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1 OUR MISSION: To provide high quality civil legal advice, representation and education to the disadvantaged of Palm Beach County so as to protect their personal safety, enhance their opportunities and living conditions, and promote self-sufficiency BOARD OF DIRECTORS OFFICERS Mariano Garcia, Esq. President Jeffrey Devore, Esq. Vice President Miriam Acosta-Castriz, Esq. Secretary Jerald S. Beer, Esq. Treasurer Gary Woodfield, Esq. Immediate Past President TRUSTEES David P. Ackerman, Esq. Claire Arnold F. Gregory Barnhart, Esq. Bill Bone, Esq. Patrick J. Casey, Esq. Howard K. Coates, Jr., Esq. Melinda Penney Gamot, Esq. David Gaspari, Esq. Garry Glickman, Esq. Carey Haughwout, Esq. Thomas Kingade, Esq. Jane Kreusler-Walsh, Esq. Richard Lubin, Esq. Rafael Roca, Esq. Michael Salnick, Esq. DIRECTORS Leslie Artsis Adams Jerald Beer, Esq. Richard M. Benrubi, Esq. Robin Bresky, Esq. Patience Burns Miriam Acosta-Castriz, Esq. Jeffrey Devore, Esq. Robert H. Friedman, Esq. Joseph G. Galardi, Esq. Mariano Garcia, Esq. Richard D. Greenfield Rosemarie Guerini, Esq. John M. Howe, Esq. Phillip H. Hutchinson, Esq. Denise Rappaport Isaacs, Esq. Hank Jackson, Esq. W. Hampton Keen, Esq. Carole T. Klein, CPA Nancy Lambrecht Scott C. Murray, Esq. James Grier Pressly III, Esq. Lawrence P. Rochefort, Esq. Robert M.W. Shalhoub, Esq. Grasford W. Smith, Esq. Michelle R. Suskauer, Esq. Matthew H. Triggs, Esq. Victoria A. Vilchez, Esq. Gary Woodfield, Esq. Gregory M. Yaffa, Esq. Gregory T. Zele, Esq. THE NEWSLETTER OF THE LEGAL AID SOCIETY OF PALM BEACH COUNTY WINTER 2011 One Smile for Haiti Gesnel Seide was born in an isolated village in the mountains of Haiti with a very rare and extreme deformity of his right arm and hand. Following his birth his father abandoned the family, leaving his mother to care for Gesnel and his six brothers and sisters in a one-room thatched hut. The children were in various stages of malnutrition and one son died. As Gesnel s mother needed to survive in a village where there were no jobs and no sources of income, she feared that the people of the village would shun Gesnel and perhaps the entire family because of her son s deformity. Many children in Haiti with deformities are socially ridiculed, ostracized and are often forced to beg for survival. Meanwhile, Gesnel s grandparents, feeling desperate brought him to an orphanage in Port au Prince run by World Harvest Mission under the direction of Miriam Frederick, a trained intensive-care nurse who has served missions in Haiti for more than 30 years. Ms. Frederick immediately took in Gesnel, age 6 and sought medical help to correct his debilitating deformity. All the doctors consulted in Haiti recommended an amputation. As Ms. Frederick would not accept that she began her long drive to secure Gesnel the medical care he needed to survive as well as obtain legal status in the United States. This drive for help and assistance brought Ms. Frederick, a resident of Lake Worth, to the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County. At first, Ms. Frederick secured a passport and visa for Gesnel for one year, during which time she sought medical opinions across the country. Without treatment, it was Attorneys Melissa Duncan and Shane O Meara with Gesnel determined that his condition would likely kill him. Eventually, Dr. Paul Dell and Shands Hospital in Gainesville, FL. took on Gesnel s complicated medical care on a pro bono basis. Gesnel required a series of six to eight intricate surgeries over at least a five year period. Each surgery would be risky, requiring surgical pins, splints, casts and sixmonth recovery periods during which time he would be vulnerable to life-threatening infections. Shands doctors felt physicians in Haiti would not be able to treat Gesnel and ultimately the surgeries would fail. His doctors recommended that he not return to Haiti until all of his surgeries were completed. Ms. Frederick sought and secured legal guardianship from the court and a three-year visitor s visa. Regretfully the visa had conditions, including his return to Haiti every six months. Gesnel s first surgery was January He recovered and in July 2009 Ms. Frederick took him back for his 6-month visit, timed with one of her of missions. Inadvertently, a serious mistake took place as she mistimed the visit. Gesnel had overstayed 10 days in the United States. The US Embassy told her to return to Miami and the matter would be resolved. When she and Gesnel landed on July 22, 2009 and voluntarily told officials the problem, they were detained and questioned for hours. Gesnel s visa was cancelled. He was given six months in the U.S. and Ms. Frederick was told to find a lawyer. Ms. Frederick came to Legal Aid Society. Adoption was not an answer as it would take two years to confer immigration benefits and in the Continued on page 4 Upcoming Events: 2011 LEGAL AID SOCIETY WINTER Feb 9 Brooks Brothers Event at Gardens Mall Feb 12 Gift Gathering Gala at the home of Christine & Michael Hanley Mar 26 Gift Gathering Gala at the home of Jane & Michael Walsh May 7 23rd Annual Pro Bono Recognition Evening and Auction

