by Kathy Para
JBA Pro Bono Committee Chair
“The need has never been greater.”
Chief Judge Donald R. Moran Jr. began the meeting of the Fourth Circuit Pro Bono Committee with a word of welcome and a reminder to all attorneys of the tremendous need in our community for pro bono legal services.
On Feb. 23, more than 40 area attorneys gathered in the chambers of the chief judge to kick off 2011 with a revised Administrative Order and new goals for the Fourth Circuit Pro Bono Committee.
The Fourth Circuit Pro Bono Committee has been in existence since the mid-1990s. Area attorneys and judges have met quarterly since the committee was formed, planning and implementing ways to strengthen and expand pro bono legal services to low-income persons.
With the rollout of the Florida Bar Foundation’s One Campaign to promote pro bono service and the level of need in our community, the Committee, under the leadership of Judge Jean M. Johnson, decided that the original Administrative Order should be updated, subcommittees redefined, and specific goals addressing the vast need developed.
Judge William A. Van Nortwick Jr., of the First District Court of Appeal, and Judge James M. Barton II, of the Thirteenth Circuit, Hillsborough County, attended the Fourth Circuit Pro Bono Committee meeting and were guest speakers.
Judges Van Nortwick and Barton have been champions of pro bono legal services statewide and both have chaired The Florida Bar Standing Committee on Pro Bono.
In his remarks, Judge Van Nortwick stated, “The message to attorneys is simple. Pro bono service doesn’t have to take over your life. We’re asking you to help one client with one legal matter.”
He added, “We talk to attorneys all around the state who are involved in pro bono representation and we hear over and over again how they feel that they get more than they give when serving a pro bono client.”
Pro bono service can help a new attorney gain valuable legal experience and can remind all attorneys of their commitment to make a positive difference in the lives of others.
Judge Barton emphasized the importance of staying focused on the goal of providing legal services to low-income persons.
He offered examples of projects that have been especially effective in Hillsborough – in particular, a 5K run to raise money and awareness for pro bono services and a project in which pro bono attorneys staff an office in the courthouse to provide guidance to pro se litigants on completion of court forms.
“The Circuit Committees can learn from each other. In the Thirteenth Circuit, we’ve made some mistakes and we’ve had some successes. There’s no reason for any of us to reinvent the wheel,” he said.
Judge Hugh A. Carithers concluded the meeting by thanking the guest judges and all attendees for their presence and commitment.
All attorneys were asked to sign up for one or more subcommittees to ensure that pro bono legal services to low-income persons increase in the coming year.
Area attorneys interested in serving on the Fourth Circuit Pro Bono Committee are invited to contact Kathy Para to indicate their interest and willingness.
Additionally, there are many opportunities to participate in pro bono legal services throughout the Fourth Judicial Circuit.
Attorneys are encouraged to contact Kathy Para, Chair, Pro Bono Committee, The Jacksonville Bar Association, [email protected], for more information.