By: Deborah Baker
Hank Klein, Andrew Klein, Honorable Theodore Klein award recipient Judge Milton Hirsch, and Deborah Baker

Miami-Dade FAWL was pleased to present the 2014 Theodore Klein Award to the Honorable Milton Hirsch at its Annual Holiday Judicial Reception on December 4, 2014.  The "Ted" Klein Award recognizes a male lawyer or judge in the Miami-Dade legal community who has demonstrated initiative and dedication to women's issues.  The award is particularly meaningful to Judge Hirsch who was an admirer of and close friend of the late Judge Klein. 


Miami-Dade FAWL solicited letters of support from the community after several members nominated Judge Hirsch for the award.  The responses were all expressions of overwhelming admiration and gratitude for Judge Hirsch and his contributions to the community.  The following are excerpts from letters received by Miami-Dade FAWL: 

  • Dean Cece Dykas of St. Thomas University School of Law wrote, "Judge Hirsch has always encouraged our female students to lean in," and told of Judge Hirsh mentoring a female student who then worked for him upon graduation.   When Judge Hirsch's mentee entered private practice, he stood by her as a mentor until she was standing strongly on her own.
  • Attorney Aloyma Sanchez wrote that in 1988, when she had no trial experience, Judge Hirsch allowed her to second chair a case with him from intake through trial before Judge Moreno.  One of Miami-Dade FAWL's missions -- and the goal of the two-day Trial Skills Program that Judge Gill Freeman organizes every year -- is to provide women attorneys with the skills needed to take a case to trial.  Judge Hirsch and Miami-Dade FAWL have always been aligned in that respect.
  • Judge Ursula Ungaro wrote that Judge Hirsch has served as a mentor "quite literally to a generation of young women who now form part of the legal community.  He tried to do for them what Judge Klein did for him."
  • Robin Kaplan, the founder and Chair of the Women's Initiative of the Federal Bar Association wrote, "[a]s a young woman in the criminal defense field, it was not always easy to navigate around egos and traditions, but Milton was different.  He consciously makes room for women in our field." 
  • Nellie King, Past President of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers -- and the youngest and only one of four women to ever hold that position in its twenty-five year history -- said that as a solo practitioner and mother of two young children, she never would have achieved that leadership role without Judge Hirsch.  She said: "Simply stated, I would not be where I am today without the support of Milt Hirsch."

Judge Hirsch presides as an Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court Judge in Miami-Dade County in the criminal division and is an adjunct professor at the University of Miami School of Law and St. Thomas University School of Law.  A graduate of Georgetown University Law Center, Judge Hirsch began his career as an Assistant State Attorney in Miami, Florida, after which he was in private practice as a highly respected criminal defense attorney.  He is the author of a half dozen published law review articles on criminal and constitutional procedure.  He is also the author of the novel The Shadow of Justice, which was named best novel of the year in the "mystery novel" category by the Midwest Independent Publishers Association, and which made Judge Hirsch a finalist for the coveted Benjamin Franklin award as "best new voice in American fiction."  In 2011, he was elected without opposition to the bench.  Judge Hirsch has been a longstanding member and ardent supporter of Miami-Dade FAWL.  Judge Hirsch was the first male judge to host a Miami-Dade FAWL Table for Eight, and he delivered Miami-Dade FAWL's Law Day Program in 2013 and 2014.  Judge Hirsch can be found at nearly all of Miami-Dade FAWL's events and is known for lifting the underdog to victory and for mentoring countless women and minorities.  Congratulations Judge Hirsch!


2014-2015 Officers


Deborah B. 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

By: Ileana Cruz

On December 14, 2014, Miami-Dade FAWL honored local judiciary at its 32nd annual Judicial Reception. Held at the Mandarin Oriental hotel, the luncheon was attended by over 200 judges, lawyers, and other community leaders. The Honorable Marcia Cooke delivered a stirring invocation that set the tone for the celebration. Judge Cooke reminded attendees that in the season of kindness and generosity, we must continue to give back to our community because justice is ours to make.


