Florida Bar to Honor Tampa Bay Lawyers for Pro Bono Work
The ceremony is scheduled for this afternoon (Jan. 19) at the Florida Supreme Court.
TAMPA BAY – The Florida Bar will recognize lawyers from across the state today (Jan. 19) for their work on behalf of poor and indigent clients during a ceremony at the Supreme Court of Florida.
Established in 1981, the Florida Bar President’s Pro Bono Service Awards are intended to encourage lawyers to volunteer free legal services to the poor by recognizing those who make public service commitments and to raise public awareness of the substantial volunteer services provided by Florida lawyers to those who cannot afford legal fees. Florida Bar President William J. Schifino, Jr. will present the 2017 awards.
The awards recognize pro bono service in each of Florida’s 20 judicial circuits as well as service by one Florida Bar member practicing outside the state of Florida. They are presented annually. Awards recognizing pro bono contributions also will be presented in the categories of Law Firm Commendation and the Young Lawyers Division, among others.
In the most recent 12 months reported, Florida lawyers provided about 1.7 million hours of pro bono services to those in need and nearly $5.4 million to legal aid organizations.
Among the recipents are several Tampa Bay area lawyers:
Jennifer Edwards of St. Petersburg
Edwards is the recipient of the 2017 Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division Pro Bono Service Award. The award recognizes public service or legal aid performed by a lawyer who is younger than 36 and who has not practiced for more than five years. This year’s YLD Pro Bono Service Award honors Edwards’ work as a guardian ad litem and court-appointed advocate for children in Pinellas County.
Edwards typically is appointed to serve in dependency cases. In her most recently completed case, Edwards worked for about a year representing a 7-year-old boy whose behavior and school work were suffering because of his parents’ substance abuse.
In this emotionally charged situation, Edwards worked to determine whether reunification with the parents was in the boy’s best interest. She wore many hats, sometimes acting as counselor and coordinator, in addition to being the boy’s attorney. She met regularly with the boy and gained his trust; she met with his parents and persuaded them to complete the reunification plan; and she met with other involved parties to investigate, monitor and evaluate the evolving circumstances. Through the year, the boy improved his lagging language arts skills, and in the last six months made either the Honor Roll or the Principal’s List. At the conclusion of the case, the court agreed with Edwards’ recommendation that the boy be reunited with his parents – a heartwarming ending to a difficult and emotional year.
In late 2016, Edwards also was representing the interests of a 3-week-old girl and anticipated being appointed to another case as well.
She also participates in LawFest Days and is on the call list for the Community Law Program, a nonprofit created by the St. Petersburg Bar Association to serve the legal needs of low-income and disadvantaged people.
Edwards has both a JD and an MBA. from Stetson University.
Immigration Law Group of Florida, St. Petersburg
The Immigration Law Group of Florida, based in St. Petersburg, will receive the 2017 Law Firm Commendation at the annual Pro Bono Awards ceremony. The commendation honors significant contributions in the delivery of legal services to individuals or groups on a pro bono basis. The commendation will be presented by Chief Justice Jorge Labarga.
Kathlyn Mackovjak and Adriana Dinis, who founded the Immigration Law Group of Florida three years ago, are passionate about helping those less fortunate.
Dinis, who earned her JD in 2008 from Stetson University School of Law, where she received the William F. Blews Pro Bono Service Award, joined Gulfcoast Legal Services in St. Petersburg that same year. She still is a staff attorney for its Children’s Immigration Legal Defense project.
Mackovjak graduated from college in 1992 and then spent the next 10 years with the Peace Corps and Red Cross, working in places such as Rwanda, the People’s Republic of Congo, Yugoslavia and Afghanistan. She earned her JD in 2003 from American University’s Washington College of Law, and then, like Dinis, represented clients for Gulfcoast Legal Services.
When they founded the Immigration Law Group in 2014, they made pro bono service an integral part of the firm’s culture. The firm addresses the unique needs of immigrants in two ways: Through direct support with pro bono services, and by educating the entire community, including law enforcement, about issues specific to immigrants.
The Immigration Law Group assists the InterCultural Advocacy Institute of Clearwater (also known as the Hispanic Outreach Center) by providing pro bono advice at a clinic every other month. It made at least 13 community presentations in 2016 on issues such as unaccompanied children at our borders, refugees and asylum, and human trafficking. The firm also offers training to law enforcement on human trafficking.
