The Florida Bar recognized 21 lawyers for their work on behalf of poor and indigent clients at a Jan. 30 ceremony at the Supreme Court of Florida.
Established in 1981, The Florida Bar President’s Pro Bono Service Awards are intended to encourage lawyers to volunteer free legal services to the poor by recognizing those who make public service commitments and to raise public awareness of the substantial volunteer services provided by Florida lawyers to those who cannot afford legal fees. Florida Bar President Eugene K. Pettis of Fort Lauderdale will present the 2014 awards.
The awards recognize pro bono service in each of Florida’s 20 judicial circuits and one Florida Bar member practicing outside the state of Florida. They are presented annually in conjunction with the Tobias Simon Pro Bono Service Award, which is given by the chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court. Awards recognizing pro bono contributions will also be presented for Distinguished Judicial Service, Law Firm Commendation, Voluntary Bar Association and by The Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division for a young lawyer.
In 2012-13, Florida lawyers provided more than 1.7 million hours of pro bono services to those in need and provided more than $4.8 million to legal aid organizations.
This year’s awards ceremony, which also honors individual, young lawyer, law firm, voluntary bar and judicial pro bono efforts, was scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 30, at the Supreme Court of Florida. The program was broadcast taped-delayed at a later date.
There was a local lawyer honored, and that is J. Davis Connor, Tenth Judicial Circuit (Hardee, Highlands and Polk counties) from Lake Wales.
Connor is a partner and shareholder at Peterson & Myers, P.A., and practices in the firm’s Lake Wales office. He is a commercial trial attorney licensed in Florida, California and North Carolina. Connor is also fluent in Spanish and his bilingualism is featured prominently in his practice. Connor has been quietly involved in handling innumerable pro bono matters for years. These have been mainly under the radar in that they often come to him through his personal contacts rather than through one of the legal services organizations. Most notably, Connor litigated an estate case recently, representing The Care Center – a not-for-profit that organizes and allocates the largest part of the charitable funds for poverty relief in the Lake Wales area. It had been designated as a beneficiary by an elderly woman who revised the terms of a trust before her death. The case presented the issue under the new Florida Trust Code of whether the gifts of multiple beneficiaries can be considered separately for the purpose of determining the legal effects of undue influence. In April 2013, at a court-ordered mediation prior to a bench trial, the case settled with The Care Center receiving $842,926.15. Connor expended well in excess of 200 hours of attorney time pro bono on the case.