Brian W. Toth, Esq., Toth Funes PA.
A graduate of the University of Miami School of Law, Mr. Toth is active in the legal community creating access to justice for those most vulnerable. He has served as a fellow with Dade Legal Aid Leadership Academy, as Chair of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Grievance Committee “L,” and on the University of Miami Law Alumni Association Board of Directors. As a member of Put Something Back, he has donated countless hours handling a contested divorce case for several years. Thank you to him for his leadership and service.
Kelly Malloy, Esquire, Malloy & Malloy PL.
Put Something Back is grateful to Kelly Malloy for volunteering for our Patent Pro Bono booth at the eMerge Americas tech conference alongside Arts & Business Council of Miami and Beacon Council and for speaking with so many emerging startups, inventors, innovators, and entrepreneurs.
JOSEPH A. CHAMBROT, ESQ.
We are extremely grateful to dedicated attorneys like Joseph A. Chambrot, Esq., a solo practitioner who went above and beyond providing his services to help obtain the release of an incapacitated ward from jail who was decompensating and at risk of death. The Criminal Court repeatedly denied our client's Petition for Incapacity, although it already existed in Probate Court. When Mr. Chambrot stepped in to handle this on an emergency pro bono basis, he was thankfully able to get the Criminal Court to acknowledge the ward's disability and obtained an Order declaring him Intellectually Disabled. "We congratulate Mr. Chambrot for a job well done. He is a true hero who saved the ward’s life!" said Wendy Robbins, Esq., Legal Aid Guardianship Department Chair.
DAVID ALSCHULER, ESQ.
David Alschuler, Esq., a solo practitioner, has been practicing law in the State of Florida since 1986. He graduated from Vanderbilt University in 1982 and from the University of Florida College of Law in 1985. A professional, that is reliable and committed to the cause of providing legal assistance to those in need, has helped and innumerable amount of clients with his legal experience. Recently, Mr. Alschuler was appointed by the Courts as Guardian Ad Litem to protect the interests of a Defendant who is in active service of the U.S. Military. He favorably got the case dismissed pursuant to a mediated settlement agreement completing the matter and was awarded fifteen pro bono hours on behalf of Put Something Back for his legal services rendered as the Guardian Ad Litem.
PATRICIA MESA, ESQ.
Patricia Mesa, Esq., partner at Patricia Mesa, P.A., a boutique law firm specializing in matrimonial and family law cases is always available to help with Put Something Back pro bono cases, handling a variety of family law and GAL cases. Last year she accepted a total of fifteen cases and recently completed a custody case. Ms. Mesa has proven to be an asset to anyone navigating the family law arena and Put Something Back is fortunate to be able to count on her expertise and commitment.
PHILLIP F. MCMANUS, ESQ.
Congratulations to Phillip F. McManus, a Labor and Employment attorney with the Miami Law Office, Allen Norton & Blue, P.A., on successfully completing a pro bono dissolution of marriage case for a low-income resident with nowhere else to turn to for assistance. Mr. McManus, a 2020 Graduate of FIU College of Law, favorably completed the case for the pro bono client expending over 50 hours of his time to this case. We are extremely grateful to attorneys like him that go above and beyond with their time, talent and resources to help others in need who have nowhere else to turn for legal services. Kudos to Mr. McManus on a job well done and for fulfilling the Oath of Admission to Help those in Need with nowhere else to turn early on in his career serving as an example to others.
ROBERT C. JOSEFSBERG, ESQ.
Dade Legal Aid recently recognized Robert C. Josefsberg, Partner at Podhurst Orseck, with a Pro Bono Service Award for successful completion of a mortgage foreclosure case which he took on an emergency basis due to the urgent nature of the matter. Client, who had cancer and was facing default on his loan and loss of his property, needed to renegotiate his payments in order for the property to be sold. Mr. Josefsberg, one of Dade County′s premiere trial lawyers and pro bono champions, spent many hours on this case providing legal expertise and negotiating a favorable settlement that allowed the client to have piece of mind and a fresh start. Thanks to his efforts, and those associated with him, including Jeff Levey, who handled the closing on a pro bono basis, the client can now focus on his health and recovery. We are grateful to Mr. Josefsberg for his exceptional commitment to pro bono and professionalism, truly making a difference in other's lives!
