The Florida Bar Foundation Board of Directors met via Zoom conference on March 18, 2022. The major actions of the board and reports received included:
Election of Foundation Board of Directors
Retired Justice Peggy Quince and Retired Judge Hugh Carithers were elected to serve a second, three-year term on the board after being nominated by the Nominating Committee.
The Nominating Committee also announced that The Florida Bar had selected Min Cho to serve a second three-year term on the board and had selected Robert Craig Waters to serve a three-year term on the board beginning July 1, 2022. Lastly, President Bookman reported that the Foundation is awaiting word from the Supreme Court on its selection of the two seats vacated by Greg Coleman and Roberto Pardo. President Bookman thanked Mr. Coleman for his distinguished service to Foundation board for the maximum six-year period under the Bylaws.
Report of the Medal of Honor Awards Committee
The Board ratified the selection of John C. Patterson Jr. as the Foundation’s 2022 recipient of its Medal of Honor Award. The committee did not recommend a non-lawyer recipient because none were nominated this year.
The Board also ratified the selection of Richard C. “Dick” Woltmann, President/CEO, Bay Area Legal Services, Inc., as this year’s recipient of the Jane Elizabeth Curran Distinguished Service Award.
The Board previously decided that the Foundation’s annual awards dinner would be cancelled due to uncertainty regarding the COVID-19 pandemic along with scheduling and cost considerations. It is, however, planning on hosting an awards ceremony breakfast in conjunction with The Florida Bar annual convention. More details will follow regarding the event as they become available.
Administration of Justice Grants Awarded
The Improvements to the Administration of Justice (AOJ) grant program is designed to assist in the improvement in the administration of justice in areas within the broader framework of the justice system, with emphasis on the process of operating the courts in an effective and expeditious manner. It has historically been used to fund programs that are not otherwise or regularly funded in the Foundation’s other grant programs. The Board previously allocated and approved $800,000 for funding AOJ projects this year. The Foundation received 8 applications requesting $991,042 in total.
Directors Ashley Sybesma, Hon. Suzanne Van Wyk and Murray Silverstein, along with staff, independently reviewed and scored the applications and thereafter conferenced to review the results and made recommendations for funding. The scoring committee recommended, and the board approved, four awards totaling $780,000 with the return of $20,000 back to the Foundation’s grant allocation. The four projects receiving AOJ awards this year are:
- Florida’s Children First – $250,000 for Improving Justice for Children: Attorneys Clients Partnering for Systemic Change
- Innocence Project of Florida – $300,000 for the 2022 Vindicate the Wrongfully Convicted Project
- Legal Aid Society of the Orange County Bar Association – $130,000 for Accesso for All
- Dade Legal Aid – $100,000 for the 2022 AOJ Innovative and Transformative Pro Bono Project
Report on Loan Repayment Assistance Program
Consistent with previous practice and in accordance with the terms of the program and individual loan agreements between the Foundation and eligible participants, the Board took up the matter of its 2021 LRAP loans. In 2021, the Board approved LRAP loans to 259 qualified attorneys. Upon fulfilment of the terms and conditions of their promissory notes, participants are eligible for consideration for forgiveness of those loans.
The Board adopted and approved the Grants Committee’s recommendation (based on staff’s detailed report) which provides for:
- Forgiveness of LRAP loans to 220 participants totaling $1,017,937.84 (two of these requests totaling $7,500 were conditionally approved pending further review by staff and referral to the Executive Committee in April).
- Rescission of $217,204.27 in unused LRAP awards by 56 participants that fully or partially declined their LRAP loans or defaulted prior to second disbursement; and
- Acceptance of repayment from 21 participants that defaulted on their 2021 LRAP loans totaling $58,333.34.
- The Board also approved the Grants Committee recommendation for 2022 LRAP loans to 205 returning and/or new applicants totaling $1,024,662.82. (One request for funding in the amount of $5,000 was conditionally approved pending further review by staff and referral to the Executive Committee in April).
