March 2020 Board Meeting Report

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Quarterly Board Report

March 27, 2020 (and April 9, 2020)

Via virtual meeting

The Florida Bar Foundation Board of Directors met on March 27, 2020, via remote transmission because of the COVID-19 situation.  The meeting was initially scheduled to take place in Fort Lauderdale and be hosted by Greenspoon Marder and Buchannan, Ingersoll & Rooney. Many thanks go to Murray Silverstein and his partners at Greenspoon Marder and Hala Sandridge and her partners at Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney for their generosity and understanding in having to cancel the in-person meetings and proceed electronically. The Foundation’s IT assistant Jenny Haggard and Interim Director of Technology Eli Mattern did a splendid job of arranging the video conference call under short and trying circumstances for which the Foundation is grateful.

The major actions of the board and reports received included:

  • Foundation ratifies selection of four board members to serve three-year terms beginning July 1, 2020, and ending June 30, 2023

Pursuant to the Foundation’s Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws of The Florida Bar Foundation, the nominating committee presented, and the board ratified the following slate of director nominees to fill two seats on the Board:

Seat No.       Name                                        City              Term

FDN 13         Carl Domino                           Jupiter         7/1/20-6/30/23

FDN 16         Kevin McCoy                          Tampa          7/1/20-6/30/23

The Board also received the following slate of director nominees submitted by The Florida Bar Board of Governors Executive Session:

Seat No.       Name                              City                  Term

BAR 17         Murray Silverstein       Tampa             7/1/20-6/30/23

BAR 14         Brian Currie                  Jacksonville   7/1/20-6/30/23

The Foundation awaits the Florida Supreme Court’s notification of its two designated seats which is expected on or around May 1, 2020.

  • Current grants funding recommendations temporarily abated pending further review in light of COVID-19 situation and awarded in part on April 9.

The Foundation’s current grants cycle involves the review and funding recommendations for four grants programs: Administration of Justice Grants; Children’s Legal Services Grants; Pro Bono Innovation and Transformation Grants; and Summer Fellowship Awards.  While the staff and Grants Committee worked tirelessly to review all grant applications and prepare funding recommendations, Staff and the Grants Committee recommended, and the Board approved,  that all funding recommendations for such grants be revisited in light of the onset of the COVID-19 situation, the resulting economic fallout, and the clear indication that there will be a significant increase in demand for civil legal aid in the immediate future. The Board decided that current grants applications should be abated to allow staff and the Grants Committee to re-evaluate them in order to determine the best use of the Foundation’s limited resources toward contributing to assisting with the COVID-19 fallout.

Afterward, the staff re-evaluated current funding recommendations for current grants applications and the Grants Committee reconvened on April 6, 2020, to consider staff’s revised recommendations and makes its updated funding recommendations. Thereafter, the Grants Committee’s recommendations were published to all directors for review and comment and the Executive Committee then met on April 9 for final action on such recommendations.  As a result, the Executive Committee approved:

  • Three (instead of 4) Administration of Justice Grants for 2020-21 totaling $782,328;
  • Eleven (instead of 16) Children’s Legal Services Grants for 2020-21 totaling $1,113,075;
  • Three (instead of 5) Pro Bono Transformation Grants totaling $268,500;
  • Five (instead of 6) Pro Bono Innovation Grants totaling $119,000;
  • Twelve modified Summer Fellowships totaling $99,275.

This painful, but necessary process, along with other internal budget adjustments, results in the freeing up of $879,366 which will be used by the Foundation to fund and address increased legal needs directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Foundation Operating Expenses 6.2% under budget as of the end of the seventh month of its fiscal year.

Committee Chair Steve Senn reported that the Foundation’s Operating Expenses were 43.8% of its FY 2019-20 budget through the end of January. He reported that there will be more than $231,000 unspent dollars in the budget and most likely more due to many cancellations resulting from COVID-19. The Board approved a Budget and Finance Committee recommendation to reallocate some of this unused budget to other budget line-items.

  •  Board approves three CED grants carryover requests and tables one for more information, and Executive Committee thereafter approves fourth carryover request.

The Board considered and approved three carry over requests made by Three Rivers Legal Services, Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, and Bay Area Legal Services. These programs requested permission to carry over unspent funds awarded to them in 2019 for their respective CED grants toward their 2020 CED grant contract (involving a continuation of their 2019 CED grants projects).

The Board tabled the carry-over request made by Florida Rural Legal Services pending receipt of more information. Subsequently, staff received the updated information from FRLS and the Board’s Executive Committee on April 9, upon staff and the Grants Committee recommendation, approved the carry over request allowing FRLS to apply the 2019 unspent CED funds in order to conclude such 2019 project.

  • 2019 Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP) Loan Forgiveness.

