September 2014, Vol. II - In This Issue:

Cracks in the Miami-Dade County Courthouse 

Dear Colleagues and Friends,


As many of you saw, Miami-Dade FAWL was in the headlines for taking Governor Scott to task regarding his failure to appoint a single woman to the Judicial Nominating Commissions for the Third District Court of Appeal and the Miami-Dade Circuit Court.  At the same time, our Leadership Committee sent out a letter encouraging our members to apply for leadership positions, pointing out that the percentage of female applicants for those same JNC positions was low. 


Miami-Dade FAWL received feedback regarding the letter to members, expressing concern that Miami-Dade FAWL was "blaming women" for not applying in larger numbers, when instead the governor's track record should be examined.  When women and minorities have been excluded from appointments in the past, a response has been that white men apply in larger numbers and that the appointments are statistically appropriate.  The purpose of our letter was not to blame women, but was instead, to remove this retort from Governor Scott's repertoire.


It is no secret that the percentage of women who reach senior positions of leadership in the community and law firms is smaller than the percentage of men.  The percentages are even lower for women of color.  These two facts are, in part, why Miami-Dade FAWL exists and these facts also explain why the percentage of both women and women of color applying for leadership positions is lower than the percentage of men applying for those positions.  There can be, however, no dispute that several qualified women, including many women of color applied for the JNCs and were rejected.  Governor Scott's use of the status quo as a benchmark demonstrates that increasing diversity is simply not important to him. Should a black woman seeking appointment to the bench have no choice but to walk into a sea of mostly white and male faces when it's her turn for the JNC interview? We believe not.  Much like the mandate that our juries be reflective of the community at large, those chosen to recommend judges to the Governor should similarly be made up of groups reflective of the community at large. Our letter to membership did not excuse the Governor's exclusion of women from the recent JNC appointments.  Instead our goal was to encourage more qualified women to apply so that we can disarm the Governor of his explanation as to why his track record is disappointing to many of us.


On another front, Miami-Dade FAWL has formed an Awards and Community Recognition Committee, which is being chaired by Kristen Corpion of Greenberg Traurig.  Miami-Dade FAWL is committed to ensuring that when Voluntary Bar Associations and other groups consider members of the legal community for awards, our members are not only made aware of the award application process but also are invited to participate in the selection committees.  Community recognition often leads to leadership positions, and vice versa.  This is an important new role that Miami-Dade FAWL is committed to taking on to ensure that qualified women are heard and recognized when community awards are considered.


I would like to invite all of you, men and women, to get involved and I welcome your feedback.  Miami-Dade FAWL is only getting stronger, bigger and more involved in many important aspects of our community.  It takes your participation to help us succeed and to fulfil our mission of facilitating the advancement of women in the legal profession.  I look forward to hearing from you.


- Deb Baker


2014-2015 Officers


Deborah Baker



Ileana Cruz



Rebecca Ocariz



Katie S. Phang


Newsletter Editor

Lara Bueso Bach


Lauren Brunswick

Sherril Colombo

Elisa D'Amico

Madelin D'Arce

Brendalyn Edwards

Courtney Engelke

Mallory Gold

Emilie Kennedy

Linda Leali

Jody Shulman

Alicia Welch

Talia Zucker


Committee Chairs

Ardith Bronson

Stephanie Casey

Kristen Corpion

Kristin Drecktrah

Lindsay Haber

Lisa Lehner

Kate Maxwell

Stephanie Moot

Kelly Pena

Joyce Rodriguez

Deborah Ross-Ocariz

Trisha Widowfield



The Cyber Civil Rights Legal Project is a recently founded pro bono initiative that helps the victims of nonconcensual pornography. To learn more about this initiative, visit their website here.

By: Lara Bueso Bach
The Miami-Dade County Courthouse, built between 1925 and 1928, was recently found to be so corroded that emergency repairs would cost more than $25 million dollars to keep it functioning. Specifically, inspections revealed significant structural corrosion in the support columns and foundation (132 of 144 structural columns are severely corroded, or 92%). Water leaks have caused mold issues and, as a result, four floors can no longer be safely used. As depicted in the photos to the right, there is significant flooding in basement and termite infestation.

