Miami to Palm Beach attorneys have been praised for representing vulnerable clients through pro bono work
Giving an abundance of something for nothing financially has earned five lawyers from the Florida Keys to Palm Beach, three judges from South Florida, and a commendatory notice from a Hollywood law firm in Florida Bar President Pro Bono Service Awards.
Although the Florida Bar requires its members to report annually the amount of pro bono work performed, there is no actual minimum requirement. The Bar Association considers 20 hours of work to have been completed free of charge – “Short for ‘pro bono publico'” Latin term meaning “for the common good,” as Georgetown Law explains — or $350 given to legal aid organizations “Ambitious” goals for one year.
Freelancing can be a good job. For example, the Miami-Dade civil court’s summary judgment in December against a Fort Lauderdale transportation company Sean Thompson, accused of extortion Many clients came from a case executed pro bono by Rasheed Nader of Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton.
Here, in alphabetical order, are this year’s honorees from South Florida, who received their awards during a ceremony on Jan. 18.
Southern District of Florida Judge Beth Bloom and Judge Robin Rosenberg
The Distinguished Federal Judicial Service Award highlights a judge — or, in this case, judges — for “distinguished and sustained service to the public particularly in support of pro bono legal services.”
The Bar Association honors Miami Federal Circuit Judge Beth Bloom and West Palm Beach Federal Circuit Judge Robin Rosenberg, co-founders of the Civil Discourse and Difficult Decisions (CD3) program.
The U.S. Federal Courts website describes the program as “a national initiative of federal courts that… It brings high school and college students To the federal courts for legal action that arises from situations in which law-abiding youth may find themselves.
The bar association says students from more than 30 high schools and colleges have participated in CD3, which now includes first-year students at Duke University’s law school, Rosenberg’s alma mater (a graduate of the University of Miami Law School).
Gedeon & Morales Law Group
Nadine Gideon and Cristina Morales, a married couple who are 2014 University of St. Thomas School of Law graduates, He founded the Gideon & Morales Law Group in 2017. Their Hollywood firm received a 2014 Law Firm Recognition Award after devoting “over a thousand” pro bono hours in 2023.
“Last year, Gideon provided pro bono representation for five cases and low-fee (low-interest) representation for eight cases,” the Florida Bar said. “She also makes time each week to visit the Saint-La-Haiti neighborhood center, where she meets new immigrants, and learns about the challenges many of them face because they cannot afford a lawyer.”
Meanwhile, Morales provided “pro bono representation to a Cuban political activist in a 2019 case and handled six pro bono asylum cases between 2022 and 2023 — a total of 900 hours of pro bono service.”
Alvin Lodish, Miami
Alvin Lodish, a member of the Bar since 1986, was a laureate for the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida, Miami-Dade County.
Lodish works for hire as a partner in the law firm of Duane Morris. The Bar Association says he “devoted more than 500 hours to pro bono services, helping countless disadvantaged children who were abused, abandoned or neglected.”
Lodz volunteers for the Children’s Legal Collaborative, a joint effort between the state’s Guardian ad Litem program and Dade Legal Aid, which says its role is “o Ensure that every child’s voice is heard in dependency, delinquency, family, immigration, probate, and domestic violence court.
A rep for Duane Morris emailed a statement from Lodish, “I had a tough time, and if it wasn’t for my family and a high school teacher who saw my worth, I could have easily been on the other side of the law.”
Michael Deborah St. Ville, Miami
To be eligible for the Florida Young Lawyers Service Award, a lawyer must have practiced for five years or less and be under 35 years of age. Deborah St. Phil of Michael joined the bar in 2018. She was born in December 1988 in Brooklyn. He grew up in Haiti before the family moved to North Carolina.
St. Phil runs New Americans for Immigration Legal Services in Miami-Dade, and has done important work with the Florida Immigrant Coalition, Legal Services of Greater Miami and the Catholic Immigration Legal Network.