2 Letter from the President and Executive Director Dear Friends, We hope that you and your families are enjoying the beginning of a happy and healthy new year. As we enter 2011, the staff and board at Legal Aid are enthusiastically facing the many challenges that lay ahead for us and our clients as a result of the financial crisis that has gripped our country and community for the past four years. Robert A Bertisch, Esq. Executive Director Mariano Garcia, Esq. President Palm Beach County continues to have one of the highest rates of foreclosures in the state and the number of families requesting our assistance with saving their homes continues to grow. Fortunately, two new groups of volunteers have come to our assistance to help Legal Aid s Defense of Mortgage Foreclosure Project. Corporate Counsel for both Florida Power & Light and Office Depot has recruited their in-house attorneys to be trained to provide legal advice and consultation to families facing foreclosure of their primary residence. Thanks to the commitment of FP&L and Office Depot attorneys, we were able to serve an additional 250 families in Both FP&L and Office Depot have committed to continue this program into 2011 and beyond, if needed. The economic upheaval has also created an increase in the number of women and children caught in the cycle of domestic violence. In October of 2010 we were fortunate to have received a two year grant from the Department of Justice s Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) to hire an additional attorney and paralegal for our Domestic Violence Project to provide comprehensive legal assistance to victims of domestic violence, dating violence and sexual assault. In addition, the grant provided funding to AVDA (Aid to Victims of Domestic Violence) to hire an advocate to partner with our office in providing this service. Another partnership funded by the Department of Justice in December 2010 to provide culturally and linguistically specific services, including legal assistance, to survivors of abuse, was the Legal Aid and Community Assistance for Sexual and Domestic Violence Project (LA CASA). LA CASA is a collaborative project between the Legal Aid Society and the Farmworker Coordinating Council of Palm Beach County. This past year also showed a sharp increase in the number of foster children in Palm Beach County who were aging out of the dependency system and needed education, employment and legal assistance to help with their transition to independence. The Children s Services Council of Palm Beach County, being acutely aware of this issue and the large number of children waiting for transition services, provided funding for Legal Aid s Juvenile Advocacy Project to hire an additional attorney to advocate for these young people to help them receive such services. Additionally, it has been reported that over one fourth of children in foster care suffer from severe emotional or behavioral problems and struggle with developmental disabilities. When these young people age out of foster care they often have no one willing or able to care for or assist them. In order to respond to this need, Palm Beach County provided Legal Aid with funding to establish a Guardian Advocacy Project to provide a full range of guardianship and legal case management services for this vulnerable population. On behalf of the Board and Staff of the Legal Aid Society we want to thank you for your continued support and encouragement. Your dedication to our community enables the Legal Aid Society to continue its mission of providing free civil legal advice and representation to the needy in our community, who would otherwise have no voice in our judicial system. Sincerely, Robert A. Bertisch, Esquire Executive Director Mariano Garcia, Esquire President, Board of Directors 2 LEGAL AID SOCIETY WINTER 2011

