CLSMF Honors Pro Bono Attorneys

It is the combination of the attorneys who contribute time through the CLSMF Volunteer Lawyers Project and financial stakeholders that creates the path to equality and justice for all in Central Florida. To honor private attorneys who have gone above and beyond to help people struggling to make ends meet gain access to justice, CLSMF recently hosted two Pro Bono Award events.

Below are the stories behind these incredible award winners. Each award recipient was asked why they do pro bono work, why justice matters to them. Read their thoughts and find out what amazing lawyers we have in Central Florida!

Volusia-Flagler Pro Bono Awards Brunch

On September 29, 2017, CLSMF hosted a brunch to recognize the following rock star attorneys.

Volusia-Flagler Pro Bono Attorneys of the Year

Edward Dimayuga

Ed began volunteering at CLSMF in September 2015.  He participates in the weekly legal advice clinics where he provides free legal advice and pro se assistance to attendees. Ed has also provided full representation to clients.  Recently he began providing community legal education seminars to seniors on the importance of estate planning, not in his office or CLSMF office but by meeting with them where they live in a senior housing complex. Ed donates over 100 hours per year to helping CLSMF clients.

Ed is an attorney at Legacy Law Associates PL.  and a former staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society of the Orange County Bar. He is grateful to his wife who encourages him to be there for those that we can help.

Why Justice Matters to Ed:

When asked why he does pro bono work, Ed responded, “Whatever you do for one of the least of mine, you do for me. Pro bono service is important because the need is great and we can help meet it. “

Pamela Masters

Pamela Masters began volunteering at CLSMF in September of 2016. She participates in weekly legal advice clinics and donates over 100 hours per year to CLSMF clients.

In addition to providing legal advice and pro se assistance, she has provided full representation to clients. Pam is well-known as an advocate for pro bono clients at Cobb Cole, where she is a partner. In addition to volunteering weekly at CLSMF, she also volunteers for the Talking Books Library of the Florida Division of Blind Services, recording books for the visually impaired. A member of both the Florida and Georgia Bars, Pam holds Florida Circuit Court and Appellate Mediation Certifications. She graduated from the University of Florida, Levin College of Law with honors in 1986. She is also a trained Guardian Ad Litem.  

Why Justice Matters to Pam:

“Justice is an elusive and lofty goal.  In a system created and operated by fallible human beings, justice is imperfect, to say the least. I would certainly lose my will were justice the sole goal.  For me, the work is more about compassion and generosity. It is about making sure that people feel heard and cared about.   I am so very fortunate that it would me immoral for me not to help those who need exactly what I know how to do. My favorite quote about generosity is: “Give what you have. To someone it may be better than you dare to think.”   

Judge Robert K. Rouse, Jr., Pro Bono Service Award

The Judge Robert K. Rouse, Jr., Pro Bono Service Award is given to a 7th Circuit attorney who has gone above and beyond in their commitment to providing pro bono legal services to clients of Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida.   

This year’s recipient, Kevin Vogovic, was admitted to the Florida Bar in October of 2014 and began volunteering with Community Legal Services in November of 2014. His volunteer activities have included weekly legal advice clinics, full representation, community legal education and the annual walk in clinic. Kevin has donated more than 300 hours to assisting income eligible clients.  What makes this commitment to pro bono even more remarkable is he has done this as a sole practitioner. 

Why Justice Matters to Kevin:

‘I am truly honored and humbled to receive the 2017 CLSMF Volunteer Lawyers Project Judge Robert Rouse, Jr., Pro Bono Award. Service to others has always been important to me, and I deem it incumbent upon us as lawyers to serve those most in need, especially when they cannot afford an attorney. I am blessed to be able to volunteer and offer legal advice at CLSMF and serve my hometown community. Thank you.”

Pro Bono Award Reception, Orlando

To extend our gratitude even farther, CLSMF hosted a second Pro Bono Award evening at the Quantum Leap Winery in Orlando. Together we toasted to the inspiring attorneys who truly embody the spirit of volunteerism.

Law Firm of the Year

In response to a large number of Veterans seeking assistance with VA benefits in the fall of 2016, CLSMF created, “Operation, ESQ., Our Service for Theirs”. The law firm Baker Donelson hosted the CLE training and their attorneys immediately began providing assistance to our veterans. Baker Donelson believes in giving back as demonstrated by the fact that nationwide, 541 of their attorneys devoted time to pro bono efforts. As we presented the Law Firm of the Year Award to Baker Donelson, we wanted to recognize those individual attorneys who participated in “Operation, ESQ”: Angela Fiorentino, Mona Benz, Travis Halstead, Renee Meenach, Lynn White, Mahira Khan. Accepting on behalf of the firm that night was another one of our dear pro bono attorneys, Marissa Dorough.

