July 12, 2022

Johanna Fini Recognized in 2022 LSBA Pro Bono Publico and Children’s Law Awards

Louisiana State Bar Association Honors Exceptional Louisiana Pro Bono Work

NEW ORLEANS—After two years of virtual celebration, the Louisiana State Bar Association (LSBA) held its 37th annual Pro Bono Publico & Children’s Law Awards Ceremony on May 26, 2022, at the Louisiana Supreme Court in New Orleans. For the first time in the history of the ceremony, the Justices were all available to attend and presided over the ceremony from the bench in an official court session to demonstrate their fervent support for pro bono.  


Following welcoming remarks by 2021-2022 LSBA President H. Minor Pipes III and 2022-2023 Louisiana Bar Foundation President Alan G. Brackett, Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice John L. Weimer commended the award recipients for going above and beyond their professional duties to ensure access to legal services for low-income Louisianans, calling them “shining stars in the galaxy of the legal profession.”  


Pro bono service is essential to ensuring that all people can access justice in Louisiana, where the number of people eligible for free legal services outnumbers legal aid attorneys themselves by a whopping 11,250 to one. This means that while legal aid providers serve thousands of people each year, they cannot serve everyone who cannot afford an attorney. These awards recognize members of the legal profession who are leading the charge in closing the gap between needed legal services and available legal help through their pro bono service.  


The LSBA recognized the following individuals and organization with the listed awards. (Individual biographies follow the list of names.)  


2022 Career Public Interest Award

(Recognizes individuals in Louisiana who have devoted at least 10 years of their careers to public interest legal work; demonstrated excellence in their work; demonstrated leadership within their organization; and provided significant service on behalf of the poor and disenfranchised.)  

Elizabeth “Liz” A. Betz          Baton Rouge


2022 Children’s Law Award

(Recognizes a Louisiana attorney or Louisiana-based organization that has provided outstanding services in the field of children’s law.)

Mary Ann McGrath Swaim                 Houma

The Advanced Advocacy Project      Baton Rouge


2022 Law Student Pro Bono Award

(Recognizes law students demonstrating dedication to providing legal services or other community service to the poor.)

Adreaynne N. Hutchison      Louisiana State University Paul M. Hebert Law Center

Devon J. Clancy                    Loyola University College of Law

Christopher M. Jordan          Southern University Law Center

Jacob D. Edwards                 Tulane University Law School


2022 Friend of Pro Bono Award

(Recognizes individuals, law firms or organizations making major contributions to the enhancement and promotion of pro bono, outside of direct legal services.)

George “Dave” D. Ernest III                        Lafayette

Paula K. Woodruff Family Law Section        Lafayette


2022 Pro Bono Publico Award

(Recognizes attorneys or law firms providing pro bono legal services to Louisiana citizens in excess of the aspirational goal of 50 hours of pro bono services per year, and who have demonstrated exceptional support of the ideal of access to justice.)  

Lauren M. Barletta                            New Orleans

Karen “Kasi” Colleen Brannan          Covington

Laura Peterson Butler                       Denver, CO

William J. Faustermann, Jr.              Slidell

Johanna R.H. Fini                              Baton Rouge

Scott P. Gaspard                                Baton Rouge

James S. Knight                                 Franklinton

Paulette Porter LaBostrie                 Baton Rouge

Sarah A. Simmons                             Lafayette


2022 Award  

( is a website which allows low-income Louisianans to submit civil legal questions online which are then answered anonymously and for free by attorney volunteers. The award recognizes volunteers who have answered numerous questions through the site with professionalism and compassion.)

Amber C. Sheppard                Slidell


2022 Pro Bono Century Club Award

(Recognizes attorneys demonstrating exemplary commitment to the ideals of their profession by providing over 100 hours of volunteer pro bono services during the past calendar year through an established pro bono organization.)

