The Dick and Joan Jacobs Public Interest Law Clinic for Democracy and the Environment to be established at Stetson University College of Law

Dick and Joan Jacobs
Dick and Joan Jacobs

For Immediate Release 

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GULFPORT, Fla. – Stetson University College of Law is pleased to announce a leadership commitment from alumnus Richard O. “Dick” Jacobs and his wife, Joan, to establish a Clinic for Democracy and the Environment. 

Dick and Joan recognized that the health of our nation and local communities is inextricably linked and entirely dependent on a functioning democracy. Thanks to their vision, the new Clinic for Democracy and the Environment at Stetson Law will facilitate collaboration between law students, faculty and practicing attorneys to pursue and defend important issues. 

“Attorneys constitute a large percentage of legislators, government employees and lobbyists,” Jacobs noted. “They are the most significant group of influencers who put us on the road we travel as a country and state. We need them to be steeped in public service. We also need a nonpolitical forum to provide public information and public service. The Center will be a tool of a thriving democracy.”

The Jacobs previously established the Dick and Joan Jacobs Public Interest Environmental Law Clinic and Institute of Environmental Justice, but because of their growing concern about political chaos and state of American democracy, they chose to broaden the scope of their project to include additional areas of social justice advocacy.    

The Public Interest Law Center for Justice and Democracy will build upon the expertise of Stetson Law’s Institute for Biodiversity Law and Policy and the Social Justice Advocacy Concentration, as well as its leadership in the Florida Law Schools’ Consortium for Racial Justice, to tackle issues such as voting rights, gerrymandering, fair representation, and bolstering checks and balances in state and national governments.

“We are so fortunate to have such passionate and visionary collaborators as Dick Jacobs and his wife, Joan,” said Dean Michèle Alexandre. “They share our belief that lawyers really can change the world for the better. We are grateful for their generosity. Thanks to their partnership, we will be able to leverage our strengths to achieve even greater good in our community and beyond.” 

“Dedicated alumni who seek to further civic and professional visions elevate not only Stetson and its students, but also society as a whole,” said Stetson University President Christopher F. Roellke. “We are so grateful to the Jacobs for choosing Stetson Law as the home for their new Clinic for Democracy and the Environment.” 

Dick credits the late Justice Harold Sebring, a former Stetson Law Dean and Professor of Law, with being a part of his inspiration for the Clinic. Prior to his time at Stetson, Sebring served as Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court and as the United States Justice with the Nuremberg Court, the most globally significant court on human rights.

The Jacobs have contributed $1 million and committed to raise additional funds to establish the clinic and an associated Institute for Democracy in perpetuity. Those interested in contributing may do so online on the Stetson Law Giving page or contact the Office of Development and Alumni Relations at [email protected] or 727-562-7818.

About Dick and Joan Jacobs

Dick and Joan Jacobs graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1954 and moved to Florida in 1957 where Dick had a successful life insurance career before deciding to enroll at Stetson Law. He graduated in 1967 magna cum laude and first in his class. He has practiced law for more than five decades and currently serves as senior counsel for Johnson Pope Bokor Ruppel & Burns, LLC in St. Petersburg, Fla. 

Dick has authored and co-authored several books and legal publications, including Crash Landing–Surviving a Business Crisis, which outlines lessons learned from a bank crash; Wonderlust, a book of his photography and lessons learned trekking seven continents; and most recently, Democracy of Dollars, a book about our troubled system of constitutional government.

Throughout his career, Dick has been active with The Florida Bar and within his community, currently serving as Trustee of St. Petersburg College’s Institute for Strategic Policy Decisions. He speaks frequently on climate change and sea level rise. In 2020 he was inducted into the Stetson University College of Law Hall of Fame.