Foundation to honor Sarasota’s Patterson and Tampa’s Woltmann
The Medal of Honor and other awards will be presented at The Florida Bar Foundation’s 2022 Annual Award Ceremony and Breakfast June 23 at The Florida Bar's Annual Convention
Sarasota attorney and former Florida Bar Foundation President John C. Patterson, Jr., has been selected to receive The Florida Bar Foundation’s 2022 Medal of Honor Award, the Foundation’s highest honor. Richard “Dick” C. Woltmann, president and CEO of Bay Area Legal Services, will receive the 2022 Jane Elizabeth Curran Distinguished Service Award.
Patterson, a partner with Shutts & Bowen in Sarasota, is being honored for his “career-long dedication to increasing local and statewide access to justice for all, his altruistic pro bono efforts, his service in leadership, and his devotion to educating others on the importance of equal access to justice.”
“It is clear that John’s motivation is truly altruistic,” wrote Linda Harradine, CEO of Legal Aid of Manasota, in her nomination of Patterson. “It isn’t about the prestige of having his name on the letterhead, or in an article, or for the purpose of being recognized. He is a quiet force for good who is always working in the forefront, as well as behind the scenes, to improve the legal profession and the lives of those less fortunate. In the process, he has made significant connections all over the state; has earned the respect of countless people; and has made a lasting impact on the legal landscape.”
Patterson, who earned his law degree from the University of Florida, served on The Florida Bar Board of Governors from 1995 to 1999. He was also appointed to the Second District Court of Appeal Nominating Committee and previously served on and chaired the 12th Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission. He is a past president of the Sarasota County Bar Association as well.
In 2004, he joined the board of The Florida Bar Foundation, becoming its president in 2013, a time of great uncertainty for the organization as it faced a financial crisis after more than a decade of near-zero interest rates and depleted reserves.
“John’s steadfast, principled leadership of the Foundation guided his decisions when staff had to be reduced and funding to the grantees had to be slashed,” retired Judge Emerson R. Thompson, Jr., said in a letter supporting Patterson’s nomination. “He explained each decision carefully and precisely and always stated why the decisions were made and why they were made to deliver the best service to clients. Not only is he a principled leader, he is a visionary.”
Patterson currently serves as secretary of the Innocence Project of Florida, general counsel of Girls Incorporated of Sarasota County, a director for the Sarasota Tiger Bay Club, an officer and director of The Kimberly Patterson Leukemia Research Fund, Inc., and a director of Shands Teaching Hospital and Clinics.
“John is truly a shining example of what all attorneys should strive to accomplish throughout their careers,” said Scott Westheimer of Sarasota, the Florida Bar president-elect designate, said in a letter of support for Patterson’s nomination. “He has always selflessly advocated for access to the courts for all Floridians, supported legal aid organizations, and has been committed to pro bono service.”
Patterson also currently serves on the board of Legal Aid of Manasota, an organization he helped create 30 years ago. He continues to provide pro bono services there, most recently spending more than 50 hours to settle a highly contested property tax case for a low-income resident in Sarasota, saving the client’s homestead in the process.
The Medal of Honor Award is presented each year to a member of The Florida Bar who has demonstrated his or her dedication to the objectives of The Florida Bar as set out in the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar “to inculcate in its members the principles of duty and service to the public, to improve the administration of justice, and to advance the science of jurisprudence.”
Richard “Dick” C. Woltmann
Woltmann, who has led Bay Area Legal Services (BALS) since 1980, will receive the Jane Elizabeth Curran Distinguished Service Award for his four decades of being a staunch advocate and effectuating positive and lasting change by increasing access to civil justice for communities and underserved individuals, particularly seniors and veterans, in Florida and across the nation.
In his early days at BALS, Woltmann, who earned his law degree from the University of Florida, secured funding to create the Senior Advocacy Unit to provide services and legal representation to seniors facing obstacles like foreclosure, construction fraud, and unaffordable mortgage payments. He also worked to ensure access to justice for persons with AIDS, building partnerships with groups like the Tampa AIDS Network.
“There has never been a time in his life when he has not concentrated his energies on serving others,” Judge Catherine Peek McEwen said in a letter to support Woltmann’s nomination. “He took BALS from a solid little legal aid law firm to a sophisticated, large legal aid law firm dedicated to providing free civil legal services to low-income Tampa Bay area residents through traditional representation as well as innovative programs targeting discrete legal problems and client populations.”
When Woltmann realized the need for telephone legal assistance for Florida’s seniors, he used funding from the Florida Department of Elder Affairs to create a hotline. More than 130,000 Floridians have received free legal assistance through the statewide Senior Legal Helpline.
Woltmann also facilitated a partnership with local law firms and volunteer attorneys to help self-represented litigants at the Hillsborough County Court House. The partnership culminated in one of the first “courthouse walk-in” projects in the nation. At the request of the federal judges, the project expanded into the Tampa federal courthouse. To date, the program has assisted more than 120,500 individuals with consumer debt, housing, guardianship, child support and more. Woltmann’s vision has resulted in efficiencies that help unclog the judicial system while ensuring self-represented civil litigants have their day in court.
Also under Woltmann’s direction, BALS began providing on-site lawyers at The Spring of Tampa Bay, one of the oldest and largest domestic violence shelters in the country. Woltmann employed lessons learned from that partnership in the development of medical legal partnerships with Bay Pines VA Hospital and James A. Haley VA Hospital to provide free legal services to eligible veterans. Then, Woltmann worked with the United Way’s Mission United Program, the governor’s “Forward March” initiative and with Sen. Danny Burgess to obtain legislative funding for a statewide free legal helpline for veterans.
“Dick is a visionary and has approached his role as the leader of one of Florida’s legal aid organizations as a true CEO — always looking out for opportunities and threats with an eye to capitalize on any potential opportunities and minimize or eliminate any perceived threats on the horizon,” Michael Bedke of DLA Piper said in his nomination of Woltmann. “After four decades of selfless service to our less fortunate neighbors, Dick’s commitment and efforts continue to effect positive and lasting change. He is as passionate today as he was in the early 80s when I first saw him advocating for what is right.”
The Medal of Honor award, sponsored by Florida Lawyers Mutual Insurance Company, and other awards will be presented at The Florida Bar Foundation’s 2022 Annual Award Ceremony and Breakfast June 23 at the Signia by Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek during The Florida Bar Annual Convention. Tickets are available by clicking here.