This may not come as a surprise to those of us who regularly practice at 43 West Flagler, but structural issues serve as a
sign that the county and circuit judges that work so tirelessly to manage our cases have long outgrown their home. The stark reality is that 41 judges are required to share 23 courtrooms, which causes significant scheduling issues. As Chief Judge Bertila Soto said, "It's not uncommon to be in a weeklong trial
in three separate courtrooms." At the time the courthouse was built, it only served seven judges in Miami-Dade County. There are now more than 123 judges, 41 of whom work in this very same courthouse. And each day, they enter the crippled courthouse, doing so with concerns for their safety, and the safety of those who appear before them. "We definitely have safety concerns because the courthouse has some real structural issues," noted Judge Soto.

In addition to the structural deficiencies, flooding, mold, and humidity have led to air quality concerns. Although satisfied with the remediation response from the county, judges should not be required to continually conduct air quality tests to ensure the safety of those who seek justice within its walls. Rather than patching the growing problems -- for example, it cost the county $10,000 to fix one broken air conditioning unit -- this community will be asked in November whether it wants to invest in the future of its justice system. Approval would result in a bond issue that would be used to preserve the current courthouse and construct a new one, ensuring the safe and orderly administration of justice for future generations at a reasonable cost. According to Building Blocks for Justice, a political action committee, approval of the referendum would amount to an incremental cost of approximately $14 a year per average household by each Miami-Dade resident.

"This is not going to be Taj Majal," Judge Soto said. "We want to be as fiscally conservative with a building that will meet the needs of the 21st century."

What the community must realize is that the courthouse serves more than judges and lawyers; for the past 86 years, it has served as a pillar of justice in Miami-Dade County. "To have a crippled civil justice system isn't good for the citizens of this county." Judge Soto said.

As citizens, each of us makes use of, and depends on the courthouse to resolve a variety of issues. Among other things, judges at the courthouse resolve will disputes in probate, appoint guardians for helpless minors, impanel grand juries, resolve small claims and landlord tenant issues, and, of course, preside over civil cases. As Retired Judge Scott Silverman noted, "In this new millennium, Miami-Dade County residents need and deserve better than an old, outdated and inadequately retrofitted building to conduct their important legal affairs. A new and modern courthouse is a must."

Miami-Dade FAWL fully supports the courthouse referendum and encourages each of our members to help educate the public about the importance of the civil justice system. You can learn more about this important initiative here.
By: Madelin D'Arce

The Eleventh Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission has nominated four Miami-Dade FAWL members for the two Miami-Dade Circuit Judge vacancies:  Judge Jason E. Dimitris, Judge Rodolfo "Rudy" Ruiz, Laura Stuzin, and Diana Vizcaino.  Biographies of these Miami-Dade FAWL members follows:


Judge Jason E. Dimitris


Before he was appointed by the Governor to the Miami-Dade County Court, Judge Dimitris was General Counsel at the Florida Department of Management Services (DMS).  DMS has roughly 700 employees who essentially handle the business operations of Florida government, including: human resources, retirement, health benefits, real estate, state purchasing, and telecommunications. Before DMS, Judge Dimitris served as the Chief of Staff for the Florida Department of Children and Families, an agency consisting of over 13,000 state employees. Judge Dimitris began his legal career in Miami as a state and then a  federal prosecutor, and has tried 45 jury trials and hundreds of bench trials. At Stetson Law School Judge Dimitris served as Editor in Chief of The Stetson Law Review. Before law school he was a teacher of youth at risk for the Outward Bound School.  Judge Dimitris is married to Sandy Dimitris and has two young daughters.  Judge Dimitris enjoys health and wellness and has completed three Ironman triathlons and almost twenty marathons.


Judge Rodolfo "Rudy" Ruiz


Judge Rodolfo "Rudy" Ruiz was appointed to the Miami-Dade County Court by Governor Rick Scott in April 2012 and was retained without opposition in May 2014.  Judge Ruiz serves as the County Court Judge for Miami Beach, where he presides over criminal traffic violations and misdemeanors, and a wide array of civil matters including, landlord-tenant disputes, personal injury protection litigation, and small claims.  Judge Ruiz is the Third District Vice President of the Conference of County Court Judges, as well as a faculty member of the Florida Judicial College and a member of the Florida Bar Civil Procedure Rules Committee.  Prior to his appointment, Judge Ruiz was an Assistant County Attorney with the Miami-Dade County Attorney's Office from 2009 through 2012, an associate with White & Case L.L.P. from 2006 through 2008, and a law clerk to the Honorable Federico A. Moreno of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida from 2005 through 2006.  He received a Bachelor of Science in Economics from Duke University and his law degree from Georgetown University, where he served as the Articles Editor for the American Criminal Law Review.


