of his pro bono clients. Since the height of the pandemic, Long has provided advice and counsel through Collier Lawyers Care to 15 clients and counting. Long continues to routinely provide advice and counsel to clients with pressing family law needs.
This year’s awards ceremony, which also honors Voluntary Bar, Law Firm, Young Lawyers Division, Distinguished Judicial Service, and Distinguished Federal Judicial Service pro bono efforts, takes place at the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday, Jan. 20, at 3:30 p.m. Watch it live on Facebook, WFSU: Gavel to Gavel and the Florida Channel.