‘I didn’t know anyone was watching’: Wagner wins Tobias Simon Pro Bono Service Award

first_img April 1, 2002 Managing Editor Regular News ‘I didn’t know anyone was watching’ Wagner wins Tobias Simon Pro Bono Service Award Mark D. Killian Managing EditorIn 1950, a young lawyer defending a black man in Florida had the audacity to refer to his client as “mister,” an act that so outraged the justice of the peace the lawyer was cited for contempt and jailed.Instead of cowing him into accepting the social norms of the day, the incident ignited a passion for social justice within Maurice Wagner that burns to this day.For more than half a century, Wagner, 80, has been a crusader for civil rights by taking on the cause of those who do not have the financial resources to pay for legal representation.“The overriding theme of his career became the quest for equal rights and he is still working on it today,” said Chief Justice Charles Wells, who presented Wagner the 2002 Tobias Simon Pro Bono Service Award — the profession’s highest honor — during a special ceremony at the Supreme Court.“I started back in 1950 and here we are 52 years later,” said Wagner, in most likely the shortest acceptance speech in the history of the Simon Award. “I didn’t know anyone was watching.”Also honored during the ceremony March 14 was the Miami firm of Markowitz, Davis, Ringel & Trusty, which received the Chief Justice’s Law Firm Commendation, and the Jacksonville Bar Association, which won the court’s Voluntary Bar Association Pro Bono Service Award.A lawyer from each circuit also was honored with The Florida Bar President’s Pro Bono Service Awards, and Lawrence H. Kolin received the Young Lawyers Division Legal Aid Public Service Award for his work as a guardian ad litem.Chief Justice Wells told the award recipients it is they “who are carrying out on a daily basis the promise that each of us who are lawyers have made — and that is the promise of justice for all.”Wells said since 1845 the Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized that the practice of law is a privilege that carries with it certain responsibilities and obligations, including providing access to the justice system to those who could otherwise not afford it.“Too often we read and hear statements disparaging our legal system in general and lawyers in particular,” the Chief Justice said. “Yet, despite an all too prevalent public perception to the contrary, you and I know that our profession is unselfish.”Wells noted that in 2000 Florida’s lawyers provided $1.2 million worth of pro bono work and contributed another $1.6 million in cash contributions to legal aid organizations. That, he said, is in addition to the “many more hours” of volunteer work lawyers provide in their communities.Bar President Terry Russell said the award recipients are role models for the profession because they lead by example.“Today is a day of celebration,” Russell said. “Today we honor special people; we honor lawyers that care. Lawyers who share a passion and commitment to access to justice for those less fortunate.” Simon Award One of Wagner’s earliest experiences as a law clerk in Miami was having the honor of actually working with Tobias Simon on a beach access case. Though they were unsuccessful in removing the barriers in that case, the experience was one Wagner said he never forgot. He attributes his work with Simon as part of his lifelong commitment to pro bono.Wagner’s wife, Fay, said her husband’s passion for helping others took root during the early days of the civil rights movement when he “saw injustice and wanted to correct it.” She said growing up poor also contributed to his calling to assist those less fortunate than himself.Jeffery Wagner, his son, said he takes on the causes of others because it is the right thing to do. “He has a great sense of right and wrong and pursues justice the right way,” he said.“In the last 20 years I really haven’t done anything except pro bono work,” Wagner said after the ceremony, adding that he is currently representing a small farmer trying to save his 10-acre orange grove. “I’m always available.”Admitted to The Florida Bar in 1950, Wagner settled in Volusia County, where he quickly became known as a advocate for minority clients without the financial resources to pay for legal representation. In the 1950s, Wagner represented anyone who came to him for assistance whether they could afford to pay for his services or not, including the late Mary McLeod Bethune and Bethune-Cookman College. Wagner worked closely with Bethune-Cookman faculty member Alvis Lee on civil rights matters.Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Wagner handled all of the NAACP local chapter organization and legal documentation, and worked with the organization in its efforts to release jailed civil rights protesters. In the 1960s, Wagner became a lifetime NAACP member and continues to serve the local NAACP.In 1957, Wagner represented a client in Brevard County who had lost her husband in a jailhouse fire because no staff was on the scene when the fire broke out. The man had no way to escape the flames and smoke. As a result of his efforts, Wagner was successful in changing Florida state law in a landmark stare decisis ruling. ( Hargrove v. Town of Cocoa Beach, 96 So. 2d 130).In addition to his pro bono work with various clients and the NAACP, Wagner has made himself available to Central Florida Legal Services’ pro bono endeavors in whatever capacity his services are needed. He has represented CFLS clients and provided brief advice at legal advice clinics since the CFLS Pro Bono Program began in 1966. He continues to meet with clients and provide brief services at the CFLS legal advice clinics in DeLand.Wagner said young lawyers should make time for pro bono work because “it will give them a lot of satisfaction that you don’t get when you get a fee.”Wagner also said he has no plans to rest on his laurels.“I’m going to do this right on,” he said. “I’m always on call and I’m glad to do it.”For more coverage of the award winners, please see the following articles: Law Firm Commendation Voluntary Bar Association Service Award President’s Service and YLD Service Awards ‘I didn’t know anyone was watching’: Wagner wins Tobias Simon Pro Bono Service Awardlast_img read more


Lazio go top of Serie A with Bologna win

first_imgRelatedPosts Italy introduces compulsory virus testing for travellers from France Nigeria records new COVID-19 infections, more deaths as figures rise to 57,242 I was in best of forms before Tokyo Paralympics was postponed — Powerlifter Ejike Lazio went top of Serie A with a 2-0 win over Bologna on Saturday in one of the five weekend top-flight matches which were unaffected by the coronavirus outbreak. Luis Alberto fired Lazio in front in the 18th minute and set up the second for Joaquin Correa three minutes later as the host extended their unbeaten Serie A run to 21 games. Bologna had two goals disallowed in the second half, one for handball and then one for offside following a VAR review. Lazio have 62 points from 26 games, two ahead of Juventus, whose match at home to third-placed Inter Milan on Sunday was one of five postponed because of the coronavirus outbreak. Serie A had initially announced that the five games would be played behind closed doors. However, it changed its mind earlier on Saturday because broadcasters, fans and the clubs did not want to play in empty stadiums. Lazio began confidently with Correa missing from close range in the second minute after weaving his way through the Bologna defence and Ciro Immobile, Serie A’s leading scorer with 27 goals, clipping the post. They went ahead when Immobile and Correa combined to set up Luis Alberto who scored with a low shot from the edge of the area. Luis Alberto then turned provider when he sliced open the Bologna defence to set up Correa who scored with a deflected shot. Lazio gave a surprisingly nervy second-half performance, though, and Stefano Denswil had the ball in the net for Bologna in the 52nd minute but the ball ricocheted off his arm and it was ruled out. Bologna defender Takehiro Tomiyasu then volleyed home but that was also chalked off for offside against Rodrigo Palacio in the build-up. Reuters/NAN.Tags: Coronavirusinter millanJoaquin CorreaLazioLuis ALbertoSerie Alast_img read more