Friends of 440 (no, the other one)

The Friends of 440 Scholarship Fund was incorporated in 1992. Its goal “is to make the dream of college a reality for eligible students who are dependents and descendants of an individual who has been injured or killed in the course and scope of their employment and who received benefits under the Florida Workers' Compensation Law.” Most people associated with workers’ compensation in Florida have run across this group at the annual worker’s compensation conference in Orlando, either as they raise money in the concourse or as they announce scholarship winners in the main hall. When you mention Friends of 440, or click that link on the section website, scholarship is the focus.

What is less well known is that the scholarship fund group grew out of The Friends of 440 ("the other one"), a much older organization of south Florida workers’ compensation practitioners. The Friends of 440 is essentially a specialized local bar association with some characteristics in common with Inns of Court. It is focused on continuing education in the workers’ compensation community and on fostering collegiality between bench and bar. The Friends of 440 was founded in 1959 according to former Judge Alan Kuker, a member for over 40 years. When I got these two "Friends" confused in conversations, mistakenly attributing the Friends name only to the scholarship organization, several attorneys over the years told me “no, the other one (Friends organization),” thus the title of this post.

I was honored to be invited to attend a luncheon meeting of the Friends of 440 last January. It was a cordial gathering of about 40 attorneys, judges, and other workers’ compensation system professionals primarily from the Miami area. A main focus of the agenda was the group’s plans for a significant continuing education program planned for later in the year.

On May 8, 2014, the Friends presented 2014 Changes in Workers' Compensation, Statutory Case Law and Procedural Rules at the La Gorces Country Club in Miami Beach. The speakers included Judges Charles Hill (MIA), Geraldine Hogan (FTL), and Margaret Kerr (MIA), as well as attorneys Richard Sicking, Robert Rodriguez and mediator/former Judge Alan Kuker.

They brought insight and analysis of recent statutory and decisional interpretations over the course of the last year. Their topics included “attorney fees, advances, enforcement of settlements, ethical issues and practice before the Judges of Compensation Claims.” The program was accredited for two hours of CLE credit, including an hour of ethics. Despite its primary focus of education, this program also served as a fundraiser, which is part of the Friends’ efforts to support the mission of the scholarship fund organization.

The Friends leadership includes President Susan Gorowitz, President-elect Dawn Traverso, and Treasurer Danny Simpson. The CLE program planning committee included Leslie Delman, former Judge Kuker, Eric Sandler, Cory Schnepper, and Dawn Traverso. They are responsible for the success of the Friends and the standing room only program on May 8, 2014. They sold over 200 tickets, had a huge turnout, earned CLE credits, supported their community, built bridges between bench, bar and community, and likely had a good bit of fun in the process.

I should mention that the Scholarship Friends of 440, South Florida Division is led by President Eric Sandler, Vice-President Mal Steinberg, Alan Kuker (Vice-President Selection), Treasurer Cory Schnepper, Secretary Grace Murtada, and Nancy Fajado and Gary Miller (co-chairs fundraising). When you read all of these names, it is notable that you sometimes see the same leaders again and again, organization after organization, pitching in to make things better where they can. It shows a real dedication to their communities.

It is my honor this week to recognize everyone involved in the CLE program on May 8 for their commitment to education, collegiality, and their community. 

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