2016 Recipient Beth T. Morrison
When it comes to pro bono efforts, Beth Morrison of our Minneapolis office has dedicated herself to providing as much legal assistance and leadership as she can to help stem domestic violence and sex trafficking around the state of Minnesota. In addition, she leads the Women’s Rotary in Minneapolis and works to help kids get ready for the Special Olympics as a volunteer at Gigi’s Playhouse.
Beth serves on the Board for the Battered Women’s Legal Advocacy Project (BWLAP). Since 1983 BWLAP has sought ways to improve the legal systems’ response to battered women and children, whether through the passage of new legislation, or the enforcement of current laws. BWLAP takes a leadership role in several state-wide collaborative efforts to address the legal and community needs of battered women and children. Its activities are aimed at reducing barriers, eliminating discrimination and creating long-term change through multiple programs designed to inform and deter.
She also serves as a Safety Project volunteer at Tubman where she offers free legal representation to low-income victims of domestic violence. The victims have a need for legal assistance and are seeking Orders for Protection (OFP). Legal advocates at several area domestic abuse agencies refer clients to this program through Tubman. Beth helps them to file the OFP’s.
The statistics in Minnesota related to domestic violence are sobering. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1 in 3 homeless women in Minnesota is homeless because of domestic violence. In 2011, Minnesota courts adjudicated more than 27,999 cases of domestic violence. Nationally, on a typical day, domestic violence hotlines receive 21,000 calls – more than 15 calls per minute. Intimate partner crime accounts for 15% of all violent crimes. As the statistics indicate, this is an issue which requires our efforts and Beth is representing the firm, and the victims well, through her pro bono service.
Another area Beth volunteers her time is serving as the President of the Minneapolis Women’s Rotary. The Minneapolis Women's Rotary began in 1911 and is the only all-female rotary in the United States. Each year the Women’s Rotary picks two non-profits to assist and this year as its President, Beth helped to raise more than $20,000 to help fund scholarships for women and to help fund the Jeremiah Program – a program which offers one of the nation’s most successful strategies for transforming families from poverty into prosperity two generations at a time.
Beth does save some time for more light-hearted volunteering through her efforts as a volunteer at GiGi’s Playhouse, where she helps children prepare for the Special Olympics. GiGi’s Playhouse is a national program and is a one-of-a-kind achievement center for individuals with Down syndrome, their families, and the community. It offers more than 25 therapeutic and educational programs that advance literacy, math skills, motor skills and more; all of which are free of charge. Significantly, its founder, Nancy Gianni, was named a 2016 CNN Hero.
About the Jack DeWitt Pro Bono Award:
The Jack DeWitt Pro Bono award annually recognizes one attorney (or team of attorneys working on a matter) in the firm for his/her Pro Bono efforts. As many know, studies show that more than 80 percent of the legal needs of low-income individuals in the United States go unmet and millions of people find themselves in court each year without legal representation. Jack DeWitt was one of the founding partners of DeWitt Ross & Stevens S.C. He passed away in 2012 at the age of 93.
Born in Oklahoma in 1918, Jack moved to Wisconsin when he was 14 years old. From a young age, he was committed to excellence and determined to succeed. He obtained his B.A. and L.L.B. (now referred to as a J.D.) degrees from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. At the age of 23, he finished his law degree one semester early so he could voluntarily enlist in the military during the height of World War II in 1942.
After a short stint as an enlisted soldier, Jack set his sights on becoming a commissioned officer. He quickly worked his way up the military ranks and finished his officer candidacy training in three months. Jack was eventually sent to France in 1944 where he fought in the Battle of the Bulge. By the end of his tour as an infantry officer, Jack had earned a number of prestigious medals for his valor and bravery, including the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star, the Purple Heart and the British Cross. His history with the military extended beyond the war, as he continued to serve in the U.S. Army Reserves and eventually retired as a Brigadier General and as the Assistant Division Commander of the 84th Division of the U.S. Army.
Jack's legal career was equally remarkable. He was one of the five founding partners of the firm Immell, Herro, Buehner, DeWitt and Sundby in the 1950s, which evolved throughout the years to become DeWitt Porter and eventually merged with Ross & Stevens in 1994 to become DeWitt Ross & Stevens. He practiced in the areas of Business, Litigation, Legislative, and Estate Planning. He was a prominent civil litigator who authored the interpretive commentaries in West's Wisconsin Statutes Annotated and co-authored West's Wisconsin Practice Methods and served as a mentor to many young lawyers throughout his career. He also was the Chair of John F. Kennedy's campaign in Wisconsin in 1960.
During his career, Jack played an important role in the enactment of numerous legislative acts and court rules involving court organization and administration. He handled civil litigation and appellate work for state agencies, municipal corporations, school districts, national and state veterans' organizations, major business corporations, and professional organizations such as the American Bar Association. He provided legislative representation for professional organizations, veterans' organizations, and major corporations, and was a leader in working for successful adoption of state constitutional amendments. Jack also represented businesses and municipalities before the Public Service Commission, the Aeronautics Commission, and the Interstate Commerce Committee. He served as an acting District Attorney in Dane County and an adjunct Professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School. Jack also served as the chairman of the Advisory Committee of Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs.
He was the President and Chairman of the Board of Governors of the State Bar of Wisconsin, the President of the Dane County Bar Association, and Trustee of the National Conference of Bar Foundations. Jack received the Charles L. Goldberg Distinguished Service Award from the Wisconsin Bar Foundation, the Leonard L. Loeb Award from the State Bar of Wisconsin, the Distinguished Service Award from the University of Wisconsin Law School Alumni Association and the McNulty Service Award from the Fellows of Wisconsin Law Foundation.