CLEARWATER — Myriam Irizarry, chief deputy and general counsel to the Pinellas County clerk of court, received the Clearwater Bar Association's highest honor Friday at the association's 51st annual Law Day Luncheon.
Irizarry was named this year's recipient of the Ralph Richards Award in recognition of her work on behalf of indigent clients. A bilingual lawyer who provides legal counsel to the Spanish-speaking community of Pinellas, Irizarry also does pro bono work through the Clearwater Bar, Gulf Coast Legal Services, Stetson University and the Intercultural Advocacy Institute. She also mentors high school and Stetson students.
The award she received is named for the late Ralph Richards, a lawyer who devoted much of his time to community causes and serving the needy.
Approximately 200 people attended Friday's luncheon at the Safety Harbor Resort & Spa for the awards presentation and annual meeting of the Bar.
The Allen Moore Gold Badge award, which recognizes an outstanding law enforcement officer in North Pinellas, went to Deputy Timothy Myers, who has worked for the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office since 1999. Since 2007, Myers has been the department's point person on homelessness, helping place people in appropriate shelters, coordinating with the school system when homeless children are identified, and working as the sheriff's liaison to Pinellas Hope, a shelter facility operated by Catholic Charities.
In a departure from tradition, the Bar Association's John U. Bird Distinguished Jurist Award was given to two judges this year: W. Douglas Baird and David A. Demers.
Baird had a private law practice in St. Petersburg for 18 years, then was appointed a judge for Pinellas County Court and later Pinellas County Circuit Court. He has been a Florida Supreme Court mentor for new judges and has been administrator for Pinellas civil and criminal courts. He plans to retire this year.
Demers has been a county and circuit court judge for 31 years and also served as chief judge. In addition to authoring articles on criminal law, Demers is a past president of the Florida Conference of County Court Judges and has been associate dean of the Florida Judicial College. He also plans to retire this year.
Special recognition for "extraordinary effort and outstanding service" to the community and the Bar was given to Leon Russell, former director of the county Office of Human Rights. Russell served in that post for 35 years, overseeing human rights complaints and discrimination issues throughout that period. He also was a leader in the NAACP and numerous human rights organizations. He is retired from the county post.
The Bar Association's 2012 Liberty Bell Award went to Daniel Ruth, a columnist and editorial writer for the Tampa Bay Times. The award honors nonlawyers who promote a better understanding of the Constitution, Bill of Rights and the rule of law.
Also during the luncheon, Clearwater lawyer Bridget A. Heptner was inducted as president of the Clearwater Bar Association, which has about 900 members, and outgoing officers and members of the board of directors were recognized.
Diane Steinle can be reached at (727) 445-4184 or [email protected]