Pro Bono Awards: Voluntary Bar Association Service Award

first_img THE VOLUNTARY BAR ASSOCIATION PRO BONO SERVICE AWARD RECIPIENT Jacksonville Bar AssociationThe Jacksonville Bar Association is a voluntary bar which has served the greater Jacksonville Area (Duval County, Baker County, Clay County, St. Johns County, and Nassau County) since 1897. It has been a long-standing tenet of the Jacksonville Bar Association to not only serve the legal community, but the community in general. As a result, numerous programs and services have been provided throughout the years by members of the Jacksonville Bar including, but not limited to, the Special Olympics, Teen Court, Holiday Project for the Elderly, Holiday in January for children associated with the Department of Children and Families, the Mentor Program, Law School for the Public, and various seminars and forums held for both the legal community and the community at large. In keeping with their tradition of assistance and support, the Jacksonville Bar Association, in conjunction with Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, established a legal in-take clinic at the I.M. Sulzbacher Center for the Homeless in 2001.In essence, since the homeless do not have access to the legal community in a convenient forum, the legal community has gone to the homeless. Specifically, the legal clinic is held on the third Tuesday of each month from 6:45 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the I.M. Sulzbacher Center for the benefit of the guests at the center. Each session includes a minimum of four attorneys: two attorneys who specialize in general litigation, a family law attorney, and a public defender. The center provides a staff liaison, Freda Hodges, to assist Alan Pickert, a private attorney with the law firm of Brown, Terrell, Hogan, who coordinates the project for the Jacksonville Bar, and Sarah Jones Fowler, director of Jacksonville Area Legal Aid’s Public Service Projects, who oversees the in-take project for Legal Aid. Both Pickert and Fowler participate each month to provide continuity while the other volunteer attorneys who participate rotate through the program. Additionally, many presentations are also conducted during the course of the year at the center in conjunction with the legal clinic in-take, covering various substantive topics including employment, divorce, housing, and criminal concerns.The I.M. Sulzbacher Center averages 278 homeless guests on a daily basis, and a great number of these guests have legal problems which require an attorney’s attention. Those individuals who sign up to meet with an attorney for the legal in-take are then interviewed by the attorney and their case is either accepted by the attorney or referred to Legal Aid staff or pro bono attorneys for further follow-up. However, numerous times counsel’s advice during the in-take session resolves many of the problems.Since its inaugural debut in February, 2001, over 50 private attorneys have extended their already busy day to interview over 200 guests of the Center with issues ranging from child support to record sealings. Thus far, attorneys have donated almost 300 hours to this program, interviewing guests, administrating the project, and handling the cases pro bono for the guests.The Sulzbacher Center already views the clinic as a tremendous success. As Hodges, a life skills educator for the center, stated: “We are inundated with legal questions throughout the course of any given day by our guests. The questions can range from divorce/child custody issues to landlord/tenant disputes, to workers’ compensation or employment cases. The guests want real answers, and quite frankly we do not have the answers. The guests are always excited and look forward to being able to meet with attorneys to address their needs and to know that there are individuals out in the world who care about them.”One such example of the impact of the program was illustrated at the center’s annual fundraiser, “Transformations,” which was attended by Fowler and the past chairperson of the project from the Jacksonville Bar Association, Marianne Lloyd Aho. During the fund-raiser, the Center honors its partnership with organizations and recognizes the successful transformations of its guests. One such successful transformation concerned a guest who was wrongfully denied unemployment compensation benefits that she desperately needed to support her family until she found future employment. utilizing the program, the grateful guest was justly awarded the benefits that had been wrongly denied her, thereby moving her one step closer to achieving her goal of self-reliance for her and her children.Every month brings an entirely new flow of guests requiring legal assistance. Everyone involved in the project works diligently to refer guests to the clinic with the hope of helping them remove yet one more barrier toward their independence. As one individual stated, legal assistance was the “missing piece of the puzzle” for the Center. Now the picture is complete thanks to the Jacksonville Bar Association. Click here for more Pro Bono Awards Ceremony coverage. Pro Bono Awards: Voluntary Bar Association Service Award April 1, 2002 Regular Newslast_img

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