Two Florida lawmakers are hoping to get more pro-bono attorneys to help kids with special needs for the 2018 legislative session.
Pro Bono Matters Act of 2018
Rep. Frank White (R-Pensacola) and Sen. Aaron Bean (R-Fernandina Beach) filed the “Pro Bono Matters Act of 2018.” The goal is to encourage more attorneys to take pro-bono cases involving special needs children who have been abused, abandoned and neglected. Florida Guardian ad Litem Executive Director Alan Abramowitz says it builds on a 2014 law.
“And, in the law, they said, ‘before they appoint an attorney on the registry, that the Guardian ad Litem program has 15 days to find a pro bono attorney,’ an attorney that could do it without cost, and that’s been an important law because there’s a lot of attorneys out there who really care about children and be involved and want to make a difference in these children’s lives,” he said.
Currently, the state pays for the pro bono attorneys’ time, but not the advocacy costs. So, under the 2018 bill, the Justice Administrative Commission would provide those due process funds. It’s expected to save the state at least $1,000 per case.
“FloridaProBonoMatters.org” is now up and running. Sorted into different categories, the new website aims to match Floridians in need with attorneys who may take their cases for free. It’s a partnership between the Florida Bar Foundation and the Florida Guardian ad Litem program, says ad litem Executive Director Alan Abramowitz. He cited a 17-year-old who recently got helped by the website.
“Her dad was imprisoned, couldn’t get to her, and her mother had been long gone,” he added. “She was 17, living with her grandmother. Her grandmother didn’t have the papers for guardianship, but she needed to be emancipated because she was getting ready to go to college, she needed the contract, grants, things like that to go to school. And, it was not that difficult for her to find an attorney.”
Abramowitz says the FloridaProBonoMatters.org website will also help with his ongoing effort to link pro bono attorneys with special needs children who have been abandoned, abused, and neglected.
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