Over 150 invited guests from the legal and business community attended Brevard County Legal Aid’s Annual Pro Bono Awards and Recognition Gala on Friday, April 12, 2019 at Suntree 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.
Fifth District Court of Appeal Judge John Harris was the special guest speaker and he also presented awards to recognize the efforts of Brevard’s most outstanding pro bono attorneys. During his inspirational remarks, Judge Harris emphasized the importance of meaningful access to our judicial system for poor and disadvantaged members of our community. “Having a law degree and living the life of an attorney is a tremendous privilege,” Harris said, “but I would argue that this privilege is conditional. We have an ongoing obligation to advance the cause of justice for everyone, especially those who cannot afford it.”
Judge Harris presented awards to local attorneys who went above and beyond in their pro bono contributions. Attorney Richard Shuster was recognized as “Pro Bono Attorney of the Year.” Mr. Shuster began his legal career at a boutique civil litigation firm in Jacksonville, where he represented national and multinational corporations such as Volkswagen and Home Depot. Then he co-founded the firm of Shuster & Saben in Miami. Richard moved to the Space Coast in 2004 when his wife Tracy Ravin, an eye surgeon, accepted a job at Florida Eye Institute. After four years of commuting to the firm’s Miami office, Richard opened Shuster & Saben’s Space Coast office with a single staffer, while subleasing space from another local attorney.
With over twenty years of litigation experience, Richard has litigated thousands of Personal Injury Protection claims on behalf of medical providers. He also heads the firm’s foreclosure defense and consumer protection practices and he has litigated dozens of foreclosure trials on behalf of homeowners throughout Florida. When the great recession hit, Richard recognized a local need for Brevard consumers to receive the representation necessary to go toe-to-toe against big banks. While defending foreclosures, he met other lawyers employed by or involved with Brevard County Legal Aid and decided to join them by volunteering to take on legal aid cases. First one, then a few more, and more every year. Richard’s pro bono work has been prodigious. In the past two years alone, Richard has donated over 300 pro bono hours to legal aid clients. In 2018, he closed 5 pro bono cases and he is currently working on 6 more. Remarkably, in addition to Richard’s pro bono work, his firm has been a Gold or Platinum sponsor of every legal aid Pro Bono Gala since 2014.
Other award winners included “Outstanding Pro Bono Service Awards” to Robert McClain, James Torres, John Daly, Amy Romaine, Christopher Block, and Tino Gonzalez. “Distinguished Pro Bono Service Awards” went to Michael Howard, Scott Krasny, Kristen Smith-Rodriguez, Nicholas Vidoni, Thomas Yardley, Mark Peters, Judy Stevens, Pierre Mommers, Tim Willams, and Shawn Trautman.
Attorney Kenneth F. Tworoger, Nance Cacciatore, and Shuster & Saben, LLC were the event’s Platinum Sponsors and Gold Sponsors were: Allender & Allender, P.A., Brevard Bar Foundation, Faro & Crowder, P.A., and Michael and Roma Kahn.
Silver Sponsors were: Alpizar Law, Douglas R. Beam, P.A, Samuel Bookhardt III, P.A., Brevard County Bar Association, Cantwell & Goldman, P.A., Caruso, Swerbilow & Wald, P.A., Bud & Kim Deffebach, The Florida Bar Foundation, GrayRobinson, P.A., Heuston Legal, PLLC, The Law Office of Michael Howard, Jacobus Fielding, Robert and Shelley Johnson, Alan H. Landman, P.A., Rhonda L. Hinds & Associates, CPAs, J. Preston and Betts Silvernail, and Watson, Soileau, DeLeo, & Burgett, P.A.