Laura Stuzin


Laura Stuzin is Of Counsel at Rumberger Kirk & Caldwell, PA.  She practices in the areas of casualty defense, product liability, construction defect, professional liability and criminal defense. With twenty years of experience, Laura's practice includes representing clients in premises liability matters involving claims of slip and fall, general negligence, inadequate security and malicious prosecution in cases seeking damages for personal injury, wrongful death and damage to personal and real property as well as criminal defense.  Before joining Rumberger, Laura served for four years as an Assistant State Attorney in the Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office from 1994-1998. Laura tried in excess of fifty jury trials and thirty bench trials to verdict as a prosecutor.  Laura graduated from the University of Miami School of Law in 1994 and the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, in 1991. She is AV rated by Martindale Hubbell.


Diana Vizcaino


Diana Vizcaino is an Assistant City Attorney with the City of Miami and currently the Division Chief of the Labor and Employment Division.  Ms. Vizcaino represents the City of Miami in state and federal court, collective bargaining, and at arbitration and administrative hearings.  She also serves as the Intern and Recruitment Coordinator for the Office of the City Attorney.  Prior to joining the City Attorney's Office in June of 2008, she litigated in federal court on behalf of the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as well as in private practice.  Ms. Vizcaino also served as an Assistant State Attorney for Miami-Dade County from 2000 through 2005.  She has been actively involved in various voluntary bar organizations and other civic groups, including serving as Chair for a Florida Bar Grievance Committee, and being an active member of the Children's Home Society, League of Prosecutors, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Cuban American Bar Association.  Ms. Vizcaino was recently appointed to the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Professionalism Panel.

By: Lara Bueso Bach 

After failing to appoint any women to the Third District Court of Appeal or the Eleventh Circuit Court in and for Miami-Dade County, Miami-Dade FAWL President, Deborah Baker, wrote a letter to Governor Rick Scott expressing Miami-Dade FAWL's disappointment regarding his JNC appointments.  


Specifically, she noted that the number of women who sit on our JNCs are not representative of the legal and greater state-wide community. By ignoring potential female candidates, Governor Scott has only exacerbated this disparity.  As Ms. Baker explained, "when applicants for judicial positions are interviewed, they should be interviewed by a group that is representative of the community." Efforts have been made by many organizations to impress this upon Governor Scott's office, however, our requests went unanswered.  


Miami-Dade FAWL pledges to continue our efforts to increase female representation in the legal community and we can only hope that our efforts will be answered by this and future administrations. You can read Ms. Baker's letter here.

By: Trisha Widowfield & Linda Leali

The Miami-Dade FAWL community was recently disappointed that there were no women appointed to either the Third District Court of Appeal or the Eleventh Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission ("JNC"), despite the many qualified and committed female attorneys among our membership and local legal community.  In the process of trying to understand the cause of such disparity, we examined the statistics surrounding the JNC application and selection process.  The conclusion? A disproportionately low number of women applied for these positions, greatly reducing the likelihood of increased female representation on the JNC. 


Viewing the statistics, thirty-six percent (36%) of the members of the Florida Bar are females.  In looking at the applications, however, we found that only sixteen percent (16%) of the applicants for the Eleventh Circuit JNC were female and nineteen percent (19%) of the applicants for the Third District Court of Appeal JNC were female.  In light of these scarce numbers, it is clear that more qualified women lawyers need to actively seek out leadership roles if women are to be adequately represented in these roles in our legal community. By communicating these facts, we are hoping to encourage more of our qualified female members to apply for leadership positions in increasingly more significant numbers.


