Attorneys from Miami-Dade, Broward, Monroe counties and a federal judge will be honored for their volunteer legal work at the 38th annual Florida Bar President’s Pro Bono Service Awards on Thursday in Tallahassee.
Each year, the Bar honors one attorney from each of the state’s 20 judicial districts as well as one Bar member practicing outside of Florida. Also recognized are pro bono contributions for Distinguished Judicial Service, Distinguished Federal Judicial Service, Law Firm Commendation, Voluntary Bar Association and Young Lawyers Division.
In alphabetical order:
▪ David Alschuler (University of Florida College of Law, admitted 1986). The Bar figures Alschuler, a solo practitioner of criminal and juvenile defense out of Miami Beach, has performed about 2,000 hours of pro bono work over the years.
“He mentored one young man for a year through the "I'm Ready" program, a sort of alternative boot camp, after the young man had been convicted of serious offenses,” the Bar said. “He also mentors law students, colleagues and new pro bono attorneys and has taught about 400 lawyers how to serve as Guardians ad Litem in foreclosure cases.”
▪ Hilary A. Creary (Nova Southeastern Law, admitted 1997). As was the case with last year’s honoree from Broward, the partner at Benjamin-Wise Creary works in an area many lawyers wouldn’t touch for any fee, never mind free: family law.
“Creary’s specialty is family law, and the bulk of her full-representation pro bono cases have involved divorce, separation, annulment or domestic violence,” the Bar says. “However, in 2017 she also took on several landlord-tenant cases. Creary also has conducted pro se litigation workshops for litigants in family law cases and has led seminars on family law at churches.”
Creary volunteers with Legal Aid Service of Broward County and Coast to Coast Legal Aid through a joint pro bono project with Broward Lawyers Care.
▪ Ashley N. Sybesma (University of Miami School of Law, admitted 2005). After Hurricane Irma, the litigation associate at Key West’s Smith Hawks “helped with organizing disaster assistance clinics and volunteered at some as well. She was involved in advising Monroe County Bar Association members of pro bono opportunities available after the storm.” She also did and promoted pro bono work as a member of the Monroe County Bar Association.
▪ U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida Judge Patricia Seitz (Georgetown University Law, admitted 1973) will receive the Chief Justice’s Distinguished Federal Judicial Service Award, an honor that shines on a current or former federal judge for long term outstanding public service, especially in the area of pro bono legal work.
“When she was sworn in as president of The Florida Bar in 1993, the Bar’s rule on pro bono service was brand new, and Seitz spent much of her year as president encouraging lawyers to embrace the rule,” the Bar said.
Since being named to the federal bench in 1998, Seitz’s efforts have been focused on expanding the pro bono activities of the Federal Bar Association; CARE Court, a court for prisoners re-entering society after long prison stretches; and Florida Pro Bono Matters, a Florida Bar Foundation site that makes finding available pro bono work easy for lawyers.