New citizens and award winners highlighted the annual Law Day celebration Thursday hosted by The Jacksonville Bar Association.
The annual recognition of the practice of law was established by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1958. In 1961, Congress issued a joint resolution designating May 1 as the official date for celebrating Law Day.
The 2013 theme was "Realizing the Dream: Equality for All" and The JBA's activities Thursday began with a naturalization ceremony at the Bryan Simpson U.S. Courthouse. About 50 new U.S. citizens were sworn in by Senior U.S. District Judge Harvey Schlesinger.
"I want to offer to each of you my personal, and on behalf of our government, sincerest wishes that your life as an American citizen will bring you each all of the happiness and satisfaction in which you seek," said Schlesinger.
The group of new citizens came from about 25 countries, the largest group comprising four from Ukraine.
Also attending the ceremony were judges from Tatarstan, Russia, whom Schlesinger hosted through the GlobalJax Open World Leadership Center. The judges visited Jacksonville from April 20 through Saturday to study the U.S. justice system.
Giselle Carson named 'Lawyer of the Year'
Giselle Carson, the 27th Financial News & Daily Record "Lawyer of the Year" award recipient, is familiar with the naturalization process both as a naturalized citizen and as a lawyer who practices in immigration and naturalization law, as well as business and corporate law.
"I am honored and I am humbled. Although I am getting the award, I want to share it with all of you. I believe that the lawyers in Jacksonville are amazing in contributing so much to our community," said Carson to those attending Thursday's meeting at EverBank Field via a video from London.
She participated in the London Marathon on April 21.
Although this was the first time in the 27 years of the award that the honoree was not at the ceremony, Daily Record Publisher Jim Bailey said he was determined to receive a statement from the winner and connected with Carson with the help of the Internet. She submitted a video message at 2:52 a.m. Eastern Standard Time the day of the ceremony.
"This award is about cause being greater than the individual. It's about commitment to serve your community so great that sacrifices become secondary to the rewards," said Bailey.
"This year's recipient has inspired so many by (her) commitment, passion and energy for everything they do," Bailey said.
Carson was born in Cuba and immigrated to Canada as a teenager. As an adult, she immigrated to the United States and completed the naturalization process.
She now guides clients through complex immigration and business issues as a shareholder with Marks Gray and is a frequent writer and lecturer on immigration and business issues. She serves as a member of the JBA board of governors of and is involved with the American Immigration Lawyers Association; Leadership Jacksonville; and the First Coast Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
She has been general counsel for the JAX Chamber since 2010.
Duval County Public Schools' Philip Little 2013 'Liberty Bell' honoree
Former Florida Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham urged the membership to become involved with civics education in the school system when he spoke to the organization at its September meeting.
The 2013 Liberty Bell award winner helped The JBA accomplish that.
Philip Little, coordinator of American History for Duval County Public Schools, helped prepare members of the legal community to visit the classroom and helped coordinate visits.
JBA President Ray Driver presented him with the association's Liberty Bell award for his volunteer efforts.
"The Liberty Bell award general goes to someone who has reached out and generally promoted an understanding of the rule of law and of our judicial system and how important it is," said Driver.
The JBA board of governors annually votes on the recipient of the award and this year's selection was quite clear, according to Driver.
"The person that really went above and beyond the call in our eyes and earned the award was Phil Little. Without ever hesitating he got things done one-after-the-other and got us into those schools. He followed up and made sure everything was running perfectly," said Driver.
Little said he was surprised by and appreciative of the award.
"I really appreciate the partnership that Duval County Public Schools has with The Jacksonville Bar Association. We definitely want to expand this program because the children are so enthusiastic about it," said Little.
The Liberty Bell award was established more than 40 years ago by the American Bar Association to acknowledge a person or group that has promoted better understanding of the rule of law, encouraged greater respect for law and the courts, stimulated a sense of civic responsibility, or contributed to good government in the community.