Spotlight on Pro Bono Attorneys

Tara Faenza is an attorney in South Florida with substantial trial and litigation experiences. Tara began her legal career in 1994, as a high school dropout in the San Francisco Bay Area. Working full-time, she earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Phoenix before moving to Miami, where she earned her JD from UM, cum laude with a certificate in Employment, Labor & Immigration. During graduation, Tara served as the commencement speaker for her class. Tara served in the Miami Dade State Attorney’s Office from 2013-2015. As an ASA, Tara tried 20 jury trials and many bench trials to verdict. Since 2016, Tara has focused her practice on labor and employment and commercial litigation. Currently, Tara is an associate at the firm of Perlman, Bajandas, Yevoli & Albright, PL.

She chose to volunteer with Put Something Back since 2016 as a Guardian Ad Litem due to her love of children. Given her own prior experiences, Tara understands first-hand the difficulties children face in custody disputes, and the long term impact on families. Tara focuses on ensuring that someone thoroughly investigates and reports to the Court a clear picture of each child’s best interests, and, if applicable, what the child wants. It is through Put Something Back that Tara can help children and families focus on a positive and successful future. She could not be more grateful for the experiences and wonderful parents and children who participate with the Put Something Back program.

 

Mr. Fulton is a Registered Patent Attorney and Senior Counsel with Malloy & Malloy, P.L., Board Certified in Intellectual Property Law, and rated AV Preeminent by Martindale-Hubbell. His practice includes all aspects of Intellectual Property Law with a focus on patent and trademark prosecution and related transactional matters, and patent infringement litigation. He has a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering from Cleveland State University, and obtained considerable engineering experience prior to receiving his law degree, with honors, from the University of Miami School of Law. In addition to the Florida Bar, he is admitted to practice in the U.S. District Courts for the Southern District of Florida, the Middle District of Florida, and the Eastern District of Texas, and the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Eleventh and Federal Circuits. Mr. Fulton also maintains his Registration as a Professional Engineer in the State of Florida.

Mr. Fulton is an active member of the Florida Bar, and currently serves on the Intellectual Property Law Certification Committee. He is also a member of the Federal Bar and Dade County Bar Associations, and provide Pro Bono services through the DCBA’s Small Claims Clinic and Venture Law Project initiatives. He has served as an Officer and Director of the Inventors Society of South Florida, and regularly provides complimentary “Office Hour” consultations to participants at Venture Café Miami. He has also had the honor to serve as President of his Rotary Club, the Rotary Club of Miami Brickell.

 

Carlos Sardi has represented numerous pro bono clients including a Vietnam War veteran, who has graciously volunteered to be featured in a video detailing Mr. Sardi’s efforts on his behalf. Carlos says it is his utmost privilege and pleasure to help out our most needy members of our community through the Dade Legal Aid and Put Something Back Program. He gets more pleasure out of working pro bono for a client than with any other paying client in his practice. He only wishes that he had time to do even more. He also volunteers as a Mentor to a team of law students through the clinical program at University of Miami school of Law Bankruptcy clinic, a partnership between Dade Legal Aid and UMLaw. He especially enjoys volunteering to assist clients from our veteran community. His last pro bono case from Put Something Back involved a veteran with tons of debt who was living in “extreme” poverty. This particular client did not have a soul to take care of him. No family, no friends. He ran out of private retirement funds, and had social security income of only $1,000 a month to live on. The client was forced to move out of his former home, but fortunate enough to get assistance through “Operation Sacred Heart” to move to his new efficiency in downtown Miami, which, while subsidized, would cost him $450 a month. It pained Mr. Sardi so much to see one of our veterans – a hero to our nation from the Vietnam War – at age 77 going through so much horror (perhaps worse than the war itself). In any case, the client was assigned to him to help him with his debts through Put Something Back Program. He had the pleasure to work with a UM law student on this heart touching case. They were able to successfully place the client in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and got our veteran a discharge of over $13,500 in debts. During the course of the case, they had the meeting of creditors just before the holiday season last year. Mr. Sardi felt truly bad for this lonely individual, who had nothing and no one to share it with. You could tell that he was not expecting anything from us in the form of a gift, as the pro bono attorney had already changed his life for the better. Prior to meeting Mr. Sardi, he had lost all faith in human kindness. So, Mr. Sardi purchased him a Publix gift card so he could get food for the holidays. After much fighting, he decided to accept the small token of appreciation for his service to our great nation. Subsequently, Mr. Sardi got teary eyed when he received a beautiful thank you card from the client just before Christmas. He can only say that it was the best gift he received during the holidays from anyone. “was truly blessed to have come across this wonderful individual, and…would like to help more like him in our Veteran community to try to continue my best to assist our heroes in need. I gladly accept your invitation to do a presentation to veterans at our local VA. Hopefully, my story will with my former veteran client will resonate with some of our indigent veterans to getting much needed help and relief from debt burdening their daily lives. It could mean the difference between having a roof over your head, or turning homeless. These heroes deserve more from our legal profession.” It is my pleasure to take on this cause.