3 Legal Aid Welcomes New Board Members Leslie Artsis Adams has been with Morgan Stanley Smith Barney since 1994 and is currently a Vice President, Wealth Advisor and Investment Consultant. She has been a Financial Advisor for 33 years and works with high net worth families and small businesses. With her clients, she routinely deals with complex wealth management issues such as investments, insurance and liability concerns as well as estate planning, concentrated stock positions, business succession plans, gifting to children, descendents and charitable legacies. Leslie has served on a number of local charitable boards, including the West Palm Beach Library Foundation, Wheels for Kids, and the American Lung Association of Southeast Florida. Joseph G. Galardi, Esq., a shareholder with Beasley Hauser specializes in commercial and securities litigation. Joe has handled a variety of complex commercial litigation matters, including class actions for plaintiffs and defendants in state and federal courts, as well as in various commercial and securities arbitration forums. Joe has significant experience in a broad range of disputes, including breach of contract, trade secret claims, partnership breakups, trust and estates, and defense of malpractice claims against a large international law firm. Prior to joining Beasley Hauser in 2005, Joe worked for a large, nationally-recognized South Florida law firm, and served as a judicial intern for the Honorable Kenneth L. Ryskamp, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida. Joe earned his juris doctorate with honors from George Washington University Law School and his Bachelor of Science degree from Pennsylvania State University. Richard M. Benrubi is a partner with Liggio, Benrubi P.A. A Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer since 1995, Mr. Benrubi specializes in areas of insurance, bad faith and personal injury litigation. His representation of plaintiffs spans all aspects of these areas of the law, including coverage disputes, bad faith actions, declaratory relief lawsuits and claims for insurance benefits. In addition to his expertise as a plaintiffs attorney, Mr. Benrubi has significant experience in the practice of insurance defense. Having previously served as a managing attorney of an in-house counsel office of a major insurance company, he has lectured locally, statewide and nationally on the topics of insurance bad faith, disability and homeowner's insurance and trial advocacy. Mr. Benrubi served as the President of the Palm Beach County Justice Association and as Insurance Committee Chair of the Florida Justice Association. W. Hampton Keen specializes in products liability and catastrophic injury cases. Many of the cases he handles involve automotive design and manufacturing defects, defective tires, vehicle rollovers and 15-passenger van accidents. Mr. Keen has successfully litigated against almost every international automotive and tire manufacturer. He has achieved numerous multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements for his clients. Prior to moving to West Palm Beach in 1999, Mr. Keen worked at the law firm of Hill, Ward and Henderson in Tampa, FL. Before his legal career, he worked in corporate finance and securities management where he worked on Wall Street. Mr. Keen, his wife, and three children reside in West Palm Beach. Both Mr. Keen and his wife are fifth generation Floridians. Grasford W. Smith, attorney with Richman Greer, P.A. in West Palm Beach, focuses his practice on complex commercial litigation. He has successfully represented Fortune 500 clients in state and federal proceedings in Florida, New York, and Washington D.C. on matters ranging from government enforcement actions to hostile takeover bids. Before joining Richman Greer, Mr. Smith was a General Litigation Associate in the New York and Washington D.C. offices of a Wall Street law firm and the West Palm Beach Office of an international law firm. As a law student at New York University School of Law, Mr. Smith was named a Dean s Scholar and awarded the Vanderbilt Medal for outstanding contributions to the School of Law. Mr. Smith graduated summa cum laude, second in his major, from the College of Business at Florida State University and received the College of Business Achievement Scholarship. Mr. Smith serves as the President of the F. Malcolm Cunningham, Sr. Bar Association of Palm Beach County. Mr. Smith is admitted to the bar in Florida, New York, and Washington D.C. Gregory T. Zele concentrates his practice in the areas of personal injury, wrongful death and products liability. He has handled a wide range of product liability claims against major manufacturers of sport utility vehicles, automobiles, tires, child safety seats, bicycle helmets and children's toys. Greg has successfully tried to verdict and negotiated multimillion dollar settlements on behalf of clients in cases involving wrongful death and serious injuries. He is among the elite group of personal injury attorneys who have won multi-million dollar jury verdicts. Greg earned his juris doctorate with honors from Stetson University College of Law, and his undergraduate degree in journalism from Arizona State University. The law firm of Zele Huber represents injured people and their families throughout the State of Florida. LEGAL AID SOCIETY WINTER

