Jackie Dowd, managing attorney of nonprofit poverty and social justice firm Legal Advocacy at Work and legal counsel for Orlando-based IDignity, has received The Florida Bar Foundation’s Jane Elizabeth Curran Distinguished Service Award.
The award is named for the Foundation’s first executive director, recognizing individuals who, over their careers, have achieved meaningful, effective and lasting increases in access to civil justice for the poor in Florida.
“Jackie has changed the lives of thousands of homeless and low-income individuals by providing legal advocacy that would otherwise be unavailable,” wrote Frederick J. Lauten, recently retired chief judge of Florida’s 9th Judicial Circuit, in a letter supporting Dowd’s nomination. “Ms. Dowd has been a stalwart advocate for those who are chronically underrepresented in our justice system. You will find few others who have dedicated more of their time, energy and passion to the representation of the poor and homeless in Central Florida.”
After working as a journalist, Dowd enrolled in law school at the University of Florida in her 30s. She began her legal career representing General Motors before moving to the Florida Attorney General’s office where she eventually became the supervisor of the Orlando Economic Crimes Unit.
In 2005, as acting director of clinical programs at Florida A&M University College of Law, Dowd established the school’s Homelessness and Legal Advocacy Clinic. Shortly after, she represented the group Food Not Bombs as an ACLU cooperating attorney, arguing for the right to feed the poor and homeless in an Orlando city park.
In 2006, Jackie founded her nonprofit firm to handle cases relating to collections, evictions, family law, public benefits and employment law for poor and homeless individuals and families. A year later, she played an instrumental part in the founding of IDignity, which helps homeless and low-income individuals obtain identification.
As IDignity’s legal counsel, she helps clients who are having difficulty getting birth certificates, marriage records, social security records, immigration records and other documents needed to obtain a Florida ID. IDignity has served more than 19,000 individuals, many of whom Jackie has met in the woods and in shelters to provide services.
The Jane Elizabeth Curran Distinguished Service Award, sponsored by Jacksonville law firm Pajcic & Pajcic, was presented at The Boca Raton Resort and Club June 27 during The Florida Bar Foundation’s Forty-Third Annual Reception and Dinner at The Florida Bar Annual Convention.