The Florida Bar sets an annual goal for each attorney licensed to practice in the state to perform at least 20 hours of pro bono (free of charge) legal service for people who cannot afford to hire a lawyer when they need one.
About 300 attorneys who met or exceeded the goal for hours of free service were recognized last week at the annual “Presentation of the Pins” ceremony at the Duval County Courthouse.
“Someone woke up today thinking about losing their home or their job. It’s you that helps them,” said Circuit Judge Steven Fahlgren to the attorneys, who each received a certificate and a lapel pin in recognition of their service.
Fahlgren also said the event has a new name: The Judge William Van Nortwick Presentation of the Pins Ceremony.
Van Nortwick, who died in January, was a judge on Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeal and later, partner in charge of the Akerman law firm’s national pro bono program.
His volunteer work began soon after he graduated from law school when he helped represent three young African Americans who were expelled from school after an incident on their school bus.
He also performed more than 200 hours of pro bono service to establish a medical clinic in an underserved Jacksonville neighborhood and was president of The Florida Bar Foundation.
Retired Circuit Judge Hugh Carithers, former chair of the 4th Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee, and Kathy Para, former director of pro bono at Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, also were presented plaques in recognition of their contributions to providing free legal services to low-income people in Northeast Florida.
Memorial in Problem Solving Courts office dedicated to Arnold
At a ceremony attended by family, friends and court officials, a memorial in the Problem Solving Courts office at the Duval County Courthouse was dedicated March 20 in honor of the late Kenneth Arnold Sr.
In 1994, Arnold helped establish Adult Drug Court in Jacksonville, a diversion program that offers an alternative to the criminal justice system for defendants who are motivated to reform their lives.
Arnold helped expand the program to include alternative courts for juvenile and military veteran drug offenders and people with dependency and mental health issues in Duval County; drug courts for adults and veterans in Clay County; and mental health and veterans courts in Nassau County.
In 2018, Arnold became a project director at the National Drug Court Institute and conducted workshops that helped other jurisdictions duplicate what has been accomplished in the 4th Circuit.
Teri Hamlin, director of Problem Solving Courts, said Arnold was a friend and mentor who was inspired to reach out to anyone in need.
“He is an absolute legend,” she said.
Temporary move turns permanent for the Law Offices of Bateh & Clark
After 29 years in San Marco, the Law Offices of Bateh & Clark moved to 4229 Atlantic Blvd., near Art Museum Drive.
Partner Abraham Bateh, who started the firm with the late Ross Clark, said the practice had to move in September 2017 after Hurricane Irma flooded parts of San Marco, including the area around his law office at 1558 San Marco Blvd.
What was intended to be a short-term necessity turned out to be permanent.
“For the very first time in 29 years, our office suffered water intrusion, so we had to temporarily relocate until repairs could be made. The relocation ultimately became a permanent relocation,” Bateh said.
The firm continues to practice personal injury, family, business and traffic violation law and estate planning.
Atlantic Beach attorney Mearkle is suspended
Brett Allen Mearkle, whose office is at 547 Selva Lakes Circle in Atlantic Beach, was suspended indefinitely March 19 by the state Supreme Court. According to the court, he failed to respond to two official inquiries from The Florida Bar.
Mearkle previously was suspended in January 2018 for 90 days and ordered to pay restitution after the court found that he had not properly represented three clients.
Holland & Knight adds five litigators
Five experienced trial attorneys have joined Holland & Knight’s Jacksonville office.
Gina Bulecza is a staff attorney who focuses her practice on insurance litigation and commercial and consumer financial services litigation. She received her J.D. from Florida Coastal School of Law and a bachelor’s from Florida State University. She was previously an associate with McGlinchey Stafford.
Bradley Crocker is an associate who focuses his practice on complex commercial litigation, class actions, appeals and creditors’ rights. He received a J.D. from the University of Florida Levin College of Law and a bachelor’s in business administration from Georgetown University McDonough School of Business. He previously was an attorney with Anthony and Partners in Tampa.
Robert Gore is an associate who handles appeals, complex commercial litigation and class actions. He received a J.D. from Hofstra University School of Law and a B.A. in Mandarin from the University of Mississippi. Before joining Holland & Knight, he was an associate with Robins Kaplan in New York, where he prosecuted antitrust class actions and opt-out claims.
Aubrey Smith is an associate who works in the areas of general commercial litigation and commercial tort claims. She received a J.D. from the University of Florida Levin College of Law and a bachelor’s from Florida State University. She is a former associate at Burr & Forman.
April Snipes is a staff attorney who works commercial litigation, general litigation and motion practice, and consumer financial services litigation. She earned a J.D. from Charlotte School of Law and a bachelor’s from American Military University. Before joining Holland & Knight, she was a staff attorney at Burr & Forman.