CYNTHIA STAFFORD, ESQ.
Cynthia Stafford, Esq., has been part of Dade Legal Aid's dynamic team of dedicated, client-centered staff attorneys for over 20 years advocating on behalf of domestic violence victims seeking safety and protection from their batterers. Throughout the years, Ms. Stafford has received numerous positive notes and recognition and the admiration of her peers for her many accomplishments; but, what she cherishes most are the grateful comments from her clients who are living better lives thanks to her services. The most recent letter she received said, “Thank you so much for everything you did for me. I now have a fresh start with the support of my family and I am very grateful to you and to Dade Legal Aid! You are a great lawyer and beautiful person who supported me whenever I needed it the most! You will always be in my heart and prayers. God bless you always!
CARL H. LINDER, ESQ.
Carl H. Linder, Partner at Greenspoon Marder LLP, was presented by Dade Legal Aid with a Pro Bono Service Award in recognition of Mr. Linder’s outstanding commitment, dedication, and service to the less fortunate. Each year, DLA assists thousands of clients providing free civil legal services for low-income children, foster youth, individuals and families in need in Miami-Dade County, positively impacting their lives thanks to dedicated staff attorneys and Pro Bono Volunteer Attorneys providing life-changing, and often life-saving services in various areas of the law. DLA is fortunate to be able to count with Mr. Linder's wealth of knowledge and experience throughout the years as he has dedicated his time to helping others in need.
ADRIAN ACOSTA, ESQ.
Hailing from Little Havana, Adrian Acosta, Esq., is a born and bred Miamian who centers his practice on criminal law, civil litigation, title services, and family law. Prior to Founding Adrian Acosta PLLC, Adrian gained a wealth of experience working at one of Miami’s premier law firms. He spent ten years working as a paralegal, honing his legal research skills under the supervision of some of Miami’s most skilled attorneys. After graduating law school, he then joined the same firm as associate attorney where he focused on Family Law.
“Thank you Put Something Back for allowing me to give back. This was a fun case. My summer interns and I drove out with a printer in the trunk to client’s house, printed out the documents and filed the complaint from her living room. Through this experience I was able to give my interns the opportunity to fulfill their pro bono requirements to graduate and teach them the importance of giving back. For that I am forever grateful. My goal is to continue to take on pro bono cases with my interns every summer and instill in them the importance of assisting others in need. If I can be of any further assistance, please feel free to contact me.”
JOEL DOUGLAS, P.E.
Joel Douglas, of Stanton IP Law Firm, PA, is a registered patent agent and holds professional engineering licenses in several states, determined to help those less fortunate. He has volunteered to help several dozen pro bono patent clients file and receive their patents through Florida Patent Pro Bono, a partnership with Arts & Business Council of Miami and Dade Legal Aid Put Something Back. He has a passion for helping those less fortunate succeed and has made a massive impact on the lives of investors by generously lending his time and expertise. Joel has also been recognized: 100 Notable People in the Medical Device Industry MD&DI / 2004 Medical Design Excellence Award (Silver) 2000 Shingo Prize for Excellence in Manufacturing Business Winning Team (LifeScan)/1995.
JEFFREY A. RYNOR, ESQ.
Jeffrey A. Rynor, founding member of Mitrani, Rynor, Adamsky & Toland, P.A., and former Bar President has handled numerous pro bono cases. In a recent matter he reported, "I have successfully concluded the pro bono case I was handling on behalf of a minor child, granting parental rights to the father. The mother's parental rights were terminated pursuant to a Final Judgment for Termination of Parental Rights and disposition as to the mother. It has been a pleasure working with my client and Legal Aid's talented legal team of Bruce Levine and Nikki Weisburd. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to work with such dedicated lawyers who help our community, children and parents in such a meaningful way. They are wonderful. It has been a rewarding experience. Thank you again for giving me this opportunity."
FRANCO S. DE LIGUORI, ESQ.
Put Something Back Patent Pro Bono Project serves clients across Florida and in Puerto Rico in partnership with the Venture Law Project and Arts Business Council, Inc. One of our local clients was recently assisted by Franco S. De Liguori, Esq., of Tampa. Mr. DeLiguori, an Intellectual Property attorney and Managing Member with DP IP Law Group, has assisted four other clients to obtain their patent cases to date. He successfully represents both domestic and international clients in all phases of patent practice including individual inventors, small startups, large companies and universities. We are so very grateful to him for his time and expertise on these cases.
