Southern Legal Counsel, Inc. (SLC) is a Florida statewide not-for-profit public interest law firm that is committed to the ideal of equal justice for all and the attainment of basic human and civil rights. SLC primarily assists individuals and groups with public interest issues who otherwise would not have access to the justice system and whose cases may bring about systemic reform. SLC uses a range of strategies to achieve its goals, including litigation, policy advocacy, and training and technical assistance to lawyers, lay persons and organizations.
How We Work / What We Do
We use the power of the law to obtain positive social change, reform systems and institutions, strike down unjust laws and policies, and hold government accountable to the people. Our mission is to represent individuals with the goal of fixing the underlying problem not only for our clients but also for all other persons who have experienced similar injustices. In pursuit of justice, SLC has pioneered innovative legal strategies that have broadly impacted the people of this state.
Across SLC’s history, we have obtained precedential opinions in a variety of legal areas, including constitutional law, employment discrimination, special education, rights of homeless persons, and Sunshine laws. SLC influences the development of the law and paves the way for future civil rights plaintiffs.
History of SLC
SLC was created to fulfill a special role. While some low income people have access to legal aid or to free or pro bono lawyers, many do not. And many individuals come upon the same obstacles that they cannot fix so the resolution requires a systemic approach to end unlawful or discriminatory practices. SLC has focused on the people and issues that are in greatest need of civil legal assistance.
In 1977, Jon Mills was the director of the newly formed Center for Governmental Responsibility at the University of Florida College of Law, and was heading the school’s Executive Impoundment Project, working with Congress investigating then-President Nixon. Mills, Chesterfield Smith, then-law school Dean Joseph Julin, Michael McIntosh and Joseph Onek formed SLC as a separate entity to be able to litigate independent of the law school.
From the beginning, SLC made a positive impact on its service areas. Its efforts on behalf of the environment, for example, led to the creation of 1000 Friends of Florida, with SLC serving as its first general counsel. Grants from the Governor’s Commission on Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities (now Disability Rights Florida) allowed SLC for many years to focus on significant issues impacting individuals with disabilities.
In 1996, when Congress passed restrictions on Legal Services Corporation (LSC) programs, The Florida Bar Foundation was a national leader in developing a “companion system” and funded programs like SLC to pursue the kind of work that LSC programs no longer could, e.g., class actions and claims for attorneys’ fees. As a state leader on special education issues, SLC began receiving a grant in 1999 from the Foundation’s newly established Children’s Legal Services program. The goal was to mentor legal aid lawyers to increase the number of lawyers and improve the representation of low income children with special education needs.
A hallmark of SLC has always been our independence; we receive no governmental funding, allowing us to work on improving local, state and federal systems without fear of repercussions. While we have developed areas of expertise, SLC’s unique mission is to fill the gaps of unmet legal needs and promote the general public interest.
Jodi Siegel - Executive Director
Ms. Siegel has been an attorney with Southern Legal Counsel since 1985, and became its Executive Director in July 2004. A predominant portion of Ms. Siegel’s responsibilities at SLC is in representing individuals with disabilities in a variety of forums. She has litigated class and individual actions involving federal constitutional and statutory actions under the Federal Civil Rights Act, the Federal Rehabilitation Act, the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act. She also has presented extensively to various groups on special education and other issues.
Ms. Siegel is an Adjunct Professor for Nova Southeastern University’s Shepard Broad Law Center where she teaches a Masters Level course in Special Education Law. She has been the Director of SLC’s Education Advocacy Project since 1999, which is funded by The Florida Bar Foundation to provide state support and train, support, mentor and co-counsel legal service/aid lawyers and advocates to increase and improve special education advocacy. She is a Past Chair of the Board of Directors and Past Treasurer of the national organization The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), whose mission is to improve the quality and quantity of legal assistance for parents of children with disabilities. She coordinated the 2003 and 2004 national conferences for COPAA, and has been active on the Conference Design team since then. She is a Past Chair of The Florida Bar Public Interest Law Section.
Ms. Siegel is a member of The Florida Bar, the U.S. Middle, Northern and Southern Districts of Florida, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. She received her B.A. in 1982 from New College (Honors College of University of South Florida), Sarasota, Florida; and a J.D. in 1985 from the University of Florida College of Law, Gainesville, Florida. She was the Senior Research Editor for one semester and Senior Student Works Editor for two semesters with the University of Florida Law Review.
Kirsten Anderson - Litigation Director
Ms. Anderson joined Southern Legal Counsel in 2007 as a staff attorney and became the organization's Litigation Director in 2016. She litigates complex civil rights cases in state and federal trial and appellate courts and in administrative forums. Since 2007, she has directed SLC's Ending Homelessness Project which utilizes litigation, policy advocacy, community education and outreach to remove legal barriers to ending homelessness. She is a frequently invited speaker on social justice issues, particularly on the civil and human rights of homeless individuals.
