Spotlight on Pro Bono Attorneys

Mark Neuberger, Esq., Pro Bono Hero
Foley & Lardner LLP
 
Mark Neuberger has been a tremendous advocate in Dade Legal Aid’s Child Advocacy Project. Always at the ready to accept the latest case, Mark worked tirelessly for years for the children he represented directly, as well as the many other children his colleagues assisted by way of his referral to other attorneys in his firm. Mark’s pro bono caseload included a 5 year old girl removed from her family due to domestic violence and a teenage girl who was on run away status often and needed to be assisted through the extended foster care program. Additionally, under his recommendation and guidance, Foley & Lardner attorneys handled 10 cases through the Child Advocacy Project for children facing such issues as schizophrenia, psychotropic medication consent, adoption, and developmental disability diagnoses. Their team of attorneys coordinated through Mark volunteered hundreds of hours toward the health and safety of our community’s children. Perhaps most notably, beyond his legal talents so generously donated to the dependency court system, Mark is an unwavering friend and supporter of Dade Legal Aid. We are incredibly grateful for his support and friendship. Thank You!!!

ANTHONY S. HEARN, ESQ.

Anthony S. Hearn, Esq., has used his athletic training competition to engage the legal community to support Tri4Good which has raised $50,000 for Legal Aid and Arts for Learning, two local nonprofits serving children. Hearn, an entrepreneur and avid athlete, is the founder and president of Anthony S. Hearn PA and Metis Healthcare Consulting.

Pictured here are Hearn and donor Robert Zarco, Esq., who has generously contributed to Tri4Good that was created by Hearn to provide pro bono legal services to underprivileged children in our community and arts education. “Zarco’s contribution to this cause reflects upon his appreciation of the arts and the needs of the less fortunate in our community,” said Anthony Hearn, founder and chair of Tri4Good. Mr. Zarco is a partner of the nationally recognized franchise law firm Zarco, Einhorn, Salkowski & Brito that focuses on complex commercial franchise litigation. “We are thrilled to have the support of Mr. Zarco, his firm, the Miami legal community.”

ROBERT W. RODRIGUEZ, P.A

Robert Rodriguez, Esq. always offers to help our clients and has accepted over 20 cases from Put Something Back in the last few years. “Working with Put Something Back is the formalization of something I have been doing my entire 31 years in practice- assisting the indigent community with their legal needs,” said Rodriguez. “Put Something Back takes on matters wherein people are genuinely in need and sometimes afraid. Through the program I am able to put faith back into our community by showing that the law can guide and help them. Taking on pro bono cases that are mostly bankruptcies I am able to explain and provide guidance for clients while empowering them with information to combat their fears of the unknown process they are about to encounter in bankruptcy proceedings. This work is very gratifying and allows me to serve one on one AND one BY one with my community that has given me so much. I encourage all lawyers to put something back and reap the rewards of seeing a client smile when they realize that their legal problems were for not.”

Dennis G. Kainen has been with Weisberg Kainen Mark, PL for over 25 years. He is A-V rated preeminent by Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory as well as listed as a Super Lawyer, Legal Elite, and in Best Lawyers. In addition to maintaining a very active tax litigation and criminal defense practice, he is extremely involved in numerous professional, civic, and charitable activities-including Put Something Back. A former assistant federal public defender for the Southern District of Florida from 1982-1985, Kainen is passionate about public interest and serving our community. An esteemed past President of the DCBA, he has contributed countless hours not only on bar matters but has handled 22 pro bono cases providing 400 hours on cases involving Domestic Violence, Guardian ad Litem, Tax, and Wage Claims. 

Kainen served on The Florida Bar Board of Governors, is a past President of the S. Fl. chapter of the Federal Bar Association, and past Fl. Chair of the Anti-Defamation League. When recently asked about why he is so passionate above giving back, he said, “There are many people in this country who are still waiting to reap the blessings of the world’s oldest democracy. We must not forget these people. We as lawyers have a calling, because we do good, to stretch out our powerful legal arms and embrace these men, women, and children. The Legal Aid Society, begun by the DCBA in the early 1940s, and Put Something Back, have impacted our community by providing direct legal services to the poor. If you agree with me that ours is a profession that helps positively advance the human condition, then join me by continuing the good work of Put Something Back.”

We are so grateful to Magda Abdo-Gomez, Esq., a dedicated pro bono attorney with over 35 years of experience. Abdo-Gomez, a solo practitioner focusing on tax defense litigation representing taxpayers before the IRS and consumer debtor bankruptcy cases, has handled over 65 pro bono cases for Put Something Back spending hundreds of hours of her time. An Adjunct Professor of Law in the Bankruptcy Clinic at St. Thomas  University Law School for 16 years, she teaches a variety of courses and uses the opportunity to mentor students and instill in them the importance of giving back to others. “I have been handling pro bono cases for as long as I can remember,” says Abdo-Gomez.  “Helping someone who is going through a very difficult time is rewarding.  There are so many people in need and it takes so very little to help them.” She firmly believes that her students and fellow attorneys have the capability to make a difference in the lives of people in need and encourages her colleagues to give back. “We have the knowledge and abilities to do so much good for those in need. We have so much, we should give back. To witness a client’s realization that everything is going to get better, or resolved, and their circumstances will improve because of what I can do for them is a wonderful feeling. Hopefully, I will also have inspired the client to pay it forward and give back when they can, for there is always someone worse off,” she explains. Abdo-Gomez is a tremendous volunteer, mentor and role model and we are extremely grateful for her ongoing participation.

