One of the most surprised people in the room Friday during The Jacksonville Bar Association’s Law Day Luncheon was Patricia Morawski.
Morawski, deputy clerk for the U.S. District Court Middle District of Florida, thought she was invited to the luncheon at the last minute by two supervisors because the clerk’s office was being recognized by the association.
She didn’t know until her name was called that she was this year’s recipient of the “Liberty Bell Award,” which goes to a non-lawyer who supports the legal profession.
Bar Association President Braxton Gillam said Morawski was selected based on her work in the past 10 years as a clerk and for organizing naturalization ceremonies.
“She does it with gusto and with the reverence it deserves,” he said.
When Gillam presented the award, Morawski proved to be a woman of few words, saying only “thank you” before leaving the dais.
“I was speechless,” she said Friday after she returned to her office at the Bryan Simpson U.S. Courthouse. “I thought the award was going to my division manager.”
Morawski also is the historian for the Middle District and coordinates the court’s “Open Doors” program that visits schools to stage mock trials or provide the opportunity for students to meet and interact with a judge.
“We reach out to the public to help them understand the court system,” she said.
While grateful to be recognized, Morawski said the award really should be shared with her colleagues in the clerk’s office.
“It takes all of us to make it work so smoothly,” she said.
The American Bar Association established the award to recognize the contributions of a non-lawyer in support of the profession.
Each legal organization is allowed to establish its own criteria for selecting award winners. The JBA has presented the award annually since 1988.