We hope everyone had a wonderful summer! Miami-Dade FAWL is gearing up for an amazing year, so get ready!
JULY/AUGUST 2016, Vol. 36, Issue 1
By: Rebecca Ocariz

The Miami-Dade Chapter of the Florida Association for Women Lawyers celebrated its 36th Annual Installation and Awards Dinner earlier this summer on June 9, 2016. Almost 300 attorneys and judges attended the event to see the new board of officers and directors sworn in by The Honorable Adalberto Jordan of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.
At the dinner, Miami-Dade FAWL announced that in the upcoming year, the organization will focus on addressing issues of gender bias and equality in the legal profession. Earlier this year, The Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division released findings from its 2015 YLD Survey on Women in the Legal Profession and found that gender bias is still alive and well in the legal profession. Forty-three percent of the young women attorneys who responded reported experiencing some kind of gender bias.  Many respondents indicated that they had experienced one or more serious issues, such as gender bias and harassment from opposing counsel, an employer or the court. An astounding number - more than 25 percent - reported resigning from a position due to a lack of advancement opportunities, a lack of work-life balance and/or employer/supervisor insensitivity. Twenty-one percent of respondents felt that they were not paid comparatively to their male counterparts. Forty-two percent cited difficulties in balancing work/life responsibilities as a challenge or concern they face as practicing attorneys. These are sobering and disappointing statistics to hear in 2016.
Click here to read the Results of the 2015 YLD Survey on Women in the Legal Profession
Some were surprised at the survey results thinking that, over the years, more significant strides had been achieved. But despite some progress, there is still work to be done. As the YLD survey reflects, women still have not achieved parity in terms of opportunities, compensation and consideration for positions of power. Miami-Dade FAWL recognizes that we still have work to do.
To address the issue of gender bias, in the upcoming year, Miami-Dade FAWL will be purchasing and donating new furniture for dedicated lactation rooms available to nursing attorneys in the Civil, Family and Children's, and Criminal Courthouse. Equipping courthouses with lactation rooms has been a project years in the making. Achieving this goal is another important step to bridge the gender bias gap by helping women attain a work life balance that allows women to step right back into their career and - the courtroom - after having a child.
FAWL's programming in the upcoming year also will focus on getting men involved in championing the issue of gender bias. FAWL will be working with Judge Lisa Walsh and the National Association of Women Judges to put on an ABA-developed program called GOOD Guys. GOOD Guys stands for "Guys Overcoming Obstacles to Diversity." The program goal is to engage all attorneys - men and women alike - to be one of the GOOD Guys in the fight for gender equality.
Research has repeatedly shown that the key to achieving gender parity is to engage men. We need to work together. As an organization comprised of women and men, Miami-Dade FAWL is primed to take on this issue.

We hope you enjoyed our Installation & Awards Dinner. Miami-Dade FAWL looks forward to an exciting year and hopes that you will be a big part of it!  

Miami-Dade FAWL recognizes the value government and non-profit attorneys bring to our organization.  In an effort to expand its membership to include more of these attorneys, Miami-Dade FAWL is thrilled to announce its new membership dues structure.  Assistant State Attorneys, Assistant Public Defenders, and attorneys employed by Dade Legal Aid and Legal Services of Greater Miami, who are within their first three years of practice at these organizations, are eligible. 

For those qualifying, the rates are as follows:
  • Free membership for the first year of practice
  • $35/year for the second and third year of practice
  • $65/year after the third year of practice
To take advantage of this competitive pricing, please visit our website  and follow the instructions. We look forward to seeing our current (and future) Miami-Dade FAWL members and government and non-profit attorneys at our future events!  

Rebecca Ocariz, President

Katie S. Phang, President-Elect

Lara Bueso Bach, Secretary

Elisa D'Amico, Treasurer

Ardith Bronson, Newsletter Editor

Ileana Cruz,  Immediate Past President

Lauren Brunswick
Kelly Peña
Stephanie Casey
Jennifer Ruiz
Kristin Drecktrah Paz
Jody Shulman
Freddi Mack
Evelyn Suero
Diana C. Mendez
Alicia Welch
Stephanie Moot
Ingrid Benson-Villegas
Julie Braman Kane
Julie Harris Nelson
Evelyn I. Suero
Ingrid Benson-Villegas, Chair of Miami-Dade FAWL's Award Committee and Co-Chair of the Website Committee, recently became an associate attorney at the Law Offices of Isaac Benmergui, P.A.  Ingrid focuses her practice on providing full real estate services, as well as civil litigation and labor law.
Julie Braman Kane, founding member and Past President of Miami-Dade FAWL, has become the first woman in Florida to serve as president of the American Association for Justice, the world's largest trial bar and leading defender of civil justice.      

Julie Harris Nelson has been named a partner at ROIG Lawyers.  Julie is an experienced insurance defense trial attorney who has personally tried more than 50 criminal and civil jury and bench trials involving automobile liability personal injury protection (PIP) litigation and insurance law.   
Evelyn I. Suero, Miami-Dade FAWL Director, has recently opened her own law firm practice in Miami, Suero Law, PLLC, with a focus on corporate law and international business transactions.  Along with contractual and compliance matters, Evelyn also will handle ancillary legal matters, including estate planning, probate administration, guardianship, and marital planning and dissolution.  Additionally, Evelyn has become Treasurer of the South Florida chapter of the Organization of Women in International Trade (OWIT) and has been selected by OWIT International to speak as a panelist at this year's World Trade Organization (WTO) Public Forum being held in Geneva, Switzerland on September 27, 2016.  Evelyn will be speaking on increasing women's participation in international business and using modern technology to facilitate it.

