Legal community honored at Equal Justice Awards
“Providing a wealth of justice to those who have neither,” is the mission of Jacksonville Area Legal Aid and it held its 10th Annual Equal Justice Awards reception Nov. 18 to recognize the people who contribute to the cause.
The list of attendees included keynote speaker Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum. Florida’s chief counsel was appreciative of the work being done by JALA and the night’s honorees.
“(Pro bono work) is often a thankless job, unless you think of the people you are helping,” said McCollum. “Every human being needs somebody. Every human being who has a problem with the law needs your help.”
This statement has rung true throughout Jacksonville as JALA’s staff and volunteers are working as fast as they can to help people with foreclosure cases.
The foreclosure crisis among people in the area has been cause for concern and action among JALA members.
“Five years ago we did very little foreclosures,” said Michael Figgins, JALA executive director. “Now we have a new office on the Northside that handles just foreclosure and a staff of nine lawyers handling just those cases when we could use 90.”
The 2008 Equal Justice Award winners have helped the organization to better serve the growing case load.
Council members Jack Webb, who is also an attorney, and Glorious Johnson helped secure nearly $185,000 for the JALA Northside office at the Ribault Family Resource Center at 3701 Winton Drive. The five zip code area around the facility has the highest number of foreclosures in the City.
The office opened Oct. 13 and has helped nearly 100 homeowners in the first month.
“We knew a lot of places on the Northside were being lost to foreclosure,” said Figgins. “But it was hard for us to help because the homeowners couldn’t make it into our office, so we decided to try to get to them.”
The Council members were happy to help members of the community stay in their homes.
“Some people say that government shouldn’t step in and bail people out,” said Johnson. “But we can’t go around saying we can’t do it when we can.”
The process may not have been easy, but Webb said he felt it was worth the struggle.
“The process of getting the money for the JALA foreclosure office was tough and made us think outside of the box,” said Webb. “It’s not a matter of finding money. It was a matter of adjusting priorities and once we did that, we could find the money.”
JALA also presented President’s awards to people who came up with creative ideas for raising funds for the organization.
The Jacksonville Bar Association’s Caroline Emery, Deborah McDuffie, Rose Marie Preddy and Susan Sowards were honored for organizing the JALA/JBA Variety Show.
Attorney Deborah Reid was honored for organizing an ArtWalk auction to benefit JALA. Dayna Duncan and John Wolfel were honored for their work in creating the JALA Foundation.
Eight Jacksonville law firms were honored for having 100 percent participation with JALA.
The award is given to firms where every attorney has donated to JALA or the firm has donated on the behalf of every attorney.
The firms include: the Bedell Firm; Harrell & Harrell; Liles Gavin; Milton Leach; Mosely Prichard; Rogers Towers; Tanner Bishop; and Terrell Hogan.
Pro Bono Service award winners included: Justin Funck, Edith Jones, Tiffany Holbrook Kavach, James Kowalski, Daniel McCranie, Joseph Meux and Carol Mirando.