Ms. Anderson is a member of The Florida Bar, and the bars of the U.S. Middle, Southern and Northern District Courts of Florida and the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. She is a Past Chair of the Public Interest Law Section (PILS) of The Florida Bar and is a past chair of the PILS Committee on Homelessness. Prior to joining SLC, she worked as an associate at a private law firm specializing in immigration and nationality law.
Ms. Anderson received her J.D. with honors (2005); M.A. in Latin American Studies (2005); and B.A. in Spanish with honors (2001), all from the University of Florida. In 2009, she received the Outstanding Young Alumnus Award from the University of Florida Alumni Association.
Simone Chriss - Staff Attorney
Simone Chriss recently joined Southern Legal Counsel in August 2016 after graduating from the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where she received her J.D. with honors in May 2016. Ms. Chriss received her B.A. from the University of Florida in 2012 with honors, and volunteered at SLC for a year prior to beginning law school.
Ms. Chriss is a member of The Florida Bar. During law school, she worked on children's issues and advocated for juveniles in the dependency and delinquency systems in our community as a Certified Legal Intern for the Gator TeamChild Juvenile Law Clinic. Ms. Chriss served on the Pro Bono Student Advisory Board, and as an executive board member of the American Constitution Society and Outlaw, the LGBT student organization. Ms. Chriss has long been involved in youth outreach, volunteering as a Guardian ad Litem for many years, with the Law and Justice and Youth Summit Conferences for three years, and mentoring students through the Gator Law Mentor program.
Ms. Chriss was published in Genius, an Italian law journal focusing on sexual orientation and gender identity. The article she co-authored is titled "After Obergefell v. Hodges: the Continuing Battle Over Equal Rights for Sexual Minorities in the United States." Ms. Chriss was published in the Northwestern University School of Law's Journal of Law & Social Policy. The article she co-authored is "The Case for Trauma-Informed, Gender-Specific Prevention & Early Intervention Programming in Reducing Female Juvenile Delinquency in Florida."
Board of Directors
Peg O'Connor, Chair
Turner O'Connor Kozlowski, P.L., Gainesville
Elizabeth L. Bevington
Formerly of Holland & Knight, Lamont
Bennett H. Brummer
Former Miami-Dade Public Defender, 11th Judicial Circuit, Gainesville
Boies, Schiller & Flexner, LLP, Orlando
Stephen H. Echsner
Aylstock, Witkin, Kreis & Overholtz, PLLC, Pensacola
William S. Graessle
William S. Graessle, P.A., Jacksonville
E. Andrus Healy
Healy Foundation, Jacksonville
Berta E. Hernández-Truyol
Levin College of Law, Gainesville
John H. (Jack) Hickey
Hickey Law Firm, P.A., Miami
Clifford C. Higby
Bryant & Higby Chartered, Panama City
Philip N. Kabler
Bogin, Munns & Munns, P.A., Gainesville
Dr. Harry Krop
Tiffani G. Lee
Holland & Knight, Miami
University of Miami School of Law, Miami
Barbara Bolton Litten
Squire Patton Boggs, West Palm Beach
Spohrer & Dodd, P.L., Jacksonville
Riverbed Technology, Tampa
Seth R. Nelson
Nelson Law Group, Tampa
Robert A. Rush
Robert A. Rush, P.A., Gainesville
Scarritt Law Group, Tampa
Hon. William A. Van Nortwick, Jr.
Akerman, LLP, Jacksonville
Jodi Siegel (2004-present)
Alice K. Nelson (1988-2004)
Albert J. Hadeed (1977-1988)
1977 Founding Board
Joseph R. Julin (d.)
Michael McIntosh (d.)
Jon L. Mills
Chesterfield Smith, Sr. (d.)
Past Board Members
Francisco R. Angones
Howard C. Coker
Hon. LeRoy Collins (d.)
Benjamin L. Crump
F. Malcom Cunningham
Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte
Hon. Raymond Ehrlich (d.)
Richard A. Gilbert
Christopher L. Griffin
Albert J. Hadeed
Timothy D. Haines
Lois Cowles Harrison
Hon. Joseph W. Hatchett
Dr. Vivian Hobbs
John D. Jopling
Hon. K.H. "Buddy" MacKay
D. Ross McCloy, Jr.
Michael P. McMahon
David B. Rothman
Lansing C. Scriven
Hon. Mary S. Scriven
Harry L. Shorstein
William Reece Smith, Jr. (d.)
Robert F. Spohrer
Eli H. Subin
Hon. Alan C. Sundberg (d.)
Randolph W. Thrower (d.)
Sylvia H. Walbolt