Equal justice awards celebrate volunteerism and philanthropy

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  • | 12:00 p.m. January 13, 2014
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Hello and Happy New Year to one and all.

I know that the last two articles began somewhat the same way. And at some point in time we will all stop greeting each other with those three little words, but since we just rang in 2014, I felt it only fitting.

The beginning of this new year marks the end of the holiday season and college football (regardless of who you may have been rooting for) and leads us into celebration. Some of you may be thinking celebration of the NFL playoffs.

While you would be technically correct, the celebration I am referring to is the Robert J. Beckham Equal Justice Awards celebration.

By now, you should have received your invitation to the Jacksonville Area Legal Aid 15th Annual Robert J. Beckham Equal Justice Awards celebration.

What is the awards celebration, you ask?

Well, since the mid-1930s, when a committed band of Jacksonville attorneys recognized a gross imbalance in the justice system, legal aid has remained a critically needed service for the citizens of Northeast Florida.

While the facade has changed over the years, legal aid's mission — one of social and economic justice for the poor and marginalized — has remained at its core.

Originally the Duval County Legal Aid Society, Jacksonville Area Legal Aid (JALA) continues to bring the scales of justice back into balance for those who need it most but are unable to afford an attorney.

On Wednesday, Jan. 29, JALA will recognize those who have helped provide justice through their volunteer service, philanthropy and unwavering dedication to fairness and equality during the Robert J. Beckham Equal Justice Awards celebration.

The event will feature Morris Dees, co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, as the evening's keynote speaker. A pioneer in social justice, Dees is known for his innovative lawsuits that bankrupted and disbanded white supremacist and neo-Nazi hate groups.

Recognizing his strong legacy of supporting equal justice for all, the Honorable William A. Van Nortwick Jr. will be presented with the 2013 Equal Justice Award.

Prior to serving on the 1st District Court of Appeal, Judge Van Nortwick served as president of the JALA board of directors in 1979 and 1980. He was also recognized in 2005 with the Distinguished Judicial Service Award recognizing outstanding and sustained service to the public, especially as it relates to pro bono legal services.

Others will be recognized during the evening's program with the President's Award and Outstanding Pro Bono Service Award, in addition to firms and individuals who have supported and advanced JALA's mission of social and economic justice through their philanthropic contributions.

Ticket and tables for the event, including a private reception with the award honoree and keynote speaker, are available at jaxlegalaid.org or by calling (904) 224-1557.

All proceeds from the event support the mission-critical work of JALA's advocates in providing social and economic justice to the citizens of Northeast Florida.