Top-notch attorneys can charge hundreds of dollars per hour for their legal services. But sometimes they charge nothing.
Three Pinellas lawyers have been honored by the Florida Bar because they have spent so much time donating legal services — to mothers fighting for child support, to a wrongly convicted man seeking compensation, to churches, nonprofit agencies and many others.
John R. Blue, a retired circuit and appellate judge who now practices with Carlton Fields in St. Petersburg, reacted with "surprise and pleasure" when he learned he had received the Bar's statewide Distinguished Judicial Service Award. "It's very nice to be recognized," he said.
Blue worked to obtain compensation for Alan Crotzer, who was awarded $1.25-million in compensation after spending 24 years in prison for rapes he did not commit.
Blue, 75, is retired as a judge in the circuit that contains Manatee, Sarasota and DeSoto counties, and has also served on the 2nd District Court of Appeal.
"I think every lawyer would like to do pro bono work, but you can't make a living at it," he said. Blue now handles appeals in civil cases and said he is grateful to Carlton Fields for giving him ample time to pursue pro bono, or unpaid, cases.
Carin Constantine said she was shocked when she learned she had received the Bar's statewide pro bono award in the Young Lawyers Division, "but obviously very pleased."
Constantine, 40, of St. Petersburg, has been practicing law for less than two years. She graduated from the George Mason School of Law at 34, worked as a law clerk for the state Attorney General's Office, passed the Bar exam in the spring of 2007, and began practicing on her own in June 2007.
She has a family law practice and said she recently began getting many requests for pro bono cases. She said she has tried "to help people when there's nobody else there to help them get money." For example, some mothers need to obtain an order for child support, but can't afford an attorney to get one. The Bar noted that "she has taken on almost 20 pro bono cases in the past two years."
Gregory K. Showers said he's a behind-the-scenes kind of guy, so he never expected to receive the Florida Bar president's pro bono service award for Pinellas and Pasco counties. "You do things but you never really expect to be rewarded," he said.
Showers is a partner in Kwall, Showers & Barack in Clearwater, and said his partners are always supportive when he devotes time to pro bono work. He serves on the boards of Gulf Coast Legal Services, the Willa Carson Health Resource Center and the YMCA of the Suncoast, and has done additional pro bono work for Clearwater churches and the NAACP.
The awards will be formally presented Thursday at a ceremony at the Florida Supreme Court.