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Brady honored with Tobias Simon Pro Bono Service Award

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Florida lawyers collectively provided more than 1.5 million hours of free legal services in the latest reporting cycle and contributed more than $6.7 million to legal aid groups

Raymond F. Brady

Raymond F. Brady received the 2022 Tobias Simon Pro Bono Service Award. Because of Brady’s efforts, more than 30 attorneys (and about 150 law students), have volunteered to provide more than 1,000 hours of pro bono service to approximately 400 clients. After 35 years as a pro bono volunteer with Three Rivers Legal Services, Brady still not only recruits the volunteer attorneys, but he also helps organize Ask-A-Lawyer events and volunteers at each one.

Raymond F. Brady said his parents instilled in his “very DNA” the mandate that he owed a duty to serve those in need who are less fortunate than himself.

Now, after 35 years as a pro bono volunteer with Three Rivers Legal Services, Brady is the recipient of the 2022 Tobias Simon Pro Bono Service Award, the Supreme Court’s highest recognition of a private lawyer for pro bono service.

The award was presented by Chief Justice Charles Canady January 20 at the Supreme Court in Tallahassee.

“I am sincerely humbled and deeply honored to receive the Tobias Simon Pro Bono Service Award,” said Brady, adding he did not expect to receive the award, nor is sure he is worthy of it.

The award commemorates Miami civil rights lawyer Tobias Simon, who died in February 1982, and is intended to encourage and recognize extraordinary contributions by Florida lawyers in making legal services available to the indigent and to focus public awareness on the substantial voluntary services rendered by Florida lawyers.

Also honored during the ceremony was the Tallahassee office of Ausley McMullen, which received the Chief Justice’s Law Firm Commendation; 16th Circuit Chief Judge Bonnie J. Helms, who was the recipient of the Distinguished Judicial Service Award; Marcia Morales Howard, a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida in Jacksonville, the recipient of the Chief Justice’s Distinguished Federal Judicial Service Award; and The Wilkie D. Ferguson, Jr., Bar Association, the recipient of the 2022 Voluntary Bar Association Pro Bono Award.

A lawyer from each circuit also was recognized with The Florida Bar President’s Pro Bono Service Awards, and Tremaine L. Hemans received the 2022 Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division Pro Bono Service Award.

Chief Justice Canady noted that Florida lawyers collectively provided more than 1.5 million hours of free legal services in the latest reporting cycle and 23,000 more hours were donated through law firms. Attorneys also contributed more than $6.7 million to legal aid groups, he said.

Addressing the other pro bono award recipients, Brady said he suspects they, like himself, are driven to do good work by the principle stated in Luke 12:48: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

“What is it that we have been given? We have been blessed with the resources and opportunities to obtain a law degree and be admitted to The Florida Bar,” Brady said. “And in doing so, we acquired the knowledge, the skills, and the access to the courts that our poor and needy pro bono clients so desperately need and so sadly lack.

“It is rightly demanded of us that we give back precisely because we as lawyers are so fortunate and so privileged.”

Brady has been a pro bono volunteer with Three Rivers Legal Services since the early 1990s and has always been a strong advocate for the poor, in particular people without housing.

In January 2015, he pulled together members of the Eighth Judicial Circuit Bar Association, Three Rivers Legal Services and Southern Legal Counsel, as well as students from the University of Florida Levin College of Law, to work on an Ask-A-Lawyer project to help Gainesville’s homeless population.

Because of Brady’s efforts, more than 30 attorneys (and about 150 law students), have volunteered to provide more than 1,000 hours of pro bono service to approximately 400 clients. Brady still not only recruits the volunteer attorneys, but he also helps organize Ask-A-Lawyer events and volunteers at each one.

Most recently, Brady was deeply involved in the coordination and success of the 2021 Virtual Driver’s License Clinic in Gainesville. At the clinic, representatives from local and state agencies and volunteer attorneys helped people learn what they need to do to get their license restored. Brady is already working with agencies and volunteers on the 2022 clinic.

Brady said as officers of the court, lawyers have been entrusted to ensure access to justice for all, including those who are not able to pay for legal services.

“We hold the keys to the courthouse for those who are without means to hire us,” he said. “We are all that stands between our pro bono clients and numerous injustices.”

He said lawyers who earned the mantle of being trusted bar leaders in their communities have the responsibility to inspire their colleagues to regularly take on pro bono cases.

Brady said he accepted the award “on behalf of the many lawyers and legal organizations who have eagerly answered” his calls over the years to help the unrepresented citizens of the Eighth Circuit.

Brady said if the legal profession “simply strives every day” to follow the principles set out in Luke 12:48, “then the state of Florida will have the finest system of justice of any state in this great nation.”

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