Michael A. Bedke, a real estate partner in the DLA Piper Tampa office, received the 2019 Medal of Honor for a Lawyer for his exceptional dedication to providing pro bono service, his remarkable advocacy for AIDS patients and domestic violence survivors both locally and internationally, his invaluable support developing the No Place Like Home program and his commitment to improving the lives of veterans, disaster survivors and law students.
“Mike is one of those extremely rare individuals who has noteworthy qualifications in all three areas for which one may be nominated,” wrote Richard Woltmann, CEO/president of Bay Area Legal Services, in his nomination of Bedke. “Mike has spent his entire legal career serving the public, working to improve access to justice and advancing the science of jurisprudence.”
As a young lawyer, Bedke accepted pro bono cases representing persons with AIDS in the 1980s, a time when the general public was both fearful and uneducated about the disease. He encouraged colleagues to take similar cases and served on the board of the Tampa AIDS Network.
After Hurricane Andrew, Bedke worked to pass Good Samaritan legislation that removed an impediment to lawyers providing pro bono help to disaster survivors. He also led legal relief efforts in response to Hurricane Iniki in Hawaii, the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, and September 11. He founded the Greater Access and Assistance Project while chair of the ABA’s YLD, modeling it after the Courthouse Assistance Project he created as a member of Bay Area Legal Services’ board of directors.
“Throughout his life, Mike has recognized his duty to serve the public in a wide variety of ways,” wrote Gwynne A. Young, past president of The Florida Bar, in a letter of recommendation for Bedke. “He is constantly thinking of ways to meet the unmet legal needs in our community. He has a unique ability to identify groups in need of legal services and develop effective plans for meeting those needs.”
Bedke has worked on behalf of domestic violence survivors for more than 25 years. He was appointed to the National Advisory Committee on Violence Against Women in 2002 and has served on numerous boards working to improve access to legal help for survivors. He worked with the Women’s Caucus of the Peruvian Parliament to draft model domestic violence legislation.
At his alma mater, the University of Florida, he developed a program to recruit and retain minority law students. He has also served as an adjunct professor at Stetson College of Law.
As president of the board of Bay Area Legal Services in 2015, Bedke spearheaded a fundraising effort that created a $400,000 endowment for a veterans program. He also led the development and implementation of Bay Area’s No Place Like Home Project through his work with the Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section (RPPTL). The project engages RPPTL members to provide pro bono help to low-income homeowners experiencing title issues.