The firm currently is representing three victims of domestic abuse whose cases promise to extend months or even years from now.
In 2016, the Immigration Law Group of Florida was honored in the Sixth Judicial Circuit for Outstanding Pro Bono Service by a Law Firm.
Lynn Katz Hanshaw
6th Judicial Circuit (Pasco and Pinellas counties)
Lynn Katz Hanshaw was a single mother of three who was holding down a full-time job and needed 20 years to get her undergraduate degree, but that wasn’t going to keep her from becoming an attorney.
Hanshaw entered the Stetson College of Law when she was 40. While there, she interned with the legal aid organization Gulfcoast Legal Services and received the college’s William F. Blews Pro Bono Service Award. Upon her graduation in 1999, she was offered an opportunity to return to Gulfcoast Legal Services, and she stayed there until going into private practice in 2006.
But she never forgot her pro bono roots. Hanshaw has volunteered at intake sessions at the Community Law Program, participated in every Lawfest (a community law event in south St. Petersburg), helped establish the first fair-housing consortium in the Pinellas-Hillsborough area, and made arrangements to take every caller to Stetson’s veterans program with a landlord/tenant issue. You’ll still find her working the 7 a.m. shift at the monthly Ask a Lawyer program offered by the Hillsborough County Bar Association.
Before she accepted her current job with Langford & Myers, P.A., in Tampa, she explained that she would do so only if she could continue her pro bono work.
(Though Hanshaw’s office is in the Thirteenth Circuit, she also is being honored by the Florida Bar for work done in the Sixth Circuit.)
Katherine Earle Yanes
13th Judicial Circuit (Hillsborough County)
Federal prisons are full of drug offenders who might have received much lighter sentences if they had been sentenced under current law. That led to the creation of Clemency Project 2014, and Katherine Earle Yanes has been a key to the project’s success.
Since she became involved in July 2014, Yanes has documented more than 500 hours volunteering for Clemency Project 2014. That does not include countless nights and weekends spent working on the clemency cases and assisting others with their clemency cases. Yanes has written petitions, assisted volunteer attorneys by answering questions or giving them guidance with sentencing guidelines, and serves as a member of the Screening Committee for the project.
Yanes also continues to represent clients on a pro bono basis through Crossroads for Florida Kids. and the Stetson Innocence Pro Bono Project. She serves on several committees for the Florida Bar, is president of the Tampa Bay Chapter of the Federal Bar Association and is a past-president of the Hillsborough Association for Women Lawyers.
In 2016, the Hillsborough County Bar Association Criminal Law Section awarded Yanes its annual Marcelino “Bubba” Huerta III Award for Professionalism and Pro Bono Service.
Yanes earned her JD from Stetson. She is a partner at Kynes Markman & Felman, P.A., in Tampa.
5th Judicial Circuit (Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion and Sumter counties)
Samuel Pennington didn’t get around to taking the Florida Bar exam until 1988 – 18 years after he was honorably discharged from the Navy and nine years after he graduated from the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University. Instead, he worked for several years with Christian Prison Ministries. Since becoming a lawyer, he has kept a focus on helping people through pro bono legal services.
In 1996, Pennington was recognized for his pro bono services by the Greater Orlando Legal Services and the Lake County Bar Association. And in 2015, he was named the Lake County Pro Bono Attorney of the Year by Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida.
Pennington joined the pro bono panel of Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida in July 2015 and was instrumental in the establishment of a recurring bankruptcy legal advice clinic in Lake County. He also recruited attorneys to staff the clinics and has mentored new pro bono attorneys as well as staff attorneys for Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida.
During the past year, Pennington has provided more than 100 hours of pro bono assistance to Community Legal Services clients. In addition to providing legal advice at the bankruptcy clinics, he has provided full representation to clients in Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies.
The Pennington Law Firm has offices in Tavares and Orlando.
For information about the Florida Bar, go to floridabar.org.
Photo of Adriana Dinis and Kathlyn Mackovjak (shown left to right) courtesy of the Immigration Law Group of Florida. Other photos courtesy of the Florida Bar.
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