4 Benny Holmes has led a hard life. In and out of jail for years, due to a drug problem, he was released in 2006 at the age of 64 after having served 9 years on a violation of probation. He returned to Palm Beach County, without prospects for a job due to his age and lack of skills, no money, no family and was sleeping on a friend s couch and spending his days on the streets. But, Mr. Holmes did have a passion in life - his abstract art, which he referred to as Ghetto Soul. Mr. Holmes would create one of a kind art projects from shattered bottles, burned matchsticks, cast off pieces of broken glass, shattered mirrors, pictures from old magazines and clothing remnants that he found on the street. As he wanted to pursue his art beyond the couch and streets, he needed a place to serve as his home and studio. He was aware that he was eligible for Social Security benefits, but he needed a valid picture identification and birth certificate in order to apply. Since 9/11, government agencies had tightened controls on the release of birth and death records; Mr. Holmes was born in Pennsylvania, but he lacked the valid picture identification and credit card required to obtain a certified copy of his birth record. It was at this point in his life when he came to the Elder Law Project at the Legal Aid Society. Paralegal Bonnie Cohen was able to successfully request his birth certificate which enabled him to apply for and receive Social Security benefits. Unfortunately, due to a limited work record, his benefits Benny Holmes Elder Law Project Helps Artist Find a Home Ghetto Soul were considerably low, only $250 per month, which made it quite difficult for Mr. Holmes to both eat and find a place to rent. Months later, when he turned 65, with Bonnie s assistance, Mr. Holmes was able to qualify for SSI benefits which increased his monthly income to $674. With that amount of income he was able to rent a small apartment in a newly renovated area of West Palm Beach. In addition, through the Elders on the Edge Fund, a collaborative project between Legal Aid and the Vicker s House, a program of the City of West Palm Beach which assists seniors in crisis, Bonnie was able to provide Mr. Holmes with $1,000 to cover his first month s rent, security and deposit and the deposit needed to establish an account with Florida Power and Light, as well as essential household items (refrigerator, toaster oven and a chair). Bonnie was also successful in retrieving $500 for Mr. Holmes from a local art dealer who had sold a piece of his art while he was serving time in prison. Now that Mr. Holmes has a home and a studio; he is able to pursue his life s passion. His art fills his small apartment and he is constantly working on new projects. In gratitude for Bonnie Cohen s help he created a beautiful piece that hangs in her office. Some day, if efforts are rewarded fairly, Mr. Holmes art will be famous and he will no longer need his SSI benefits. Contiued from page 1 meantime immigration officials insisted he return to Haiti. Gesnel s doctors feared he would contract infections which might force the need for an amputation. Legal Aid Immigration attorney Shane O Meara and Juvenile Advocacy Attorney Melissa Duncan, formed a legal strategy employing a humanitarian law for abandoned, neglected or abused children that would place Gesnel under the protection of the state juvenile court as a dependent. If granted, he could seek a green card through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Duncan and O Meara were confident Gesnel would qualify because he was in need of urgent medical care. Shands was providing all of his medical care pro bono, but, unfortunately, there was no hope of Gesnel reuniting with his family. The attorneys and Ms. Frederick hoped the court, acting in the best interests of the child, would place him with a non-relative such as Ms. Frederick. Gesnel had learned English and regarded Ms. Frederick as his mother. Once Gesnel was declared a dependent of the court, O Meara planned to use immigration law, which would allow Gesnel, as an unaccompanied minor, to apply for a green card. At 18, he could choose to apply for U.S. Citizenship. There was a hitch in the strategy to get 4 LEGAL AID SOCIETY WINTER 2011

