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  • Thursday, November 10, 2016 7:58 PM | Mark Miller (Administrator)


    by FSCHS's Trustee, Mary Adkins, 

    Making Modern Florida 

    How the Spirit of Reform Shaped a New State Constitution

    Mid-twentieth-century Florida was a state in flux. Its explosive growth could be seen in rapidly burgeoning cities and suburbs, the development of the Kennedy Space Center during the space race, and the impending construction of Walt Disney World. Florida's antiquated 1885 constitution was no match for the dramatic changes that took place in the makeup of the state during this time.

    Many people recognized the shortcomings of the old constitution and worked to overhaul it. However, a small group of rural legislators known as the "Pork Chop Gang" controlled the state and thwarted several attempts to modernize the constitution. But through court-imposed redistribution of legislators and the hard work of state leaders, the constitution was modernized and the executive branch was reorganized.

  • Wednesday, February 10, 2016 2:58 PM | Mark Miller

    Attorney Bruce B. Blackwell of Winter Park, a founding partner of King, Blackwell, Zehnder & Wermuth, P.A., in Orlando, Historical Society Trustee and Past President, now CEO/executive director of The Florida Bar Foundation, was presented with the 2016 Tobias Simon Pro Bono Service Award at a Jan. 28 ceremony at the Supreme Court of Florida.

    The award, the highest statewide pro bono award, commemorates the late Miami lawyer Tobias Simon, who was a tireless civil rights attorney, a crusader for prison reform and an appellate authority. For Blackwell, more than 40 years of pro bono service has meant not just the direct representation of clients but also recruiting others to provide pro bono representation and lobbying to strengthen and preserve the network of legal aid organizations serving the poor.  

    In 2014, Blackwell showed his commitment to service by retiring from the firm he helped to found and becoming only the second CEO/executive director in the history of The Florida Bar Foundation. Blackwell was interim director for three months and then, when asked, took the full-time position. He became CEO at a difficult time, as low interest rates depleted the Foundation’s reserves at the very time that access to justice was becoming such a crucial issue in Florida.

    “This was a call I just had to answer, as the Foundation is simply too important,” Blackwell said.

    Beyond his work with the Foundation, Blackwell has donated thousands of hours of direct pro bono services.

    A fifth-generation Floridian, Blackwell graduated from Florida State University College of Law.

  • Friday, December 12, 2014 12:50 PM | Mark Miller (Administrator)

    Lawyers can’t solve this problem alone

    Business leaders make Florida’s civil justice access commission unique

    By Jan Pudlow
    Senior Editor

    “What’s the use of having a great civil justice system, if a large segment of our population does not have access to it?”

    Chief Justice Jorge Labarga posed that question on November 24, just before signing an administrative order creating the Florida Commission on Access to Civil Justice

    Chief Justice LabargaHe stood with Florida Bar President Greg Coleman and Florida Bar Foundation President Emerson R. Thompson in the rotunda of the Florida Supreme Court, as they publicly announced their commitment to find a better way to deliver civil legal services to not only Florida’s low-income citizens, but to middle-class folks who earn too much to qualify for legal aid, but not enough to hire lawyers. 

    The first meeting of the 27-member commission is January 16 in Tallahassee.

    “The situation has reached a crisis point,” Labarga said, providing these facts:

     For the full article go to: 


  • Tuesday, December 02, 2014 1:00 PM | Mark Miller (Administrator)

     Recognizing that economic disparity threatens access to a fair and impartial judicial system, Florida Chief Justice Jorge Labarga today issued an administrative order establishing the Florida Commission on Access to Civil Justice. The 27-member commission includes leaders from all three branches of Florida government, The Florida Bar, The Florida Bar Foundation, civil legal aid providers, the business community, and other stakeholders, who will work in a coordinated effort to identify and remove economic barriers to civil justice.

    The commission is a result of recent efforts by Florida Bar President Gregory W. Coleman, in partnership with Labarga and Florida Bar Foundation leaders, to focus on addressing access to justice as a societal crisis that needs to be solved with concrete and creative changes in the system.

    “Florida needs a coordinated effort involving all of the entities with the potential to make permanent, systemic advances to ensure that access to justice in Florida is not limited to those who can afford it,” Labarga said. “We are particularly concerned about the circumstances facing low-income litigants for whom purchasing legal representation can pose an impossible challenge. But access to civil justice is also a problem for the middle class, many of whom do not qualify for legal aid and cannot afford to hire a lawyer.”

    Coleman said there is a huge segment of society who make too much money to qualify for legal aid, but not enough to hire your average lawyer.

    “We have a broken system right now with legal aid having severely reduced funding and a void in the court system in terms of access to justice by middle-income Americans who make too much money to qualify for legal aid but cannot afford a lawyer,” Coleman said. “These are people who are living paycheck to paycheck.”

    Labarga’s order tasks the commission with studying the unmet civil legal needs of disadvantaged, low-income and moderate-income Floridians and with considering the state’s legal assistance delivery system as a whole, “including but not limited to staffed legal aid programs, resources and support for self-represented litigants, limited scope representation, pro bono services, innovative technology solutions, and other models and potential innovations.”

    Labarga’s order notes the significant work Florida state courts have undertaken to develop forms, instructions, and other self-help resources for those going it alone in court, while calling for the examination of other potential solutions. These include “unbundled legal services,” in which the attorney and client agree to a limited scope of attorney involvement in a case, leaving greater responsibility the client so as to limit the client’s legal costs; leveraging technology in expanding access to civil justice; and maximizing resources and stabilizing funding in support of civil justice services.

    At the same time, Florida lawyers are contributing significant time and monetary contributions to legal aid. Last year Bar members reported 1.7 million hours of pro bono work and $4.8 million to legal services organizations, Coleman said.

    “Lawyers truly care about trying to provide services to those who can least afford them, but we cannot do it with volunteers and donations alone. I believe it is particularly important to involve the business community to bring their innovative problem solving expertise to the effort. Business leaders also have the welfare of their employees to consider. Lack of access to justice can lead to individual and family instability that will affect the workplace,” Coleman said.

    Both Labarga and Coleman say the time has come for an unprecedented level of collaboration to address this issue.

    “We want to build on the great work that others started here in Florida and have been working hard to implement with limited resources,” Labarga said. “Our local legal aid societies, despite resources stretched to the limit, have been there all along representing folks who would otherwise not have access to our civil justice system. Members of The Florida Bar have donated thousands upon thousands of pro bono hours to needy citizens throughout the years. We must now take it to the next level, bearing in mind that the question of access to our civil justice system is a societal question and, as such, the solution rests with all segments of society.”

    The Florida Commission on Access to Civil Justice will be a time-limited commission but is called upon in the order to make a recommendation on the need for a permanent access to justice commission in Florida. Permanent access to justice commissions operate in 32 states and the District of Columbia, with the first commission having been established in Washington state in 1994. TheAmerican Bar Association operates a Resource Center for Access to Justice Initiatives to support access to justice commissions and promulgate their advances.

    The study commission will submit an interim report to the Court by Oct. 1, 2015, and a final report by June 30, 2016, and will provide these reports also to the Governor of Florida, the President of the Florida Senate, and the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives.

    The website for the commission at www.flaccesstojustice.org includes a link to the administrative order, a listing of commission members, a Q&A and a links page to other information sources. Social media links will be posted on the website homepage for Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

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