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Spring 2021 Board Meeting Report

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Quarterly Board Report for March 12, 2021
Via virtual meeting

The Florida Bar Foundation Board of Directors met via Zoom conference on March 12, 2021, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The major actions of the board and reports received included:

Election of Foundation Board of Directors

John F. Harkness and Raymond P. Reid, Jr. were elected to serve a second term as directors beginning July 1, 2021. It was also reported that the Foundation and The Florida Bar are in the process of convening a joint selection committee to address Public Member Seats, which the joint committee will select for service beginning July 1, 2021. Lastly, applications and information will be sent to the Florida Supreme Court regarding its certification of selection of the Court’s designated seats, as well as the Chief Justice’s appointment of two judicial officers for service on the board.

Report of the Medal of Honor Committee

The Board ratified the selection of The Honorable Emiliano “E.J.” Salcines, Jr. as the Foundation’s 2021 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 Anthony J. “Tony” Karrat, Executive Director, Legal Aid Service of Broward County 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 the COVID-19 pandemic. A virtual Annual Awards Ceremony will be held instead and is currently scheduled for June 17, 2021 at Noon. Judge Salcines and Mr. Karrat, along with the Foundation’s other honorees will be recognized and applauded at that time.

Paul C. Doyle Children’s Advocacy Awards

The Paul Doyle Children’s Advocacy Award honors Paul C. Doyle, Founding Director of the Foundation’s Legal Assistance for the Poor and Law Student Assistance Grant Programs (1991 to 2013) in recognition of his commitment to high-quality legal representation of Florida’s low-income children; for encouraging grantee programs to collaborate across geographic regions in order to bring the benefit of legal advocacy to low-income children regardless of their county of residence; for his strong and consistent support of Florida Bar Foundation Legal Assistance for the Poor and Law Student Assistance grantees; and for a career dedicated to promoting high-quality legal representation of the poor. The purpose of the award is to recognize and encourage systemic legal advocacy on behalf of low-income children by the Foundation’s grantees.

A committee, chaired by former President John Patterson, selected the Cuban American Bar Association (CABA) Immigrant Children’s Program as winner. First runner-up is Florida State University’s Human Trafficking and Exploitation Law Project; second runner-up is Florida Legal Services’ Ending Juvenile Solitary Confinement in Florida project.

The committee also recommended that the award’s selection criteria be reviewed, with possible recommendations for change made in time for the next selection process (the award is a bi-annual award which alternates years with the Goldstein/Van Nortwick Award for Excellence). The board ratified the committee’s selection of award recipients and adopted the committee’s recommendation to review the award’s selection criteria. Director Roberto Pardo was designated as the chair of the selection criteria subcommittee.

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 grants programs. The Board previously allocated and approved $500,000 for funding AOJ projects this year. The Foundation received 16 applications for AOJ funding this year, requesting $1,647,185.68.

The Board selected Florida’s Children First (Improving Justice for Children: Attorneys and Clients Partnering for Systemic Change) and Innocence Project of Florida (Investigation and Litigation to Exonerate Innocent Floridians) to receive AOJ grants for 2021. Florida’s Children First was awarded $230,000 while Innocence Project of Florida was awarded $270,000.

Limited extensions for 2020 Community Economic Development (CED) grants

In light of significant decreases in available funding for CED grants ($6,443,162 in 2020 vs. $2m for 2021) the Board voted on November 6, 2020 to forgo a new application process for 2021 CED grants and instead tasked the grants committee to make recommendations for extending existing 2020 ongoing CED projects. As a result, staff embarked upon a comprehensive review of existing CED projects in order to arrive at a recommendation it deems as fair and equitable as possible under the circumstances, while striving to keep as many projects as possible intact. This was a difficult and time-consuming task. More than 100 hours of staff time was devoted to the task of arriving at a funding recommendation for CED grants extensions. Several worksheets were developed and reviewed and several alternatives for funding CED grants extensions were explored. Ultimately, the Board decided to fund ten existing projects, based on the amounts each project reported as the minimum amount required to maintain the viability of their projects. Staff’s recommendation concluded that such an approach provides the best alternative based on the merits while allowing more programs to continue their important work in an acceptable manner and at a minimum viable amount which allows them to continue. This will “stretch” the Foundation’s limited funding to more projects in more geographic areas of the state thereby serving more populations in need.

