Attorney Bob Spohrer
With more than 40 years in the practice of law, Bob Spohrer has never forgotten why he went into the profession in the first place.
“When I came along in the 60s and 70s, law was the engine which was changing society,” Spohrer said. “Law was the vehicle by which civil rights, women’s rights, children’s rights, were occurring in this country. And a lot of us wanted to be part of that.”
Spohrer joined the Board of Southern Legal Counsel (SLC) in 2010 at the invitation of former Florida Bar President Howard Coker and quickly realized that not only was SLC the embodiment of the profession’s highest ideals, but it was also highly effective even with its limited resources.
“I was struck by how this very small group of very dedicated lawyers was having a statewide impact benefiting all Floridians,” said Spohrer, founding partner and president of Spohrer Dodd and one of the nation’s preeminent trial attorneys.
Although he is no longer on the Board, Spohrer continues to support and advocate for SLC, having contributed nearly $90,000 to support the organization’s work in the last nine years. In addition, he is chairing SLC’s development committee, which recently launched a campaign to raise $500,000 by the end of 2020.
“Never in my lifetime has there been a greater need for the work of organizations like Southern Legal Counsel,” Spohrer said. “We see all of our institutions are under attack. Individual rights are being eroded. It’s important to have organizations like Southern Legal Counsel to defend the rights of people who are otherwise powerless, to spread messages of civil rights and tolerance, and to stand up to governments and agencies that want to take that away.”
He cites as an example SLC’s work in Moreland v. Palmer to remedy due process violations by Florida’s developmental disabilities Medicaid waiver program.
Lead plaintiff Roddie Moreland faced institutionalization after Florida’s Agency for Persons with Disabilities cut his benefits for in-home services. Ironically, the alternative was for the state to spend more money each year for Moreland to live in a nursing home, which neither he nor his family wanted.
“It was a win-win-win matter because the state of Florida ended up having to pay less money, the taxpayers had to spend less money on behalf of this family, and the family was able to keep him home, where they wanted him to be,” Spohrer said. “That’s just one small example of the kind of impact that Southern Legal Counsel can have.”
The settlement agreement protected the due process rights of 9,000 people in Moreland’s situation, and SLC received The Florida Bar Foundation’s Steven M. Goldstein Award for Excellence for its advocacy in the case.
“We all support our local legal aid offices, where we are helping benefit one client at a time,” Spohrer said. “Southern Legal Counsel magnifies that and multiplies its impact by bringing litigation on behalf of groups of people, like everybody who was in the situation that the Moreland family was in. So, that’s why I believe we all, in addition to supporting our legal aid offices, need to support Southern Legal Counsel. I’m proud to stand with them.”