I recently described a national award that the Florence Project won. The legal services organization was recognized for its commitment to justice and its creation of valuable pro se materials.

The award, along with a $50,000 check, was given by the American College of Trial Lawyers.

Lindsay Marshall, Florence Project Executive Director, receives the award check from Thomas H. Tongue, President of the American College of Trial Lawyers, August 14, 2012.

On Tuesday, I took a drive down to Florence to attend the award event. It reminded me once again how fortunate Arizona is to have such dedicated individuals who daily commit to justice.

(Because the law world is so fascinating, I can’t help but share one oddity in the proceedings. A distinguished Fellow of the ACTL was speaking at the event, and he was emphasizing to the audience how impressive the achievement of the Florence Project staff and board was. He pointed out that it would be formally announced at the annual meeting of the ACTL. There, in a huge Manhattan banquet room, the Project would be described to hundreds of “trial lawyers and their wives.” Their wives? Did he just say “their wives,” as if women are not trial lawyers? Indeed, he did. But his genuine affinity for the Project and its mission—as well as the check he bore—guaranteed that bygones would be bygones.)

In an upcoming issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine, I’ll tell a little more about the day’s events (you can go directly to that page by clicking here). But in the meantime, you can see one photo above. More are available here on the Arizona Attorney Facebook page.

This week, I’ll have some great news about awards to Arizona legal entities, demonstrating once again that our state is filled with people committed to justice and the pursuit of professionalism.

Today’s announcement goes out to the remarkable folks at the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project. This week, the American College of Trial Lawyers bestowed on the Florence Project its prestigious Emil Gumpert Award for 2012.

Arizona Attorney Magazine and I are great fans of the Florence Project, which routinely provides legal services under challenging conditions to people who often have no other recourse.

Here is the announcement from the ACTL:

PRESS RELEASE: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:

Dennis J. Maggi, CAE, Executive Director

American College of Trial Lawyers

949.752.1801

dmaggi@actl.com

Pro Se Material Project of the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project Selected as Emil Gumpert Award Recipient

“The American College of Trial Lawyers announces the Pro Se Material Project of The Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, of Florence, Arizona, as the winner of the 2012 Emil Gumpert Award. The $50,000 first-place prize is funded by a grant from the Foundation of the American College of Trial Lawyers. The funds will enable The Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project to inventory, review and redesign current pro se materials to improve and expand access to self-help materials for pro se detainees in Arizona and across the country.

“The Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project provides free legal services to men, women and unaccompanied children detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Arizona. Although the federal government assists indigent criminal defendants and civil litigants through public defenders and legal aid attorneys, it does not provide attorneys for people in immigration removal proceedings. As a result, an estimated 86 percent of immigrant detainees go unrepresented due to poverty. The grant from the American College of Trial Lawyers will support the goal of the Pro Se Material Project to ensure unrepresented indigent immigrant detainees pursuing viable claims in immigration court have access to accurate, clear and useful legal information so they may more effectively represent themselves pro se.

“The Emil Gumpert Award recognizes programs, whether public or private, whose principal purpose is to maintain and improve the administration of justice. The award honors the late Honorable Emil Gumpert, Chancellor and Founder of the American College of Trial Lawyers. Through his dedication to the legal profession for more than 50 years, Judge Gumpert’s legal career encompassed that of eminent trial lawyer, California State Bar president and trial judge.

“Previous Emil Gumpert Award winners have included The Southern Public Defender Training Center, Atlanta, Georgia (2011); the Older and Wiser Program of Neighborhood Legal Services, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (2010); Pro Bono Law Ontario, Ottawa, Ontario (2009); And Justice For All, Salt Lake City, Utah (2008); The National Center for Refugee and Immigrant Children, Washington, D.C. (2007); Legal Aid University, Boston, Massachusetts (2006); and Dakota Plains Legal Services, Mission, South Dakota (2005).

“The Pro Se Material Project of The Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project was chosen from a wide field of applicants throughout the United States and Canada who seek grants to promote projects of global application and with potential for replication in other locations. The Pro Se Material Project meets all the College’s criteria through its ability to duplicate, encourage and extend its services beyond the jurisdiction of its existing program in Arizona.

Emil Gumpert

“The American College of Trial Lawyers is composed of the best of the trial bar from Canada and the United States and is widely considered to be the premier professional trial organization in America. Founded in 1950, the College is dedicated to maintaining and improving the standards of trial practice, the administration of justice and the ethics of the profession. Fellowship in the College is extended by invitation only, after careful investigation to those experienced trial lawyers who have mastered the art of advocacy and whose professional careers have been marked by the highest standards of ethical conduct, professionalism, civility and collegiality.”

Congratulations to the Florence Project and its staff of talented, dedicated people. More about the award is here.

On that page, you can see the groups that won this award in the past. But the online list only goes back to 2005. Travel back one more year and you’ll see that the 2004 Emil Gumpert Award went to the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law. You can read about that honor in the words of then-Dean Toni Massaro.

Arizona, leading again.