Miami-Dade FAWL's Leadership Committee was formed in 2012 to encourage women lawyers to apply for leadership positions by regularly publicizing leadership opportunities and by providing support through on-point leadership development symposiums and trainings for our members.  Through its Leadership Committee, Miami-Dade FAWL assists applicants with the various application processes and works to endorse and recommend applicants, whenever appropriate.  As many of you likely notice, you regularly receive leadership alerts to the Miami-Dade FAWL members with open leadership opportunities in the community.  These are specifically designed to encourage our members to apply for such leadership positions, as well as to celebrate members who have recently been appointed to such positions.  If you are aware of an open opportunity please share it with the Leadership Committee so that our members may be made aware.


The failure to self-promote amongst females in every industry is a known social phenomenon.  We are striving to change these cultural norms.  On a positive note, studies show that statistically, women do not hesitate to promote friends and colleagues.  Therefore, we are encouraging our members to not only apply for a position, but to also consider nominating a qualified, committed colleague for a leadership position to ensure adequate and proportionate representation in our community.  The Miami-Dade FAWL Leadership Committee is willing to assist interested members in meeting their leadership potential and ask you to use us as your resource. 
By: Lara Bueso Bach

Miami-Dade Commissioner Sally Heyman joined Miami-Dade FAWL for lunch at Soya e Pomodoro on September 10, 2014.  Commissioner Heyman is a graduate of the University of Florida and the University of Miami Law School.  She served four consecutive terms in the Florida House of Representatives and now represents District 4 in the Miami-Dade County Commission.  Commissioner Heyman is not only a community leader, but also a champion of public safety, justice and women's issues. She even has her own foodtruck (



  1. Do not be afraid to distribute your business card. 
  2. Get engaged in the community and volunteer for new organizations to broaden your network. 
  3. Interconnect with those in the organizations to find common elements. Rely on those common elements to develop relationships and bring in business.
  4. You will do better and go farther if you put ego aside and give credit where credit is due, even if that means stepping aside to let others shine. 
Attendees included: Commissioner Heyman, Judge Lisa Walsh, Lara Bueso Bach, Elisa D'Amico, Kelly Pena, Jody Shulman, Nakia Ruffin, Diana Mendez, Isadora Velazquez, and Marlene Garcia.
By: Madelin D'Arce

On September 16, 2014 Miami-Dade County Court Judge Jason Dimitris joined Miami-Dade FAWL for dinner at Bricktops in Coral Gables. 


Practice Tips:

  1. At the very beginning of a hearing, frame the remaining outstanding issues for the judge.  Often, the questions for the judge to consider have changed and everyone except the judge is aware of the changes. 
  2. Confer with opposing counsel in advance to try to resolve the issue and advise the judge that you made an attempt.
  3. If you're on the losing side of an issue, submit rather than fight. You will gain credibility with the judge for next time. 
  4. Offer creative solutions toward resolution that get you most if not all of what you want and that address the opposition's concerns too.
Attendees included: Judge Dimitris, Madelin D'Arce, Raquel Campos, Stephanie Casey, Juan D'Arce, Aziza Elayan-Martinez, Christine Louissant, Amber Kornreich, Claudia Pernudi, and Alicia Welch.


Miami-Dade FAWL member Judge Jacqueline Schwartz will face a runoff election against Frank Bocanegra on November 4, 2014.  


Judge Jacqueline Schwartz, a long-time Miami-Dade FAWL member and supporter, was born in Queens, New York.  She attended the University of Florida, where she earned a B.A. in Criminal Justice in 1988, and she earned a J.D. from the University of Miami in 1991.  Judge Schwartz worked in private practice until she was elected to the bench in 2002.  Prior to joining the bench, Judge Schwartz gained valuable practical experience as a trial lawyer while managing her own practice.  


In addition to her legal experience, Judge Schwartz is actively engaged in the community.  She served as the Vice President of Neat-Stuff, a non-profit organization helping women and children in distress.  Judge Schwartz has also been a "Big Sister" to her "Little Sister" for the past six years.


Judge Schwartz spearheaded Law Day events from 2007 until 2013 in the Coral Gables Branch Courthouse and the Hialeah Branch Courthouse.  The Law Day programs were well attended by local area school children and public officials, as well as members of the Bar.  Former city of  Coral Gables Mayor Don Slesnick issued a proclamation due to Judge Schwartz's efforts, declaring May as Law Day month in Coral Gables.  Former Chief Judge Joseph Farina also recognized Judge Schwartz's efforts in coordinating Law Day events, giving her an award in appreciation for her hard work and contributions to the community.