5 Public Guardianship Project Expands Services to Youth Aging Out of Foster Care Second Season of Service Legal Aid s Public Guardianship Project, funded by Palm Beach County and the State of Florida s Department of Elder Affairs, has been providing comprehensive guardianship and legal services to indigent, incapacitated elders in our community since The Project has become expert at protecting the rights of its elderly wards and providing them with a highest possible quality of life. Therefore, supervising attorney, Rena Taylor, and senior social worker, Kathy Morakis, were truly challenged when they were requested to represent AJ, a young man aging out of the foster care system. AJ was brought to the Public Guardianship Project s attention by Melissa Duncan, a staff attorney with Legal Aid s Juvenile Advocacy Project. Melissa had been appointed by the juvenile court as AJ s attorney when he was taken away from his mother by the Department of Children and Families (DCF) after she continually neglected to care for his needs. AJ demonstrated a number of behavioral problems and most foster parents found him too difficult to handle, thus, he was passed from one foster home to another until he was eighteen. When Kathy first visited AJ in order to assess his situation, he was residing in an adult assisted living facility with much older men. Kathy discovered that AJ was being exploited at the facility and she and attorney Rena Taylor filed an emergency petition to have Legal Aid s Public Guardianship Project appointed to become AJ s guardian. Upon appointment, Kathy s Gesnel declared dependent. Ms. Frederick already had secured an order of guardianship over Gesnel prior to contacting the Legal Aid Society. Why would the court protect a child who is already protected? first move was to immediately remove AJ from his present surroundings. She used her knowledge of the system to place AJ in a small assisted living home with a caretaker she had previously worked with and whom she knew would be compassionate and understanding of his needs. Although he was still the youngest in a small group of elders, Kathy knew that he would not be abused or exploited at this facility. Kathy s next job was to deal with AJ s behavioral issues as she realized that he had some mental disabilities that would prohibit him from thriving now that he was out of foster care. When Kathy first filed for AJ to receive educational and health benefits from the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, a licensed psychiatrist found that AJ did not meet the requirements to receive benefits. However, Kathy was not deterred and after spending more time with AJ she observed what she felt were symptoms of autism. She applied for benefits again and the new psychiatrist assigned to AJ s case agreed. AJ is now receiving health benefits and attending the Gulfstream Goodwill Academy. In October, 2010 Palm Beach County s Financially Assisted Agency Program provided additional funding to Legal Aid to serve other youth aging out of the foster care system like AJ. Duncan argued that Gesnel s medical condition was a long-term problem. The guardianship, she argued, was a limited term that would end before his treatments were concluded. She argued that making him a dependent was a longer-term solution that would guarantee he stayed in the country until all of his care was completed. Fortunately Palm Beach County Juvenile Court Judge Karen Martin agreed and declared Gesnel a dependent. On April 7, 2010, Gesnel was issued a green card. Today, Ms. Frederick is homeschooling him in Lake Worth as he readies for his next surgery Beginning in the spring, Legal Aid s Pro Bono Project will be launching a new emeritus attorney pro bono program for retired, retiring and nonpracticing lawyers living in Palm Beach County, entitled The Encore Project. This program is modeled after the ABA Second Season of Service and seeks to recruit attorneys to help the Legal Aid Society carry out its mission of providing much needed civil legal services for vulnerable, low-income families, children and individuals living in our county. Significant numbers of attorneys are expected to retire or modify their practice in the coming years and the Encore Project will offer these attorneys an opportunity to practice pro bono legal services, reinvesting Palm Beach County s civil justice system with their vast legal skills and experience. In addition to direct representation, there will be many other opportunities available to emeritus attorneys such as conducting client intake interviews and screenings, both in the office and at outreach locations, providing advice and brief services on a hotline, presenting community legal education programs with Legal Aid staff and mentoring less experienced attorneys, to mention a few. The Legal Aid Society will be hosting an Open House in the early spring to provide interested attorneys with information about the Encore Project, the eligibility requirements for certification under the Florida Bar Emeritus Rule and the opportunity to meet with Pro Bono Project staff and retired attorneys who are currently providing pro bono services for clients of Legal Aid. For more information please contact Kim Rommel-Enright at or at The Encore Project LEGAL AID SOCIETY WINTER

