Pro Bono attorney Becky Tulipan has volunteered her services to assist clients of Jacksonville Area Legal Aid and she recently helped a mother of a disabled, adult child to establish a guardian advocacy order. Take one client, one attorney, and one promise and get life changing and positive results.
What were the basic facts of your case?
Ms. E. had a profoundly disabled, middle-aged daughter. Ms. E. applied for a passport for her daughter, but the application was denied because she did not have the authority to apply on her daughter's behalf.
What were you able to accomplish for your client?
I was able to establish a guardian advocacy for Ms. E. on behalf of her daughter. This gave Ms. E. the legal authority to apply for the passport for her daughter.
Why was the outcome important to your client?
Ms. E. wanted to visit her aging mother who resided out of the country before her mother passed away. However, Ms. E. was unwilling to leave her daughter in order to take the trip. Caring for her daughter was so important to Ms. E., she was willing to forgo ever seeing her mother again. On the day of the hearing, Ms. E. and her daughter were brought to the courthouse by one of their pastors who explained that she never saw Ms. E. without her daughter. The two came as a pair. The pastor described what I had witnessed. This was a special family who took very good care of one another. Ms. E. was patient as she waited for the assistance of a pro bono attorney to take her case. I hope very much that she is able to visit her aging mother. Now she will have that opportunity.
Why was the experience important to you? What did you gain from the experience?
It was an honor to help this family. Ms. E. never shared her story to gain my sympathy, but some of the most heart-wrenching details came out through the course of working together as she responded to questions I asked. Ms. E.'s elderly mother, who went blind in the latter years of her life, lives in a small village. Access to phones is limited, and even if the elderly woman had access to a phone, it would be difficult for the blind and elderly woman to use. This has been one of the most meaningful cases of my career. I was able to play a small part in helping this woman who, day in and day out, meets the needs of a daughter who is unable to
even verbalize her appreciation.
What advice do you have for other attorneys considering pro bono involvement?
Taking on a pro bono case was not difficult or time-consuming. I had never completed a guardianship or guardian advocacy before this pro bono case. However, Jacksonville Area Legal Aid made taking this case very simple. They provided training and sample forms for all the pleadings that I would draft. In spite of this being my first guardianship case from start to finish, it only took about 20 hours to complete. This time included completing the one-hour CLE, drafting documents, meeting with the client and the brief hearing to establish the guardian advocacy.
Attorneys interested in assisting a pro bono client are encouraged to contact Kathy Para, chairwoman, The JBA Pro Bono Committee, [email protected]. Opportunities are available throughout the 4th Judicial Circuit with Guardian ad Litem, Office of Public Defender, Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, the Northeast Florida Medical Legal Partnership and Three Rivers Legal Services.