MARK E. STEIN, ESQ.
Mark E. Stein, Esq., of Mark Stein Law, is a Board Certified Intellectual Property Law and Florida Supreme Court Certified Circuit Mediator and has been supporting Legal Aid by accepting cases and participating in leadership roles for decades. This year, her will be Master of Ceremonies for Battle of the Legal Bands on September 10, 2022. As lawyers we have unique training and skills to help others navigate legal issues that often appear to be overwhelming and highly stressful. I believe we all should use these skills to help those in our society that need help, especially those that cannot afford to pay for legal services. It is not only a way to give back to the community; it is, in my view, an obligation of our profession. I personally provide pro bono services because it allows me to help people whom in many cases do not have the support or resources to solve problems many of us as lawyers deal with every day. It truly is a way to pay it forward and is a great opportunity to make our profession and our world just a little bit better."
DIANE NOLLER WELLS, ESQ.
Diane Noller Wells, Esquire, of Wells & Wells, P.A. generously takes on Bankruptcy, Real Property, and Foreclosure cases for Put Something Back clients. Over the years, she has allocated a total of 265 hours to three very compelling cases. "I do pro bono work to give back to my community," said Wells, when recognized for her going above and beyond for her clients. In each case, she has achieved successful results thereby positively impacting the lives of low-income clients and their families.
JAMES J. FEENEY, ESQ.
James J. Feeney, Esquire, Of Counsel with Shook, Hardy & Bacon LLP in Miami, has dedicated over 100 hours performing pro bono work with Put Something Back. Over the past decade, Mr. Feeney has helped Put Something Back clients in the areas of foreclosure defense, collections, repossession, wills and estates. The breadth and variety of cases he has handled serve as a testament to his dedication to helping those in need with nowhere else to turn for assistance. Shook Hardy & Bacon’s culture is built on a strong tradition of serving others through pro bono work. Their Miami attorneys devote many volunteer hours to Put Something Back and other organizations and we are grateful for their contributions to help improve our clients’ circumstances.
PAUL STANTON, ESQ.
Paul Stanton, Esquire, has spent over 400 hours handling a variety of general civil, probate, wills, guardianship, conservatorship and tax cases. “The experiences I had with some people who are facing the most unfortunate of circumstances reinforces my willingness to help those less fortunate among us,” said Stanton, a solo practitioner who represents clients in all aspects of Probate, Guardianship, Trust Law and Litigation. He is always happy to assist pro bono clients by handling cases for people including those impacted by the devastating pandemic and mentoring other attorneys on their pro bono cases. A huge supporter, he has been volunteering his time and expertise for decades. In the past few years alone, he handled 20 matters for a variety of clients.
ROBERT J. MERLIN, ESQ.
Robert J. Merlin, Esquire, of the Law Offices of Robert J. Merlin, P.A., has more than four decades of experience practicing law and has represented numerous family law clients through the Put Something Back Project. "I represented a client through Put Something Back in her dissolution of marriage action against her husband. The client was basically frozen out of the family business and left with minimal support. Needless to say, she was adversely affected by what her husband had done to her. With my help the client was able to overcome the emotional trauma of her divorce and to enter into a Settlement Agreement that she wanted. She is a stronger person today than she was when she first met as a result of the pro bono legal services provided through Put Something Back. I salute Dade Legal Aid and the Put Something Back program. It is through their efforts that we are able to improve the access to justice for those who cannot afford to retain attorneys."
RANDEE GODOFSKY BREITER, ESQ. - ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT
"Working at Legal Aid was the best introduction to the practice of law that anyone could ask for. Working with the incredible professionals in the office, the opportunities to grow and learn, and the positive reinforcement of being able to help in your own community left an indelible mark on my career."
Randee Breiter, Esquire, began at Legal Aid Society as a Certified Legal Intern in the fall of her third year at University of Miami School of Law. Upon graduation, she was hired by Sharon Langer to be the first attorney Coordinator of the Volunteer Lawyers Program (the pre-cursor to Put Something Back) and eventually changed departments to become a Family Law Staff Attorney for Legal Aid. She left Legal Aid for a short stint in NYC and returned to Legal Aid as the first Director of the Self Help Divorce Program (a precursor to the current Family Court Self Help Program). Working at Legal Aid truly shaped Randee’s commitment to the public sector and the importance of pro bono work for lawyers and law students.