6 Celebrating Justice Save the 2011 Dates The 10th Annual Cup of Justi Please join us for one or more of the events below for great socializing and fun while helping Legal Aid continue to serve the less fortunate families, children and individuals living in our county. WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 9 6 TO 8 PM Brooks Brothers Event an evening of cocktails, hors d oeuvres and shopping at Brooks Brothers at the Gardens Mall. Enjoy a 15% discount on purchases made through the event. SATURDAY FEBRUARY 12 8 TO 10 PM Decadent Desserts & Delicious Drinks, a Gift Gathering Gala at the home of Christine and Michael Hanley in West Palm Beach. SATURDAY MARCH 26 6 TO 8 PM Wine Tasting Fun, a Gift Gathering Gala at the home of Jane and Michael Walsh in North Palm Beach. SATURDAY MAY 7 6 TO 10:00PM Legal Aid s 23rd Annual Pro Bono Recognition Evening and Auction Mark your calendar now and plan to join us for a spectacular celebration of justice. We are pleased to announce that Dr. Kenneth and Robin Bresky together with Grier and Kristy Pressly will co-chair the event at the Palm Beach County Convention Center. Committee Members: Paul Shalhoub, Michael Spillane, Devin Krauss,Victoria Vilchez, Bob Bertisch, Joyce Conway and Chairman, Bob Shalhoub Tournament Champions: Chappell Brown, Michael Scheve, Mark Luttier, and Matthew Smith Details about sponsorship opportunities, gift gathering galas and auction gift registries (Pottery Barn, Williams-Sonoma and Crate & Barrel) are available online at For more information, please feel free to contact Harreen Bertisch, Director of Development, at or by phone at (561) To receive event invitations please contact Devin Krauss, Special Events Coordinator, at or by phone at (561) Art Menor, John Blunk, Scott Butler, Kevin Probel 6 LEGAL AID SOCIETY WINTER 2011

7 legal aid newsletterd_jan-2011.qxd 1/24/11 11:35 PM Page 8 The 8th Annual stice Golf Classic The 2010 Cup of Justice Golf Classic raised $40,000 to support Legal Aid s Children s Advocacy Project which works to ensure equal access to public education for disabled children in Palm Beach County.Attorney Robert Shalhoub chaired the October 11th tournament at Bear Lakes Country Club. The Presenting Sponsor of the event was Sabadell United Bank. The Cup of Justice Award was awarded to the accounting firm of Moore, Ellrich & Neal, P.A. Holiday Bookfest & Shopping Spree Patricia Christiansen and Jessica Callow Patti Leonard, Michelle Suskauer & Kristy Pressly The 8th Annual Holiday Bookfest at Barnes & Noble CityPlace was sponsored by FAWL, Palm Beach County Chapter, with Lesser, Lesser, Landy & Smith, PLLC, F. Malcolm Cunningham Sr. Bar Association, Palm Beach County Hispanic Bar Association and Jones, Foster, Johnston & Stubbs, P.A. Kristy & Grier Pressly Sam Bereson, Peter Broberg, David Scaff and Keith Austin Dana Pickard, Gary Woodfield and Antoinette Theodassakas Chris Larmoyeux, Michael Walsh, Eric Hewko Judge Meenu Sasser, Michael Napoleone and Samantha Schosberg Feuer 1 LEGAL AID SOCIETY WINTER

8 legal aid newsletterd_jan-2011.qxd 1/24/11 11:35 PM Page 9 T 22 Annual nd Celebrating Justice ProBono Recognition Evening Auction & M H g R 22nd Annual Pro Bono Recognition Evening MUSICAL MAGIC on May 8, 2010, Legal Aid honored the following nine attorneys Alan Crane Bankruptcy Law Award Tammy Fields Non-Profit Award Gary Kovacs Real Property Award Terry Resk Appellate Law Award Moria Rozenson Juvenile Law Award Michael Stern Emeritus Award Allen Tomlinson Civil Litigation Award C. Debra Welch FRONT ROW: C. Debra Welch, Ellen Malasky, Victoria Vilchez,Tammy K. Fields and Christine D. Hanley. BACK ROW: Charles E. Sieving, Michael Stern, Robert Sendler, Gary W. Kovacs, Matthew Stohlman, Alan R.Tomlinson and Alan Crane Family Law Award Victoria Vilchez And Justice for All Award Christine D. Hanley & Associates, P.A. Firm Award Matthew Stohlman, CPA Special Service Award Florida Power and Light Group Corporate Counsel Award for their outstanding pro bono contribution during In addition, the Annual Suzanne Foley Serving Justice Award was given to former staff member David Begley, who was recently appointed a Social Security Administrative Law Judge. R G Rick & Karen Benrubi and Susan & Jeff Liggio Matt & Amy Triggs Anita & Jack Scarola Chairs: Scott & Jamie Murray and Robin & Ken Bresky Greg & Laura Zele, Greg Huber and Heidi & Larry Rochefort 8 LEGAL AID SOCIETY Ron & Rachel Ponzoli WINTER 2011