View the 10 projects to be extended here.

Action on Annual Loan Repayment Assistance Program Forgiveness Applications
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 2020 LRAP outstanding loans. The Board adopted the Grants Committee’s recommendation (based on staff’s detailed report) that of the $1,170,000 loaned to 234 qualified legal aid providers in 2020, $1,043,190.94 will be forgiven. $96,497.72 was previously rescinded and/or returned back to the Foundation (funds were either declined, withdrawn or not disbursed due to ineligibility) and $30,311.34 was not forgiven and is to be returned back to the Foundation.

Technology Assets Recommendations approved

The Florida Bar Foundation received 7 digital assets from the former Florida Justice Technology Center. Over the last twelve months, the FBF’s Board Technology Committee (“Committee”) evaluated possible plans for the future of these individual assets. The Committee evaluated ongoing expenses, maintenance time, system complexity, intellectual property, and overall value of each asset. While every asset had both benefits and obstacles, the Committee wanted to determine which assets should reasonably remain under the Foundation’s care, and which should be offered to grantees for future maintenance. The Committee recommended, and the Board approved the disposition of the following technology assets as follows:

  • Florida Advocate (a library and communication platform for legal aid attorneys): Wind down over 12 months with notice to grantees, after which it will be terminated unless assumed by an eligible grantee.
  • Florida Tenant’s Rights (website with goal of providing person-specific information to renters about their legal issues): Wind down project
  • Turning18.org (website with goal of assisting parents and guardians of developmentally delayed children transition to adulthood):  Keep for 12 months while attempting to find a recipient, then revisit.
  • FL Advocate’s Guide – Medicaid (content-based website with goal of providing information on FL Medicaid Program): Wind down over 12 months with notice to grantees, after which it will be terminated unless assumed by an eligible grantee.
  • FL Advocate’s Guide – Long Term Care (content-based website with goal of providing information on FL Medicaid’s Managed Long-Term Care Program): Wind down over 12 months with notice to grantees, after which it will be terminated unless assumed by an eligible grantee.
  • FloridaNameChange.org (website with goal of assisting people to legally change their name): FBF will hold for twelve (12) months pending the full exploration of marketing, revenue-generating, and/or sale/licensing opportunities toward the highest and best use, with a cost estimate for technological upgrades within 3 months.
  • Gateway/Florida Law Help (website with goal of helping Floridians navigate their legal issues): FBF will hold for twelve (12) months pending the full exploration of marketing, revenue-generating and/or sale/licensing opportunities toward the highest and best use, with a cost estimate for technological upgrades within 3 months.

The Technology Committee continues to work on a recommended Long-Range Technology Plan that it intends to present to the Board for consideration as soon as practicable.

Development Report

Committee Chair Raymond Reid provided the Board a report regarding various and sundry efforts and initiatives involving the Development/Pro Bono Committee. Mr. Reid’s report referenced Fundraising Campaigns Performance Reports (which are located in the Board materials and posted on the Foundation’s website. Copies will be provided upon written request), Kids Deserve Justice Specialty License Plate update, and a Restricted Gift report. Mr. Reid also reported that research, analysis and discussion continue regarding whether the Foundation will implement a Service Charge/Administrative Fee policy. The subcommittee chaired by Director Ashley Sybesma will report its findings as soon as the research and review are concluded. It is expected that such will be available for consideration and review at the Board’s meeting in June or very shortly thereafter.

Lastly, the Board was informed about the status of the Foundation’s third annual Florida Pro Bono Law School Challenge. At the time of the report, 273 matches between lawyers and law students had been made. NOTE: To date, 309 matches resulting in full representation cases have been made and 430 law students have signed up to participate in the challenge. Despite the continuation of the pandemic, this exceeds the 306 matches and 315 participating students made during the inaugural year of the program in 2019. The second year of the program produced 200 student – lawyer matches on full representation cases from 20 legal aid programs; but was hampered and shortened by the onset of the pandemic.

Next Meeting

The Board’s next scheduled meeting will be on June 11, 2021, either remotely or in person in Orlando. In the interim, the Executive Committee will consider whether an in-person meeting is possible or preferable given the fact that all Board meetings since 2020 were conducted remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.