2024 Florida Pro Bono Service Awards
The Florida Pro Bono Service Awards are an annual event honoring the exceptional efforts of Florida lawyers, judges, law firms, and bar associations to provide free legal services to those in need. At the start of the program, Chief Justice Carlos G. Muñiz noted, “During the most recent reporting period, Florida attorneys collectively provided more than 1.5 million hours of free legal service and contributed seven and a half million dollars to legal aid groups. Those figures capture the hard work and generosity of tens of thousands of members of The Florida Bar.”
The awards fall into three categories: awards presented by the chief justice, those presented by the president of The Florida Bar, and the award presented by the president of The Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division.
Chief Justice Muñiz said, “The Tobias Simon Pro Bono Service Award is the Florida legal profession’s highest honor for recognizing public service.” He then announced Jamie Billotte Moses as the recipient of this year’s award. Moses has served as a Guardian ad Litem volunteer through the Legal Aid Society of the Orange County Bar Association for 25 years. She thanked the selection committee and the Court for deeming her worthy of the award. She also thanked her firm, Holland & Knight, for its unwavering commitment to pro bono service. Chief Justice Muñiz noted that Moses has joined a great legacy of service.
The Distinguished Judicial Service Award was presented to Judge Bertila Soto from the Eleventh Judicial Circuit. Judge Soto was honored for her dedication to public access to the courts, for innovations such as Veterans Court and G.R.A.C.E. Court that serves minor victims of human trafficking, and for her role in recruiting more than 3,000 attorneys to serve indigent clients of the Dade Legal Aid Put Something Back pro bono project.
The Distinguished Federal Judicial Service Award went to two former Florida state court judges who now serve on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Judge Beth Bloom and Judge Robin L. Rosenberg. The judges developed an educational program known as CD3, the Civil Discourse and Difficult Decisions program. After starting in south Florida, CD3 has now expanded nationwide. Thousands of high school and college students have already participated in the program, which instills both civility and positive decision-making skills.
The Law Firm Commendation went to the Gedeon & Morales Law Group. The award was accepted by Nadine Gedeon and Cristina Morales who contributed more than a thousand hours of pro bono service in the last year alone. The firm also works to improve the legal profession by helping to train other lawyers to confidently take on pro bono cases.
Chief Justice Muñiz also presented The Voluntary Bar Association Pro Bono Service Award to the Lake County Bar Association. The association has actively developed many partnerships in the county to provide pro bono legal assistance including an innovative and successful Sealing & Expungement Clinic. Mona Rosey Payne is the president of the Lake County Bar Association and accepted the award.
The next category of awards is The Florida Bar President’s Pro Bono Service Awards. These awards recognize pro bono legal services provided by individual lawyers in each judicial circuit and one Bar member who practices outside of Florida. Florida Bar President F. Scott Westheimer called the people who receive these awards “true champions of justice.” The honorees were:
Kendra LaNata Condon, 1st Circuit
Ryland Terry Rigsby, 2nd Circuit
Elika Otoya Stimpson, 3rd Circuit
F. Susannah Collins, 4th Circuit
M. Taylor Tremel, 5th Circuit
Kit Van Pelt, 6th Circuit
Donato J. Rinaldi, 7th Circuit
Amy Milford Abernethy, 8th Circuit
Dorothy J. McMichen, 9th Circuit
Grant Lyons, 10th Circuit
Alvin D. Lodish, 11th Circuit
Neil T. Lyons, 12th Circuit
Gilbert M. Singer, 13th Circuit
Todd Clifford Brister, 14th Circuit
Matthew Zimmerman, 15th Circuit
Tom Woods, 16th Circuit
Jonathan W. Taylor, 17th Circuit
Eric C. Boughman, 18th Circuit
Jessica M. VanValkenburgh, 19th Circuit
Andrea Smith, 20th Circuit
Blake Lynne Bruce, Out of State
The final award category is The Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division Award. Division President Anisha Patel was excited to recognize Michaèl’s Déborah Saint-Vil from Miami with the Young Lawyers Division Pro Bono Service Award. Saint-Vil is a tireless advocate for immigrants and those seeking citizenship and is the manager of Immigration Legal Services in the Office of New Americans of Miami-Dade. Jamie Billotte Moses, who received the Tobias Simon award, said that she was lucky Ms. Saint-Vil was in the young lawyers category, or she would likely have received her award.
After an afternoon of recognizing the significant contributions that Florida lawyers make to their communities through pro bono service, Chief Justice Muñiz noted, “There are as many ways to serve as there are members of our profession. Each of us has something to offer for the betterment of our fellow man.”