For many, the commitment to give back to our community with pro bono legal services begins early in their careers. That’s how it was for August’s Pro Bono Attorney of the Month, Carrington (“Rusty”) Madison Mead.
Her passion for pro bono work began in law school, where Mead first volunteered her services to Jacksonville Area Legal Aid (JALA) as a certified legal intern, helping those afflicted with HIV/AIDS in any legal capacity that was needed. This early work with JALA planted the seed for the dedication that is recognized in this week’s Pro Bono Spotlight. Mead remains just as committed to helping those in need as she was when she first began pro bono work.
Mead volunteers her time and legal expertise in many pro bono projects, including Ask-A-Lawyer, advance directive events for area senior citizens and monthly group information clinics on divorce, paternity/timesharing and child support, to name a few.
Since becoming a practicing attorney, Mead has committed to keeping five case slots in her office open for pro bono cases. She doesn’t avoid a challenge and chooses cases that are more legally intricate –– cases that she knows often will not get chosen by other attorneys.
Mead gives priority to pro bono cases involving children, matters with high volatility and parents who are experiencing situations where the other parent or third parties are interfering with their relationships with their children, without merit.
One memorable case continues to inspire Mead, the outcome having given her satisfaction in her work and the joy of helping others.
“A few years after becoming an attorney I received a call from JALA because there was a woman who was in need of assistance in getting timesharing with her 13-year-old daughter,” said Mead. “The mother needed some help because the paternal aunt she gave temporary relative custody of the child did not want her to see the child because she believed the mother would be a harm to her daughter because she was HIV/AIDS infected and had mental health issues.”
Mead remembers, “After speaking to the mother and reviewing her medical documents, I determined that the client was not a harm to her daughter. I was able to get her liberal timesharing with her daughter. Her daughter was so grateful that she begged her mother to bring her to my office to thank me. She gave me a great big hug and told me how grateful she was because she had been told by the aunt she would never see her mother again.”
In addition to her pro bono cases and volunteering, Mead's private practice includes the areas of family, probate, estate planning, LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) family and civil rights issues as to housing, employment and public accommodations.
She is also a Department of Veterans Affairs accredited attorney for benefits, and a Navy veteran. Mead served as a mechanic in the Navy and still enjoys working on her Jeep in her spare time. It is with deep gratitude for her generous assistance to pro bono clients that Rusty Mead is recognized as the “Pro Bono Attorney of the Month.”
Attorneys interested in pro bono opportunities throughout the Fourth Judicial Circuit are encouraged to contact Kathy Para, chairwoman, The JBA Pro Bono Committee, [email protected], 356-8371, ext. 363. Cases can now be reviewed online at www.jaxlegalaid.org, then click on “Cases Awaiting Placement with Pro Bono Attorneys.”