by Kathy Para
JBA Pro Bono Committee Chair
There was no more honorable way to mark the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks than by serving those who have so selflessly served us.
It was the idea of CM3 Rolando E. Rodriguez to give back to Navy Reservists through the provision of free legal services.
Florida Coastal School of Law students Rodriguez and Mike Cintron could best be described as men on a mission. On Saturday, Sept. 11, local pro bono attorneys and law students alike reported for duty at Naval Air Station Jacksonville to help military reservists square away legal needs before deployment.
Rodriguez, a third year student at Florida Coastal School of Law and also a naval reservist, was familiar with the legal needs facing the local military. His decision to help meet those needs materialized after conversing with his reserve unit after his first year of law school.
“When reservists are deployed to areas of military unrest in the world, they often have little time to get their personal affairs in order to help ensure the stability of their families,” said Rodriguez.
“We thought it would be helpful to our service personnel to have the opportunity to get their advance planning documents completed now, without the urgency of deployment days away,” he said.
“I realized how much legal help our reservists and veterans need prior to deploying overseas. Whenever a unit deploys, there are many things that need to happen and I would like to lessen the burden that most of these service members have to go through. Family planning is a part of Navy life.”
With the large military population in Jacksonville, there is a greater need for familiarity with the complex legal issues they face.
With this goal in mind, Professor Robert Morgan, instructor of the Florida Coastal Trusts and Estates Skills Lab class, joined forces with the Pro Bono Committee of The Jacksonville Bar Association and Jacksonville Area Legal Aid.
The purpose of this collaborative effort was to bridge the gap between the city’s legal community and the military in Jacksonville, which boasts two naval air stations.
It evolved into a four-hour event where troops could complete wills, durable powers of attorney, designations of health care surrogates, designations of pre-need guardians, and living wills.
The law students assisted in the explanation, completion and execution of these important documents under the supervision of licensed attorneys. “It really was our honor and privilege to serve some of those among us who do so much to protect the freedoms we enjoy. We live in a military city and it’s a small way for us to say ‘thank you’ for their courageous service,” said Morgan.
Rodriguez and Cintron helped found the Military Law Society at the law school. Cintron is currently the organization’s president. The group has brainstormed about different legal issues that Navy reservists face and have worked together to find solutions. We look forward to what these two will employ in the future!
Sincere thanks are extended to the following attorneys who dedicated their time to helping 24 troops at the event: Robert Morgan, Reese Marshall, Rose Marie Preddy, Bill Schmidt and Jessica Dunn.
Attorneys and military participants were also assisted by Florida Coastal students: Rolando Rodriguez, Mike Cintron, Christine Berk, Matthew Vasko, Sanja Novakovich, James Stanko, Laurel Lorentini, Joe Lipps, Zac Grubaugh, Paul Murray and Jeannie Walser.
Notary Public Heather Pullen also volunteered her services.
The troops left the event with an envelope of fully executed documents and the comfort of knowing that their loved ones would be afforded more stability upon their deployment.
Attorneys interested in being part of future events should contact Kathy Para, chair, JBA Pro Bono Committee, [email protected].