9 legal aid newsletterd_jan-2011.qxd 1/24/11 11:36 PM Page 10 T Celebrating Justice hree wonderful Gift Gathering Galas, hosted by Marjorie Gadarian Graham, Christine & Michael Hanley and Lisa & Rick Roselli, provided over 300 gifts for Legal Aid s 22nd Annual Pro Bono Recognition Evening and Auction. Michael & Christine Hanley Gift Gathering Gala Michael & Christine Hanley Michael & Carole Noto Michael & Jane Walsh Theresa Lemme and David & Amanda St. John Meryl & Lloyd Comiter Rick & Lisa Roselli Gift Gathering Gala Lois Burns and Tom & Patience Burns Rick & Lisa Roselli More Gala Gatherings on page 10 Ted & Rita DiSalvo and Don Londree County Court Judges Gregory & Janis Keyser Fran & Seth Marmor 1 LEGAL AID SOCIETY WINTER

10 legal aid newsletterd_jan-2011.qxd 1/24/11 11:36 PM Page 11 Marjorie Gadarian Graham Gift Gathering Gala Stuart & Marjorie Graham Scott & Meredith Devore and Jeff Devore and daughter, Ashley Jason & Heather Lazarus Jennifer & Joe Galardi From the Legal Aid Society Mariano Garcia, Harreen Bertisch, Shelley Garcia and Bob Bertisch Lighting the Way for Teen Moms A s a law student during the summer of 2008 Ashley Ortagus worked as a Fellow with Legal Aid s Juvenile Advocacy Project and came to the conclusion that teen mothers in Palm Beach County were in need of a legal project of their own. While her personal experience of being the daughter of a teen mother provided some insight, her summer internship clarified her desire to help teen mothers in Palm Beach County. Attorney Ashley Ortagus rejoined the Legal Aid Society in September, 2010 as an Equal Justice Works Fellow, sponsored by 10 LEGAL AID SOCIETY Greenberg Traurig, LLP and the Florida Bar Foundation. She was accepted for the program that she developed entitled, Legal Advocates for Minor Mothers Project (LAMMP). Ashley now serves teen mothers that are either pregnant or mothering and are in the dependency or delinquency system. She is appointed by the courts to represent these teens or they are referred to her by school guidance counselors, social services agencies or Florida s Department of Children and Families (DCF). Teen mothers under the age of 18 are faced with a challenging conundrum. On the one Thanks to all! hand, a minor who has a baby legally remains a child herself. However, as a minor mother, she is no longer a child in the sense that she can contract freely and act as an adult as it relates to her child. To further complicate matters, teen mothers in the delinquency and dependency systems have an additional layer of rights as they pertain to parenting their child. Through litigation Ashley works to holistically protect the legal rights of her clients by ensuring that their rights as both a child and a parent are not violated. Ashley represents teen mothers to ensure that they access appropriate treatment if necessary, are placed at appropriate placements WINTER 2011

11 LEGAL AID STAFF NEWS Kudos to Sara Alijewicz, Esq. Appointed General Magistrate for the 15th Judicial Circuit Abigail Beebe, Esq. Elected Co-Chair of the Adoption, Paternity/Dependency Children s Issues Committee of the Florida Bar David Begley, Esq. Appointed Administrative Law Judge for Social Security in Fort Worth, Texas Robert Bertisch, Esq. Recipient of the Statewide Friend of FAWL Award 2010 from the Florida Association for Women Lawyers Robert and Harreen Bertisch Presented at the Management Information and Exchange (MIE) Fundraising Conference William Booth, Esq. Appointed to the Florida Supreme Court s Steering Committee on Family and Children in the Court Appointed by the Secretary of the Department of Children and Families to serve on Independent Living xservices Advisory Council Elected Chair of the Juvenile Rules Committee of the Florida Bar Jill Mahler, Esq. Recently gave birth to a baby girl, Alana, with husband Josh Koehler, Esq. Judith Migdal-Mack, Esq. Elected Co-Secretary of the Adoption, Paternity/ Dependency Children s Issues Committee of the Florida Bar Tequisha Myles, Esq. Recipient of the First Annual Rosa Parks Spirit Award from Mount Hermon AME Church Recipient of the Steven M. Goldstein Award for Excellence 2010 from the Florida Bar Foundation Kimberly Rommel-Enright, Esq. Elected Co-Chair of the Ad Hoc Public Recognition Committee and the Ad Hoc Mentoring Committee of the Florida Bar Elected Chair of the Pro Bono Committee for the Palm Beach County Chapter of the Florida Association for Women Lawyers Ferris Solomon, Esq. Recently celebrated his marriage to Kristen Larsen, Esq. Michael and Libby Spillane Recently became grandparents of grandson Sheppard Michael Welcome! New & Returning Staff Members Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County, Inc. Sally Apgar Investigator/Intake & Outreach Specialist Fair Housing Project Rabin Armogan Social Worker Public