Upon leaving Legal Aid, Randee went to work at The University of Miami School of Law in the Career Center with a focus on public sector work, where she was part of the Career Team for many years. For the past 10 years, she has worked at FIU College of Law as an Assistant Director of the Career Center where she works with both the public and private sectors. Randee created and has grown the Public Sector Career Fair at FIU Law which hosts over 40 agencies and organizations each spring. She believes that a public service ethic is imperative for new lawyers, and by being exposed to all the good work that is being done in town, students will leave with the knowledge and drive to be able to get involved.
ALVIN F. LINDSAY, ESQ.
Alvin F. Lindsay, Esquire, Partner, Hogan Lovells US LLP and Miami-Office Pro Bono "Champion," has been graciously hosting with his Miami office for the past eleven years Dade Legal Aid's Getting a Head Start on Pro Bono, a reception for law students where they are introduced about the importance of pro bono work. “We lawyers have a responsibility to help the less fortunate navigate the complexities of our legal system. For over eleven years now, Hogan Lovells has really enjoyed working with Karen Ladis and Dade Legal Aid to help get the word out to all young lawyers about the importance of pro bono work, ” said Mr. Lindsay. At Hogan Lovells, Al handles some of the most complex business matters. Having tried many multi-million dollar cases through final verdict or decision, he knows how to make make the complex understandable and puts his client's best case forward.
MICHAEL C. CESARANO, ESQ.
Michael C. Cesarano, Esquire, Of Counsel at The Brickell IP Group, has been recognized by Put Something Back and the USPTO for spending over 50 hours on patent pro bono cases last year. Upon receiving his electrical engineering degree from UVA, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps and served as a fighter pilot during Vietnam. After leaving the service as a Captain in 1972, Mr. Cesarano attended Seattle University School of Law where he received his JD, cum laude. Following ten years of private practice as a commercial litigator, he became a registered patent attorney with the USPTO. Combining his aviation experience with his intellectual property background, he joined the Patent Law Department of the Boeing Commercial Airplane Company in Seattle. In 1987, he reentered private practice, specializing in intellectual property, helping clients to achieve their goals. Throughout his career, Mr. Cesarano has prosecuted hundreds of patent, trademark, and intellectual property matters at all levels and stages. At The Brickell IP Group, he offers clients invaluable insight into transactional and litigation matters involving intellectual property law. We are grateful to Mr. Cesarano for participating in our patent pro bono project!
JASON BLOCH, ESQ.
Jason Bloch, Esq., a former circuit court judge, received the 2020- 2021 Access to Justice Pro Bono Award and 2022 Child Advocacy Pro Bono Award for outstanding contributions in providing greater access to justice for those in need. We are grateful that he has performed hundreds of hours of his time on a variety of pro bono cases since joining private practice making a significant difference in the lives of Put Something Back clients. “Navigating the legal system can be daunting,” said Bloch, “especially for those who may need it most but can’t afford a lawyer to help them. Being fortunate to receive the blessings of this Country, including the ability to practice law, ‘Putting Something Back’ into our community just seems right. Legal Aid performs an essential role by providing critical assistance to real people with real legal needs. It is a privilege to do my small part in supporting that mission. And it is immensely rewarding whenever I am able to help a client have equal access to justice, regardless of means. Thank you to the staff and supporters of Legal Aid. L I am inspired by what you and your team do every day.” We thank Mr. Bloch for his continued service to less fortunate members of our community.
ALVIN D. LODISH, ESQ.
Alvin D. Lodish, Esquire, a Partner with Duane Morris LLP, has been driven by dedicated service and continuous effort and has allocated over 410 hours during his career to assisting less fortunate children of our community through the Children's Legal Collaborative, a partnership of Dade Legal Aid, the Guardian Ad Litem Program and Put Something Back.
“As the sixth child of seven children born outside of Cleveland, Ohio, and having lost my Dad at the age of eight, I have always been sensitive to the plight of children and how positive influences in their lives can make all the difference in the world.”