On the bench, Judge Schwartz has managed divisions with more than 10,000 cases, and is known for being the "Top Closer," with the most cases closed in Miami-Dade County.  Judge Schwartz has written many legal opinions and articles which have been published in Florida Law Weekly, the Coral Gables Gazette, Student Bar Association of Miami's Publication, Hearsay, the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Magazine, Justice, and the Cuban American Bar Association's Publication, Caba Briefs.


In addition to her public service as a Miami-Dade County court judge, Judge Schwartz currently gives back to the community as a professor at Miami Dade College, teaching advanced criminal investigation, courtroom presentation, and research methods.

By: Deborah Baker
Miami-Dade FAWL provides many meaningful opportunities for its members to network, and we have all heard that we should "spend more time networking."  Many of our young members find networking intimidating and overwhelming.  But the general advice to "go out and network" is not useful in the absence of an appropriate strategy.  In Rain Power: A Young Professionals Guide to Achieving Wealth and Happiness, Miami-Dade FAWL member, Steve Zuckerman, does an excellent job of providing a highly effective strategy that is both practical and easy to implement.  He succinctly explains the importance and extraordinary benefits of networking in an altruistic and highly focused manner.  His proven methodology results in not only improved earning potential, but greater career satisfaction.  As a professional mother, I appreciate that his six-step plan is designed to maximize the limited time we have to network and to create behaviors that become part of our daily routine.  It's a must read for all professionals, especially those at the early stages of their careers.  Mr. Zuckerman's book can be purchased here.

D'Amico Publishes Article in DBR Discussing Celebrity Photo Hack
In the wake of the all too frequent nonconsensual dissemination of private photographs of both celebrities and noncelebrities, Miami-Dade FAWL Board Member, Elisa D'Amico of K&L Gates published an article in the Daily Business Review discussing the first "celebgate" photo hack.  You can read Ms. D'Amico's article here.
Phang Nominated to Receive 2014 Cystic Fibrosis Foundation's
40 Under 40 Outstanding Lawyers of South Florida Award
Miami-Dade FAWL Treasurer, Katie Phang, of Arrastia, Capote & Phang, was recently nominated to receive the 2014 Cystic Fibrosis Foundation's 40 Under 40 Outstanding Lawyers of South Florida Award. For more information about this life-threatening disease for which there is currently no cure, please visit their website here.
Meister-Griffith Elected as Secretary of AAJ
Miami-Dade FAWL member Tonya Meister-Griffith of Meister Law, LLC was elected as Secretary of the American Association for Justice (AAJ) for the 2014 to 2015 term.  The AAJ's mission is to promote a fair and effective justice system and to support the work of attorneys in their efforts to ensure that any person who is injured by the misconduct or negligence of others can obtain justice.  Ms. Meister-Griffith also recently published an article in the University of San Francisco Maritime Law Journal, Punitive Damages Update: Jones Act, Maintenance and Cure, and General Maritime Law.
Leali Appointed Chair of Several Bar Committees 

Miami-Dade FAWL Board Member, Linda Leali, of Linda Leali, P.A. was recently appointed as Chair of the American Bar Association's Consumer Bankruptcy Committee,  Chair of the Avoidance Power sub-committee, and Chair of the Women Business and Commercial Advocates subcommittee.   Ms. Leali was also invited to speak about diversity in judicial appointments at the National Association of Women Judges' Annual Conference in October 2014. 

