Family Law Section makes its second $75,000 gift


Florida Bar Foundation CEO Bruce Blackwell, Family Law Section Chair Norberto Katz, and Foundation President Emerson R. Thompson Jr., a senior judge on the Fifth District Court of Appeal, celebrate the Family Law Section’s $75,000 gift to the Foundation.

The Florida Bar’s Family Law Section Jan. 31 made a $75,000 gift to The Florida Bar Foundation, its second such contribution in three years.

“As family lawyers, we understand the vitally important role The Florida Bar Foundation plays in ensuring access to justice for Florida’s low-income families, its foster children and its children with special education or medical needs,” said Family Law Section Chair Norberto Katz. “Supporting the Foundation’s grantmaking is an effective way that we, as a section, can fulfill our professional oath to never reject the cause of the defenseless.”

The Family Law Section was among the first Florida Bar sections to step forward with major gifts, as awareness began spreading of the precipitous decline in legal aid funding available through Florida’s Interest on Trust Accounts (IOTA) program, which the Foundation administers. The section made a $75,000 gift in 2012 to support the Foundation’s Children’s Legal Services grants.

“The Family Law Section is a wonderful ally for The Florida Bar Foundation,” said Foundation President Emerson R. Thompson Jr., a senior judge on the Fifth District Court of Appeal. “We appreciate that their leadership places such high value on our mission of providing greater access to justice for the last, the least and the lost, and we are grateful for their faith in our good stewardship. It’s worth noting that about 30 percent of legal aid cases involve family law.”

The Florida Bar Foundation is the second-largest funder of Florida’s legal aid organizations, providing about 19 percent of the $85 million they received from all sources in 2013. With the decline in IOTA revenue requiring a 78-percent reduction in the Foundation’s grants since 2010, the federally funded Legal Services Corporation is now the state’s largest legal aid funding organization, providing 21 percent of the Florida’s total legal aid funding in 2013. However, many legal aid programs do not receive Legal Services Corporation funding, which is subject to Congressional restrictions, and therefore rely more heavily on Foundation funding.