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Wilensky Enters Judge’s Race

Click for Larger Picture

With the quick scribble of a pen Monday at the Supervisor of Elections office, attorney Daniel Wilensky officially entered the race for the circuit court judgeship being vacated early next year by retiring judge Alban Brooke. Wilensky was accompanied by his family, including his youngest son, who was wearing roller skates.

Dan Wilensky signs his application for circuit court judge while Supervisor of Elections Office employee Frankie Knight looks on.

(back row) Matt Larrow, a friend of the family, with Wilensky’s wife Cathy, Wilensky and son Life. (front row) Wilensky’s children Mari, Jess and Tess.
©photos by Monica Chamness

Attorney’s Free Work for Poor Recognized

When his client was kidnapped by her husband, beaten with a shovel, sexually assaulted and left for dead in the woods, Jacksonville family law attorney Daniel F. Wilensky headed to the hospital to be by her side. He also helped a man reunite with his two boys after a 14-year separation.

And after a family custody mediation failed once with another mediator, Wilensky mediated the parties to an amicable agreement within six hours, allowing a child to remain with the only father he’s known.

The work Wilensky, 46, has done free of charge for the poor will be recognized today when the Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court awards him the Tobias Simon Pro Bono Service Award the State's highest public honor in the legal profession.

The award recognizes Wilensky's devotion to providing legal services to Florida's needy. He is the first Jacksonville winner in 14 years.

But to Wilensky, being honored for something he's been doing for years feels kind of strange.

"I've been doing it for 21 years," he said. "It's a way of life. I don't consider it pro bono work. It's just the way I am, so I feel pretty awkward for getting a prize for it."

The son of a lawyer, Wilensky says he learned from his parents to help the poor. His father often took pro bono cases, and his mother helped the elderly and poor, Wilensky said.

While Wilensky may consider what he does second nature, Chief Justice Major Harding doesn't.

"If every lawyer exerted the pro bono ethic that he did, we would live in a far different world," Harding said. "One of the problems that we all have as a society is gaining access to the court system. Through his efforts, he has made that access possible for people who otherwise would be disenfranchised."

A graduate of The Boles School, the University of South Florida in Tampa and Nova University Law Center in Fort Lauderdale, Wilensky clerked at the Florida Supreme Court before going into private practice in the early '80s.

Primarily focusing his practice on family law, Wilensky has represented many clients pro bono, completed over 200 family mediations per year for free and is a certified guardian ad litem, a volunteer trained to represent children's interests in court.

He is one of three finalists for a vacant Circuit Court judgeship.

Miami lawyer Edward Blumberg, head of the advisory committee that reviewed the nominations for the award, said he was most impressed by Wilensky's efforts to help families and children, especially as a mediator.

"Many, many times he would serve in extraordinarily difficult cases for free where the welfare and the well-being of children was the issue," Blumberg said. "In those instances, he was able, through just a lot of perseverance and hard work and caring, to resolve the matters in the best interest of the ... children."

Calling the practice of law a privilege, Wilensky said it's a wonderful opportunity to be in a profession that allows him to touch the lives of people.

"How many professions," he asked, "can say that they're able to do what they do and help really change generations of people?"

View Tobias Simon Award Page




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