Joycelyn Brown, Esquire, Managing Partner of IPS Legal Group PA, and Former President of the Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. Bar Association, is this week’s featured Pro Bono Attorney. Ms. Brown actively participates in Put Something Back handling Patent Pro Bono cases and will be recognized by the USPTO for dedicating more than 50 hours on pro bono cases last year. “Everyone’s innovation journey is different,” said Ms. Brown. “There are some people who have the natural ability to bring a concept to fruition and others who have the financial resources to hire the right people to patent an invention and sell a product on the market. Others, however, may have great ideas but struggle with where to start or they lack the financial resources to protect their invention. I give back through the USPTO patent pro bono program administered by Dade Legal Aid because I aim to help people who have a passion for innovation and invention but don’t have the means to share their ideas with the world.” In addition to her passion for pro bono, Ms. Brown served our community as President of the Wilkie D. Ferguson, Jr. Bar Association, is a Member of the Dade County Bar Association, and an advocate for women’s sports. In 2015, she was recognized as one of Miami’s Top 40 Under 40 Black Professionals. Congratulations!

Lori Herskowitz Friedman, Esquire, of Counsel at Baron & Herskowitz in Dadeland, is a graduate of the University of Miami School of Law, 1992. Since she began practicing law she has been a strong supporter of pro bono work and in 2001, she received a pro bono award for “Social Security Disability Panel.” Over the years, she has handled numerous cases involving social security and developed a special expertise in that area.  Recently she successfully obtained benefits for a single mother of four who had been denied twice. Her doctors supported her disability but she was still denied. “Ms Friedman helped me get my disability. I am a single mom of 4 and needed assistance. She was great!”  Whenever called upon by Put Something Back to take a case she says she is happy to help. Thank you and keep up the great work!

Cristina Morales, Esquire, a Partner at Gedeon & Morales Law Group, earned her Juris Doctor degree from St. Thomas University School of Law, where she graduated Magna Cum Laude in December 2014. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Florida International University, where she graduated Magna Cum Laude, and her Associate in Arts from Miami Dade College, where she graduated with Highest Honors. While in law school, Ms. Morales, was a student representative in the immigration clinic and a Certified Legal Intern at the Office of the State Attorney at the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit of Florida.  With extensive hours and dedication, Ms. Morales has provided her assistance to six Put Something Back clients in need of our assistance and has dedicated nearly 100 hours of her time. She recently completed a divorce case spending 26 hours on the matter. “It is always a pleasure to be able to help. As a lawyer, I am blessed to be able to help those who are in need and unable to afford legal fees to ensure their access to justice,” said Morales. Gedeon & Morales Law Group is a small firm dedicated to offering practical legal services that help South Florida residents and businesses meet their legal needs. We are grateful for their support and participation. 

My experience with Dade Legal Aid’s Leadership Academy was phenomenal! Not only did I get to make new friends with other attorneys within Class V, these friends reinvigorated my passion for the practice of law and most importantly to help those that are underserved. All of the members of Class V that were with me on this journey are committed to helping those in need whether it is pro bono legal service, community outreach or both. “The sessions and speakers were amazing and really showed me that the practice of law does not have to be chaotic and stressful. The sessions on mental health taught me very powerful lessons that I will continue to share with other members of the legal community. As to the staff of the Dade County Bar Association Legal Aid Society who put on this wonderful program, I am forever grateful. Stephanie Grosman’s attention to detail and her efforts in making sure that we obtained the optimal benefit of this program do not go unnoticed. I consider Karen Josefsberg Ladis to be my law mom who will always watch over me well after this program has concluded. Thank you for blessing me with this opportunity and instilling in me the principles within my first couple of years of practice to go out there and change the world.” -Adrian Acosta

Tara Faenza is an attorney in South Florida with substantial trial and litigation experiences. Hailing from the San Francisco Bay Area, she moved to Miami, where she attened University of Miami School of Law, and graduated cum laude with a certificate in Employment, Labor & Immigration. During graduation, Tara served as the commencement speaker for her class. She worked in the Miami Dade State Attorney’s Office from 2013-2015. As an Assistant State Attorney, Tara tried 20 jury trials and many bench trials to verdict. Since 2016, she 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 I can help children and families focus on a positive and successful future. I could not be more grateful for the positive experiences and wonderful parents and children I have impacted by participating 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. “I am grateful for the opporunities to provide service to the community via Put Something Back.”

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. He says, “it is my utmost privilege and pleasure to help out our most needy members of our community through the Dade Legal Aid and Put Something Back Program. I get more pleasure out of working pro bono for a client than with any other paying client in my practice. I only wish I 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 a veteran at age 77 going through so much horror. 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. “I was truly blessed to 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. Hopefully, this story will resonate with other attorneys who will likewise volunteer their time to assist indigent veterans get much needed relief from debt burdening their daily lives and other matters. 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 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 a supervising attorney, he trains, mentors and directs staff attorneys, paralegals, volunteers and certified legal interns in the domestic violence unit. 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. He received many notes of appreciation from clients but one client in particular wrote to inform him that her son had reached the age of 18 and would no longer be subject to the family court orders regarding timesharing.  His client was overjoyed with the feelings of freedom from her abuser, her ex-husband and father of the child, who did everything he could to make her life miserable for the past two decades.  She said she had never known anyone like Mr. Paulson before. “Mr. Paulson knows everything I have been through. I do not know what I would have done without Mr. Paulson and Dade Legal Aid.  “I will never have the words to tell Mr. Paulson how much it has meant to me to have him there for 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!

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