07/06/2018 - Established in 1987, this award recognizes the outstanding efforts of attorneys who have provided equal access to justice to the needy through a Rhode Island Bar Association Pro Bono Program during the past two years.  Selection for this award is based on the number of cases accepted, case type and difficulty, the number of pro bono hours, and total length of service through the programs.  Additionally, qualities considered include the attorney’s professionalism, compassion and commitment to public service.

This year’s Pro Bono Award recipients, Denise Acevedo Perez and Peter J. Rotelli, have made exceptional contributions through the Volunteer Lawyer Program and Foreclosure Prevention Project.  These two attorneys are outstanding representatives of the contributions and support given by sole practitioners throughout the state.

Denise Acevedo Perez, Esq. graduated from Bennett College for Women. She earned a Master in Public Administration from Pace University and a JD from Pace University School of Law (now Elizabeth Haub School of Law).  Denise is a sole practitioner at the Law Office of Denise Acevedo Perez in Johnston and practices in several areas of law including immigration, family law and criminal defense.  She is also admitted to practice in Massachusetts.

Denise joined the Volunteer Lawyer Program (VLP) in 2015, as well as the Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service & Referral Service for the Elderly, soon after becoming a member of the Rhode Island Bar Association. She is an active member of the Bar’s Public Service Involvement Committee, Criminal Law Bench Bar Committee, and Family Court Bench Bar Committee. As a speaker for the 2017 VLP seminar series “Custody & Litigation Issues,” she addressed strategies for representing undocumented clients in family court.  Additionally, Denise moderated the workshop, “Intro to Immigration Bond and Custody” at the Bar Association’s 2018 Annual Meeting. 

In 2016 Denise volunteered for the newly instituted Partners Overcoming Domestic Violence Project (PODV) and became an integral part of a collaborative team approach to provide long term solutions for survivors of domestic violence. The following year she became a member of the PODV advisory committee to plan the continuance of  the  program in 2018. 

Denise’s pro bono efforts extend beyond family law.  One such case involved representing a very distressed elderly Spanish speaking client in the contested guardianship of her husband who was in the late stages of Alzheimer’s.  Her husband’s children, who hadn’t seen or spoken to him for 20 years, were contesting the guardianship claiming there was mistreatment.  Denise established that the client had properly cared for her husband from the beginning of his illness, and always had his best interests at heart.  The guardianship was granted.

Her exemplary commitment to the VLP over the past two years included accepting11 pro bono cases and contributing 200 plus pro bono hours. There is a continual need for volunteer attorneys to accept family law/domestic violence cases.  Without hesitation, Attorney Acevedo Perez answered the call for pro bono representation while exhibiting patience, compassion, and resolve. 

Peter J. Rotelli, Esq. graduated from Brown University, and received his law degree from Suffolk University School of Law and LLM in Taxation from Boston University.    He is a sole practitioner in East Providence where he practices real estate and corporate law. In 2013 he joined the Volunteer Lawyer Program and Foreclosure Prevention Project.  In the past two years, Peter has accepted 7 cases and contributed 240 plus hours to the pro bono effort to help elderly homeowners.  
With no thought of recognition and only wanting to help, Peter has saved homes for senior citizens in crisis due to extenuating circumstances.  Recently, he accepted a case for a client taken into housing court for code violations.  A city redevelopment group agreed to work with the client to make repairs, but the client needed guidance through the required steps to successfully finalize the process. Immediately, Attorney Rotelli agreed to explain his options with the hopes of saving his home.  Previous cases have involved seniors having major difficulties contacting and working with mortgage companies to prevent foreclosure. Peter successfully negotiated for them.

In past years, Attorney Rotelli served as counsel to the Rhode Island Supreme Court Disciplinary Committee and as professor of tax law at Bryant University’s graduate tax program.  He currently is a board member at Access Point RI.  This agency serves children and adults with developmental disabilities.

His compassion and willingness to share his time and expertise is evident.  His concern and representation of the vulnerable faced with losing their homes has certainly made a tremendous difference in their lives and for our senior community.