DANIEL F. WILENSKY
Tobias Simon Pro Bono Service
Daniel F. Wilensky
was born March 21,1952 in Jacksonville, Florida. His father, Joseph
S. Wilensky, was a Florida attorney and J.A.G. officer in the United
States Marine Corps. His mother, Fran, was one of the first women to
join the United States Navy in World War II. She was a Chief Petty
Officer. Both his parents served and met in the Pacific Fleet.
The Wilensky family
has lived in the Jacksonville area for approximately 100 years,
having immigrated from Eastern Europe. Wilensky grew up in
Jacksonville and graduated from The Bolles School in 1969. He later
graduated from the University of South Florida where he earned a
B.A. and then from Nova University Law Center where he earned his
Juris Doctor degree.
Dan Wilensky married
Cathy Boatwright in 1981 and they have four children, Life - 26,
Mari - 14, Tess - 9, and Jess - 3.
As a senior law
student, Wilensky was in the intern program at the Dade County
Public Defender's Office. He was assigned to the Felony Division
where, under the supervision of an attorney, he represented
defendants from investigation through jury trial. His clients were
mostly migrant farm workers.
During law school he
was elected to the Student Bar Association as a Representative and
was elected as one of three Judges on the school's first Student
Upon graduation from
law school, Wilensky was hired by Florida Supreme Court Justice
James C. Adkins as his Law Clerk/Research Aide. Working with Justice
Adkins exposed him to every type of case imaginable in Florida.
Justice Adkins was a major influence on him, both personally and
Wilensky has been in
private practice as a sole practitioner since the early 1980's.
During that time he has handled all sorts of civil, criminal and
administrative cases including appeals. He has earned the highest
rating, AV©, from Martindale-Hubbell. The Fourth Judicial Circuit
Nominating Commission has nominated Wilensky for a judgeship three
Since about 1990,
Wilensky's practice has evolved into one of primarily family law and
family mediation. He is a Barrister in the Florida Family Law Inns
of Court. He is a Certified County Court Mediator and a Certified
Family Mediator He has completed as many as 237 family mediations
per year, usually involving complicated children's issues.
Some of Wilensky's
pro bono work has been recognized by his being the recipient of the
1997 Fourth Judicial Circuit Family Court Pro Bono Attorney Award.
He has co-authored Family Law teaching materials for attorneys to
assist them in conducting seminars for pro se litigants. He has
conducted several large seminars for pro se litigants. Wilensky has
mediated numerous cases, pro bono, for the Duval County Family
Mediation Unit and the County Court Mediation Program, and was one
of three seminar leaders for the Family Law bar and judges when the
new family law rules were presented.
Wilensky is a trained
and certified Guardian Ad Litem. As such he has been involved
in many cases where he only represented the child or children as
their guardian. These cases involved custody, all sorts of family
issues, sexual abuse of the child, other physical abuse and neglect.
He has, with Judge Jack Schemer and attorney Lisa March, conducted
seminars in Orlando and Jacksonville for hundreds of guardians ad
litem to teach them how to testify and be more effective in cases
where they were the children's advocates. Wilensky also provides
legal representation for the guardians who are involved in legal
proceedings relating to the children. This has meant being present
for multiple days of trial.
Guardian Ad Litem Program asked Wilensky to mediate a case pro bono.
Mediation had already been attempted with another mediator but
failed. The issue was clear but complex from a human standpoint.
There were two children, ages 10 and 14. The children were very
bonded with each other and with the husband. The 14 year old was
born prior to the marriage and was not the biological or adopted
child of the husband. The husband and wife raised both children
since birth. Under current Florida law, the husband had no legal
right to custody or visitation with the oldest child. It was a
crossroad in the children's lives.
The case settled
after six hours of mediation. The settlement provided that the
husband have primary residential custody of both boys. It was worded
in a creative way to satisfy the Court and protect any potential
rights of the birth father of the oldest son. That mediation had a
profound impact on those children. Wilensky knew he had just been a
part of shaping the rest of those children's lives. He had an impact
on how those boys would turn out, not only now but later as
citizens, spouses and parents themselves.
A trial would have
likely had a different result. Clearly this kind of family law case
impacts and affects generations of people and our whole community.
Wilensky helped the parties put their egos aside and determine what
is in the best interest of the children. He set a tone for how the
parties should work with each other at mediation and in years to
come, therefore helping the family avoid future strife and
litigation. This was a very emotional and rewarding experience for
pro bono, a woman whose husband kidnapped her, sexually assaulted
her, beat her with a shovel and left her for dead in the woods. This
was a horrible human drama involving divorce with three young
children. After the tragedy, the family had no source of income. The
wife survived the violence and the husband is serving a 26 year
prison term. Wilensky was with his client in the trauma unit and
represented her through the final hearing.
