Jackson to Get Bar’s Pro Bono Award

Published: March 14th, 2005

Category: News

For years, Legal Skills Professor Joseph Jackson has been a friend to Gainesville’s homeless, both in and out of court. Now he is being honored with the Florida Bar President’s Pro Bono Award

Joe Jackson brings new meaning to the term “homeless advocate.”

Longtime Gainesville residents know him as the tireless volunteer and activist who chaired the city’s Safe Space Task Force, the body charged with finding new housing options for the homeless.

Few know that Jackson, a legal skills professor at UF’s Levin College of Law, also volunteers his services as an attorney for the city’s poorest residents.

But Jackson’s secret is out now that the Florida Bar Association has chosen him to receive the President’s Pro Bono Award for the 8th Judicial Circuit, awarded each year to an outstanding attorney who has freely given time to make legal services available to the poor.

“Many of my pro bono cases evolved from my volunteer work with the homeless community,” Jackson said. “Once people know you, and know you’re a lawyer, word spreads pretty quickly.”

Jackson stays in close contact with the homeless community through his work with the HOME Van, a mobile homeless outreach effort that makes twice-weekly deliveries of food, blankets and other supplies to Gainesville’s homeless residents.

That involvement led him to take on a number of cases involving individual homeless people — from settling probate issues, to defending people on misdemeanor charges, to fighting a local library’s decision to ban a homeless person from its premises.

Jackson has also done legal work for local homeless agencies advocates and service providers — most notably to a group of students who were threatened with arrest after serving food to the homeless on the steps of Gainesville’s City Hall. Jackson helped mediate an agreement that allowed the students to continue their outreach on the property of nearby Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.

He also worked out a similar agreement with Tampa city government when activists there were arrested for serving food to the homeless in a public park.

“This honor is richly deserved,” said HOME volunteer Arupa Freeman, “Joe not only provides legal services for many homeless people, but he is continually defending the rights of service providers to carry out our work.”

Jackson will travel to Tallahassee April 7 to receive the award in a ceremony held by the Bar and the Justices of the Supreme Court.