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OCBA 2020 Professionalism Awards Recipients


Catherine T. “Kate” Hollis, Esq.
Professionalism Committee // The Briefs // March 2020, Vol. 88 No. 3

 The Orange County Bar Association strives to increase the civility and professionalism of its members by offering seminars, writing articles for The Briefs, and reaching out to local law schools, elementary, middle, and high schools and the community with activities that promote the profession and our system of justice. Through our annual professionalism awards, we recognize three members of the legal community whose practice, service, professionalism, ethical conduct, demeanor, and high moral standards best embody the qualities we all seek to emulate. The following individuals are this year’s awards recipients.

The Honorable Karen S. Jennemann – 2020 James G. Glazebrook Memorial Bar Service Award

 The Honorable Karen S. Jennemann was appointed to the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Florida, Orlando Division, in November 1993 and served as chief judge from October 1, 2011 until September 30, 2015. She continues to serve in the bankruptcy court. Prior to her appointment, Judge Jennemann was a shareholder in the law firm of Mahoney Adams & Criser, P.A., Jacksonville, Florida, where she specialized in bankruptcy law, and an associate at Smith Hulsey & Busey, Jacksonville, Florida. She also served as a law clerk to the Honorable Robert Doumar, United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Norfolk Division.

Ryan E. Davis, Esq., a member of the selection committee, notes that Judge Jennemann is an “exemplary jurist with a steady, calm temperament, whose tenure has been defined by her devotion to the legal community and commitment to professionalism. She regularly volunteers to speak at luncheons, the annual seminar for the local bankruptcy law association, the OCBA Bench Bar Conference, and the annual View from the Bench seminar in Tampa, among other events. She’s even hosted family days at the courthouse, highlighted by mock trials for the local bankruptcy bar and their children.”

Jules S. Cohen, Esq., remarks that “Judge Jennemann brings to the bench a keen intellect and an ability to get to the heart of matters and is respectful to attorneys, parties, witnesses, and court staff. When she was [appointed] chief judge of the Middle District, the first thing she did was go on a ‘listening tour.’ She visited with judges, clerks, bankruptcy trustees, and the U.S. Trustee in all of the divisions to listen to how the court was functioning, what the problems were, and ideas people had for solutions.”

Mr. Davis states that Judge Jennemann implemented a “vision of uniformity, which has absolutely enhanced the practice for bankruptcy attorneys throughout the Middle District… Her vision has led to ‘The Source,’ which is a comprehensive online resource guide for bankruptcy practitioners, including a procedures manual, forms, case digest, and a style guide, among other things.”

Mr. Cohen also remarks on Judge Jennemann’s vision, noting that her “work in bringing about uniformity of practice in the Middle District was truly revolutionary.”

Jason W. Johnson, Esq., lauds Judge Jennemann, saying that she has “consistently gone above and beyond to provide service and support to the legal profession. She was instrumental in the creation and fostering of the Middle District of Florida Bankruptcy Pro Se Assistance Clinic, and BLES, the Bankruptcy Law Educational Series Foundation, Inc., a 501(c)(3), which promotes bankruptcy legal education and funds pro se and other public service projects related to bankruptcy.”

Judge Jennemann’s accomplishments as a judge were recognized in 2014 when she was elected to membership in the American College of Bankruptcy. Additionally, she is the 2020 recipient of the Chief Justice’s Distinguished Federal Judicial Service Award, awarded by the Florida Supreme Court.

Judge Jennemann received her juris doctor degree from the Marshall Wythe School of Law at the College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia, a master’s degree in liberal studies from Rollins College, and received her undergraduate degree from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona.

N. Diane Holmes, Esq. – 2020 William Trickel, Jr. Professionalism Award

N. Diane Holmes, Esq., began her career as a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society of the Orange County Bar Association, Inc., where her primary responsibility was to implement and expand the Guardian ad Litem program. Later, she was an associate in a small law firm before opening her own practice more than 35 years ago. She achieved board certification in marital and family law and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.

Ms. Holmes excels in and promotes excellence in the practice of family law. She was introduced to the process of collaborative family law through her involvement in the American Bar Association Family Law Section and became a founding member of the Collaborative Family Law Group of Central Florida. Additionally, she was a member of the Ninth Judicial Circuit Commission on Domestic Relations Courts and was the driving force behind establishing the Central Florida Family Inns of Court.