The Foundation’s Loan Repayment Assistance Program is designed to strengthen and expand legal assistance for the poor by supporting the recruitment and retention of the most qualified civil legal aid staff attorneys employed by the Foundation’s grantees. Consistent with long-standing policy, staff exhaustively reviewed for compliance and accuracy the 224 LRAP loans approved by the Board in 2019. Pursuant to the Foundation’s current policies, each loan payment is monitored and subject to possible forgiveness if a loan recipient remains employed full-time as a civil legal aid provider and shows proof that the proceeds of the FBF LRAP loan have been timely applied toward the payoff of her or his student loan(s).  Based on staff’s review and recommendation as well as the Grants committee’s recommendation, the Board approved forgiveness of 178 loans totaling $883,438.51.  It also directed staff to seek repayment of $99,624.04 on 22 loans and approved rescission of $115,061.19 representing the amount of loan proceeds not distributed initially because the loan applicant either withdrew his or her request or left civil legal aid.  Four loans totaling $20,000 were held over for special circumstances.

The Board has appointed an ad hoc committee, chaired by Director John Cardillo, to review LRAP loan policies and benefits, and a report from that committee is expected by August 2020.

  • Medal of Honor Committee

The Board unanimously ratified the work of the Foundation’s Medal of Honor Committee in selecting the recipients of the 2020 Medal of Honor Award for a lawyer and non-lawyer and the 2020 Jane Elizabeth Curran Distinguished Service Award.

The 2020 Florida Bar Foundation Medal of Honor for a lawyer will be presented to both the Honorable Peter T. Fay and the Honorable James Lawrence King because of their incredible work throughout the years making a profound difference in the lives of literally thousands of people. Each year, the Foundation is tasked with the difficult, but humble and honored task of selecting a recipient for its highest award and decided that both Judges King and Fay should be honored for their collective legacy and bodies of work.

The 2020 Florida Bar Foundation Medal of Honor for a non-lawyer will be presented to Dr. Mimi Graham for her dedicated efforts over the course of her career to researching and promoting trauma-informed court programs.

The 2020 Jane Elizabeth Curran Distinguished Service Award will be presented to Kathy Para for her energizing pro bono efforts throughout Florida during her entire career.

In light of the COVID-19 situation, the Foundation will not be hosting its annual dinner during the annual convention of The Florida Bar. Instead, the Foundation will host an awards ceremony at a later time and will provide more details as soon as they become known.

  • Inaugural Goldstein-Van Nortwick Awards for Excellence selected

Previously known as the Goldstein Award for Excellence, the Goldstein-Van Nortwick Award for Excellence is a biennial award that honors the life, legacy and friendship of two champions whose commitment to those less fortunate, while remaining true to the highest principles of our judicial system, helped create the touchstone by which the Foundation measures excellence.

The award is designed to recognize and encourage high quality, significant impact work by a Foundation grantee organization.  This year’s recipients are:

Winner: Florida Legal Services – Systemic inadequacies in FDOC inpatient prison units.

1st Runner Up: Florida Health Justice Project – Due Process rights of Medicaid recipients with complex medical needs.

2nd Runner Up: Florida Justice Institute – Hepatitis-C Class Action litigation

The Board congratulates these programs for their significant and impactful work which benefits all Floridians with their results. The awards will be presented at a later time after the COVID-19 situation subsides.

  • IOTA Ad Hoc Committee formed and announced

President Sandridge announced the formation of an ad hoc committee whose charge is to explore, research, review and, as warranted, recommend to the Board for consideration and implementation reasonable means and methods to enhance and increase the Foundation’s receipt of IOTA revenues from existing or new sources.  Joseph “Jody” Hudgins will chair the committee alongside Maria Gonzalez, Carlos Halley, Kevin McCoy, Steven Salzer and Lara Tibbals.  IOTA Department Director Lushawn Phillips will serve as staff liaison to the committee.

  • Technology Committee developing Long Term Plan.

Committee Chair Murray Silverstein  reported that Foundation’s Technology Committee continues its work toward the development of a proposed plan outlining a long-range plan for the Foundation as it relates to the promotion, funding and development of technology and innovation for increased access to justice by self-represented individuals, civil legal aid providers, and Florida lawyers.  The draft plan is expected to be available for review in time for the Board’s next meeting in June 2020.

  • COVID-19

During his report, Executive Director Donny MacKenzie reported that recent, drastic cuts in the federal interest rates as a result of COVID-19 present a considerable economic and existential challenge to the Foundation; especially in FY 21-22 if interest rates do not come back or other sources of funding are not located.  MacKenzie reported that the Foundation’s top priority at this time is to assist its grantees and its constituents with the COVID-19 situation. It has surveyed its partners and fellow stakeholders for ways in which to cope and manage through the immediate crisis and continues to stay in close contact.  The Foundation continues to monitor state and federal resources and is uploading all available information and best practices to its grantees for their consideration.  Regarding funding shortages, the Foundation is exploring other funding and fundraising mechanisms and attempting to stay in close contact with its banking partners, especially its Banking Community Champions in an effort to maintain IOLTA revenues as much as possible.

NEXT MEETING.   The Board’s next meeting will be on June 18, 2020, either remotely or in person in Orlando, Florida.