ORLANDO, Fla. — Robert C. Josefsberg, a Miami attorney known for his half century of counsel to governors, judges and clients ranging from a rock star to the poorest of the poor, received The Florida Bar Foundation’s 2013 Medal of Honor Award for a lawyer, the Florida legal profession’s highest award.
The late Chesterfield Smith, in his successful nomination of Josefsberg for the 2000 American Bar Association Senior Lawyers Division Pro Bono Award, noted his long pro bono service to individual clients and to local, state and national legal services organizations.
“Robert Josefsberg, over many years, has been a leader among all American lawyers in the legal representation on a pro bono basis of persons or organizations directed to securing and protecting the civil rights, the civil liberties and the public rights of people,” Smith wrote.
A trial lawyer and senior partner with the Miami firm of Podhurst Orseck PA, Josefsberg is well known for his defense of Doors lead singer Jim Morrison, who was posthumously acquitted of indecent exposure, but South Florida’s poor have been the beneficiaries of his countless hours of work outside the public spotlight.
When accepting pro bono cases from Dade Legal Aid’s “Put Something Back” program, Josefsberg often says, “Give me the ones no one else wants,” even if the cases are not in his areas of expertise.
“They are the right clients,” Josefsberg said, “and they make us the right lawyers. I have learned more representing people pro bono than I have representing some corporate clients, and I’ve received some more gratitude, which I love.”
He has also volunteered his services to dozens of charitable and community organizations, including the Guardian ad Litem program, the Community Partnership for the Homeless, and Spectrum Drug Rehabilitation Center. His pro bono work was also recognized with the 2010 Tobias Simon Award from the Florida Supreme Court.
Josefsberg has been published extensively and has spoken to bar groups around the world on the topic of civility. He has served the judiciary and the organized Bar in numerous capacities. He is past president and dean of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, and has served on the ABA Standing Committee on the Judiciary, as chairman of the Southern District of Florida Judicial Evaluation Committee, as a member of the Florida Federal Judicial Nominating Commission, and as an assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. He has been a member of numerous commissions and task forces in the area of criminal law and served as general counsel to Fla. Gov. Robert Graham.
Judge Bill Van Nortwick of the First District Court of Appeal said he knew of no one more deserving of the Medal of Honor.
“Bob serves as a role model for all of us. He is a true ‘lawyer’s lawyer.’ He is recognized as one of the best trial lawyers in the country and is extensively involved in his firm’s practice,” Van Nortwick said. “He is equally devoted, however, to assuring access to justice. Throughout his career, he has undertaken extensive pro bono legal services for the poor — representing many, many individuals who could not afford to hire any lawyer, much less the best, as well as handling significant law reform litigation. In addition, he has been a leader on numerous task forces and commissions which worked to improve the justice system.”
The Florida Bar Foundation Medal of Honor Award Program was established in 1977. See a list of past recipients.