“St. Phil is a passionate advocate for his fellow immigrants and serves as supervising attorney for Catholic Legal Services, ADOM Inc,” the bar said. “CLS provides legal services to immigrants of any religion or national origin who cannot afford representation. Through its role at CLS, St. Phil trains new lawyers, provides legal services, and educates vulnerable immigrant populations about their rights.
Judge Bertila Soto, Miami-Dade County
Judge Bertila Soto, of the 11th Judicial Circuit serving Miami-Dade County, received the 2024 Distinguished Judicial Service Award for “distinguished and sustained service to the public particularly in support of pro bono legal services.”
During Soto’s seven years as Chief Judge of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit, the circuit created the GRACE Court – Renewing Growth through Acceptance, Change and Empowerment.
“According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, the GRACE Court is the nation’s first specialized court dedicated to the needs of children identified as victims of human trafficking. Commercial sexual exploitation and labor traffickingThe court said.
(Florida is always among the leaders in… Call the national hotline to combat human trafficking It ranks third behind No. 1 California and No. 2 Texas, according to the latest statistics.)
Also during those years, Soto helped recruit more than 3,000 new lawyers for the pro bono Dade Legal Aid Put Something Back project, the bar says. She also helped create the Unified Children’s Court, which created a single venue for family law cases that fall within multiple jurisdictions.
Jonathan Taylor, Fort Lauderdale
Jonathan Taylor, an associate at Moffa, Sutton, & Donnini, and a member of the bar since 2011, is the honored attorney of the 17th Judicial Circuit of Florida, Broward County.
Since 2021, Taylor has donated 135 hours to the Guardian’s statewide Best Interest Advocacy Project, which the office says “He recruits pro bono lawyers Who write answer briefs in appeals for cases in which the judge has determined that (terminating parental rights) is in the best interest of the child.”
Taylor recently helped a pair of sisters adopt into the family caring for them.
Tom Woods, Islamorada
Islamorada Tom Woods, member of the Bar since 2001, He has been recognized for his work in Monroe County, Florida’s 16th Judicial Circuit, particularly with the Guardian Ad Litem program.
In cases involving abused children, a Guardian ad Litem attorney will represent that child or children.
“During his two decades with GAL, Woods earned a reputation as a dependable volunteer who could be available at a moment’s notice to appear in court and provide the high-quality representation that GAL’s children depended on,” the bar association said.
Matthew Zimmerman, West Palm Beach
Matthew Zimmerman, a member of the bar since 2005 and a partner in Holland & Knight’s West Palm Beach office, was honored by Palm Beach County, Florida’s 15th Judicial District.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that sexual harassment is a form of gender discrimination because of a case that Zimmerman, other Hong Kong lawyers and the Legal Aid Society handled on a pro bono basis for Rita Fox, a single mother.
Fox said the manager of the Jupiter apartment complex, Dana Gaines, the son of the complex’s owner, not only asked her for rent to stay in her apartment, but also asked her for sexual favors. Limited housing options convinced Fox to submit to Gaines’ blackmail. When she stopped, Gaines said she was late paying rent, violated her lease and began the eviction process.
“At trial, Ms. Fox’s trial team asserted that the landlord could not take the tenant’s sleeping place because… The tenant will not sleep with the landlordHolland & Knight said.
The attorneys awarded compensatory and punitive damages for Fox as well as $125,000 in attorneys’ fees that were donated to the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County.
On another team with the Legal Aid Society, Zimmerman led a team representing landlords in Sandpiper Village in North Palm Beach.
“They succeeded Defended against wholesale buyer Paper Ventures, “Which sought to terminate the condo agreement and force the remaining owners to come up with low-cost offers,” Holland & Knight stated. “A Palm Beach County Circuit Court judge ruled in favor of the residents, affirming their rights under Florida law to receive fair market value for their property and protecting minority condominium owners from the influence of bulk owners.”