2020 Pro Bono award winners

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy announces Blas Arroyo and Emma Merritt as our 2020 Mecklenburg County Bar Awardees.

Blas Arroyo is a skilled advocate and outstanding mentor who is generous with his time and considerable expertise. As a part of his Senior Counsel status at Alston and Bird, Blas has dedicated several hours each week to work in our office, with clients and as part of our Consumer Protection team.  He has invested countless hours into Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy's criminal records expunctions work, including reviewing records for hundreds of clients and serving as an expert at dozens of expunctions clinics since joining us 2017. In addition to helping with existing programs, Blas made the connection between Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and The Relatives and designed a partnership to help the teen and young-adult clients of The Relatives receive advice and representation on expunctions. He has also assisted in litigating several Consumer Protection cases. Blas is always willing to take the extra time to mentor and share his advice and wisdom. He is incredibly talented and compassionate and has made a deep impact on our programs and our clients at Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy.

Emma Merritt has been a Pro Bono volunteer with Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy since 2017 when she began serving clients with Medicaid and Social Security denials through the Medicaid Appeals Project at her firm, Hunton Andrews Kurth. While continuing these cases, Emma added a major Pro Bono activity to her plate in 2018 when she took on the role of Healthcare “Champion” for our Health Insurance Navigator Project as part of the Charlotte Triage Pro Bono Partnership. Through cases, she has secured over $200,000 in benefits on behalf of clients. Emma consistently approaches her role with enthusiasm and is always willing to provide her time and resources. The first year she was with the Navigator Project, Emma was a superstar on the last day of Affordable Care Act Open Enrollment, staying with us to enroll clients in coverage until the very end of the day. During the 2019 Open Enrollment, Emma assisted us with consumer appointments, check in/out at enrollment events, and enlisted her assistant to compile 1,000 healthcare folders for our consumers with helpful fact sheets and general health insurance information. Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and our health access clients are so fortunate to have Emma on our team!

Council for Children's Rights

Mandy Schuller was an obvious choice for this year’s Pro Bono Award, as she is the epitome of a champion for Council for Children’s Rights. Mandy has been volunteering with CFCR in our Custody Advocacy Program for over 6 years, where she serves as a best interest attorney for children caught in the middle of high-conflict custody cases. In that time, Mandy has successfully represented 14 children across 6 challenging, time-intensive cases. Mandy has always gone above and beyond as a volunteer for our child-clients. If we have a difficult case that needs an experienced, dedicated, and passionate volunteer, we know we can always turn to Mandy. For the last 3 years, Mandy, a member of Wells Fargo’s Legal Department, has been our point-person for the pro bono partnership between Wells Fargo and CFCR. Mandy recruits and encourages talented Wells Fargo employees to volunteer with CFCR, and she is our liaison for matching up volunteers with children in need. We are so grateful to Mandy and all she does for CFCR, and we are so impressed that she does it all while being a busy lawyer and mom!

We are excited to announce Randi Guinn-Shirley as the recipient of this year’s Pro Bono Award. Her passion to serve children and young adults is undeniable. Prior to relocating to Charlotte, Randi worked in New York representing children in matters involving custody and visitation, child protection, and juvenile delinquency to ensure their interests were protected and wishes expressed to the court. In January 2008, Randi and her family moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, and at that time she turned her focus on raising her children, one with special needs, and caring for her family.

When Randi reached out to Council for Children’s Rights about her interest in volunteering with the Special Education Advocacy for Kids (SpEAK) Volunteer Program, she seemed like a natural fit. She completely understood the need for students in foster care to have someone able and willing to make special education decisions on their behalf, especially for students who do not have anyone naturally involved in their life able to serve that role. In May 2019, Randi was among the third group of volunteers to go through the SpEAK Volunteer Program training. Shortly thereafter, Randi was appointed to serve as the Special Education Decision Maker for a sibling group of seven, ranging from first grade to sixth grade. During this school year, Randi has dedicated countless hours (over 150!) to advocating for appropriate educational services for these seven students. She has become intimately involved, getting to know their schools, their teachers, their foster parents, their therapists, and most importantly these students. They have greatly benefited from her enthusiasm, commitment, and consistency. We are so grateful to Randi for her dedication and passion to this work!

Legal Aid of North Carolina, Charlotte Office

Legal Aid’s individual award winner for 2019 is Paul Kinny.  After a long career as a lawyer with Duke Energy, Paul volunteered in Legal Aid’s office for 10 weeks in the summer of 2019 during his time off from his teaching position with Queens University.  Although not licensed in North Carolina, Paul helped out on housing cases in numerous ways:  interviewing clients, negotiating with landlords, research, and drafting pleadings and discovery.  Paul has now been approved by the N.C. State Bar to represent clients in court and plans to continue volunteering with Legal Aid.  Paul’s work resulted in better outcomes for many clients and eased the burden on Legal Aid’s housing attorneys.

Moore Van Allen is Legal Aid’s winner of the firm award.  Ten attorneys from Moore Van Allen handled ten housing cases last year, protecting tenant’s rights to decent housing.  Those attorneys spent a total of more than 300 hours for those clients.  In addition, one of MVA’s lawyers continued to serve as one of the three housing champions and placed dozens of housing cases with other pro bono attorneys at other firms.

Mecklenburg County Bar

The Mecklenburg County Bar's Pro Bono & Legal Recruitment Committee selected two separate and deserving nominees to honor as this year’s recipients for Outstanding Individual Attorney: Fitz Barringer and Lynna Moen.

Fitz Barringer is a partner at Robinson, Bradshaw & Hinson, where he plays an active role in promoting pro bono work within the firm.  In addition to coordinating a summer associate pro bono project in partnership with Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, Fitz also volunteers with Legal Aid of North Carolina on landlord-tenant matters.  Fitz's commitment to helping to serve the underserved goes beyond the courtroom.  Fitz also volunteers his time advising the board of a preschool situated in a low-income area of Charlotte that offers tuition-free care and education.  In 2019 alone, Fitz reported 175 hours of pro bono work.  The Mecklenburg County Bar thanks you for setting the example and for your leadership in the community!

Lynna Moen of Moen Legal Counsel began her pro bono journey with Safe Alliance while still in law school.  She later became a Safe Alliance fellow and to this day continues to volunteer for Safe Alliance, representing domestic violence survivors.  She also volunteers with Moore & Van Allen’s Human Trafficking Project, the Mecklenburg County Clerk’s Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, and the U.S. State Department’s Child Abduction Project.  The Bar’s Pro Bono & Legal Recruitment Committee received an outpouring of heartfelt support for this nomination from both fellow Bar members and the leaders of the organizations with whom she volunteers.  Congratulations, Lynna.  The Bar and the community are lucky to have you in our midst!