Liechty Award Recipients

Patricia Yoedicke - 2007 Ann Liechty Award Recipient

Patricia Yoedicke is the 2007  Ann Liechty Child Custody and Adoption Pro Bono Project Award recipient. Ms. Yoedicke is an attorney with Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Since 2000, Ms. Yoedicke has provided close to 800 pro bono hours representing children through the Children's Law Center of Minnesota. These children are state wards whose parents' rights have been terminated. Under Minnesota law, these children are not entitled to representation after the point at which their parents' rights are terminated. Ms. Yoedicke's volunteer representation fills the void for the children she represents. She has often been the most consistent person in these children's lives, and she treats them with respect and professionalism equal to her adult clients.

For each of her child clients, Ms. Yoedicke spends time ascertaining their wishes, explaining available options, consulting with social service providers, and making sure their voices are heard in court. For example, she worked diligently to keep three siblings together in a permanent placement after the proposed adoptive parent decided she only wanted to adopt one of the children. She also represented a child who had contacted the Children's Law Center requesting an attorney to help him get adopted. Ms. Yoedicke was able to successfully assist this child with an adoption placement, helped negotiate a visitation agreement with the child's biological brother, and worked diligently to maintain this placement for the child after the county refused to allow the child to remain in the home. As Ms. Yoedicke says about her pro bono work with children, "The most important message I hope to convey to my clients is that their hopes and dreams can make a difference."

Winston & Strawn, LLP, Chicago Office named as the 2006 Ann Liechty Child Custody Pro Bono Award Recipient

The Ann Liechty Child Custody Pro Bono Award is one of five Pro Bono Publico Awards given annually by the American Bar Association. The award is named in memory of Ann Liechty, who was a dedicated child law advocate and former Pro Bono Publico Award recipient. Each year the award recognizes a lawyer or law firm who has enhanced the lives of children by improving or delivering volunteer legal services to children involved in private child custody proceedings.

This year's Ann Liechty Award recipient is Winston & Strawn, LLP, Chicago Office. Winston & Strawn began a partnership with Chicago Volunteer Legal Services Foundation in 2003 at the inception of CVLS's Guardianship Program. The ABA awarded a child custody grant to CVLS to help initiate the pro bono program. Through the CVLS Guardianship program the Probate court is able to appoint Guardian Ad Litems for at-risk children in contested guardianship matters when the children would otherwise not have a voice. More than 40 Winston & Strawn lawyers, including managing partner Chris Gangemi and other partners, have donated over 2,300 hours representing more than 70 children through the CVLS Guardianship Program.

Winston & Strawn was nominated by Margaret Benson, Executive Director of Chicago Volunteer Legal Services Foundation. As stated by Ms. Benson, "Winston attorneys are superb GALs. While representing children in very complex and emotionally charged guardianship cases, they investigate issues and make recommendations to the Probate Court as to the children's best interest. Without the exceptional partnership that has developed between Winston & Strawn and CVLS, we would not be able to accept anywhere near the volume of GAL appointments that we do now. Scores of at-risk children would not have a voice in where or with whom they are living. The court would be forced to make significant decisions in the lives of these children without crucial information. It is extraordinary to see a large law firm embrace this type of difficult, family law legal work with the enthusiasm, diligence and the top to bottom commitment that Winston has given."

Winston & Strawn received its award at the American Bar Association Pro Bono Publico Luncheon on Monday, August 7, 2006, at the ABA's Annual Meeting in Honolulu.

Deborah Ebel named as the 2005 Ann Liechty Child Custody Pro Bono Award Recipient

The Ann Liechty Child Custody Pro Bono Award is one of five Pro Bono Publico Awards given annually by the American Bar Association. The award is named in memory of Ann Liechty, who was a dedicated child law advocate and former Pro Bono Publico Award recipient. Each year the award recognizes a lawyer who has enhanced the lives of children by improving or delivering volunteer legal services to children involved in private child custody proceedings.

Deborah Ebel  is the 2005 Ann Liechty Award recipien. Ms. Ebel is the Pro Bono Coordinator and a litigation partner at McKenna, Long & Aldridge in Atlanta, Georgia. Prior to joining McKenna, Long & Aldridge in 1985, Ms. Ebel was a managing attorney at Atlanta Legal Aid Society.

