by David Chapman
The pro bono efforts of many in the legal community were again honored during Jacksonville Area Legal Aid’s 11th annual Equal Justice Awards during a reception Tuesday at The River Club.
Close to 200 members of the legal and business community turned out on what JALA Development Director Christa Figgins calls, “the most important night of JALA’s year.”
“It really is a nice chance to say ‘Thank you’ and honor those who have helped us during the year,” said Figgins.
The event had numerous award highlights, including the 2009 Robert J. Beckham Equal Justice Award going to the firm of Harrell & Harrell. The award, named after the former winner who passed away in September, is given to the individual or firm that has greatly assisted the organization in the past year. Former winners include Council member and attorney Kevin Hyde, Council members Jack Webb and Glorious Johnson, attorneys Hank Coxe, Eddie Farah and Beckham along with firms Pajcic & Pajcic and Rogers Towers.
The honor went to the entire Harrell & Harrell firm, a recognition Renee Harrell called an honor but also one that they will continue to earn going forward.
It wasn’t the only award being given during the evening.
President’s Awards, given for those who came up with creative fundraising ideas during the year, went to attorneys Patrick Canan of Patrick T. Canan and Jake Schickel of Coker Schickel.
Pro Bono Service Award recipients for 2009 included: Rebeccah Beller of Beller & Bustamante, David Barksdale of The Bedell Firm, Ericka Curran of Florida Coastal Legal Clinics, Satasha Williston of The Williston Firm, JALA Care, attorney Richard Burton, Richard Farmer and Wayne Hogan of Terrell Hogan.
Members of JALA’s staff were also recognized, as were area firms with 100 percent participation in pro bono work. Those firms included The Bedell Firm, Beller & Bustamante, Harrell & Harrell, Liles Gavin, Milton Leach, Moseley Pritchard, Pajcic & Pajcic and Tanner Bishop.
The event always has landmark speakers, with this being no exception with attorney Joan Claybrook, a longtime consumer rights activist and president emeritus of Public Citizen, who spoke to what officials determined the largest Equal Justice reception in its history on the mark JALA makes within the community, business entities, foreclosures and praise for Harrell & Harrell.
“The work they (JALA) does is extremely important in the community,” said Claybrook. “There is a lot of fraud and dishonesty out there and they do make a difference ... and the effort Bill and Renee Harrell, you can’t say enough.”