by Joe Wilhelm Jr.
Those who participate are not paid, but they are rewarded.
This was the message at the Jacksonville Chapter of the Federal Bar Association’s “Spirit of Giving Luncheon” at The River Club Wednesday. Association members and area federal judiciary gathered to recognize the pro bono efforts of three attorneys, David Burns of Tanner Bishop, Gonzalo Rafael Andux and Cassandra Capobianco of Florida Institutional Legal Services.
“The reason (Burns) is being honored is because he took a pro bono case involving an area of law that was foreign to him,” said U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan. “But he stepped up to the plate, learned and got the job done.”
Burns may not have been well versed in bankruptcy appeals, but he understood why he was called by the Federal Bench and understood his duty as an attorney.
“It was an honor to get a call from the federal bench to serve in such a capacity,” said Burns. “It was a very rewarding experience.”
Andux earned a “Spirit of Giving” award through his work on the federal court’s Criminal Justice Act (CJA) panel.
The Criminal Justice Act of 1964 created a program, administered by the judiciary, for the appointment and compensation of counsel to represent individuals who have been charged with a federal crime and cannot pay for their defense. The statute provides that all defendants in federal court receive the effective assistance of counsel guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment.
“Gonzalo is being recognized for providing Sixth Amendment counsel and providing spanish translation for CJA panel,” said Corrigan. “He has done all-around stellar work for the panel for a long time.”
Andux was introduced to the panel by Senior U.S. District Court Judge Harvey Schlesinger to help with a case involving Mexican immigrant workers who were in the U.S. illegally in 1976.
“I’ve been on the panel ever since,” said Andux.
Panel members are paid a “small amount,” Corrigan said, so he wasn’t eligible for a pro bono award.
The third award was a “special” award given by the local chapter of the Federal Bar Association.
“(Lawyers) like to fancy ourselves after Atticus Finch,” said Corrigan, referring to the central character in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” “Not many of us get an Atticus Finch moment, but our next honoree did.”
Capobianco was honored for her pro bono work representing convicted murderer and rapist Richard Henyard who had filed a pro se request for a stay of execution. Henyard was scheduled for execution on Sept. 23 as punishment for the crimes he was convicted of.
“It was decided that in order to properly consider his claim, he needed a lawyer,” said Corrigan. “At 10 a.m. on the morning he was to be executed, who do you call? Without any experience in death penalty defense, our next honoree took the call.”
Henyard was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection at 6 p.m. that day and at 5:50 p.m. he was granted the stay of execution so the U.S. Supreme Court could review his case. The stay was denied by the high court at 7 p.m., Corrigan said.
“But that’s not the point,” said Corrigan. “The point is she said yes, and carried out her duty as an attorney.”