ABA Honors Holland & Knight Partner Mark Melton with Pro Bono Publico Award
Annual Award for Attorneys and Law Firms Demonstrating Outstanding Commitment to Volunteer Legal Services for Low-Income and Disadvantaged Persons
DALLAS (June 6, 2022) – The American Bar Association (ABA) Pro Bono Committee has honored Dallas Partner Mark Melton with its Pro Bono Publico award for his work keeping people in the Dallas metroplex area in their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the nation shutting down, and so many people out of work, Mark realized evictions would be a major issue during the pandemic. He recruited more than 250 Dallas lawyers to help tenants navigate the complex legal process of eviction. Under Mark's leadership, and after more than 2,500 hours of his own pro bono work, that ad hoc, pro bono project has grown into a nonprofit called the Dallas Eviction Advocacy Center. The center employs a team of full-time lawyers and staff, and has helped more than 10,000 tenants in Dallas in the past two years, at no charge.
"While focused initially on pandemic-related evictions, it became obvious that the entire system is broken," Mr. Melton said. "In 2021 the lawyers at the Dallas Eviction Advocacy Center had positive outcomes 96 percent of the time when pro se tenants only won their eviction cases 2 percent of the time. That indicates there's a fundamental fairness problem that requires a permanent solution in our housing justice system, and I'm pleased that the ABA is recognizing our efforts to bring a solution at scale."
The award will be presented at the annual ABA conference in Chicago in August.
"Mark's work is in the highest tradition of the firm and of the bar," said Paul Kiernan, chair of Holland & Knight's Public and Charitable Service Department. "He saw neighbors in need and got to work to help them. He stirred other lawyers to action, too, and the Advocacy Center tries to ensure that everyone has access to a lawyer and to justice. Mark's work and his example have made a powerful difference in the lives of so many families."