Ms. Ebel was the co-founder of the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation's ("AVLF") Guardian Ad Litem ("GAL") program, the first of its kind in Georgia. Her law firm served as the program's initial sponsor, and supplied the first group of volunteers. Her firm remains the primary sponsor and regularly offers its offices and resources for GAL trainings. To date, the AVLF program has served as GAL in over 1,300 cases, and is a national model for programs advocating for children in private custody cases.

Ms. Ebel herself has accepted almost thirty GAL cases through AVLF, more than any other GAL and totaling many thousands of pro bono hours. Since the program's inception, she has regularly donated her time both in developing new materials for the GAL Training Manual and in training new volunteers. She has participated in over twenty GAL trainings and has traveled throughout Georgia to help other jurisdictions develop similar programs.

Ms. Ebel also has improved the quality of GAL advocacy in Georgia. She recently played an invaluable role in developing statewide guidelines for GALs.

Ms. Ebel was nominated by Daniel Bloom, Deputy Director of Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation and a Family Law Magistrate Judge. As stated by Mr. Bloom, "in my many years working as a director of a pro bono organization, I have not found an attorney more dedicated to ensuring that individuals, particularly children, receive the representation they deserve." In addition, Mr. Bloom states that "as a magistrate Judge in the Family Division of Fulton Superior Court, I know I and other judges breathe a sigh of relief when we know Deborah has been placed in charge of children's best interests."

Ms. Ebel was the recipient of AVLF's 2000 Guardian ad Litem of the Year Award, as well as the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia Bill of Rights Award in 1986. In 1991, she was awarded the S. Philip Heiner Award from AVLF, awarded each year to a volunteer or organization that provides outstanding legal services to the indigent.

Ms. Ebel received her award at the American Bar Association Pro Bono Publico Luncheon on Monday, August 8, 2005, at the ABA's Annual Meeting in Chicago.

Toby Hollander named as the 2004 Ann Liechty Child Custody Pro Bono Award Recipient

The Ann Liechty Child Custody Pro Bono Award is one of five ABA Pro Bono Publico Awards. The award is named in memory of Ann Liechty, who was a dedicated child law advocate and former Pro Bono Publico Award recipient. Each year the award recognizes a lawyer who has enhanced the lives of children by improving or delivering volunteer legal services to children involved in private child custody proceedings.

Toby Hollander, has spent his entire legal career volunteering and working for pro bono organizations. From 1987 until 1990 Toby was the directing attorney at Pine Tree Legal Assistance, an organization that provides legal services to low-income individuals. After the Pine Tree branch Toby directed closed, he began focusing his pro bono efforts on the representation of children. Since 1991, Toby has volunteered with the Maine Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP) as a guardian ad litem for children, handling over fifty matters, many more cases than the average volunteer attorney. Toby is such a dedicated child advocate that in 2000 he closed his private practice, and now primarily represents low-income children as a guardian ad litem in custody and protective order cases.

In addition to directly representing children, Toby has also worked to improve training programs and the quality of child representatives in Maine. He created a "brown bag lunch" series to help guardian ad litems improve their practices, and currently Maine's mandatory training for court-appointed guardian ad litems includes a piece by Toby on effective report-writing and child interviews.

Toby seeks to change not only the quality of child representation, but also the ability of low-income families to seek legal services. He has initiated many discussions about increasing resources for low-income families in Maine. Recently, Toby joined the Founders Committee for Kids Legal Aid of Maine, which is a new project at Pine Tree Legal Assistance that will expand legal aid support for low-income children at a statewide level. According to the Maine Attorney General, G. Steven Rowe, Toby has successfully educated state policy makers and court officials for improvements to Maine's child protection legal process.

Toby has been a source of guidance and an example of a truly superior child representative. He currently serves as a mentor for VLP's pro bono attorneys. According to his colleagues, Toby always has time to answer any and all questions that new volunteers have concerning a case. Informally, Toby has also worked with almost all legal aid attorneys at Pine Tree that work with children in family law proceedings. Toby understands the effects of poverty and domestic violence on children, and one of his greatest strengths is his ability to communicate with children and really determine what is in each child's best interests.

Judges respect and rely on Toby's skills as a guardian ad litem. For example, Maine District Court Judge Powers states that Toby is of "invaluable assistance to the Court in dealing with extremely complex and difficult legal and social issues." Toby puts forth more time and effort than what is expected of a court-appointed guardian ad litem, and it is his tireless dedication to representing children that has made him one of the best child advocates in the country. "His work in this area exemplifies the finest traditions of pro bono advocacy on behalf of children," wrote Nan Heald of Pine Tree Legal Assistance and Mary Richardson of VLP in their letter nominating Toby for this award.

