Orlando’s Mary Ann Etzler to receive 2020 Tobias Simon Pro Bono Service Award
Mary Ann Etzler of Orlando, a champion of pro bono legal aid for decades, is the recipient of the 2020 Tobias Simon Pro Bono Service Award, the highest statewide pro bono award. The award will be presented by Chief Justice Charles T. Canady in a January 30 ceremony at the Supreme Court of Florida.
Etzler, shareholder/owner of Etzler Law, P.A., in Orlando had been a law enforcement officer for 15 years before becoming an attorney in 1995. She has a unique perspective and a real world understanding of the importance of helping those in need through pro bono work.
Since 1995, Etzler has provided 1,232 hours of pro bono service to the clients of the Legal Aid Society of the Orange County Bar Association. This total excludes the hours Etzler provided training staff and volunteers, communicating with the courts and judiciary to improve the pro bono representation process, and providing consultations to fellow volunteer attorney Guardian ad Litems on conflict cases.
Throughout her decades of pro bono service, Etzler has been recognized consistently. In 2019, she won the Jake Stone Award from the Legal Aid Society for lifetime pro bono service. Prior to that, Etzler was Outstanding Alumnus of the Year 2010, from Cumberland School of Law; Leader in the Law 2010, Florida Association for Women Lawyers; recipient of Pro Bono Awards/recognition from the Florida Supreme Court for service as a Guardian ad Litem every year from 2006 to 2018; and winner of the Orange County Legal Aid Award for Pro Bono work in 2012.
Since joining the Orange County Bar Association in 1995, Etzler has taken on what can only be described as “an overwhelmingly voluminous” amount of pro bono work on behalf of her community’s children and families.
Etzler has served a total of 49 child victims of abuse, abandonment and neglect in dependency, family, criminal and delinquency courts as a volunteer attorney Guardian ad Litem.
Her skills, compassion and dedication have made Etzler the first choice in Guardian ad Litem cases where there has been sexual abuse and parental murder, as well as complex cases deemed conflicts for the staff of the Legal Aid Society of the Orange County Bar Association.
Etzler’s pro bono contributions are so engrained in the community that not only do judges ask for her to serve as a volunteer attorney GAL by name, but for nearly two decades, hundreds of Orange County children have benefited from her influence in their lives. Etzler also provides thousands of dollars in year-round gifts to Orange County’s indigent clients because she understands their needs extend beyond the legal realm.
Etzler steps forward to handle cases of child abuse that no one should have to experience. One case, in particular, has been described as “the most egregious physical abuse case in Orange County history.” Yet Etzler was right there offering help. She is literally a lifesaver.
The Tobias Simon Pro Bono Service Award commemorates Miami lawyer Tobias Simon, who was a tireless civil rights attorney, a crusader for prison reform and an appellate authority. The award is intended to encourage and recognize extraordinary contributions by Florida lawyers in making legal services available to people who otherwise could not afford them, and to focus public awareness on the substantial voluntary services rendered by Florida lawyers.
This year’s awards ceremony is scheduled for Thursday, January 30, at 3:30 p.m. at the Supreme Court of Florida. The ceremony will be streamed live at http://wfsu.org/gavel2gavel as well as on Facebook at www.facebook.com/floridasupremecourt. and The Florida Channel.