By: Lisa Lehner

By now, we are all aware of the Governor's recent failure to appoint any women to sit on the Judicial Nominating Commissions (JNCs) for either the Third District Court of Appeal or the Eleventh Judicial Circuit in and for Miami-Dade County and the paucity of female appointees to the other JNCs throughout the state. Were this the only example of the tone-deafness that continues to confront female lawyers in our community, we might be able to pay no heed to it; sadly, however, this is just one example of the many. Consider the following:

  • The federal nominating commission that is selected by Senators Nelson and Rubio to interview and nominate federal judges and other significant federal positions has twenty-one members in the Southern District of Florida Section, and only five are women.
  • The Dade County Bar Association (DCBA) presented awards to eight worthy recipients at a recent event, only one of whom is a woman, the Co-President of Greenberg Traurig. 
  • The Daily Business Review's upcoming Legends of the Courtroom has three panels with zero female moderators. With one exception, the women panelists are all judges, not practitioners, while on the other hand nine panelists are male attorneys. Sadly, the Bench and Bar Seminar offered by the DCBA earlier this year was similarly flawed, with many all-male panels and few female moderators.
  • The Federalist Society hosted an event featuring former Assistant Solicitor Miguel Estrada, and after the event, a private dinner was held with a guest speaker. Despite the fact that several prominent female judges were in attendance at the main event ˗ one of whom is even a past president of the Federalist Society ˗ no prominent female judges or attorneys were present at that dinner. (One woman, an administrative staff from The Federalist Society, was present at the dinner.)

And this list is by no means definitive.


To properly analyze this situation, a historical perspective is necessary. The time-honored maxim by George Santayana that "those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" comes to mind. Perhaps the quote that haunts me the most is Einstein's definition of insanity - doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. I hope that we are neither doomed nor crazy in our expectations of equality. Having been admitted to the Florida Bar in 1983, I can candidly admit that the task remains daunting and the inertia that appears to take hold can be oppressive. If nothing else, we need to start by examining what is not working ˗ and why ˗ before we can even hope to come up with meaningful solutions.


At the outset, it is vital that we dispense with the canards and pat responses that we have heard for decades, especially now that it appears some of the misconceptions are being accepted as The Truth. The first excuse is that women do not apply for leadership positions in sufficient numbers. The problem with this conjecture is that it oversimplifies the issue and ignores the facts. The fact is that very qualified women do apply and the total number of applicants is irrelevant if those who are making the decisions do not choose the qualified candidates who do apply. The Governor's recent selection for the JNC is a good example, to which I offer a two word response: Victoria Platzer. We can get bogged down in the mathematics, but think about it this way, if there are two vacancies and only one very qualified woman applies, why shouldn't she be selected? What if the one woman who does apply is the most qualified? Would we say that not enough women applied? The idea that we need some magic number of applicants for each spot is absurd. It would be nice if for every position there were 10, 20, or 30 women applicants, and this is a goal for us to set, even if that is not likely to happen in the near future for a variety of reasons. Simply put, the number of applicants does not excuse the Governor for his failure to choose from among the qualified women who did apply.


Second, resorting to percentages is not helpful. Just as the courts have eschewed this type of analysis in the realm of affirmative action, we should collectively reject it here. If we are to rely on percentages to establish the appropriate representation, what is the proper metric? The percentage of women law school graduates? The percentage of women in the total population? The number of women members of the Florida Bar? The number of women attorneys in Miami-Dade County? This is not a game worth playing. If it were the proper formulation, many other diverse groups would fare even worse than women, who actually represent the largest number in some of the pools just mentioned.


Third, merely populating the selector group ("the Pickers") with a few women has not proven a formula for success. The reasons why this is not working are complex, and perhaps a subject for another discussion. But one thing is clear: perpetually resorting to a few women, who are chosen by the same group of men who are running things, simply has not meant that more women receive awards or are appointed to positions of leadership.


Fourth, having "sensitive" men as the Pickers is no substitute for having women. The reasons why this issue is so important cannot be minimized. The mere optics of a panel or a JNC lacking women should be disturbing enough because of what it signals, both expressly and subliminally. More significantly, the democratic process requires actual representation, not just representation by "a few good men." I think back to an interview before a JNC where there was not a single woman commissioner. I was fortunate to have known most of the men in the room, and thus did not find the setting to be intimidating. The interviewee after me was an African- American woman who had not practiced as long as I had, nor had she practiced in the civil sector, from where all of the male commissioners haled. As I saw her walk in after me, I tried to put myself in her shoes, and I did not like the feeling. There is a significant, substantive reason why inclusion of more women is necessary. Women bring important things to the table during the selection process, including different experiences, sometimes different skill sets and ways of problem solving. As a result, the absence of women actually detracts from the efficacy of the process.