As aptly stated by Attorney General Rowe, "Toby Hollander has been a source of inspiration to Maine's justice system. The lives of thousands of children have been improved because of his efforts."

Jacqueline M. Valdespino - 2003 ABA Ann Liechty Child Custody Pro Bono Award

Jacqueline M. Valdespino of Coconut Grove, Florida is the recipient of the 2003 ABA Ann Liechty Pro Bono Child Custody Award. This award is presented in memory of V. Ann Liechty, a former Pro Bono Publico Award recipient, to honor a lawyer who has provided outstanding free legal services to children in custody cases.

Ms. Valdespino has dedicated her 16-year legal career to enhancing the lives of children through the delivery of quality free legal services to children in child custody proceedings. She has served as a guardian ad litem in numerous family, matrimonial, and protective order cases, and in 1997 was named as the Put Something Back organization's Guardian Ad Litem of the year. Since 1992, when she established her own law practice, Valdespino has accepted 33 pro bono guardian ad litem assignments, to which she has dedicated nearly 2,000 hours of work. She also served on the Board of Directors of the Child Abuse Prevention Program in Miami and as a mentor in the Florida Bar Family Law Section Mentor Program.

ABA HONORS DENVER LAWYER REBECCA RUNDGREN WITH FIRST ANN LIECHTY PRO BONO CHILD CUSTODY AWARD

 

CHICAGO, June 14, 2002 - Denver lawyer Rebecca Rundgren received  a 2002 American Bar Association Pro Bono Publico Award during a noon luncheon on Aug. 12, at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C., during the ABA Annual Meeting.

The ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service established the award in 1984 to recognize lawyers, law firms and other legal institutions for extraordinary noteworthy contributions to extending free legal services to the poor and disadvantaged. Rundgren is the first recipient of the ABA Ann Liechty Pro Bono Child Custody Award, an award presented in memory of a former Pro Bono Publico Award recipient to honor a lawyer who has provided outstanding free legal services to children in custody cases.

ABA President Robert E. Hirshon will host the Pro Bono Publico Awards Assembly Luncheon. Former first lady Rosalynn Carter will be the keynote speaker at the luncheon. Also receiving awards will be Michael Miller of New York; Luis A. Ochoa of Tucson, Ariz.; the law firm of Morrison & Foerster, LLP; and the Ohio Attorney General's Pro Bono Program. President Hirshon will also acknowledge the outstanding work of a number of legal organizations that made significant contributions post-September 11 to assist victims and their families.

The exemplary work of the recipients encompasses legal assistance programs for victims' families after September 11; development and delivery of legal services for the poor; and representation of children at risk, the homeless, the elderly, and others who are disadvantaged.

"The individuals and firms receiving 2002 ABA Pro Bono Publico Awards have displayed tireless dedication to ensure that legal services are available to so many people in need," said Robert Weiner, chair of the ABA committee. "This extraordinary devotion shown throughout their careers, and specifically in the aftermath of September 11, sets an example for the entire legal profession. These award recipients truly make a difference in the lives of those they serve. They deserve our highest commendation."

Rundgren has displayed dedication and commitment to representing children in a variety of cases. She has devoted a substantial portion of her pro bono efforts to assisting children involved in custody battles. At the Rocky Mountain Children's Law Center, Rundgren has provided direct representation to children in domestic violence and divorce cases. In a recent restraining order case, she was appointed guardian ad litem and was later appointed special advocate when the case was filed in the District Court. To continue her representation within the context of the dissolution proceedings, she took on the task of verifying the parents' compliance with temporary orders regarding location and time for exchanging the children.

Rundgren has shown proficiency in dealing with children and families from diverse cultures. In a child custody case involving two young boys from Sierra Leone, she handled the case with sensitivity and professionalism, researching the children's daily environments and the nature of their interactions with those both in and outside their cultural community. As a result of her research and interaction with the two boys, the children now refer to her within their community as a "mother" to denote her as a special friend.

"We are very fortunate to have Rebecca's commitment and enthusiasm," Michele Roche, Rocky Mountain Children's Law Center Pro Bono Coordinator, wrote in her letter nominating Rundgren for the Pro Bono Publico Award. "It is pro bono attorneys like Rebecca Rundgren who make a difference in the lives of children. Rebecca deserves recognition as a champion for children."

Photo Courtesy Tony Smith Photography, Billings

Photo Courtesy Tony Smith Photography, Billings