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Jax Daily Record Monday, Dec. 8, 201412:00 PM EST

Pro bono spotlight: Maybe you noticed signs of pro bono efforts

by: Kathy Para

Maybe you noticed the glass cabinet in the lobby area of the Duval County Courthouse near the elevators.

The 4th Circuit Pro Bono Committee purchased and will maintain this cabinet in honor and appreciation of Circuit Judge Jean Johnson.

Maybe you noticed the cabinet contains a tribute to and a photo of Judge Johnson. It also contains information for the public describing some of the pro bono legal services available in Northeast Florida.

In addition, there is information for attorneys on how to get involved in pro bono service and the kinds of support resources that are available to those who become involved.

Judge Johnson was the first chairwoman of the 4th Circuit Pro Bono Committee and served in that capacity for 20 years. In the old courthouse, she secured the glass-enclosed bulletin board for posting pro bono information.

One of her goals after the move to the new courthouse was to secure a similar place for pro bono communications. The new cabinet is a fitting tribute to Judge Johnson.

Maybe you noticed that in the 4th Circuit we recently observed the American Bar Association’s national Celebrate Pro Bono Week with a proclamation from the mayor and with many pro bono events. Participation by attorneys in the observances was strong and enthusiastic.

Maybe you noticed the full-page “thank you” page in the Daily Record applauding the efforts of hundreds of pro bono attorneys and paralegals who have assisted low-income, vulnerable or under-served clients.

Maybe you noticed there has been much discussion about the funding of civil legal services for the poor and strategies for sustainable financial support for the long-term. Although, as officers of the court and custodians of our judicial system, attorneys must lead the way, stakeholders also include the business, services, medical and educational communities.

Maybe you noticed the recent announcement that the Florida Supreme Court has established the Florida Commission on Access to Civil Justice.

The 27-member panel includes local leaders in the legal community including U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan; Jim Kowalski, executive director of Jacksonville Area Legal Aid; state Sen. Rob Bradley; Jacksonville attorney Thomas Edwards Jr.; and retiring appellate court Judge William Van Nortwick, who is joining the Jacksonville office of Akerman.

The commission will study the unmet civil legal needs of the indigent, as well as low- and moderate-income Floridians. The conversation is not new but the commission brings new voices to the discussion including executives from the tourism and business sectors.

The support for legal services to our low-income neighbors is great, but the need is even greater. For attorneys, it’s time to take a case, participate in a pro bono project and find a way to strengthen our system of justice by helping to ensure that each person has a voice, that is, to help ensure that each person has access to justice.

Maybe you noticed …

Attorneys interested in pro bono opportunities in the 4th Judicial Circuit are encouraged to contact Kathy Para at [email protected]

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