Approximately 130 invited guests from the legal and business community attended Brevard County Legal Aid’s Annual Pro Bono Awards and Recognition Gala on Friday, March 16, 2018 at Rockledge Country Club. The annual dinner and awards event is a tribute to Brevard’s attorneys who contribute free legal assistance to help persons who are unable to afford private counsel.
Florida Bar President Michael J. Higer was the special guest speaker and he also presented awards to recognize the efforts of Brevard’s most outstanding pro bono attorneys. Mr. Higer is a partner at Berger Singerman in Miami and, during his 32-year career as a complex business litigator, he has earned a reputation for working quietly but determinedly to address the legal needs of the disadvantaged and promote the principle of Equal Access to Justice. He personally donates approximately 100 pro bono hours per year and he is especially committed to addressing the issues faced by unrepresented victims of domestic violence in our legal system.
During his inspirational remarks at the Legal Aid Gala, Mr. Higer emphasized the importance of meaningful access to our judicial system for poor and disadvantaged members of our community. He quoted a line from the movie “A Few Good Men,” comparing the commitment of pro bono attorneys to United States Marines guarding walls to protect our democracy. In a nice touch, Higer invited award winners to shake hands and pose for a photograph with himself, Florida Bar Board of Governors Representative John Alpizar, Florida President Elect-Designate John Stewart, and Brevard Bar President Michelle Studstill.
Mr. Higer presented awards to local attorneys who went above and beyond in their pro bono contributions. Nicholas Vidoni was recognized as “Pro Bono Attorney of the Year.” Mr. Vidoni provided a wide range of pro bono legal services through Brevard County Legal Aid, assisting over 100 clients over the past three years and contributing over 250 volunteer hours. He assisted tenants in fighting illegal evictions, mobile home owners with title issues, and homeowners facing foreclosure. Nick is a familiar face at the BCLA office in Rockledge, staffing regular advice clinics in addition to providing ongoing representation to individual clients.
Circuit Court Judge Lisa Davidson received the “Distinguished Judicial Service Award.” As Chair of the 18th Circuit Pro Bono Committee, Judge Davidson has successfully organized key stakeholders including representatives from the judiciary, the Brevard County Bar Association, Brevard County Bar Association for Women Lawyers, Young Lawyer’s Section, Legal Aid and Brevard County Bar Foundation. Her leadership and guidance has generated new interest and collaboration resulting in several key initiatives aimed at stimulating increased pro bono participation.
And the formidable legal trio of Brian Onek, Meryl Allawas McCormick, and Elizabeth Harris were recognized for their work on behalf of abused children. In the past few years, Brian and Meryl, at the request of BCLA, have been deeply involved in several cases involving difficult and sensitive legal issues surrounding sexual abuse of children. They were both presented with the “Child Advocacy Award.” Elizabeth provided critically important input and representation on appellate issues and was recognized with the “Appellate Law Award.” In one case alone, involving the sexual abuse of a four-year-old, the team donated in excess of 400 combined hours of pro bono service.
Other award winners included “Outstanding Pro Bono Service Awards” to James Torres, Steven Brannock, John Daly, Robyn Silverman, Billie Jo Hopwood, and Amy Romaine. “Distinguished Pro Bono Service Awards” went to Michael Howard, Keith Kromash, Lesley Abbott, Julie Glocker Pierce, Judy Stevens, William Johnson, Tino Gonzalez, Steven Allender, Scott Krasny, Raymond Cornelius, Deborah Smith, Jerald Stubbs, and Lia Allawas.
Attorney Kenneth F. Tworoger and the firm of Nance Cacciatore were the event’s Platinum Sponsors and Gold Sponsors were: Allender & Allender, Brevard County Bar Foundation, Faro & Crowder, Michael and Roma Kahn, and Shuster & Saben.
Silver Sponsors were: Alpizar Law, Douglas R. Beam, Brevard County Bar Association, Cantwell & Goldman, Caruso, Swerbilow & Wald, Bud & Kim Deffebach, GrayRobinson, Michael Howard, Bruce Jacobus, Robert and Shelley Johnson, J. Preston and Betts Silvernail, Watson, Soileau, DeLeo, & Burgett, and The Wright Law Group.
For more information please call BCLA at (321) 631-2500 ext. 514