Guardianship Project Paula Carvajal Paralegal Juvenile Advocacy Project Blanca Deason Social Worker Guardian Advocacy Project Tasha Evans Social Worker Foster Children s Project Victoria A. Giller Grants Development Manager Development Department Christelle Jean- Felix Paralegal/Project Assistant Immigration Advocacy Project with their child and that they receive all benefits to which they are entitled (parenting classes, education during postpartum period, extra money for clothing vouchers, etc.). Listening to the shared stories of her clients individual experien ces with Ashley Ortagus family dysfunction and delinquency, she understands the hardship of being a teenager while also trying to be a concerned and caring mother. Besides providing them with the legal support they need, LAMMP is developing a network of service providers to help clients become able to both provide for their child s needs and work Terri Kinack Intake Specialist/Screener Pro Bono Department Jo Kaur Attorney Juvenile Advocacy Project Darnesha McComb Paralegal Fair Housing Project Ashley Ortagus Wilson Equal Justice Works Fellow Juvenile Advocacy Project Laika Sanchez Paralegal Fair Housing Project Amanda Thompson Attorney Foster Children s Project Vicki Tucci Attorney Ryan White Legal Project toward self-sufficiency, thus preventing another cycle of dependency. Prior to Ashley s arrival at the Legal Aid Society there was no program offering this kind of support and service in Palm Beach County. While she began with a caseload of a few, it rapidly grew to 25 teens from ages 13 to 18. At this time Ashley has learned that there are from 400 to 600 young women in Palm Beach County who might be in need of her services. The Legal Aid Society is grateful to the law firm of Greenberg Traurig and the Florida Bar Foundation for their support of this project. STAFF DEPARTMENT CHANGES Amy Alberghini has joined the Armed Services Advocacy Project and the Medical Legal Partnership Project from the Family Law Project as a paralegal. Patty Alcantara has joined the Family Law Project from the Fair Housing Project as a paralegal. Rhona Altomari has joined the Pro Bono Department from the Domestic Violence Project as the Pro Bono Coordinator. Ramona Hupp has joined the Immigrant Advocacy Project from the Foster Children s Project as a Staff Attorney. Emma Keller has joined the Medical Legal Partnership Project from the Family Law Project as a Senior Attorney. Elaine Martens has joined the Foster Children s Project from the Armed Services Advocacy Project as a Staff Attorney. Angelia Patterson has joined the Family Law Project from the Juvenile Advocacy Project as a Staff Attorney. Sandra Powery has joined the Armed Services Advocacy Project from the Foster Children s Project as a Senior Attorney. Andrea Reid has joined the Domestic Violence Project from the Family Law Project as a Staff Attorney. LEGAL AID SOCIETY WINTER

12 Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County, Inc. 423 Fern Street, Suite 200 West Palm Beach, FL Fighting for Fairness Promoting Justice Nonprofit Org. U.S. Postage PAID West Palm Beach, FL Permit No This newsletter is published by the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County, Inc. at 423 Fern Street, Suite 200, West Palm Beach, FL TEL (561) No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without the express consent of the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County, Inc. Copyright 2009, all rights reserved. Featured Funder Sponsors Mike Fields, Florida State President, Jeff Devore, Michael Spillane, Gary Woodfield, Patience Burns, Bob Bertisch, Michelle Suskauer, Mariano Garcia and Fabiola Brumley, Palm Beach County Market President. The Legal Aid Society was fortunate to be selected as a Bank of America 2010 Neighborhood Builder award recipient. As part of this award we received a $200,000 grant over two years to continue providing high quality, free legal assistance to disadvantaged children, families and individuals living in Palm Beach County. Additionally, our Executive Director and an emerging agency leader will participate in Bank of America s Neighborhood Excellence Leadership Program commencing in February, 2011, which is a unique and innovative leadership development program led by The Center for Leadership Innovation, a long-time partner of the bank, designed to address issues including leadership succession, financial management and board development - tools and resources to enable our organization to develop further. We thank Bank of America for its generosity and its commitment to the nonprofit organizations in Palm Beach County. Thank You! 12 LEGAL AID SOCIETY WINTER 2011

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