Stetson Law to Establish the Dick and Joan Jacobs Public Interest Law Clinic
Stetson University College of Law has announced a leadership commitment from alumnus Richard O. “Dick” Jacobs and his wife, Joan, to establish the Dick and Joan Jacobs Public Interest Law Clinic for Democracy and the Environment.
The Jacobs previously established the Dick and Joan Jacobs Public Interest Environmental Law Clinic and Institute of Environmental Justice. However, because of their growing concern about political chaos and state of American democracy, they chose to broaden the scope of their project.
The Jacobs believe the health of the nation and local communities is inextricably linked and entirely dependent on a functioning democracy. As a result, the new Clinic for Democracy and the Environment 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,” Dick Jacobs said. “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.”
Tackling Issues of Justice
The new center for democracy and the environment will build upon the expertise of Stetson Law’s Institute for Biodiversity Law and Policy and the Social Justice Advocacy Concentration. Also, the effort will be aided by its leadership in the Florida Law Schools’ Consortium for Racial Justice. The center’s focus will be on tackling issues such as voting rights, gerrymandering and fair representation. Also, it will bolster 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 College of Law Dean Michèle Alexandre, JD. “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 President Christopher F. Roellke, PhD. “We are so grateful to the Jacobs for choosing Stetson Law as the home for their new Clinic for Democracy and the Environment.”
Dick Jacobs 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.
About Dick and Joan Jacobs
Dick and Joan Jacobs graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1954 and moved to Florida in 1957. There, 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.
Dick has authored and co-authored several books and legal publications. They include “Crash Landing–Surviving a Business Crisis,” which outlines lessons learned from a bank crash; and “Wonderlust,” a book of his photography and lessons learned trekking seven continents. Most recently, “Democracy of Dollars” is 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.