W. Scott Brown                      New Orleans

Robert William Knights         Mandeville

Gregory J. Reda                     New Orleans

Gary J. Williams                     Slidell


The award winners’ biographies are listed by award category below:


Career Public Interest Award


Elizabeth “Liz” A. Betz, Baton Rouge. A graduate of Baton Rouge High School and Louisiana State University, Betz became the executive director of the Capital Area CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) Association in 1993. Her experience includes more than 35 years with volunteer-based, mission-focused organizations. During her tenure with CASA, the program has provided volunteer advocates for 3,400 children, growing from a staff of one to 11 full-time positions, and with more than 100 volunteers active annually. She was instrumental in the development of the Louisiana CASA Association, serving on its board of directors for seven years and as board president.  

Children’s Law Award  

• Mary Ann McGrath Swaim, Houma. A graduate of Loyola University New Orleans College of Law, Swaim has practiced law in insurance, contracts and corporate litigation in both state and federal courts. Once being introduced to children’s law about 10 years ago, she joined CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) in Orleans Parish and began representing children in the courtroom across Louisiana.  

• The Advanced Advocacy Project, Baton Rouge. The Project is a collaboration between the Baton Rouge Juvenile Public Defenders and the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights. The Project began in 2017 with the hiring of one social worker, then expanded in 2020 when the Louisiana Public Defender Board secured federal funding for three additional advocates, allowing the Project to exponentially increase its advocacy.  


Law Student Pro Bono Award  


• Adreaynne N. Hutchison, Louisiana State University Paul M. Hebert Law Center. Hutchison, a native of New Orleans, graduated from LSU Law Center in May 2022. She was involved with the Public Interest Law Society and did extensive pro bono work with the LSU Parole and Reentry Clinic and the Parole Project for Louisianans wrongly denied parole.

• Devon J. Clancy, Loyola University College of Law. Clancy, from Basking Ridge, New Jersey, is a May 2022 graduate of Loyola Law. She served as a family law student practitioner for the Stuart H. Smith Law Clinic & Center for Social Justice and, in 2021, was awarded the Pro Bono Law Student of the Year Award by the Pro Bono Project for her outstanding work as its summer and fall intern.

• Christopher M. Jordan, Southern University Law Center. Jordan is a May 2022 graduate of Southern University Law Center and was a lead volunteer for the Pro Bono Project. He works with the Baton Rouge Youth Coalition Upperclassman Transition Program and mentors at-risk males in reading, math and writing. He contributed more than 100 hours of community service in his 3L year.  

• Jacob D. Edwards, Tulane University Law School. Edwards, originally from San Jose, California, is a graduate of Tulane University Law School. Prior to law school, he worked with autistic children and teenagers as a behavioral therapist. He performed pro bono hours at Disability Rights Louisiana, assisting clients seeking reasonable accommodations and appropriate living conditions.  


Friend of Pro Bono Award  


• George “Dave” D. Ernest III, Lafayette. Ernest graduated from Louisiana State University Paul M. Hebert Law Center in 1985. As a partner at Hurlburt, Monrose & Ernest, his practice focuses on defense casualty litigation. He has been a board member for Acadiana Legal Service Corp. since 1996 (current vice president). He is a board member for the Louisiana Bar Foundation, the Lafayette Bar Association and the Lafayette Bar Foundation (current chair).

• Paula K. Woodruff Family Law Section, Lafayette. Established in 1997, the Paula K. Woodruff Family Law Section has about 100 members from Lafayette, Vermilion, Acadia, Iberia and St. Landry Parishes. The members of the section have adopted a mission of pro bono service in response to the overwhelming need for family law services for the indigent. In 2021, members litigated 38 pro bono cases.


Pro Bono Publico Award


• Lauren M. Barletta, New Orleans. Barletta attended Louisiana State University Paul M. Hebert Law Center. She practiced law at Southeast Louisiana Legal Services in the areas of veterans’ benefits and Social Security disability benefits. She currently works for the Department of Veterans Affairs. She volunteers for the Justice and Accountability Center at their monthly Expungement Clinics and Reentry Legal Clinics.  

• Karen “Kasi” Colleen Brannan, Covington. Brannan received her law degree from Loyola University College of Law and is a sole practitioner focusing in all areas of family law. She has been providing pro bono services in St. Tammany and Washington Parishes for more than 20 years. She also participates in the Wills for Heroes Program, drafting wills and other documents for first responders.  

