The Cuban American Bar Association Pro Bono Project (CABA Pro Bono) was established in 1984 with the persistence and perseverance of a number of Cuban American Bar Association (CABA) past presidents, including Manuel Morales, Jr., Rene Murai and Jose A. Garrido, Jr. Each of them had a strong belief that CABA, with its membership base, was ideally situated and qualified to assist the needs of indigent Spanish speaking individuals who did not otherwise have access to Spanish speaking lawyers who can assist them with legal matters. With the assistance of Marcia Cypen, from Legal Services of Greater Miami, CABA was able to hire a paralegal to perform intake at various locations throughout Little Havana, including San Juan Bosco, Gesu, and the Little Havana Activity Center. In 1992, CABA Pro Bono was nationally recognized as a Point of Light by President George H. W. Bush. In 1996, CABA Pro Bono partnered with the Florida Immigration Advocacy Center (“FIAC”) and for several years specialized in placing immigration and uncontested divorce matters with the assistance of a paralegal and managing attorney from FIAC. During this time, CABA Pro Bono also conducted quarterly divorce clinics at no cost to pro se litigants.
With heartfelt conviction and desire of expanding CABA Pro Bono’s reach, on March 29, 2007, CABA’s Board of Directors incorporated a separate 501(c)(3) entity for CABA Pro Bono, the “Cuban American Bar Association Pro Bono Project, Inc.” This entity has its own separate board of directors which meets on a quarterly basis. CABA’s Board of Directors oversees CABA Pro Bono’s Board of Directors. CABA Pro Bono is presently housed at 2400 South Dixie Highway, Second Floor, Miami, FL 33133 and staffs five full-time employees.
CABA Pro Bono is funded in part through grants awarded by the Florida Bar Foundation and proceeds raised at the annual “Art in the Tropics” fundraising cocktail party hosted by CABA. In order to continue expanding on the services being provided CABA Pro Bono needs to continue to receive funding and encourage attorneys to take pro bono matters. In furtherance of these goals and in response to an across the board 76% reduction to general support grants awarded by the Florida Bar Foundation, in 2012, CABA Pro Bono began organizing an annual Lawyers on the Run 5k. Through Lawyers on the Run, CABA Pro Bono raises money, encourages health and well being in the legal profession and raises awareness about their programs and services. This past April, CABA Pro Bono held the second annual Lawyers on the Run. Thanks to our increased fundraising efforts, CABA Pro Bono was able to keep its doors open and not lay off any of its employees in 2012 despite difficult economic times. Moreover, CABA Pro Bono never lost sight of its future and began to search for a new full-time executive director that could lead the office towards specific goals and implement new initiatives.
The demand for CABA Pro Bono services continues to grow. To help address this reality, CABA Pro Bono hired a full-time Executive Director in February, 2013 and a second Staff Attorney in April, 2013. In 2013, CABA Pro Bono also began collaborating with other organizations to provide additional services to veterans, active members of our armed forces, victims of human trafficking and unaccompanied immigrant minors. CABA Pro Bono is committed to providing members of our community that cannot afford an attorney with adequate legal services that they need to preserve their legal rights and access to our courts. CABA Pro Bono is privileged to be able to help those less fortunate and in need. It is important to give back to our community that has given so much to us. As stated by John F. Kennedy, “For of those to whom much is given, much is required.”