 

Steven Paulson has been with Dade Legal Aid since 2005. He is supervisor of the domestic violence unit and is Dade Legal Aid’s Director of Litigation. He graduated from St. Thomas University School of Law in 2004 and has practiced public interest law ever since. He currently works in Dade Legal Aid’s Downtown Miami location under the Victims of Crime Act Project. He handles a high-volume practice specializing in domestic violence and family law matters and has worked with more than 3,000 clients in over 1,000 bench trials, representing victims of Domestic Violence, Sexual Violence, Dating Violence and Repeat Violence in Permanent Restraining Order hearings. As Dade Legal Aid’s Director of Litigation, he is responsible for training, mentoring and supervising staff attorneys, volunteers and certified legal interns. He also participates in outreach programs training service providers, victim advocates and police officers. He is a Past-President of the South Miami-Kendall Bar Association and continues to be active throughout the community. In his free time, he is a talented musician and aviator.

Recently, I received a letter from one of my long-time clients, (2006 to be exact).  The purpose of the letter was to inform me that her son had reached the age of 18 and would no longer be subject to the family court orders regarding timesharing.  My client was expressing to me her feelings of freedom from her ex-husband and father of the child that for over 20 years, did everything he could to make her life miserable.  He never allowed her to see other men after they divorced in 2002.  He would threaten her with the police, immigration (even though she is a citizen) with taking the child away from her, cutting off her child support and alimony.  He would contact the men she dated directly and threaten them until they realized that this was not something they wanted to deal with in their own lives.  He would file motions and petitions in court to upset her and to try to use the court system, timesharing schedules, and child support to hurt her.

Also in her letter, she expressed the bittersweet realization that she no longer had an excuse to “bother” me, although it was never a bother to help her.  She wanted me to know that over all these years, I was her only strength and support and that knowing I was there to help her gave her the strength and courage to continue.  She said I am the only person who really knows all she has been through and she does not know what she would have done without me.  She finished by saying she will never have the words to tell me how much it has meant to her, having me there for her.  She never met anyone like me.

 

This month we feature pro bono and recognize all of the dedicated attorneys who work day in and day out on improving access to justice. In 1992, Bruce Levine visited Miami following Hurricane Andrew to launch his legal career in public service and never left. We recruited him to lead the agency’s “We Will Rebuild” Hurricane Relief efforts in the aftermath of the devastating storm. Levine spent the next few years focusing efforts on contractor fraud, FEMA and insurance cases working from the fourth floor of the building where the agency set up desks and phones to handle the influx of calls for help from those in need. The agency received the Outstanding Voluntary Bar Association Pro Bono Award presented by The Chief Justice for its relief efforts.  
 
Levine became a Staff Attorney for Put Something Back Pro Bono Project (PSB), where he has been screening and pairing indigent clients in need with lawyers and law firms ever since. As Pro Bono Manager of the largest pro bono program in Florida, Levine, actively recruits, trains, supports and mentors pro bono attorneys and colleagues, supervises law students and volunteers, and matches vulnerable clients with lawyers who are “ready, willing and able” to assist. Clients include the elderly, low-wage workers, victims of fraud, scams and violence, veterans who are wheel chair bound, newcomers, non-English speakers and others who are referred to PSB by other agencies unable to assist them so Levine does everything he can to assist as their last resort. “It is very fulfilling to help clients who are desperate and have nowhere else to turn. Our goal is to provide a meaningful service to each client that comes through our doors, whether it is counsel and advice, brief services or a referral to a staff or pro bono attorney.”  
 
PSB handles hundreds of cases each month thanks to a team that actively places over 1,000 pro bono cases with lawyers annually. The high volume is due to innovations and dedicated partnerships with the DCBA, Young Lawyers Section, a majority of committees, 100% Law Firms, schools. voluntary bars and others in the community and statewide. “During the year, we recruit on average 400-500 new attorneys to refer cases to. Thanks to our leadership and long standing partnerships, we train new and seasoned attorneys on cutting edge topics while achieving our goal of developing more volunteers for the escalating numbers of clients in need. With additional resources including technology, summer interns and post grad fellows, we keep referring more clients to volunteer lawyers. We are truly blessed to work with so many dedicated and generous individual attorneys, law firms and VBA’s throughout South Florida and am grateful for the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives,” said Levine.”
 