Why Justice Matters to Baker Donelson:

“One measure of the true worth of a business can be found in the value it places on people – not just the clients who buy its services, but everyone – including employees, neighbors, and especially those who live in its community but have no voice, no access to legal services, and no hope for justice.  As a law firm, we believe in giving back to our communities, our profession, and our system of justice, and our commitment grows every year.  During 2016 alone, 541 of our Baker Donelson attorneys devoted time to pro bono efforts.  Pro bono service is emblematic of the shared beliefs that are a pillar of our firm.”

The Belvin Perry, Jr., Legacy of Justice Award

The Belvin Perry, Jr., Legacy of Justice Award is given to a volunteer attorney who has shown a long-term commitment to providing pro bono legal services. This year’s recipient, Carlos Leach, began volunteering with CSMF in 2010. He was an integral part of our “Income Protection Project.” Not only did he assist CLSMF clients with wage claims and other employment issues, he provided CLE training for attorneys throughout our service area so they could also assist clients with wage claims. Since 2010, Carlos has provided almost 500 hours of pro bono legal services and recovered thousands of dollars in unpaid wages for our clients. 

Why Justice Matters to Carlos:

“For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.” This single verse from the bible is simple, yet so profound.
Pro bono publico is a Latin phrase for professional work undertaken voluntarily and without payment. Unlike traditional volunteerism, it is service that uses the specific skills of professionals to provide services to those who are unable to afford them.
While in law school at the University of Loyola (New Orleans), I was constantly reminded of 3 basic tenants:
  • Commitment To Service
  • Special Concern For The Poor And Oppressed
  • Linking Faith With Justice
So when someone asks me why perform pro bono service, respond:
‘Doing pro bono connects us to people. It allows us to make the law and the justice system work for people who have nothing to give us but their gratitude, empower them; give them hope; I’d like to think that I can help them when they have nowhere else to turn. And no matter how much money, prestige or accomplishments you may chase, performing pro bono work makes you feel like a lawyer.
The need for legal services among the poor is overwhelming. According to an American Bar Association study, at least 40% of low and moderate-income households experience a legal problem each year. Yet studies show that the collective civil legal aid effort is meeting only about 20% of the legal needs of low-income people.
Simply, when you do pro bono, everybody wins. Our communities are served by the most talented of its citizens. Our needy get the help that they require. And the concrete examples of lawyers doing good can counter the public’s negative impression of lawyers. This is why I perform pro bono work.’

Champion of Justice Award

What is an agency to do when someone has won every award  they have to give and that individual continues to give 100 + hours of pro bono services to low income clients each year?  Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida simply came up with a new award. It is with great pleasure that we presented the Champion of Justice Award to Timothy A. Moran. 

Tim is a sole practitioner who has donated more than 1,000 hours to CLSMF clients. He has been recognized each year, since he began volunteering by the Florida Supreme Court for his volunteer service and is a past recipient of the Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division, Pro Bono Service Award. Although that night we are presented the Champion of Justice Award to Tim, he will be the only recipient of this award. In 2018 this award will be renamed the Timothy A. Moran, Champion of Justice Award to honor his service to CLSMF and those in need in our community.

Why Justice Matters to Tim:

“Justice demands that those of us who have, by our education and desire, chosen to become stewards of the law commit ourselves to offering our services, not only to those who can afford it but to those who need it most.”

Pro Bono Attorney of the Year, Daniel Hightower

During his professional career, Dan Hightower has served as Chairman of the Marion County Grievance Committee of The Florida Bar and President of the Marion County Bar Association in 1984. In 1988, he was appointed by Governor Bob Martinez to the Fifth Judicial Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission. 

Dan and his associates established the first legal advice clinics in Marion County through Withlacoochee Area Legal Services, a predecessor program of CLSMF. Today, he continues to provide advice, pro se assistance and full representation to CLSMF clients.

Dan is very active in his local community and donates his time to many organizations, some of which include, Interfaith Emergency Services, Boys and Girls Club, Boy Scouts of America, Junior League of Ocala, Ocala Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Center, American Cancer Society and First Baptist Church to name a few.

He has been inducted into the Charter Class of the Florida Workers’ Compensation Institute Hall of Fame, which recognizes individuals who have dedicated their careers to improving Florida’s workers’ compensation system. For his pro bono work, Dan received the Rick Custereri Pro Bono Award in 2006 and The Florida Bar President’s Pro Bono Service Award in 2010 and 2012.

One of Dan’s most recent contributions to legal aid was his involvement in creating the first-ever voluntary bar association civil legal aid fund. As a member of the Marion County Bar Association’s Legal Aid Committee, Dan was integral to establishing this fund to assist with the sustainability of civil legal aid. MCBA is a pioneer in this effort of increasing access to the legal system and CLSMF could not be more grateful for this support.

Why Justice Matters to Dan:

“Justice, in a couple words, is fundamental fairness. In America, we all have legal remedies never imagined by people in centuries past. But to protect those rights and remedies, to enforce those rights and remedies, all Americans must have access to the Courts, another right guaranteed in the United States Constitution and the Florida Constitution. And that’s why Legal Aid is such a crucial part of the worthy concept of Justice in our country and state…to give low income Americans, and Floridians, access to the Justice System for civil legal disputes.”