For many reasons, 2016 is likely to stand out in our collective memory for years to come, but one thing I hope every Florida resident, including lawyers and judges, will long remember is that 2016 was the year Florida joined the long list of states with a permanent access to justice commission.
On Oct. 10, Florida Chief Justice Jorge Labarga, with unanimous support of the other justices, issued an administrative order re-establishing the Florida Commission on Access to Civil Justice and making it a standing committee of the Court.
From the Commission’s inception in 2014 as an interim commission to study access to justice issues, The Florida Bar Foundation has been a co-equal partner with the Florida Supreme Court and The Florida Bar in its work. Many of the Commission’s accomplishments, including most notably the progress made on the Florida Legal Access Gateway (described on the next page) were profoundly dependent on the Foundation’s contributions. Our Deputy Director Melissa Moss worked behind the scenes to help envision the Gateway project, and our Immediate Past President Donny MacKenzie helped implement the vision. Our funding of the Florida Justice Technology Center, the lead agency implementing the Clay County Gateway pilot, has enabled the Gateway project to get off the ground and into cyberspace as testimony begins on the feasibility of bringing court clerks and legal aid programs and referral services onto a shared platform.
Someday not long from now, every Floridian looking for information on how and where to access affordable civil legal help, court forms and other legal resources will have a centralized online starting point, thanks in no small part to The Florida Bar Foundation.
Additionally this November, we have deployed a new staff member to South Florida to begin working to expand pro bono collaborations and develop innovative models for engaging volunteer lawyers in helping bridge the justice gap (see page 6). Florida Bar President Bill Schifino has set a statewide goal of 2 million pro bono hours this year, and The Florida Bar Foundation fully expects that our Pro Bono Partnerships Program and our new South Florida Program Officer will be instrumental in achieving that goal.
As the year comes to a close, I’d like to thank all of you who have contributed your time and treasure to The Florida Bar Foundation this year and remind you to think of the Foundation as you plan any year-end charitable donations. Finally, I’d like to wish all of you a joyful holiday season and a peaceful and prosperous 2017.