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Jax Daily Record Monday, May 13, 201312:00 PM EST

Baker Defense Project endowed by Florida Coastal Student Bar Association and local firm


Jacksonville Area Legal Aid’s Baker Defense Project will continue operations because of support from the Florida Coastal School of Law Student Bar Association, local law firm Gunster and others.

Legal Aid attorney Karen Winston represents men and women housed at the Baker facility who await immigration hearings. She advocates for improved living conditions, access to medical care and counsel on behalf of all immigrants detained at Baker, one of the five immigration detention facilities in Florida.

Significant cuts of the funding used by Legal Aid to support for legal services for people most at-risk meant the Baker Defense Project could have been a victim of those cuts.

The Student Bar Association at Florida Coastal School of Law took on the challenge of endowing the Project for 2013 and in April announced the donation of more than $31,000 to the project. The association raised money through events including the Barrister’s Ball and Charity Golf Tournament in April.

Local law firm Gunster also contributed to saving the program by donating $8,400.

“We would like to take this opportunity to thank the student bar association and Gunster, Yoakley, & Stewart for their generous donations –– their efforts have endowed the project for 2013 and ensured that the men and women detained at Baker will continue to receive high-quality representation,” said Winston, former Equal Justice Works Fellow and creator of the project.

When Winston’s fellowship expired at the end of 2012, she was given the opportunity to raise the money needed to continue the project’s work. With added support from the Jacksonville community, former clients of the project, the student association and Gunster, Legal Aid is able to continue its work at Baker.

The Baker Defense Project provides representation to foreign nationals held in civil, non-criminal, detention in Baker County.

Survivors of human trafficking, victims of domestic violence and other violent crime, asylum seekers, torture survivors and long-time lawful permanent residents of the United States are housed at the Baker facility while they await immigration hearings to determine whether they might remain in the United States.

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