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Ormond Beach Observer Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013 4 years ago

Attorney honored for donating time, work to low-income clients

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Dave Rodziewicz was recognized this month as the Pro Bono Attorney of the Year by the Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida.

BY WAYNE GRANT | STAFF WRITER

Irene Lewis, 92, of Ormond Beach, didn’t know where to turn. Last year, a workman stopped by her house one day and offered to seal her roof with a special spray.

She had the work done but unfortunately, a few months later, her roof started leaking. She discovered that the “spray” was simply paint. Her roof leaked so badly that water was running down her walls and the cabinets were falling off.

Not being able to afford an attorney, she went to Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida, in Ocala, an agency that refers people to attorneys who donate time to work for free, or pro bono.

Her pro bono attorney, David Rodziewicz, of Rodziewicz Law PL, 116 East Granada Blvd., found that the contractor who did the work had insurance. He successfully got a payment of “five figures,” from the company, enough to replace the roof.

This job was not unusual for Rodziewicz, though. At the Volusia County Bar Association's annual meeting, Oct. 11 in Daytona Beach, he was named Pro Bono Attorney of the Year by Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida.

Rodziewicz said pro bono work is to help people who say, “I’ve talked to everyone and no one can help me. I can’t afford an attorney.”

Rodziewicz, whose private practice is in employment and business law, donated more than 100 work hours this past year. Upon receiving the award, he said “giving back to the community is a core value with which I was raised, reinforced in my education by the Jesuits and remains fundamental for me today. A half-hour of my time could improve the trajectory of someone’s life. Who wouldn’t want to do that?”

Lena Smith, pro bono manager at Mid-Florida, said those who receive free services must be low income.

“There is no way they could afford to hire an attorney,” she said. “We are very fortunate that we have lawyers in Volusia County who have been generous over the years. If it wasn’t for people like Mr. Rodziewicz, we wouldn’t be able to help these people.”

All of the cases accepted by Mid-Florida are civil complaints involving such things as home foreclosure, mortgage issues and unemployment compensation.

A problem that Rodziewicz sees quite often in this area arises after special events.

“Someone will work a person and work a person with a promise they will pay them later,” he said. “Then when the event is over, they claim they don’t have any money.”

He said he has been successful in getting wages owed for clients, which sometimes involved sending a letter, but other times, small-claims court.

“We want justice to be available for all,” he said. “A single mother of three who gets fired can’t afford an attorney, but they can go to Mid-Florida Legal Services.”

Rodziewicz was a business executive for 25 years before getting his law degree in 2011 from Barry University, in Orlando. He said that experience is very valuable in his practice.

“I can give the client a unique perspective,” he said. “I remember what I was thinking when I was on the other side of lawsuits.”

His interest in helping the less fortunate started early. While in high school, he worked at a food bank.

“I saw people standing in line to feed their families,” he said. “That stays with you.”

He said providing pro bono work is important because the justice system does not provide for those who cannot afford an attorney in a civil matter. In a criminal trial, a lawyer is appointed if the defendant cannot pay, but not in a civil matter.

“You could lose your home without ever having a chance to have a lawyer,” he said. “That’s where Legal Services comes in.”

To reach Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida, call 352-629-0105.

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