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Pro Bono Representation of 2 Foster Children in Florida's Gay Adoption Case May be 'Most Meaningful' for Greenberg Traurig Team

Miami, FL — "They always tell you that your pro bono cases will be the ones you find most meaningful. There is no doubt that when I look back on my career, I will be proudest of the fact that I may have assisted some of the thousands of foster children in Florida to find permanent homes with loving and capable parents," said Hilarie Bass, the attorney who worked pro bono as the lead for the trial team representing the children in Florida's highly publicized gay adoption case ruling.

In 2007, the ACLU, filed suit on behalf of Martin Gill, a gay foster parent, seeking to have Florida's 33-year-old statue barring adoption by gay men and lesbians struck down as unconstitutionally discriminatory. At that time, Miami-Dade County Juvenile Judge Cindy Lederman reached out to Bass to ask her to undertake the pro bono representation on behalf of the man's two foster children. The case was going to involve a challenge to the constitutionality of the law. The law had previously been challenged unsuccessfully on two occasions: once when the 11th Circuit federal court of appeals upheld the statute and once when the Florida Supreme Court declined to hold it unconstitutional.

Bass, now Chair of the Section of Litigation of the American Bar Association and Global Operating Shareholder at international law firm Greenberg Traurig, PA, took on the challenge. Greenberg Traurig shareholder and fellow litigator Ricardo A. Gonzalez also joined her.

"With the firm's support, and with Rick's incredible and energetic commitment, we participated in a week-long trial in which, after hearing testimony from multiple experts, Judge Lederman held that there was no rational basis for the statute and declared it unconstitutional," Bass said.

Florida's Department of Children and Families appealed Judge Lederman's ruling. Bass and Gonzalez turned to seasoned appellate attorney Elliot Scherker, chair of Greenberg Traurig's Miami Appellate Department. Scherker was joined by appellate associates Brigid F. Cech Samole and Elaine D. Walter in defending the ruling.

Following a dramatic oral argument by Scherker in August 2009, and a 13-month wait, the Third District Court of Appeal issued its decision on Wednesday, September 22, 2010, upholding Judge Lederman's decision and ruling that the statute is unconstitutional.

Florida Governor Charlie Crist issued a statement on the following day, announcing that the statute would no longer be enforced anywhere in Florida. Additionally, the Department of Children and Families issued a directive that prospective adoptive parents would no longer be asked questions about their sexual orientation.

"Mr. Gill is an excellent parent, who has provided excellent care to his children for the past six years. This decision allows them to become a family and upholds the children's rights to a stable and loving home," Scherker said.