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Young lawyer Belkis C. Plata of Jacksonville to be honored for pro bono service

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Belkis C. PlataBelkis C. Plata of Jacksonville is the recipient of the 2020 Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division Pro Bono Service Award.

The award recognizes public service or legal aid performed by a lawyer who is 35 or younger or who has not practiced for more than five years. It will be presented in a January 30 ceremony at the Supreme Court in Tallahassee.

Plata serves as volunteer attorney ad litem to children in foster care, provides pro bono assistance on complex juvenile cases, and volunteers with Jacksonville Area Legal Aid (JALA).

At one JALA event, she provided one-on-one legal guidance to members of the public in neighborhood locations identified by nonprofit agencies and the Jacksonville City Council. At another, she assisted Northeast Florida residents in changing their names. Due to the Real ID Act, Plata recognized the barrier created by not having government-issued identification and assisted residents in petitioning the court for name changes.

Plata also participates in JALA’s FLAIR, its family law pro bono program. She notably provided pro bono legal services to a juvenile in Jacksonville charged with homicide with a team of attorneys that included Buddy Shultz, Hank Coxe, and Jesse Dreicer.

Since graduating from law school, Plata has been involved with Take Stock in Children (TSIC). She mentors, provides legal advice to juveniles who may be facing adult criminal prosecution and speaks on behalf and in support of the programs offered by TSIC.

Plata also volunteers with Year Up, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to close the “opportunity divide” by providing urban young adults with skills, experience and support that will empower them to reach their potential through higher education and professional careers.

Plata provided more than 204 hours of pro bono legal service through representing clients as well as through local legal aid. She has additionally provided 19 hours of pro bono service by participating in legal aid and other civic organizations’ symposiums and ask-a-lawyer events and she has given more than 56 hours to various nonprofit organizations that serve at-risk youth.

Plata received her Juris Doctor from the University of Florida Levin College of Law in 2010. In 2014, she was recognized for her pro bono work on a federal clemency project. The following year, she was honored at the state capital and named Alumni of the Year by Take Stock in Children for her mentorship and pro bono service to children in the program.

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.

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