This week, Ballard Spahr honored volunteers representing families in crisis with the 2014 Alan J. Davis Award for exemplary public service. The $25,000 cash prize, presented by firm Chair Mark Stewart, will be divided among legal aid agencies that provide family law services in Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, and Phoenix.

The firm honored lawyers who have worked on significant cases that are representative of the firm’s pro bono family law work as a whole. The selected cases included guardianship, custody, adoption, and child abuse and neglect matters:

  • Las Vegas office Managing Partner Bill Curran serves as an advocate for five siblings ranging from five months to 11 years old. The children came to the attention of authorities when they were caught shoplifting at 1 a.m. at the direction of their parents. The children have significant mental health issues, and Mr. Curran has been assisting to find stable housing and get them the help they need. The firm’s Las Vegas attorneys have represented more than two dozen abused and neglected children in the past three years.

  • A team of Salt Lake City lawyers represents a mother who sought to limit her child’s unsupervised visitation with her deceased husband’s parents. They appealed a trial court order granting visitation and obtained an appellate verdict finding that the state’s grandparent visitation law was unconstitutional as applied. The case is now on appeal to the Utah Supreme Court.

  • A team of lawyers from Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland represented a dying serviceman who wanted to ensure that his wife would retain custody of his daughter after his death. The girl’s biological mother planned to seek custody of the girl after his death, although she had been an absentee parent. The case presented complicated jurisdictional issues because family members lived in three different states, with an outstanding custody order in a fourth state. Ballard Spahr attorneys have secured a custody order for the stepmother and are helping negotiate visitation with the girl’s birth mother.

  • In Phoenix, Ballard Spahr lawyers represent the Arizona grandparents of four Minnesota children in a cross-state adoption. Social services in Minnesota had recommended adoption by the grandparents, only to find that Minnesota law barred the grandfather from adopting due to a decades-old conviction. Arizona law does not present the same obstacle, so the lawyers are helping the grandparents complete adoption proceedings in their home state, where the children now reside with the blessing of Minnesota authorities.

"One of the most critical areas of unmet legal needs in America is family law,” said Ballard Spahr Pro Bono Counsel Mary Gay Scanlon. “As many as 85 percent of people appearing in our family courts are unrepresented in matters that are central to their family’s well-being. We are proud to honor the Ballard Spahr attorneys and staff who offer much-needed pro bono services to families with nowhere else to turn."

The Alan J. Davis Award is named for the late Philadelphia City Solicitor and distinguished Ballard Spahr litigator whose dedication to public service was equally strong. Bill Curran (Las Vegas), Carl G. Roberts (Philadelphia), William A. Hicks III and Kimberly A. Warshawsky (Phoenix), and Anthony C. Kaye and Emily L. Wegener (Salt Lake City) accepted the award on behalf of the firm’s family advocates.

The award money is donated to charities selected by the winners. This year’s cash prize will be donated to several legal services agencies that partner with the firm to assist families in crisis: And Justice For All/Legal Aid Society of Salt Lake, Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, Nevada Legal Services, Philadelphia Legal Assistance, Southern Nevada Senior Law Program, Support Center for Child Advocates, and the Volunteer Lawyers Program of Maricopa County.

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