Lodish’s past has not only encouraged him to make a difference but has been a motivating factor of why he has spent his time on these particularly difficult cases. “I had problems in my youth and instead of becoming a lawyer I easily could have been on the other side of the law. But with a close-knit family, a few impactful teachers, and the ability to eventually find my own self-worth, I became a productive member of society.”
“Children have to feel loved and have to believe in themselves. My efforts in the Children's Legal Collaborative program have always been governed by what children need to make it in this world. The GAL program is critically important and many more volunteers are needed because of the great need and the burnout factor – it’s very tough to experience some of the circumstances.”
As Lodish explains, he has always been sensitive to the plight of children, and with these plights come such heartbreaking experiences. “I have had two cases in all the years where termination was the best result for the child and sexual abuse was at the heart of the problem. Otherwise, troubled parents, incarcerated parents, drug-addicted parents should always be given many chances to reconnect and be a parent to their children. I believe it is always best for the children, even though it’s very hard at times, to know their parents are fighting their demons to try and be in their lives again in a positive way.” Despite the difficulties that he has faced in his past and has seen, Lodish has an empathetic and forgiving view for those parents who may not have had the best chances at being the parents they potentially would have wanted to be.
On top of all his efforts for the child advocacy project, Lodish is also an active community member through the YMCA and has been for almost 20 years. “I served as Chairperson of the Board of the Y of South Florida in 2020 which was an incredibly challenging year with COVID. My great interest in helping children has grown into wanting to help people of all ages find their inner worth and live a meaningful life. The Y has allowed me to do that through Indian guides, teen programs, and health and wellness programs for seniors. Finally, my family means the world to me – being a father, husband and now grandfather is the best!”
We truly are blessed to have such a dedicated, productive, and kind-hearted member of our society making waves in some of the most difficult seas of families’ lives through our program.
KATIE SAGER, ESQ.
Katie Sager, Esquire, is a Partner at Hertz · Sager, an all-female boutique law firm located in Coral Gables. Hertz · Sager focusing its practice on high conflict marital and family law cases, including divorce, paternity actions, domestic violence, and post-judgment modification and relocation actions. The three attorneys at the firm, Christy L. Hertz, Esquire, Brittney Blumengold-Lopez, Esquire, and Sager, have over 40 years combined experience in family and marital law. Hertz · Sager serves clients throughout the State of Florida, including representation of pro bono clients through the Dade Legal Aid Put Something Back Program in Miami-Dade County. Ms. Sager has successfully assisted various pro-bono clients with a range of family and marital law issues through the Put Something Back Project over years, including pursuit of domestic violence injunctions, post-judgment enforcement issues, paternity actions and post-judgment modification of parenting plan cases. "As a family law attorney, I am tasked with helping people through difficult legal situations and those situations can be compounded when a person is without the financial means to retain counsel or the necessary background to navigate the legal system. My work in representing pro bono clients provides me and our firm the unique ability to help those who truly need it bringing their difficult family law issues to a resolution. For that reason, I have found my work with the Dade Legal Aid Put Something Back Program to be rewarding and look forward to continued work with them in the future."
MARK NEUBERGER, ESQ., 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 works tirelessly for the children he represents directly, as well as the many other children his colleagues assist 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 runaway 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 Children's Legal Collaborative for children facing such issues as schizophrenia, psychotropic medication consent, adoption, and developmental disability diagnoses. Their team of attorneys coordinated through Mark have 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 Dade 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 and handles GAL cases for the Children's Legal Collaborative.
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 and an active supporter of Dade Legal Aid's Children's Legal Collaborative. 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, ESQ.
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.”
MARIA ABDO-GOMEZ, ESQ.
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, ESQ.
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, ESQ.
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, ESQ.
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.
TARA FAENZA, ESQ.
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.”
JOHN FULTON JR., ESQ.
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, ESQ.
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.”
STEVE PAULSON, ESQ.
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."
BRUCE LEVINE, ESQ.
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 one of Legal Aid's largest departments, the 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 the department that actively places over 1,000 pro bono cases with lawyers annually. “We recruit on average 400-500 new attorneys to refer cases to each year. 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
SCOTT L. BAENA, ESQ.
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.“
CHARLES THROCKMORTON, ESQ.
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!
ALISA TAORMINA, ESQ.
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 MONK, ESQ.
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.