• Laura Peterson Butler, Denver, CO. Born and raised in Shreveport, Butler received her law degree from University of Texas at Austin. She worked for law firms in Virginia and in Shreveport before starting a solo practice in 2014. She volunteered at the Shreveport Bar Foundation’s Ask-A-Lawyer Clinics and annual will and power of attorney events. She moved to Denver in 2021 and continues her estate planning and pro bono legal work.

• William J. Faustermann, Jr., Slidell. Faustermann earned his law degree in 1979 from Louisiana State University Paul M. Hebert Law Center. Following graduation, he opened his general litigation law practice in Slidell and has been board-certified in family law since 1997. His pro bono activities are principally in the area of family law and he accepts referrals from Southeast Louisiana Legal Services.  

• Johanna R.H. Fini, Baton Rouge. Fini, a graduate of Southern University Law Center, opened her own firm, Fini Firm, focusing on personal injury, litigation and family and criminal defense matters. She is active in the Baton Rouge Bar Association’s Pro Bono Project, where she uses her fluency in Spanish to help low-income, Spanish-speaking clients.

• Scott P. Gaspard, Baton Rouge. A sole practitioner in Baton Rouge, Gaspard received his law degree from Louisiana State University Paul M. Hebert Law Center in 1992. He is a qualified domestic mediator and a collaborative divorce professional. He was a member of the Louisiana Chapter of the Association of Family and Conciliation Court’s formation committee. He has been involved with the Baton Rouge Bar Association’s Ask-A-Lawyer, Thirst for Justice, Wills for Heroes and Pro Bono Project for 30 years and has provided more than 600 volunteer hours.

• James S. Knight, Franklinton. A graduate of Loyola University College of Law, Knight has been practicing law for more than 15 years, with a general practice in family law, criminal law, successions, real estate and litigation. He focuses his pro bono work through Southeast Louisiana Legal Services.  

• Paulette Porter LaBostrie, Baton Rouge. A 1992 graduate of Louisiana State University Paul M. Hebert Law Center, LaBostrie started the nonprofit, Legal Clinic, Inc., in 1997 to offer low-cost legal services to people of modest means. She has also handled complex, time-consuming pro bono cases through the Baton Rouge Pro Bono Project, defending indigent clients in housing matters, contractor and consumer fraud, and evictions. Prior to opening her solo practice in 2008, she was a staff attorney for Louisiana State Employees Retirement System and in administrative positions for the Department of Health and Hospitals and the Department of Children and Family Services.

• Sarah A. Simmons, Lafayette. Simmons graduated cum laude from Louisiana State University Paul M. Hebert Law Center in 2020. She practices at NeunerPate in Lafayette, handling insurance defense claims. She also has committed time to pro bono representation of domestic violence victims and in divorce and child custody matters.  


LA.FreeLegalAnswers Award  


Amber C. Sheppard, Slidell. Sheppard focuses on small business, nonprofit and service dog laws at Sheppard Law PLLC. She is a frequent contributor for magazines, continuing education courses, Wills for Heroes programs and the Lawyers in Libraries Project. She answered 139 legal questions through in 2021. She is currently working alongside the 22nd Judicial District Court through her nonprofit, Be Fierce & Kind Canine, to implement a landmark therapy dog program in Child In Need of Care, Juvenile Delinquency and Mental Health courts.


2022 Pro Bono Century Club Award
W. Scott Brown                         New Orleans  

Robert William Knights             Mandeville  

Gregory J. Reda                         New Orleans  

Gary J. Williams                         Slidell  


To access photos and captions of the award ceremony and award recipients, go to:  


The Louisiana State Bar Association assists its more than 22,000 members in the practice of law. The statewide association, as part of its multi-faceted mission, promotes and maintains access to justice initiatives for the state’s residents, assists the Louisiana Supreme Court in its regulation of the practice of law, upholds the honor of the courts and the profession, and supports programs that increase public understanding of and respect for the law.