Jacqueline M. Valdespino
October 2010 Co-Winner
Valdespino & Associates, P.A.
Coconut Grove, FL

Jacqueline has a passion and commitment to professionalism and to protecting the rights of children.  Her commitment to Florida’s children began before she became a lawyer.  Jacqueline volunteered as a pro bono Guardian ad Litem in dependency and delinquency proceedings during her undergraduate college years, and also while attending law school.  Once she was admitted to the Florida Bar, Jacqueline continued to serve as volunteer Attorney Guardian ad Litem.  In her first year of private practice, she received the Put Something Back Pro Bono Service award in recognition of her outstanding commitment and service to the disadvantaged of Miami-Dade County.  She has received this recognition each year since that time.  In 1997 she was honored as the Put Something Back Guardian Ad Litem of the year.

Jacqueline was appointed as a pro bonoGuardian ad Litem in a particularly contentious family law case.  Through her devotion, the child’s voice was heard through numerous post dissolution trials, appeals and remands.  The appointment spanned over a period of 7 years and 23 court file volumes, yet Jacqueline continued to accept additional volunteer appointments during this time.  Since 1992, she has been appointed through Miami Legal Aid Society or at the request of the Family Division judiciary in forty-eight pro bono Guardian ad Litem cases.  In 1999 when the First Family Law American Inn of Court requested volunteers to act as Guardians ad Litem in domestic violence cases, Jacqueline was among the first to volunteer her services.  Jacquie truly practices her profession in the unselfish pursuit of “Justice for All!”

In 2003 the Florida Supreme Court awarded her the Tobias Simon Award for her pro bono services and the ABA awarded her the Ann Liechty Child custody Pro Bono Award for her tireless work for children caught in contested family cases.

In addition to offering legal services to the indigent, Jacqueline has served on the Board of Directors of the Child Abuse Prevention Program.  The CAP Program provides education to school children throughout Miami-Dade County in an effort to prevent child abuse.

In 2004, Jacqueline began the Share the Light Project.  This project was established to serve the many needs of orphaned Columbian children.  For the past six years, Share the Light has purchased clothing and shoes for 180 orphaned children and presented them at a holiday party.  Jacqueline and volunteers from both the United States and Canada have travelled to Bogota, Columbia, where the packages are presented to the children.  Jacqueline spearheads not only the fundraising, but also the purchasing, organization and delivery of the gifts.  Share the Light was expanded in 2007 and volunteers now also make and distribute not only meals to the homeless on a monthly basis, but also hygiene kits.  Many family lawyers and judges join in the FEED THE NEEDY efforts; Marcia Soto, Dori Foster-Morales, Maryanne Kircher, Lucy Pineiro, the Honorable Deborah White-Labora, and the newly elected Samantha Ruiz-Cohen

Jacqueline also works zealously to make sure that indigent clients have competent lawyers.  She devotes time to educating volunteer lawyers, not only because she is committed to raising the level of the profession, but also because she recognizes that training of others is crucial to the work required to protect our children.  Jacqueline gives of her time freely when called upon to speak or organize continuing education seminars.  She has participated in the Florida Bar Family Law Section Pro Bono Mentor Program assisting young lawyers in family law cases.  Her commitment to professional development extends beyond our state boundaries. This past summer she produced a Presidential CLE program for the American Bar Association’s National meeting in Washington DC relating to representing children in child custody cases.

Jacqueline is a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.  She continues her tireless advocacy for children and to the improvement of the practice of family law.  Jacqueline has received the following honors and awards:  2003 G. Kirk Hass Humanitarian Award; 2003 Put Something Back Pro Bono Project, “Special Recognition”;  2003 ABA Ann Liechty Child Custody Pro Bono Award; 2003 Florida Bar President’s Pro Bono Service Award; 2003 Tobias Simon Pro Bono Service Award; 2002-2003 The First Family Law American Inns of Court Best Team Leader Award; 2001-2002 The First Family Law American Inns of Court Congeniality  Award; 2001 Ray H. Pearson, GAL Award; 1999-2000 The First Family Law American Inns of Court Congeniality Award; 1993 to Present, Put Something Back Pro Bono Service Award.