Miami-Dade FAWL President Deborah Baker, offered the dedication to the judiciary and distinguished guests. She highlighted the progress that the Miami-Dade FAWL Chapter has made to affect positive changes to the community and to advance Miami-Dade FAWL's goal of promoting the interests of women in the legal profession. Notably, this year Miami-Dade FAWL has helped push through legislation to criminalize the unauthorized distribution of non-consensual pornography, colloquially known as "revenge porn." In doing so, President Baker acknowledged the unwavering support of the judiciary and assistance of our State Attorney, Katherine Fernandez-Rundle.


Miami-Dade FAWL Director and Reception Committee Chair, Jody Shulman, gave sincere thanks to all event sponsors, including the event's Title Sponsor, Wargo French, who helped make the event a true success. 


In a heartwarming moment, President Baker presented Miami-Dade FAWL's 2014 Theodore "Ted" Klein Award to the Honorable Milton Hirsch, who was a close friend of the late Judge Klein and who is an ardent supporter of Miami-Dade FAWL's mission. The Award recognizes a male lawyer or judge in the legal community who has demonstrated initiative and dedication to women's issues. Judge Hirsch began his acceptance speech by calling to the podium Judge Klein's brother Hank and son Andrew, and with his characteristic wit noted: "For me, to see Hank and Andy is to see Ted again.  To see them is to be young again -- which at my age borders on the miraculous." Judge Hirsch then embarked upon his goal to tell us not about "Ted," but to tell us "what Ted would tell you were he here."  In keeping with the theme of justice being held in our hands, Judge Hirsch recalled the words of Winston Churchill, steering "confidently towards the Gettysburg ideal of 'government of the people, by the people, and for the people.'" Judge Hirsch recognized that future generations of lawyers and judges will look back on lawyers like Ted Klein, and organizations like Miami-Dade FAWL, and know that they cared to leave the law better than when they found it and to insist that justice be exercised for the many. 


This was a boom year for Miami-Dade FAWL's Scholarship Awards. Thanks to the generosity of our scholarship sponsors and the hard work of Scholarship Committee Co-Chairs, Katie Phang and Courtney Engelke, Miami-Dade FAWL was able to provide 11 scholarships to deserving law students in schools all across the State of Florida which was the most scholarships the organization has ever awarded and the first time the scholarships were awarded to recipients throughout the state. Congratulations to the scholarship recipients including: Tara Irani at University of Miami School of Law, Dawn Boulding at Florida A&M University College of Law, Nancy Shalhub at University of Miami School of Law, Samantha Sobel at Stetson University College of Law, Katie Brochu at Florida Coastal School of Law, Jihane Elizee at Florida International University School of Law, Nejla Clavo at University of Miami School of Law, Janelle Vega at St. Thomas University School of Law, Jacqueline Hagans at St. Thomas University School of Law, Nicole Fundora at Florida International College of Law, and Ileana Garcia at St. Thomas University School of Law.    

Spearheading Miami-Dade FAWL's Pro Bono Committee, Elisa D'Amico has taken on significant projects to help the organization give back to the community. Among her many accomplishments, Ms. D'Amico co-founded the Cyber Civil Rights Legal Project.  The project offers pro bono legal services to victims of revenge porn and is the first project to serve this class of victims. President Baker recognized Ms. D'Amico's accomplishments by presenting her with Miami-Dade FAWL's President's Pro Bono Award. It takes innovation and drive, like that of Ms. D'Amico's, to continue advancing Miami-Dade FAWL's goals.


To close the celebration, President-Elect Ileana Cruz, reflected on the progress Miami-Dade FAWL has made and how the speakers and award recipients enriched attendees with their inspirational messages of action, progress and courage. In keeping with the theme of the day, Ms. Cruz asked that each and every person in the room continue serving the community because, in the wise words of Dr. Seuss, "unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's just not."  


Miami-Dade FAWL thanks all who attended and sponsored this special event and looks forward to seeing everyone at Miami-Dade FAWL's Board Installation in June 2015.

2014 Miami-Dade FAWL Scholarship Recipients



By: Elisa D'Amico & Freddi Mack
Freddi Mack, Marissa Kaliman, Olivia Kelman, and Christina Guzman

Elisa D'Amico, Brendalyn Edwards, Judge Butchko, Judge Diaz, Trisha Widowfield, and Lauren Brunswick 
On Wednesday, December 10, 2014, Judge Butchko along with Miami-Dade FAWL Director Elisa D'Amico hosted a group of members and their guests who met at the Arsht Center's Ziff Ballet Opera House to attend a production of The Book of Mormon from the creators of South Park, winner of 9 Tony Awards including Best Musical.