Goldstein-Van Nortwick Award
The Goldstein-Van Nortwick Award for Excellence (GVN Award) is an award recognizing high quality, significant impact work by a Foundation grantee organization. This award 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 we measure excellence.
The Foundation received eleven applications which were independently reviewed and scored by the 2022 Goldstein Van-Nortwick Award Selection Committee members appointed by Foundation President Connie Bookman. Committee members included former Foundation President and wife of Judge Van Nortwick, Maria Henderson, who served as Chair of the Committee, and Foundation Directors Brian Currie, Sarita Courtney-Baigorri, Maria Gonzalez and Steve Senn.
After independent review, the Committee members met to discuss the applications, review and analyze the scores, and selected:
- Winner: Community Law Program and Bay Area Legal Services for the Pinellas Eviction Diversion Program
- First Runner-up: Florida Health Justice Project for Enforcing Medicaid Rights of Former Foster Youth (“the Project”)
- Second Runner-up: Americans for Immigrant Justice for COVID in Immigration Detention
The board ratified the committee’s selection of award recipients who will be recognized at the Foundation’s annual awards ceremony in June.
Alan B. Bookman Service in Leadership Award
The Board approved the Development Committee’s recommendation to approve the acceptance of a gift agreement establishing the Alan B. Bookman Memorial Fund. Alan B. Bookman Service in Leadership, Inc. (Bookman Leadership, Inc.) created the Fund with the intention of raising at least $50,000 to provide grants to not-for-profit organizations located in Florida, as designated by a member of The Florida Bar who is honored by Bookman Leadership, Inc. with the Alan B. Bookman Service in Leadership Award. The Fund will be housed in The Florida Bar Foundation Endowment, which previously approved and agreed to accept designated funds for such purposes. A copy of the agreement is available upon request.
The Foundation is honored to be able to participate in this effort to honor the legacy and memory of Alan Bookman, a former president of The Florida Bar who unfortunately passed rather unexpectedly in December 2021.
Report of the Audit RFP Ad Hoc Committee
Chair Suzanne Van Wyk reported that the Committee’s work continues and is on schedule. The Audit RFP Ad Hoc Committee was charged with overseeing the planned, periodic review of the Foundation’s current auditor and possible replacement. The Committee accomplishes its task by inviting numerous auditing firms, including its current auditor, to submit proposals for providing auditing and review services for the Foundation. Twenty-one firms were invited to apply and each was given an opportunity to provide written questions. Five firms ultimately declined and five did not respond. The Foundation recently received questions from the remaining firms which it answered in detail. Written proposals, due March 25, will be reviewed by staff and the Committee. The Committee is expected to recommend acceptance of one firm in time for the Board’s June meeting.
Report of the Overall Review Ad Hoc Committee
President Connie Bookman reported on the work of the committee, which was created to study, review and make recommendations to the Board regarding the Foundation’s brand, name, mission, mission statement and messaging. The group initially studied its charge and then set out to articulate the Foundation’s current challenges and its aspirations for meeting those challenges. Ms. Bookman further reported the committee agreed that it was created to study whether there needs to be a change in certain things to get to the ultimate objective of raising awareness and understanding and gaining more acceptance and resulting funding from sources other than IOTA and lawyers. Specifically, whether the Foundation should change its mission, mission statement, name, messaging, or brand in whole or part.
The committee also revisited the timelines established for its work. Namely, it is expected that the committee will provide a preliminary recommendation to the Board by
the June 2022 meeting. Thereafter, the committee is expected to provide at the December 2022 meeting a first draft for approval in concept of any recommendations approved at the June 2022 meeting. To expedite the process, the committee unanimously agreed:
- The Foundation’s mission does not need to and should not be changed;
- The Foundation’s mission statement should be changed and clarified;
- The Foundation should adopt and use a fictitious name that better reflects its mission and purpose;
- The Foundation should endeavor to change and refine its messaging; and
- The Foundation should create, develop or refine its brand to reflect the changes above.
At her request, retired Justice Peggy Quince was added to the committee which will continue with its work and report back at the Board’s next meeting.
The Board’s next scheduled meeting will be on June 23, 2022, in Orlando, Florida.