The Jacksonville Daily Record named Melina Buncome, a 4th Judicial Circuit assistant public defender and director of Problem-Solving Courts in Jacksonville, as the 2023 Lawyer of the Year.
Buncome accepted the award May 4 at the Jacksonville Bar Association 2023 Law Day Luncheon at the Marriott Jacksonville Downtown.
“I am so humbled to be appreciated for what we do on a daily basis,” Buncome after she received the award. “It’s amazing."
In 2022, she was recipient of the 2022 Florida Bar Pro Bono Service Award for the 4th Judicial Circuit.
Buncome has practiced criminal defense for more than 25 years. Her pro bono work includes a decade of participating in homelessness services provider Sulzbacher’s program where public defenders provide legal advice at the Jacksonville Area Legal Aid quarterly “Ask a Lawyer” events.
In Problem-Solving Court she handles cases ranging from those that are addiction-related to veteran treatment.
“I am honored to be before you today, carrying forward a long Daily Record tradition of recognizing a local attorney who is making a difference in our community, over and above the practice of law,” said Jacksonville Daily Record Publisher Angela Campbell, as she presented the award.
“Past recipients have been instrumental in the growth and the betterment of people that call Jacksonville home, and today’s honoree is no different.”
In a recent Daily Record feature, Buncome said she was inspired to become a lawyer when she was in grade school.
“I remember a student who was in trouble and he was not doing a good job of telling his side of the story,” she said.
“I decided at that point I wanted to be the voice for others. I wanted to be an advocate for others. I have not wavered.”
Buncome earned her undergraduate degree in political science from the University of the Virgin Islands and her J.D. degree from Nova Southeastern University.
She is also a Sunday school teacher.
Buncome said to effectively practice law, one needs to be informed and aware of what’s happening locally and globally.
“You need to know who is in office and what the ‘hot’ political topics are,” she said in the Daily Record feature.
Buncome trains service dogs that eventually are placed with retired veterans or children with disabilities.
Basil, a dog in training, joined her at the luncheon.
“I always wanted to volunteer,” Buncome said after accepting the award.
“People should realize there are opportunities out there. There are people who need help and so, as attorneys, we should find whatever time we have to give back. I’m just so grateful and thank you.”