Attendees included: Judge Beatrice Butchko, her daughter Stephanie Butchko, Judge Jason Dimitris, his wife Sandy Dimitris and his sister Ariane Dimitris, Judge Veronica Diaz and her fiance, Benjamin Alvarez, Director Elisa D'Amico, Director Brendalyn Edwards and her husband Ransford Edwards, Leadership Committee Co-Chair Trisha Widowfield, Mentoring and Young Lawyers Committee Co-Chair Lauren Brunswick, Christina Guzman, Olivia Kelman, Freddi Mack, and Marissa Kaliman.

Before the curtains went up, attendees gathered in the front lobby for cocktails and to meet each other. For some members, this was the first Miami-Dade FAWL event they had attended in some time.  The Miami-Dade FAWL group sat together in the Mezzanine and had a great view of the stage. During intermission, attendees were able to engage in some intimate discussions with Judge Butchko, Judge Dimitris, Judge Diaz, and other members in attendance. 

The feedback on this event has been extremely positive, and members have advised that they are generally happy to see less structured programming focused on stepping out into the community and enjoying the arts. Based on this positive feedback, we are already working on the next installment in our "Broadway" series. Keep checking the FAWL Fridays for an update in early 2015!
By: Deborah Baker

On December 4, 2014, Miami-Dade FAWL held its annual Holiday Judicial Luncheon and awarded eleven scholarships to Florida law students.  Retired Judge and Miami-Dade FAWL Past President, Ellen Leesfield, and her brother, Ira Leesfield, have always been committed supporters of Miami-Dade FAWL, and this year was no different.   As has been the case for as long as I can remember, Ira's firm, Leesfield & Scolaro, P.A., has been a Grand Benefactor of the luncheon, and Ellen Leesfield has been a Patron sponsor. 


Additionally, this year, the Leesfields were donors of three of the scholarships.  Ellen and her law partner and former colleague on the bench, Victoria Platzer funded The Ellen Leesfield and Victoria Platzer Scholarship.  As it has for the past eighteen years, the Leesfield Family Foundation has provided a scholarship to a minority law student who demonstrates a high commitment to trial advocacy and public justice.  After Ira read the applications from the law students, he decided that one scholarship was not enough and his firm, Leesfield & Scolara, P.A., funded a second scholarship.    


I was curious about the source of the never-ending generosity from the Leesfields, so I recently had lunch with Ira.  He explained that he and Ellen were raised by a hard-working single mother who gave them the tools to get ahead.  Helping women in need (especially single mothers who are already on the path to success but who may need a financial boost) has become part of Ira's mission.  Ira also explained that he believes it is important for men to help other men understand that there is no room for sexism, homophobia, or other prejudice in the workplace.  It has always been my belief that Miami-Dade FAWL is much stronger with the continued support of its male members, and Ira is a prime example.  In addition to her support of Miami-Dade FAWL's scholarship program, Ellen is entirely funding the education of a young woman working towards a medical degree at FIU. 


Ellen reminded us that 2014 was the 30th anniversary of the Miami-Dade FAWL scholarship program.  As one of the founders of our Chapter, Ellen was present when the program began and recalls that the scholarship began as an idea of the co-founders who wanted to give something back to the community.  Back then our Chapter was in its early years, and was just establishing itself in the community and politically.  The founders of our Chapter felt the scholarship program was one way to bring the community into Miami-Dade FAWL and embrace its mission.  The Board went out and solicited resources for a live fundraiser.  Ellen tells of the auctioneer, Elizabeth Dufresne, with her booming voice and fun character auctioning off a variety of things including boat rides, a week in a mountain vacation home, and home-cooked dinners - one by Janet Reno and the others by other community dignitaries.  She says, "We raised a boatload of money and had a ball."  From there Miami-Dade FAWL had a corpus of money with which to create and establish the FAWL Scholarship Fund.