When he isn’t screening clients for income eligibility, Levine handles client and attorney inquiries, organizes CLE trainings, self help clinics and workshops, correspondence and attorney recruitment. “This year, the project is hosting trainings on Family Law, Guardian Ad Litem, Domestic Violence, Probate & Guardianship, Bankruptcy and Immigration – Unaccompanied Minor Crisis.” Levine hopes that new technology and creative partnerships will continue to increase the staff’s ability to eventually achieve its goal of 100% participation by all attorneys in Miami-Dade in order to help the escalating client demand. To take a case or donate visit on line at www.dadelegalaid.org or email the type of case you will accept to PSB@dadelegalaid.org

 

 

 

July 2018 – This month’s Spotlight on Exceptional Pro Bono Attorneys is on Scott L. Baena, a founder partner with Bilzin Sumberg. Mr. Baena serves on the Board of Directors of the Dade County Bar Association and is pivotal to the firm’s pro bono efforts. This summer, he and his firm have take the lead to help provide legal representation to unaccompanied minor children caught in legal limbo. “A keystone of our firm’s culture is caring which we encourage our lawyers and staff to continuously demonstrate by their service to the community and particularly, to those who need help.  This initiative on behalf of unaccompanied children is compelling, impactful and squarely within the assurances we each underwrote when we took the Oath of Admission to The Florida Bar. We are grateful to Dade County Legal Aid and Catholic Charities for championing this cause and training us to be helpful.

 

 

 

January 2018 This Month’s Spotlight on Exceptional Pro Bono Attorneys Features Charles Throckmorton, a founding member of Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton,LLP. Dade Legal Aid receives many notes of appreciation from satisfied clients. Below please find a recent thank you we received from a client of Chuck Throckmorton: I cannot express how grateful and thankful I am for providing me with FREE legal assistance from Put Something Back Program. Your organization referred me to attorney Charles W. Throckmorton of Kozyak Tropin Throckmorton to handle my pro bono bankruptcy case. The first day of meeting Mr. Throckmorton I walked into his office feeling defeated. He took the time to listen to me with empathy. I left uplifted because of his kindness and respect towards me. His paralegal is an angel. She went beyond the call of duty to make sure my questions and concerns were always answered and I was kept informed on how the process was going and what to expect. This was handled with grace. I am indebted to this program for providing me with the legal assistance needed to get back on track for my future.”

Thank You Mr. Throckmorton!
 

 

Spotlight on Exceptional Pro Bono Attorneys Features Alisa Taormina, an associate at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP, a 100% Law firm in Put Something Back and a current Fellow in Class III of Dade Legal Aid’s Leadership Academy.  Last year, she accepted an appointment from Put Something Back to serve as a pro bono Attorney Ad Litem for a child in a contested dependency case in which the Department of Children and Families, and the child, sought to terminate the birth father’s parental rights. The birth mother’s rights were terminated several years ago and, during the five-year pendency of the action, the child remained in the care of loving family members who ultimately want to adopt him. Taormina represented the interests of the child, whose special needs were exacerbated by everything he had been through.  He is autistic, among other things, and his father has been in and out of jail throughout his entire life.  After several months, and a three day trial, the judge granted the petition to terminate the father’s parental rights, bringing the child one step closer to his desired adoption by his caregivers. Congratulations on a job well done!

 

 

lacee

December 20, 2016 Spotlight on Exceptional Pro Bono Attorneys features Lacee Monk, an associate at Rumberger Kirk & Caldwell, a 100% Law Firm Participant in Put Something Back and a current Fellow in Class III of Dade Legal Aid’s Leadership Academy.  In the Fall of 2016, she accepted an appointment from Put Something Back to serve as a pro bono Guardian Ad Litem in a contested family law case.  After several months, many hearings and preparations, Ms. Monk successfully completed her final hearing on the guardian ad litem case.  “Serving as a guardian ad litem was such a wonderful and rewarding experience.  I look forward to contributing to Dade Legal Aid – Put Something Back again in the near future,” said Ms. Monk. “We live in a time that is very challenging and it requires people such as Lacee to step up and contribute to the common good,” said Paul Lipton on behalf of the firm. Congratulations to Lacee and thank you to Rumberger Kirk & Caldwell for truly making a difference in the lives of others. 

Lacee is pictured above and below (second from right) with colleagues and other members of Class III of Dade Legal Aid’s Leadership Academy. rumberger-event