Attorney John P. Cunningham received Wm. Reece Smith Jr. Public Service Award on Jan. 26

John P. Cunningham, who has worked with Gulfcoast Legal Services for more than 30 years and served as its executive director since January 1984, was presented with this year’s Wm. Reece Smith Jr. Public Service Award from Stetson University College of Law.

Interim Dean Royal Gardner, John P. Cunningham and William Reece Smith Jr. at the Inns of Court.

Interim Dean Royal Gardner, John P. Cunningham and William Reece Smith Jr. at the Inns of Court.

The award was presented on Thursday evening, Jan. 26, at the annual Inns of Court Banquet at the Mirror Lake Lyceum, 737 Third Ave. N., St. Petersburg.

Cunningham’s legal career includes serving the Tampa Bay community through numerous organizations including the Community Law Program in St. Petersburg where he was a 13-year board member, the Sarasota Human Services Center, Pinellas Homeless Coalition, Domestic Violence Task Force, Pinellas Refugee Coalition, and Advisory Council to the Advocacy Center for Persons with Disabilities. Cunningham has volunteered as a lecturer at law school clinics and the People’s Law School. He also served in the Legal Aid Society in the Civil Division in New York for eight years.

Stetson established the prestigious public service award more than two decades ago for Wm. Reece Smith Jr., past president of the International, American and Florida Bar Associations and a distinguished professorial lecturer and member of the Stetson University College of Law Hall of Fame.

John Thompson, a man who spent 18 years in prison before being exonerated of a crime he did not commit, presented this year’s Wm. Reece Smith Jr. Distinguished Lecture.

Thompson is the founder and director of Resurrection After Exoneration, a supportive residential program that provides exonerees and long-term prisoners reentering society a transitional home and work environment. Convicted in 1985 in New Orleans and exonerated 18 years later after spending 14 years on Angola’s death row, the story of  Thompson’s wrongful conviction is told in the book, Killing Time: An 18-Year Odyssey from Death Row to Freedom.
The Annual Inns of Court brings together prominent lawyers, experienced teachers and law students to exchange ideas, experiences and education. The adopted Stetson Inns of Court tradition has its roots in England.