About the Leesfields


Ret. Judge Ellen Leesfield
Ellen Leesfield: Judge Leesfield has been a well-known and highly respected member of the South Florida legal community for over 30 years. Ellen now brings her vast wealth of expertise and experience to her role as a special master, arbitrator and mediator. She is frequently appointed by the courts to serve as a Special Magistrate in complex litigation matters, including high profile cases, where her pragmatic approach to problem solving has earned her the respect of even the most contentious parties.


Ellen is a founder and former President of Miami-Dade FAWL, and is most proud of having created the first annual FAWL Scholarship-a fund she helped to ensure would continue in perpetuity and provide financial assistance to worthy law students.  Ellen has a strong commitment to the South Florida legal community. She served on the Board of Directors of Legal Services of Greater Miami, The Florida Bar Committee on Judicial Professionalism, and the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Ellen also is a member of the American Bar Association, ADR Division, the Dade County Bar Association, the Coral Gables Bar Association, the Cuban American Bar Association, the Hoeveler-Spellman Inns of Court, and the Women's Chamber of Commerce of Miami-Dade County.


Ira Leesfield

Ira Leesfield: A board certified trial lawyer, Ira holds record verdicts and settlements throughout the State of Florida, and significant verdicts throughout the country.   He is Past President of the Florida Justice Association and The Melvin Belli Society. He chaired the American Bar Association's Committee on Products, General Liability and Consumer Law and The Florida Bar Continuing Legal Education Committee while serving as Florida Senior Governor on the American Association for Justice Board for 24 years.   Within the last decade, Ira's lifetime commitment to the profession and his clients has been recognized with numerous awards, such as the Anti-Defamation League's "Jurisprudence Award," the "Melvin Belli Award," and the Florida Justice Association's "Al J. Cone Lifetime Achievement Award." He was the first Florida recipient of the American Ort "Jurisprudence Award," and in 2010, Ira was honored by the American Jewish Committee with the prestigious "Judge Learned Hand Award." He has appeared as a guest commentator on national news programs including ABC's NightLine, Inside Edition and CNN's Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer. From 1992 to 2000, he served the Clinton Administration in two appointed posts and now is on the Board of The William Jefferson Clinton Foundation. The Leesfield Family Foundation supports community activities in Florida, nationally and internationally.   In 2013, at the 31st Annual Judicial Reception, Miami-Dade FAWL honored Ira with the Philanthropist Award. 

By: Trisha Widowfield
Former Florida Bar President Eugene Pettis, Amy Cooper, Rachel Walker, Julie Kane, Jody Shulman, Aziza Martinez, Lisa Lehner, Ileana Cruz, Trisha Widowfield, Nakia Ruffin, Stephanie Moncada, and Stephanie Fine

On November 19, 2014, Miami-Dade FAWL hosted a luncheon with Immediate Past President of The Florida Bar, Eugene Pettis, along with a small number of Miami-Dade FAWL members at Bocce Bar in Midtown.  In addition to discussing his experiences as Bar President, Mr. Pettis engaged the members in a dynamic conversation about meeting the challenge of access to legal services in conjunction with the evolving changes in the practice of law.  During his tenure as Bar President, Mr. Pettis implemented Vision 2016 to help address the need of the legal profession to adapt to the changing world of technology and the competitive marketplace.  Mr. Pettis also discussed the relationship between the changing practice of law and the need for increased legal services to the public.  It is his hope that Vision 2016 will help to create better delivery models to address the "justice gap" of people who can't afford traditional legal services, but don not qualify for legal aid.

Bueso Bach Elected to YLD Board of Governors of The Florida Bar
Miami-Dade FAWL Newsletter Editor Lara Bueso Bach of Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP was elected to the Young Lawyers Division Board of Governors of The Florida Bar for a two-year term commencing June 30, 2015. The Board consists of 20 elected lawyers from across the state who periodically meet to formulate and adopt matters of policy and programming for Florida's young lawyers.    
D'Amico Honored with President's Pro Bono Award
Miami-Dade FAWL Board Member Elisa D'Amico of K&L Gates LLP was honored with Miami-Dade FAWL President's Pro Bono Award at the 32nd Annual Judicial Reception.  Elisa was recognized for co-founding the Cyber Civil Rights Legal Project, a global pro bono project that provides victims of nonconsenual pornography with free legal services. 

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