John Fortin Receives Pro Bono Volunteer of the Month Award

McDonald Carano congratulates John Fortin on being recognized as Pro Bono Volunteer of the Month for November 2022 by the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada. The award recognizes John’s “hard work, dedication, and continued support of LACSN’s Pro Bono Program and for being such a huge part of the pro bono project.” John is a member of LACSN’s 300 Hours Club for 2021 and 2022. 

John’s recognition includes a Q&A in which he shares his background as an active-duty cryptologist and information warfare specialist for ten years for the U.S. Navy, starting a family and becoming a lawyer, and clerking for Nevada Supreme Court Chief Justice Hardesty who helped inspire John’s interest in pro bono work. John also explains why he does pro bono work and his views on the responsibility of attorneys to help serve those in need. The Q&A is provided below and available here on the LACSN website. John’s pro bono appellate work with LACSN is also featured in this Reuters article titled “Nevada lawyer seeks to upend state’s forfeiture laws.”

John grew up in North Carolina and enlisted in the United States Navy after graduating high school. He served on active duty as a cryptologist and information warfare specialist for ten years. John deployed twice to South America, performing counter-narcotics operations and once to Afghanistan. While in Afghanistan, he worked for and with the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force while providing intelligence and cryptologic support for high-value targeting and village stability operations.

John met his wife after his last deployment. He feels blessed with his incredible wife and three beautiful children, who support him daily. Together they decided to shift gears and take on a less dangerous profession. He realized that his prior experience as an analyst would translate to the law, and it was then that he decided to go to law school to become a lawyer. John attended the University of Richmond School of Law for his J.D. and later attended George Mason and obtained his LL.M. in Global Antitrust and Economics. John transitioned from active duty into the Navy Reserves, where he continues serving today.

After law school, John accepted a clerkship with Chief Justice Hardesty. Under Chief Justice Hardesty, John witnessed firsthand the hard work and support of the Access to Justice Commission and all that was required of the legal community to assist those Nevadans in need during the pandemic. In 2020, after his clerkship finished, John began volunteering for our Pro Bono Project. John’s first pro bono case was an appellate matter. He has also provided pro bono services for prisoner’s rights cases in which his colleagues and he fought for and obtained remedies for violations of his client’s constitutional rights. 

John’s current law firm McDonald Carano’s long-term support to Legal Aid Center, includes attorneys in the 50 Hours Club and 100 Hours Club and Robert McPeak, who has been serving as Legal Aid Center’s General Counsel since 2016.

When asked why he does pro bono work, John said that service to his family, country, and community are some of his core values. Helping others is a mission he undertakes personally and professionally. He indicated that attorneys have tremendous ability and responsibility to help open the massive courthouse doors for the less fortunate. “To be able to walk into the well of a courtroom and advocate on behalf of pro bono clients whose rights have been violated and explain why those rights matter and why the Courts must provide a remedy is equally as important and as fulfilling as when I served overseas in the U.S. Navy to help advance freedom and democracy. Making the world a better place begins in our own local communities. To that end, the American Bar Association and the Nevada Bar Association recommend providing 50 hours of pro bono services every year. I view that number as a minimum and provide far more every year because, in my view, it is a duty for those fortunate enough to be admitted to the Bar to provide as much pro bono services to those in need that they can. Inspired by Justice Hardesty’s support of the Access to Justice Commission, I also serve as the Nevada Young Lawyers Association’s Access to Justice Commission member. The Commission works to try to ensure that the courthouse doors are more accessible for all Nevadans.”

We asked John to share about a memorable client and how he helped them. This is what John shared with us. “In one of my pro bono cases involving a complex mix of civil rights, tax, real property, and criminal law, I had the honor and privilege to argue before the Nevada Supreme Court. After argument, while I was still on the adrenaline rush from this amazing professional opportunity, my client called to thank me for giving her a voice the whole way to the NSC, especially when many other lawyers turned her down. She was incredibly thankful and emotional, and immediately put into perspective the immense personal impact on her of what was a powerful professional moment for me. That conversation with my client, speaking about what happened, and how appreciative she and her family were, was the moment that I truly realized that Even in the rough and tumble of our daily lives as litigators, we, as attorneys can do valuable, meaningful, and laudable good in the world if we take the time to support pro bono services. While that conversation was about me helping her, it was also about her helping me – helping me remember why we do pro bono work, helping me reenergize with the power of human purpose, and helping me renew my personal and professional commitment to help those in need. We won the appeal and I continue to fight for my clients’ constitutional rights to this day.”

John knew for years that Home would mean Nevada. We are grateful to John for making Nevada his Home and for providing access to justice to so many in need. John’s selfless and compassionate dedication to those in need makes him the great pro bono attorney he is today. We are pleased to name him our Pro Bono Volunteer of the month.

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