The honoree of The Florida Bar President's Pro Bono Service Award for the 4th Judicial Circuit was Emerson Lotzia of Foley & Lardner.
Since 2006, Lotzia has assisted Jacksonville Area Legal Aid's Community Counsel to represent nonprofit organizations that benefit people with low incomes.
These nonprofits work to revitalize neighborhoods, often by providing quality affordable housing to families with low to middle incomes.
Lotzia specializes in real estate financing, development and leasing matters. He also is certified to advise clients on Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and energy performance contract legal issues.
He uses his business and real estate background to negotiate acquisition and construction loans and to advise groups about title problems and other real estate matters.
In particular, Lotzia assisted a local community development corporation in its successful development of its first office and retail project. It is the first new development in this area of town in many years.
Four parcels of property had to be assembled and one street block had to be closed. There were environmental problems with ash, petroleum and lead that exceeded state limits. The site did not have adequate space for parking or a retention pond. Alternate plans that deviated from parking and stormwater standards had to be negotiated and approved. Eight known underground petroleum storage tanks and several more were subsequently discovered, including a kerosene tank, and had to be removed.
The time involved and the cost of the project was so high that a private developer would not have proceeded.
Only a nonprofit could make this project feasible, but it had no funds to pay a lawyer, developer, architect and general contractor. Lotzia attended numerous and long meetings of the development team and advised the nonprofit on all aspects of the project.
Without Lotzia's commitment to this project, it likely would not have happened. It was a tough project with almost every possible problem, and Lotzia resolutely worked to resolve each obstacle.
In one year, he donated 624 hours of legal work and he has been active every year since 2006.
Lotzia continues to work on the project and development plans for the surrounding area.
He also assisted another group that is developing a shopping center with a grocery store in a blighted area of town. The site has considerable environmental problems and is not a project that a private developer would undertake. Lotzia spent many hours working to get this project under way.
JALA's Community Counsel staff attorney could not provide the range of representation the program offers without pro bono assistance from private lawyers such as Lotzia.
The neighborhood nonprofit organizations could not afford any attorney, especially one of Lotzia's skills and experience. The work of local nonprofit community development corporations is making neighborhoods that were once blighted into viable communities where families can thrive.
The Florida Bar, The Florida Supreme Court and the 4th Judicial Circuit applaud the generous and far-reaching pro bono efforts of Emerson Lotzia.
Attorneys interested in pro bono opportunities throughout the 4th Circuit are encouraged to contact Kathy Para, chairwoman of The JBA Pro Bono Committee at kathy.para@ jaxlegalaid.org.
Pro bono attorneys from across the state were recognized and thanked Thursday for their extraordinary pro bono service at the Florida Supreme Court.