FORT LAUDERDALE, FL (February 16, 2015) – Recognizing a lifetime of extraordinary commitment to equal justice, the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) presented Russell E. Carlisle, Esq., with a Pro Bono Service Award on January 23, 2015, at a ceremony held at the University of Miami School of Law. Carlisle was nominated for the award by Coast to Coast Legal Aid of South Florida (CCLA) in recognition of his dedication to assisting their clients and the thousands of pro bono hours he has contributed to the agency over the years.
Carlisle has been a local and national champion of legal aid organizations for more than 50 years, and has led the legal community by implementing multiple initiatives and programs dedicated to the quest for Equal Justice for All. His advocacy for the underserved population of Broward County has helped thousands gain access to the courts. He has given hundreds of thousands of hours to those in need by either direct contact or by dedicating his time to pave the way for pro bono representation by his colleagues.
“Russell Carlisle is a pioneer in the frontier of pro bono services to the poor. He has devoted countless hours to representing the underserved population and laying the monetary foundation to ensure that access to the courts is not denied to the poor,” stated Barbara J. Prager, Esq., Executive Director of CCLA. “His work epitomizes the essence of the LSC Pro Bono Service Award.”
Carlisle argued the first petition for Interest on Trusts Accounts (IOTA) before the Florida Supreme Court and led the national effort to establish the program in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands. The IOTA program is now the second largest source of funding for civil legal services for the poor in the United States. Mr. Carlisle is a former president of the Florida Bar Foundation, the Broward County Bar Association and Legal Aid Service of Broward County, Inc.
He began his distinguished career in law with the firm of Dale, Scott and Stevens in Fort Lauderdale and in 1969 he was elected to represent the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit on the Board of Governors of The Florida Bar where he served until 1974. While serving on the Board of Governors he found his passion when he recognized that the poor did not have access to the courts. This began his long and illustrious career as an advocate for the poor.
In 1974, Russ became the founding President and Board Member of Legal Aid Service of Broward County, Inc. Recognizing that funding was a major priority to meet his goal of Justice for All, he
appeared before the Broward County Commission to successfully negotiate a $10.00 filing fee add-on in civil cases filed in Circuit Court, with a stipulation LAS would not sue the county. This restriction was removed after the program had operated successfully for two years. In 1975 he was invited to serve on the Board of Directors of Florida Legal Services (FLS), the statewide organization of local legal aid groups. In 1978, as a Director of FLS, he filed the first petition before the Florida Supreme Court to establish an Interest on Trust Accounts (IOTA) program by Supreme Court Rule. This rule would pave the way to provide funding for civil legal services to the poor.
Russ served as President of the Florida Bar Foundation in 1980 and 1981 and led the effort to establish the Interest on Trust Accounts Program by obtaining regulatory approvals and arguing the second IOLTA Petition before the Florida Supreme Court in 1981. The Court’s 1981 opinion resulted in sufficient modifications in the original plan to satisfy the Internal Revenue Service which issued its favorable tax ruling six weeks after the Florida Supreme Court opinion. Lawyers and law firms immediately established accounts under the program and the first interest was collected by The Florida Bar Foundation from the program in September of 1981.
Other Legal Aid Services across the United States recognized the potential of the program and The Florida Justice Institute, and its Executive Director, Randall Berg, organized the first National Conference on IOLTA to extend the IOLTA program to other jurisdictions. In the spring of 1983, the National IOLTA Clearinghouse was established and obtained funding from the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) and the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations. By 1986 IOLTA programs had been established in 42 jurisdictions through the efforts of the Clearinghouse, its staff and a host of volunteers including Russell E. Carlisle, who personally visited and advocated in the states of New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, Maine, New Jersey, Indiana, Oklahoma and Nevada. Due to these efforts, currently all fifty states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands have IOLTA programs with the bulk of the money allocated to provide free civil legal services to the poor.
Throughout his career, Russell Carlisle has had a continued interest in the legal problems of the elderly. He has served as Chair of the Florida Bar Commission on Legal Problems of the Elderly; been active in the Elder Law Section of the Florida and New Hampshire Bars; served on the Florida Guardianship Oversight Board as a director and Vice Chair. He was founding president of the Academy of Florida Elder Law Attorneys, a chapter of The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and has been a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys since 1991. He has served as Chairman of the Chapters committee and a member of the Ethics and Professionalism Task Force, Symposium Steering Committee, and Public Policy Committee.
“Legal services to the poor are in a financial crisis due to lack of revenue from the interest on trust accounts (IOTA) program, resulting in less funding available for use by The Florida Bar Foundation to make grants to local legal service providers. Notwithstanding the many awards and recognition given to pro bono advocates, it is more important today than ever that each lawyer take a case or make a financial contribution to local organizations that provide legal assistance such as Coast to Coast Legal Aid of South Florida,” says Russ Carlisle, as he continues to advocate for equal justice for all.
Other recipients selected by LSC’s Board of Directors to receive their Pro Bono Service Award in the state of Florida included:
Wendy S. Loquasto, managing partner of the Tallahassee office of Fox & Loquasto, P.A. who has donated more than 1,200 hours pro bono services on family law and domestic violence cases for Legal Services of North Florida, Inc.
Frank E. Maloney, Jr., a Baker County attorney who has been volunteering with Three Rivers Legal Services, Inc. for more than 10 years. He has donated nearly 500 hours to helping low-income citizens with family law cases.
Ashley B. Moody, a Thirteenth Judicial Circuit Court Judge in Hillsborough County who has donated more than 1,000 hours of time to Bay Area Legal Services, Inc. She is a member of the Florida Supreme Court Standing Committee on Pro Bono Services.
Timothy Moran, a Central Florida attorney and certified housing counselor who has been a volunteer attorney with Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida since 2009. He plays a critical role offering pro bono assistance to low-income clients facing foreclosure.
David E. Steckler, a Florida Gulf Coast University professor who collaborates with Florida Rural Legal Services and the Abuse Counseling and Treatment Shelter to run the Domestic Violence Pro Bono Project. He hosts a weekly clinic for low-income domestic violence victims.
The Miami office of Holland & Knight, a law firm committed to providing pro bono service through a partnership with Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc (LSGMI). Holland & Knight attorneys are at the forefront of many LSGMI pro bono initiatives, including offering representation on complex housing and disability cases. The firm’s attorneys have donated more than 5,000 pro bono hours to legal aid organizations throughout South Florida.
Legal Services Corporation (LSC) was established by the Congress in 1974 to provide equal access to justice and to ensure the delivery of high-quality civil legal assistance to low-income Americans. The Corporation currently provides funding to 134 independent non-profit legal aid programs in every state, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories.
COAST TO COAST LEGAL AID OF SOUTH FLORIDA (CCLA) is a not-for-profit law firm established in 2003 and funded, in part, by the Legal Services Corporation. CCLA’s mission is to improve the lives of low income persons in Broward County through advocacy, education, representation and empowerment.
CCLA is a 501(c)(3) corporation registered with the Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services #CH19226. All donations are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law. A COPY OF THE OFFICIAL REGISTRATION AND FINANCIAL INFORMATION MAY BE OBTAINED FROM THE DIVISION OF CONSUMER SERVICES BY CALLING TOLL-FREE 1-800-435-7352 WITHIN THE STATE OR VISITING WWW.FRESHFROMFLORIDA.COM/DIVISIONS-OFFICES/CONSUMER -SERVICES. REGISTRATION DOES NOT IMPLY ENDORSEMENT, APPROVAL OR RECOMMENDATION BY THE STATE.