Carlton Fields

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Pro Bono Rank Firm
(Am Law 200 Rank)
Am Law
Pro Bono Score
Average Pro Bono
Hours Per Lawyer
% of Lawyers
With More Than 20 Hours
86
Carlton Fields (162)
44.3
37.1
51.4

 

Just three days after Alan Crotzer's release from a Florida prison in January 2006, he walked into the St. Petersburg office of retired judge John Blue, of counsel at Florida's Carlton Fields. Blue was chief judge of Florida's 2nd District Court of Appeals when the court denied one of Crotzer's handwritten motions from prison. The Am Law Pro Bono 100Crotzer was understandably wary about meeting with Blue after his release.

But Blue had volunteered to help Crotzer obtain compensation for the nearly 25 years he spent locked up for a 1981 kidnapping and rape he did not commit. In 2008 Blue convinced Florida legislators to approve a special claims bill awarding Crotzer $1.25 million and access to free education.

Crotzer had finally cleared his name in 2006 after DNA evidence showed that he could not have committed the kidnapping and rape for which he was convicted in 1981. But winning his post-release compensation required political muscle that his lawyers at the Florida Innocence Initiative couldn't muster, so they approached Blue.

It took three legislative sessions before Blue was able to persuade state lawmakers to sign off on the bill to compensate Crotzer, which was signed by Governor Charlie Crist in April 2008. (Legislators later approved a bill to automatically pay exonerees $50,000 for each year spent in prison.) The legislature was initially reluctant—Crotzer had a prior conviction for a liquor store robbery, and there were concerns about state sovereignty.

Blue says he was able to get the media on his side with help from a former aide to ex-Florida governor Jeb Bush, but he thinks the biggest break in his lobbying efforts was Crotzer himself. "He's a very charming guy," says Blue.

Crotzer, now 48, frequently speaks with youth groups about the risks of becoming ensnared in the criminal justice system. His part-time job with the juvenile justice system covers his health insurance, but, as Blue notes with satisfaction, his client doesn't have to work. "He's got all the money in the world."

—David Bario | July 1, 2009

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