Laurel Myerson Isicoff
United States Bankruptcy Court
Letter from Chief Bankruptcy Judge, Laurel M. Isicoff
Dear Fellow Members of the Florida Bar,
Those of you who know me know how passionate I am about pro bono. We have an access to justice crisis in Florida and the bankruptcy court of the Southern District of Florida ranks as having one of the highest percentages of pro se filers in the country. We need your help.
As you know, we have wonderful pro bono coordinators throughout the Southern District of Florida. You can learn more about these different programs through this link https://flsb-admin.jdc.ao.dcn/pro-bono-corner. These wonderful programs are always looking for volunteers, and with so many bankruptcy related matters, including 341 meetings, being conducted virtually, it is easier than ever to volunteer.
You can also find cases by going to the Florida Pro Bono Matters website https://thefloridabarfoundation.org/florida-pro-bono-matters/. This interactive website makes it possible for you to find that perfect opportunity whenever you go looking for it. Need help? This website also includes resources and mentors (as well as providing you with the opportunity to mentor someone else).
Finally, there are always opportunities to help at the Pro Se Clinics (currently suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic), the Pro Se Help Desk (which is about to start up again – virtually)(contact Peter Kelly), and mentoring law students through the Bankruptcy Pro Bono Clinics at University of Miami (contact Patricia Redmond), St. Thomas University (contact Magda Abdo-Gomez) and Nova University (contact Ross Hartog).
Those of you who are active in pro bono matters in the bankruptcy courts know that we have set up referral systems in our courts. Many of you also probably know the bankruptcy court allows up to three credits of our local admission requirements to be satisfied by taking a pro bono case or mentoring someone else who wishes to take a pro bono bankruptcy case. So please sign up for a pro bono case today.
I continue to be grateful for all that you do support pro bono efforts in the Southern District of Florida. Together we will make something good happen! Thank you again.
Very truly yours,
Laurel Myerson Isicoff
Chief Judge, United States Bankruptcy Court
Meet your Pro Bono Committee
The judges of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Florida have formed a standing Bankruptcy Pro Bono Committee (the “PBC”) [See Administrative Order: 2021-03]:
(a) Facilitate and better coordinate bankruptcy pro bono efforts in each division of, and county located in the Southern District of Florida (the “District”);
(b) Encourage the improvement of existing programs and the development of new programs by pro bono providers in the District;
(c) Develop and implement Pro Bono Week activities for the Court; and
(d) To assist the Court in its selection of a recipient of the annual Chief Judge’s Pro Bono Award.
Ways to Provide Pro Bono Services
There are many ways to serve your community by providing pro bono services. Pro Bono isn’t just limited to taking a case. Here is a list of different pro bono opportunities:
- Take a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 Case
- Mentor a student clinic team (usually a chapter 7 case or adversary proceeding) at one of our three participating law schools in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties
- Mentor a non-bankruptcy lawyer who is doing a bankruptcy case pro bono
- Represent a creditor in an adversary proceeding (many times a discharge action involves domestic support obligations)
- Represent a debtor in an adversary proceeding (usually a discharge action or objection to exemptions)
- Represent a debtor at a 2004 examination
- Represent a creditor at a 2004 examination
- Represent a debtor for an MMM mediation
- Staff a pro se clinic (usually 2 hours)
- Help with intake at a legal services provider
- Take a Low Bono (reduced fee case)
As you can see, you can volunteer for a couple of hours, a couple of weeks or a couple of years. Additionally, you can receive up to three credits toward your bankruptcy CLE requirements necessary for admission to appear before the Bankruptcy Court.
Please contact Judge Isicoff if you want to sign up and she will pass your name along to the appropriate contact person.
Pro Bono Opportunities for Lawyers
Want to volunteer? Contact one of the following organizations for more information. While many legal aid offices only help people with very low income (poverty guidelines), some offices have more flexible income rules. Please do your part and help those who need it the most!
|Bankruptcy Bar Association of the Southern District of Florida||There are several ways to become involved. Accept a pro bono Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 matter in Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Indian River, Saint Lucie, Okeechobee, or Martin Counties. Staff one of our monthly pro se clinics.|
|Put Something Back||Dade Legal Aid provides services to eligible clients through the Put Something Back volunteer attorney project. To enroll or for more information on how to volunteer, accept a case, receive pro bono credit or donate, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or check out the Bankruptcy Project.|
|Florida Pro Bono Matters||The Florida Bar Foundation supports statewide pro bono projects through Florida Pro Bono Matters, an online resource that helps you search and filter through available pro bono matters. Various resources are offered to volunteer attorneys as well as search capabilities for pro bono opportunities. For more information, please contact Claud B. Nelson III [Pro Bono Program Officer] at firstname.lastname@example.org or Kimberly Rodgers, President of the FPBCA at email@example.com.|
|Free Legal Answers||A program of the American Bar Association allowing volunteer lawyers to answer simple legal questions in discrete civil legal areas.|
|Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach, Inc.||Attorneys in Palm Beach County have a long-standing history of serving the poor and disadvantaged through volunteer service. Over the years, the Pro Bono Program has grown and refers 1,000 clients to volunteer attorneys for assistance.|
|Florida Rural Legal Services, Inc.||FRLS encourages private attorneys to sign up with our Pro Bono Coordinators in the Ft. Myers (239-334-4554 ext 4134), Ft. Pierce (772-466-4766 ext. 7016) or Lakeland office(863-688-7376 ext. 3018). Free CLE webinars are available for attorneys who assist us with cases and out-of-pocket costs are paid by FRLS.|
|Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc.||Use the links provided to volunteer or look for local Pro Bono Opportunities. For more information on Legal Services Pro Bono Project click here.|
|Florida Law Help||This organization provides a Pro Bono/Legal Aid Directory in Florida.|
|Legal Aid Service of Broward County, Inc.||The pro bono project, Broward Lawyers Care, is the recognized program in Broward County, Florida through the partnership of Legal Aid Service of Broward County and Coast to Coast Legal Aid of South Florida. It also serves as a resource center and mentor program through free CLE seminars, trainings, and clinics.|
|Coast to Coast Legal Aid of South Florida, Inc.||This organization provides legal advice and representation for Broward County residents 60+ where filing will save the home under the Senior Citizen Law Project. For more information call 954-765-8955. Additionally, in partnership with Legal Aid Service of Broward County, the Broward Lawyers Care pro bono project is also available (see above). For more information call (954) 736-2400.|
Our collective efforts to provide access to justice in Florida are falling short. Imagine if everyone had access to legal help. The U.S. Conference of Chief Justices, the Conference of State Court Administrators and the Florida commission on Access to Civil Justice have made that their goal. Solutions are at hand. The time to lead is now.