Pro Bono Award: Robert I. Heller
Each year the King County Bar Association honors a volunteer attorney who exemplifies KCBA Pro Bono Services' commitment to providing access to justice for those who cannot afford it. For his countless hours of dedicated service to low-income clients, the 2015 Pro Bono Award recipient is Robert I. Heller.
Heller began volunteering with the KCBA Volunteer Legal Services program in 1997. He has worked with clients facing unfair debt collection practices, creditor harassment and eviction.
Heller is still actively working on a pro bono case he accepted in 2006. His client, facing eviction from a small cottage with serious habitability and code violations, struggles with significant mental health issues and other medical challenges. For almost 10 years, Heller has helped this client remain in his home by meeting with agencies including the King County Housing Repair Program to seek financial assistance for the necessary repairs. Unwilling to take no for an answer, he also sued the King County Department of Health for utilities variances, helped the client secure two loans, and found specialists to bring the well and septic system up to code.
"Working on and living in his own house is absolutely central to my client's life and he is feeling very good about how things are working out. He is much calmer, less stressed and anxious. I'm really happy for him," Heller said.
As program coordinator for the KCBA Volunteer Legal Services program, I know how valuable Heller has been for our clients. Over the years, he has shown deep concern and dedication to his VLS clients and persevered where many would not have, putting at least 1,000 hours and an exhausting amount of work into this extremely challenging case.
Recently retired from his position as a principal at Riddell Williams, Heller spent the majority of his legal career focused on land use and governmental permitting/regulation, primarily representing developers, businesses, property owners and real estate investors. His practice included zoning and subdivision, master use and building permits, site planning, wetlands/critical areas regulation, historic preservation, and compliance with accessibility and non-discrimination requirements.
He also worked with numerous state and federal laws affecting land use and real estate development, including the Growth Management Act, state and federal environmental policy acts, Shoreline Management Act, National Historic Preservation Act, Americans with Disabilities Act and Fair Housing Act.
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