Chief Justice Salutes Access Champions

May 9, 2017

Chief Justice Jorge Labarga is honoring several Big Bend area judges and attorneys for their service to poor and low-income Floridians, which has become his legacy issue. 

Florida Chief Justice Jorge Labarga was keynote speaker for Legal Services of North Florida's annual "Law Day," at Florida State University's Turnbull Center.
Credit James Clarke Ash

About 250 people filed into Florida State University’s Turnbull Center for the annual Legal Services of North Florida’s “Law Day,” ceremony.

In his keynote address, Labarga recalled his days on the trial bench in Palm Beach County and the case of a desperate couple fighting foreclosure alone.

“You know, I would get home at night with my stomach in knots, trying to figure out how to do this. In that particular case, I just kicked the can down the road. I told the one side, you know, I just can’t do this today. Of course, I scheduled it for three years later.”

Local attorney Anne Swerlick was honored for children’s advocacy and attorney David Abrams was cited for donating his time to the poor. Leon County Judges Ronald Flury and Augustus Aikens, Jr., were singled out for “judicial excellence.”

Aikens was typically self-effacing.

“I feel especially pleased that not only did they make the recommendation but that the council thought it was not robbery to give me this award. And I certainly appreciate it.”

Legal Services executive director Leslie Powell-Boudreaux (Boo-DRO,) said it’s important that award recipients know their contributions to the community aren’t going unnoticed.

“There’s just certainly not enough lawyers who are doing it to meet the need that’s out there for low-income and vulnerable people who can’t afford lawyers or can’t get access to lawyers and this just highlights that need.”