SAFE FAMILIES OFFICE FIRM OF THE YEAR: JONES DAY
Since partnering with the Safe Families Office in 2013, Jones Day’s volunteer attorneys have been extremely committed to serving survivors of domestic violence. This past year, Laura Bunten and Jessica Casey did a phenomenal job of ensuring volunteer attorneys from their firm were available when the Safe Families Office needed them. The firm is extremely effective in encouraging new volunteers to be involved by initially pairing them with more experienced attorneys, allowing them to become familiar with DV court. For the second year in a row, Jones Day earned the title of Safe Families Office Firm of the Year because it continues to be a model of private firm support for survivors of domestic violence.
GUARDIAN AD LITEM OF THE YEAR: BRANDY ALEXANDER, THE ALEXANDER FIRM, LLC
Brandy Alexander participated in Atlanta Volunteer Lawyer Foundation’s Guardian ad Litem (“GAL”) training in November 2015. Since that time, she graciously stepped up to serve as a GAL in two contested custody disputes in the Superior Court of Fulton County’s Family Division. While investigating her cases, it became clear that Brandy truly is concerned for the well-being of the children at issue, and genuinely has their best interests at heart, which naturally leads to an incredibly thorough investigation and well-reasoned recommendation. Brandy’s history as a public defender has lent itself well to her GAL work, giving her a well-rounded perspective of the consequences and effects of the parties’ actions on the children involved. Brandy’s sincere dedication to her GAL cases and the children she serves make her an ideal expert for judges having to decide contested custody matters.
SAFE FAMILIES OFFICE VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR: RICHARD G. FARNSWORTH, FARNSWORTH LAW LLC
Richard Farnsworth has been volunteering through AVLF to represent survivors of domestic violence in their evidentiary hearings for years now. Since 2015, he has accepted at least 14 domestic violence case referrals from AVLF. Richard is so experienced in representing survivors of domestic violence that he is frequently called upon by AVLF to take cases with very little prep time and he typically takes such cases with no hesitation. Richard’s style and demeanor tend to put survivors of domestic violence at ease as they prepare for their hearings and his familiarity with this area of law ensures consent agreements are wisely crafted and hearings are efficiently conducted. Richard is a vital part of the Safe Families Office volunteer attorney family and we are incredibly grateful for his time and devotion to this work.
SAFE AND STABLE HOMES FIRM OF THE YEAR: PwC
The tenants who come to AVLF for help are often in dire straits: their landlords’ negligence has led to mold, flooding, and other conditions that have destroyed their personal belongings. Other landlords illegally evict tenants, dragging their property into the front yard or throwing it off the balcony or into dumpsters. In such cases, the forensic accountants and other professionals at PwC provide damages assessments. This invaluable assistance allows the volunteer attorney to structure the initial demand and subsequent negotiations, and – when necessary – to proceed to court with the confidence that a PwC accountant will be there as well to testify about the tenant’s damages. In addition, PwC routinely attends AVLF’s Saturday Lawyer Day clinic to encourage our volunteers to call on them for help. For its commitment to AVLF’s mission, the high quality of its work, and its great help in leveling the playing field for our clients, PwC is the Safe and Stable Homes Firm of the Year.
SAFE AND STABLE HOMES VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR: JOHN H. RAINS IV, BONDURANT, MIXSON AND ELMORE
John H. Rains IV of Bondurant, Mixson and Elmore has earned the distinction of the Safe & Stable Homes Volunteer of the Year for his strong commitment to AVLF’s Eviction Defense Program. Over the past year, John has been a zealous advocate for numerous AVLF clients in eviction defense cases. But the depth of his commitment was illustrated most profoundly in a particular case involving a single mother of two who endured a horrific mold infestation, leading to property damage, illness, and eventual homelessness. John brought to this case his top-notch litigation and strategy skills. On the day of the hearing he presented testimony from an expert mold inspector, a physician, and a PwC accountant. Thanks to him, the client prevailed, defeating the landlord’s claim for unpaid rent and walking out of court with a four-figure money judgment in her favor. Afterwards, the client emailed John and said, “You and your experts were so amazing — you made the pain bearable.” We think you are amazing too, John.