As 2019 comes to a close, we at Southern Legal Counsel remain hard at work writing briefs, preparing for upcoming litigation and doing what we do day in and day out to defend your constitutional rights – our constitutional rights – against assault and erosion.
This year we have made progress in several important cases, including the continued defense of the right to share food in public places as a form of protected First Amendment expression, as supported by the federal Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in a landmark opinion. We are also moving forward – together with our partners at the ACLU of Florida – to protect the most basic rights of the homeless in City of Ocala, and recently won a motion to dismiss that allows our challenge to the City’s open lodging ordinance to move forward. And in another Ocala case, we won a victory for one man that is leading to the restoration of driver’s licenses and elimination of unlawful court fees for nearly 10,000 Floridians statewide.
In these cases, local ordinances and enforcement actions have torn at the fabric of the U.S. Constitution. But we are pushing back and holding the line against this egregious government overreach.
We also launched a Healthy Kids Medical-Legal Partnership at UF Health’s Pediatric Severe Asthma Clinic. We represent families to address the health harming legal needs of the child, as well provide training and consultation to the medical team on legal issues.
Our generous donors make this work possible. We’d particularly like to thank DHARMA Endowment Foundation, Farah & Farah, P.A., Maria Henderson, Alice & Carnot Nelson, and Spohrer & Dodd, P.L. for their major gifts, as well as the many donors to our Giving Tuesday campaign. We recently established the Hon. William A. Van Nortwick, Jr. Impact for Justice Fund, which has already supported impact litigation costs for several of our efforts. Thank you to those who donated in memory of our friend Bill.
Meanwhile, with a grant from The Florida Bar Foundation we were able to add to our team this year with Samantha Howell, our first pro bono director, who is making great strides in her efforts to integrate pro bono lawyers, law students, psychologists, social workers and other professionals into all aspects of SLC’s litigation and advocacy.
In addition, we now have Equal Justice Works Fellow Abigail Adkins thanks to the sponsorship of McDermott Will & Emery and Darden Restaurants Inc. In September, Abigail began a two-year fellowship at Southern Legal Counsel to ensure that Florida’s school safety focus results in expanded student mental health and behavioral services.
Times remain difficult, as funding for civil legal aid is in ever-shorter supply. But we have no intention of letting up in 2020, and we hope you will continue to support us in this fight.
Jodi Siegel, Executive Director