by Jakeyla Augustin
Paolo Annino, director of the Children’s Advocacy Clinic at the Florida State University Public Interest Law Center, has been selected by the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) to receive the 2017 Father Robert Drinan Award for his work, much of which has been funded by The Florida Bar Foundation.
“Father Robert Drinan is a long-time hero of mine who never stopped fighting for the needy in our nation and around the world,” Annino said. “I am very fortunate to work with brilliant, hard-working public interest FSU law students and to have the support of The Florida Bar Foundation to help children in our community. I am humbled to receive the Father Robert Drinan Award on behalf of my students and the children we represent.”
Annino’s work has influenced laws, policies and court decisions with far-reaching effects. His advocacy has helped secure the rights of gay parents to adopt throughout Florida, successfully challenge the constitutionality of juvenile life of without parole, and preserve the rights of Florida’s chronically ill low-income children to specialty care.
Through the Children in Prison project Annino collected data from the departments of corrections in all 50 states and found that Florida sentenced more juveniles to life without parole than all of the other states combined. This work, supported by The Florida Bar Foundation, was later cited in the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Graham v. Florida, which rendered life without parole for juveniles unconstitutional and provided more than 100 juveniles nationwide the opportunity be resentenced. Annino’s more recent work in the Atwell case helped strike down Florida’s parole system as related to children.
Florida Bar Foundation CEO Bruce Blackwell wrote a letter of support for Annino that was cited by the AALS in its notice of the award.
“We wholeheartedly agree with The Florida Bar Foundation’s reference to you as ‘a Florida treasure for children who need help most,’” the AALS wrote.
Blackwell said that while Annino always credits his students, much of the change that has come about through the work of FSU’s Public Interest Law Center is a direct result of his own engagement.
“Professor Annino’s goal is to engage and instill in his students through their law school experience the mantra of serving others and making an impactful difference in the lives of others. He plans, supervises, sweats, challenges, and makes his students fervent believers that each can achieve success by serving others,” Blackwell wrote.
The AALS Section on Pro Bono and Public Service Opportunities established the award in 2006 with three main criteria: personal service, program design and program management. The selection committee chose Annino from “an impressive group of faculty and administrators whose work on behalf of the pro bono and public interest programs throughout the country is truly extraordinary,” the AALS wrote.Read More Stories of Justice Give Justice