A two-time breast cancer survivor, Ms. Holmes volunteers with the local chapter of the American Cancer Society Reach to Recovery program, which provides support and training to individuals who are coping with breast cancer. She participates in fundraising events and even appears at runs with her trademark pink hair. Attorneys who nominated Ms. Holmes remarked that her passion for breast cancer awareness and fundraising is “unparalleled” and that her service has been “nothing short of extraordinary.”

Ms. Holmes was nominated by the Central Florida Association for Women Lawyers, an association of which Ms. Holmes was a founding member. Colleague Ava K. Doppelt, Esq., says it best: “In my experience, Diane is generous, enthusiastic, kind, and knowledgeable, all hallmarks of professionalism.” She recalls one demonstration of these qualities, saying “Diane referred a client to me who had no ability to pay legal fees. Without fanfare, Diane paid them.”

Wendy L. Aikin, Esq., notes that Ms. Holmes “always works for the benefit of her clients and their families… you will not ever find her taking advantage of a ‘gotcha’ moment.” She continues: “Many among us are satisfied to be good lawyers. For Diane, that is just a baseline to excel.”

CFAWL members agree that Ms. Holmes “loves the practice of law, loves what she does, and has boundless energy to encourage young lawyers, providing internship opportunities to local law students.” She further supports law students and attorneys with stress and addiction problems through her work with the Florida Lawyers Assistance Program, one of the most rewarding commitments of her career.

Among other boards and associations, Ms. Holmes sits on the Seminole County Family Law Advisory Group, the American Cancer Society Volunteer Leadership Council – Central Florida, and was selected a 2012 Summit Award recipient by The Central Florida Women’s Resource Center. Ms. Holmes is a 1979 graduate of the University of Florida Fredric G. Levin College of Law.

Keshara D. Cowans, Esq. – 2020 2020 Lawrence G. Mathews, Jr. Young Lawyer Professionalism Award

 From 2008 to 2019, Keshara D. Cowans, Esq., served as counsel for The Florida Bar, where she was responsible for the investigation of complaints against attorneys accused of violating the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar. She handled all phases of the disciplinary trial, including filing appellate briefs with the Florida Supreme Court.

Ms. Cowans recently accepted a position as the EEO/Equity and Title IX Officer at Orange County Public Schools, where, among other things, she is responsible for OCPS’ compliance with all state and federal equal employment legislation and regulations, Title IX regulations, and education equity regulations. She also serves as the legal advisor to the OCPS District Police.

Ms. Cowans serves or has served the profession in various capacities, including the OCBA Executive Council; president of the OCBA Young Lawyers Section; Board of Trustees of the Legal Aid Society of the OCBA; Paul C. Perkins Bar Association; and Board of Directors of the Central Florida Association for Women Lawyers. Her pro bono involvement includes work on the Teen Parent Education Program. Her honors include receiving the OCBA Presidential Leadership award; the Florida Association for Women Lawyers Leader in the Law award; the Florida State Alumni Association Thirty Leaders under 30 award; and the National Bar Association Nations Best Advocates 40 Lawyers Under 40 award.

In nominating Ms. Cowans, Wayne Helsby, Esq., a member of The Florida Bar Board of Governors who oversaw two Ninth Circuit grievance committees, finds Ms. Cowans to be “very thorough in her knowledge… and extremely professional in her approach.” He notes that she is “not only exceptionally bright, but a delightful person.”

Patricia Savitz, Esq., who often served as co-counsel with Ms. Cowans at The Florida Bar, notes that Ms. Cowans is an “outstanding example of a young lawyer who consistently handles all aspects of her practice with the utmost professionalism and courtesy.” She remarks that Ms. Cowans was “always mindful of the humanity in each and every case” and treated every accused attorney with “courtesy and respect, regardless of the underlying circumstances or behavior.”

Tad Yates, Esq., comments on Ms. Cowans’ work ethic and good judgment, noting that she is “always prepared, thoughtful, and conscientious.”

Ms. Cowans received her bachelor of science degree in criminology from Florida State University in 2004 and her juris doctor from Florida State University College of Law in 2007.

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