By Missy Davenport, JBA Pro Bono Committee Chair
In these difficult times, it is easy to focus on negative headlines and feel helpless or discouraged.
Local attorney and longtime pro bono volunteer Rob Ellis recently saw a troubling story in the news and decided to do something about it.
His efforts made a difference in the life of his client, Jordan Whitty, and helped his client obtain safe and habitable housing. “He is a very good man and a very good attorney,” Whitty said of his volunteer lawyer.
Ellis describes the experience:
What were the basic facts of your case?
My client, who is deaf, was jumped by a group of men while walking home from work. Two days later, his apartment was burglarized.
The case caught my attention after it was reported by Vic Micolucci on WJXT TV-4. It was interesting to me because the victim was a cook at a restaurant in the Lakewood area where I am a fairly frequent diner.
My client’s apartment complex made some temporary repairs to correct the damage from the burglary, but not enough to make much of a difference.
There also were serious problems due to roaches and rats and there had been a water leak that was causing mold issues.
It was a bad situation and my client wanted to find a new place to live without having to worry about an eviction on his record.
What were you able to accomplish for your client?
It was truly a community effort. With my client’s help, the reporting by Micolucci, generous community contributions to a GoFundme account, the support of Jacksonville Area Legal Aid (especially Suzanne Garrow, coordinator of the Eviction Defense Self Help Project) and the cooperation of my client’s landlord, we reached an agreement where my client was able to terminate his lease and find a new place to live where he now feels safe and happy.
Why was the outcome important to your client?
He was truly overwhelmed by the support of his community.
What did you gain from the experience?
It felt good to be a part of a larger effort to help someone that really needed it. I was glad to use my law license to address the lease issue and see things through.
What is the name of your firm?
Murphy & Ellis PLLC. We practice in the areas of business and commercial transactions, business litigation, business formation and civil litigation.
What advice do you have for attorneys considering pro bono involvement?
This was an opportunity for me because of my personal connection to the case. When you stumble upon an opportunity like this, it is especially rewarding when you are able to help in a place, “Where everybody knows your name, And they’re always glad you came . . .” (For the younger folks, that’s part of the theme song from the television show “Cheers”).
Sincere appreciation is extended to Ellis and to all attorneys involved in the many pro bono case, clinic and project opportunities.
The 4th Judicial Circuit offers many pro bono opportunities serving low-income residents that provide professional development and are personally rewarding.
Volunteer attorneys are provided with support resources including CLE courses, expert resource attorneys, sign language interpreters and language translators, access to Westlaw for pro bono case research, professional liability insurance for representation and meeting spaces.
To review cases in need of placement, go to floridaprobonomatters.org, and type your county in the general search field.
For information on projects and clinics, contact Missy Davenport at [email protected]