Fifth, the fact that women do (sometimes) come out of committees and do (sometimes) get appointed is not enough. This "means to an end" approach would not pass muster in any other setting. Consider, for example, an all-white jury acquitting an African-American defendant as an excuse for discriminatory jury selection.

Finally, the excuse that "we asked six women to be on the panel and they all had conflicts" just does not suffice. If anyone who is in charge of putting together panels only knows six women attorneys, then he or she needs to get out in the community to meet more women, or, better yet, contact Miami-Dade FAWL - we have binders full of female attorneys in our community.


It is all too easy to become lazy, complacent, and discouraged; I confess to experiencing all three of those conditions. Nothing is ever going to come to us unless we ask for it. Unfortunately, women still face the specter of being called strident, or worse, if they become a squeaky wheel. All of us ˗ men and women alike ˗ want to be liked and accepted by our peers. Pointing out to the all-male power structure that mistakes are being made does not feel like a formula for personal or professional success. I distinctly recall the eye-rolling and the "there she goes again" attitude when in 2009, Miami-Dade FAWL raised the flaws with Senator Nelson's federal nominating commission.


As for solutions, I offer a few. First, we need to stop blaming ourselves when the fault lies elsewhere. That is nothing more than blaming the victim and it is also myopic. Second, we have to ask ourselves, what have other minority bars done to be successful in promoting their members? We are not reinventing the wheel here. Third, we need to insert ourselves in the process, not just as applicants, but as the Pickers. Leadership is not just about securing a position of power; it is also about promoting others. Here, unfortunately, we can be our own worst enemies. Finally, we have to make our voices heard with the most effective means, and, this is one area where we do share the blame. Politically, there is no reason why we women, as a majority, are ignored by elected politicians of both parties. Sure, one party might take us for granted and the other party may often write us off as liberals, but we have a remedy and we are beginning to employ it. Increasingly, Miami-Dade FAWL members are participating in fundraisers. The flip side is that we need to make those elected officials who are not appointing women aware that we will not support them with our votes, financially, or otherwise, as long as we are being ignored.


For me, being associated with the recent Miami-Dade FAWL Boards has been both enlightening and encouraging. These women represent a generation and mindset different from mine and different from those who came before me. They are dynamic, focused on the big picture, and they truly represent a brighter future.


Lisa Lehner served as a Director of the Miami-Dade FAWL Board from 1999-2002, and then again in 2008-2009. She has chaired the Political Action and Community Outreach Committees and is the recipient of the President's Award (2010) and the Mattie Belle Davis Award in 2013.


*Note that at the time this article was written, this issue was raised to members of the DCBA who were receptive and supportive of Miami-Dade FAWL's position and who have assured Miami-Dade FAWL that the DCBA will make efforts to ensure its process for making award determinations is appropriately inclusive of women.  


On behalf of Dade Legal Aid/Put Something Back and the thousands of voiceless children, women and families we humbly serve each year, thank you Miami-Dade FAWL for supporting us by taking cases, serving on committees, lecturing at seminars, staffing clinics and participating in LegalLine. Miami-Dade FAWL's participation supports our mission to create a safe haven of civil legal services so that no indigent person falls through the cracks in our justice system.  Since not all clients are able to walk into a Legal Aid office during the workday and those that do may not qualify for free legal services, DCBA's monthly LegalLine provides a great service by allowing clients to call in anonymously and ask questions of our volunteers on the first Wednesday night of each month housed at the DCBA - Legal Aid downtown offices. We are grateful to Miami-Dade FAWL's leadership and assistance with LegalLine.  Your help also supports Dade Legal Aid Child Advocacy Attorneys who advocate for victims of human trafficking in dependency proceedings where our dedicated staff attorneys represent teen victims of human trafficking and other heinous crimes. Child Advocacy is one of the areas where legal representation is needed most. Thank you to Miami-Dade FAWL attorneys who have volunteered to step in and handle these complex dependency cases.  We encourage you to join, accept cases, staff LegalLine and attend an upcoming event.  You can also donate in lieu of taking a case.  Please email to take a case. Learn all about Legal Aid at our website.


- Karen Josefsberg Ladis

Dade Legal Aid, Executive Director

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