December 1, 2003 Regular News Briefs Roth wins AFTL’s Nichols Award Neal Roth was recently awarded the Perry Nichols Award by the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers. The Perry Nichols Award is the highest honor the academy bestows on a member, and was established in 1977 as a permanent tribute to Perry Nichols, a founder and first president of the academy. It is given to those who have “fought valiantly for justice and integrity throughout their lives.” “Just as Perry Nichols was committed to the pursuit of justice and integrity in the legal field, Neal has devoted his life to carrying out this cause,” said Richard M. Shapiro, AFTL president, adding that Roth has devoted many hours to the Academy at almost every level including legislative challenges, fundraising goals, and political endeavors. ABA Tax Section seeks volunteers The Pro Bono Committee of the Tax Section of the ABA is raising the level of participation in the IRS’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, and is asking for support. “The VITA program is a valuable community asset as many taxpayers are in need of assistance in preparing and filing their returns,” said the section’s Brian P. Trauman. “The complexities of the tax law frustrate many low-income, elderly, disabled, and limited English proficient taxpayers’ efforts to complete their own returns, and many taxpayers forgo refunds to which they’re entitled because they don’t file a return, or they file an erroneous return.” Trauman said because commercial tax preparers are not a viable option for low-income taxpayers, the VITA program provides a location where these taxpayers can come for assistance. “Members of the community — including professionals, students, and other volunteers — donate their time to help these less-fortunate taxpayers complete their returns,” he said. For more information on this and other tax pro bono projects, visit www.abanet.org/tax/groups/probono. Hillsborough Bar hosts conference The Hillsborough County Bar Association recently hosted its Seventh Annual Bench Bar Conference in Tampa. The event was co-chaired by 13th Circuit Judge Robert J. Simms and Scott Stigall of Barnett, Bolt, Kirkwood, Long & McBride. Approximately 35 trial judges and five judges from the Second DCA participated in the conference. Following a luncheon, break-out sessions with the judges in a panel discussion format took questions from attendees. The Ethics session consisted of round table discussions with a judge assigned to a table of lawyers. Approximately 400 people attended the event. Rosenthal & Weissman help build a home Rosenthal & Weissman participated as a group of corporate volunteers in a Habitat for Humanity of Palm Beach County “build.” Volunteers from the firm helped build a home in Greenacres last month. “Habitat for Humanity is an amazing organization,” said senior partner Gerald A. Rosenthal. “The tangible results of their mission are evident in communities across the country. I am proud this firm has the opportunity to take part in such a gratifying and beneficial endeavor.”Elves for Elders kicks off donation initiative Richard, 78, wants magazines with pictures in them. Bertha, 97, wants scrunchies for her hair. Billy, 66, wants pictures for his bedroom. Sandra, 53, who has been incapacitated and under guardianship virtually all of her adult life, only wants instant coffee, fruit, and honey. The Elves for Elders program in the 13th Circuit will try to meet those needs to help ease life for wards of the court “We think that people will be very surprised at the basic wants and needs of the people we serve under the jurisdiction of the Guardianship Division,” said Marcie Larkin, senior court program manager of the Elder Justice Center in the 13th Circuit. She is quick to add, “It’s the simplicity of the needs that goes to the very heart of why we are doing this.” Things as basic as underwear, socks, pajamas, or a Christmas dress make a big difference for people under public guardianship, Larkin said. Larkin believes many people historically give for needy children during the holidays but the elderly are often neglected, noting these wards of the state under public guardianship have no money and no family and generally go without the basics that many take for granted. Anyone interested in participating in the Elves for Elders project should come to the Elder Justice Center, located in the Main Courthouse in downtown Tampa, Room 296, where a Christmas tree is decorated with individual name tags and wish lists. For those who can not make the trek downtown, call the Elder Justice Center for a list of “elders” at (813) 276-2726. The gift drive will conclude on Wednesday, December 3, 2003, on the second floor of the Main Courthouse at 2 p.m. Participants are welcomed to attend the holiday celebration which will conclude at 4 p.m. Rundle honored for community service Katherine Fernandez Rundle, state attorney for the 11th Judicial Circuit, was recently honored by Amigos for Children, the Inner City Dance Club, and Informed Families for her years of dedicated service to the community. This event, a fundraiser for those three charitable organizations, was held recently at the Intercontinental Hotel in downtown Miami. During the event, Fernandez Rundle received special recognition in the form of a proclamation from the mayor and the Board of County Commissioners of Miami-Dade County. Fernandez Rundle also was presented a proclamation from Miami Mayor Manuel Diaz, proclaiming Katherine Fernandez Rundle Day. Representatives of the International Union of Police Associations and the Florida Highway Patrol also honored Fernandez Rundle with a tribute in recognition of her achievements as state attorney. Stetson wins Zehmer mock trial competition Stetson University College of Law trial teams finished first and second in the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers’ Honorable E. Earle Zehmer Memorial Mock Trial Competition, held in November in West Palm Beach. The Stetson team of Richard Barbara, Marc Semago, Gabrielle Osborne, and Steven Kay defeated the other Stetson team of Meredith McCall, Slade Dukes, Sheetal Brahmbhatt, and Neil Andrews in the finals. Justice Fred Lewis of the Florida Supreme Court presided over the final round. Barbara was named best advocate for the competition. The Stetson teams each defeated groups from Florida State University in the semi-finals after defeating Florida State, the University of Miami, St. Thomas University and Florida Coastal School of Law in the preliminary rounds. Trial team alumnus Thea Dalkalitsis coached the teams, and Stetson Law Professor Pam Bell accompanied them as faculty advisor.