In another pro bono
case, Wilensky represented a man who was able to reunite with his
two minor sons after not seeing them for 14 years. The case is a
reminder that as an attorney and advocate you are often involved in
cases that affect generations of people in such a positive and
profound way. The father will now enjoy a relationship with his boys
and with their families and their children in the future. All of
their lives will be different because of that case. Wilensky's
client wrote to him afterward saying "...you don't practice law,
you practice life!" He also sent a handmade wooden gavel with a
"From a block of
wood, an old lathe, and much gratitude from me, please accept the
enclosed gavel as a reminder to you that you and your work do make a
difference in people's lives. The gavel isn't fancy but it is from
the heart and it's meant to be a symbol of justice for all lives you
touch with your magic, kindness, and true understanding of your
over 100 hours of pro bono services in representing a young mother
in a four-way nasty custody case involving alleged sexual abuse of a
child. This case lasted over 1-1/2 years and involved numerous
hearings and multiple all day trials.
Wilensky has often
provided free mediation services when he discovered the desperate
financial condition of a family, especially when there were children
involved. He has become known for keeping litigants (and attorneys)
"civilized" while moving them towards a sensible settlement of their
cases. His mediations are famous for the presence of a crystal ball
and casino dice for use when someone wants to guess at the outcome
conducts pro bono mediations. Most of them end with creative
results, keep families out, of court, save lots of legal fees, save
court and judges time, maintain dignity for all parties, and help
steer all concerned in the right direction to avoid future conflict
and litigation. The parties leave with a positive impression of how
our legal system can work and end up with civilized results.
This type of pro bono
work uniquely affects not just one person in one case but affects
present and future families and our whole community. The fruits of
Wilensky's work may truly be reaped for generations.
Wilensky has provided
countless hours of free consultations to pro bono clients needing
guidance in a myriad of areas. He has been equally dedicated to
working for the public good in areas other than law. He has been
especially involved in improving the lives of senior citizens.
For 15 years he was
the President of the Board of the Directors of Mt. Carmel, a senior
citizens' high rise apartment community. For years this involved
sometimes daily management. His study of gerontology along with the
hands on management of this facility gave him insight into the
physical, emotional, medical and environmental needs of our senior
Wilensky also was a
founding Director at Grove House and is now on their Honorary Board
of Directors. This is a group home for developmentally disabled
adults, a segment of our community with real special needs and
He has worked for
many years as an adult scout leader for Boy Scout Troop 14.
Wilensky, his father, his son and his brother were in Troop 14 which
was chartered in 1919. He has served as Assistant Scoutmaster and
Troop Committee Chair, and led nine scouts on a 10-day backpacking
trek in the mountains of Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico.
Wilensky is also on
the Board of Directors of the Jacksonville Jewish Center and
previously served as a Board member of the Jacksonville Jewish
Federation, River Garden Hebrew Home for the Aged, and Jewish
Community and Family Services. He has also been the site chair and
judge at the annual "Jail and Bail" Program for the American Cancer
Wilensky's career has
touched all areas of law and has provided him the opportunity to
have a meaningful impact on people's lives.
After the Supreme
Court clerkship, Wilensky worked for the Jacksonville law firm of
Lewis, Paul, Isaac & Castillo, P.A. He primarily worked with David
R. Lewis on personal injury and product liability litigation. He was
co-counsel on one of the early lawsuits against Ford Motor Company
involving injuries from a classic Ford Pinto explosion. He was also
involved in a "skunk bite" case, one of the first successful.
punitive damage cases against an insurance carrier.
Wilensky appeared on
national television on the program American Journal. The program was
about injuries and death from "accidental" shootings with the Glock
9mm handgun. He represented the estate of a 13 year old boy killed
accidentally by a police officer. The case helped lead to the
redesign of that weapon to make external safety features available.
The old design was arguably responsible for needless injuries and
Wilensky handled the
test case where the state prosecuted his client for alleged
violation of the Florida Hypnosis Law. He won the case and has been
explaining this esoteric area of law to county officials and
attorneys around the state ever since.
Wilensky's family has
been understanding and supportive of his pro bono and community
involvement. Cathy and the kids spend months organizing and
gathering literally hundreds of Christmas gifts, clothing, money,
and food to personally deliver to homeless and needy families. Mari,
a gifted singer and entertainer, has entertained and worked for
homeless people for years. She traveled to New York City to film a
national public service commercial to benefit homeless people. The
personal satisfaction resulting from helping those in need seems to
be contagious in the Wilensky family.
that by combining humanity with expertise and dedication, you can
really make a difference in the world. His guiding principles are
the prophetic words of Micah:
hath been told thee o'man what is good, and what the Lord doth
require of thee,
only to do Justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God."
Biography reprinted as it appeared
in the Supreme Court Ceremony Program