Lunch with Miami-Dade FAWL Past President Judge Cynamon

By: Lauren Brunswick

On July 14, 2016, Miami-Dade FAWL held a Table for Eight lunch with Circuit Court Judge Abby Cynamon at Downtown Bistro.  Judge Cynamon, a past President of Miami-Dade FAWL, presently serves in the Family Division.   During lunch, Judge Cynamon provided insight on her pathway to the judiciary, and the joys and challenges of serving as a family court judge.  Judge Cynamon also provided the following valuable practice tips:
  • "Know your judge."  For example, does he or she have requirements and/or preferences as to the materials to be provided prior to a hearing?   Also, does he or she allow add-ons at motion calendar? 
  • If opposing counsel seems unwilling to confer with you regarding an issue at motion calendar, raise the issue in front of the judge.  
  • Whenever possible, refrain from cancelling special set hearings at the last minute.  It is unlikely that the court will be able to set another hearing on short notice.
  • It is generally ineffective to "brow beat" witnesses in front of a judge or a jury.  If a witness is uncredible, the judge or jury will be able to figure this out on their own.
The event was attended by Miami-Dade FAWL President Rebecca Ocariz, Directors Lauren Brunswick, Kelly Pena and Evelyn Suero, Committee Chair Julie Rodriguez, Amy Bowers-Zamora, Anna Fernandez and Stephanie Varela.  Additional Table for Eight events are coming up soon.  Be sure to RSVP!
By: Kelly Peña

On July 21, 2016, Miami-Dade FAWL and Lawyers for Children America hosted an all-day training seminar at DLA Piper entitled, "Representing Our Future: Empowering Women and Girls." This was the second part of a two-part CLE training series focusing on the representation of young women in foster care in Miami-Dade County.
The morning session provided participants with juvenile dependency training led by LFCA attorneys Carolyn Salisbury and Paula Velazquez along with Sandra Newmeyer, Esq., of the Department of Children and Families. Ms. Salisbury, Ms. Velazquez, and Ms. Newmeyer provided participants with the nuts and bolts of representing foster youth and offered a roadmap to a system governed by its own set of rules and procedures.

A judicial panel followed the morning session, featuring moderator Ardith Bronson and panelists Judge Maria Sampedro-Iglesia, Judge Alan Fine, and Judge Ariana Fajardo Orshan. Each of these judges offered their perspectives on the role that an attorney ad litem plays in their courtrooms. Each judge expressed the importance of representing foster children, many of whom are not guaranteed their own attorneys under Florida law. They also expressed how children's lives have been positively impacted simply by having someone in their corner.

A community resource panel proceeded with a group of panelists providing participants with information on available resources, funding, and programming for young women in Miami. Panelists included Juanita Armbrister of the Miami-Dade Children's Courthouse - (FSU) YPP Project, Donovan Lee-Sin of The Children's Trust, Wanda Finnie, Esq. of Casa Valentina, and Evelyn Bailey of the Pace Center for Girls.

The seminar ended with a special topics discussion on representing young women trafficked or otherwise coerced into sex work. This discussion was led by Trudy Novicki, Esq. and Tawanda Spaulding, who provided a short film and offered sobering statistics of just how many young women are impacted in our community by sexual exploitation.

Once the seminar ended, participants signed up to take on cases representing young women and girls in Miami, and in just the last month, all previously unassigned cases were assigned to the Miami-Dade FAWL seminar participants. Miami-Dade FAWL is proud of this amazing achievement and commends its pro bono team, which has already forged new relationships with the community leaders who spoke at this event. 
To learn more about becoming a pro bono attorney ad litem, please email Carolyn Salisbury.
To get involved in Miami-Dade FAWL's pro bono committee efforts, please email our Pro Bono Committee.
Maria Dantes-Sanchez, Liberty Mutual's Regional General Counsel
By: Stephanie L. Varela

On July 28, 2016, Miami-Dade FAWL's Corporate Counsel Liaison Committee had the privilege of hosting a Table for Eight dinner featuring Maria Dantes-Sanchez, Liberty Mutual's Regional General Counsel.
Over dinner at Cibo Wine Bar in Coral Gables, Ms. Dantes-Sanchez recalled her early days as an Assistant U.S. attorney at the Immigration and Naturalization Service, her transition to private practice as in-house counsel for Liberty Mutual, and her ascension within the insurance company.
Ms. Dantes-Sanchez also shared career advice, her passion for mentoring others in the legal profession, and her active involvement with the Hispanic National Bar Association.
With over 30 years at Liberty Mutual, Ms. Dantes-Sanchez has a comprehensive understanding of how the insurance industry operates.  She currently oversees and manages the field legal offices located in the Southern Midwest Region of the United States, including offices in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, Missouri, Kansas, Tennessee, Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Virginia and Maryland.  These offices represent the Liberty Mutual Group and its policyholders in commercial and personal markets litigation.
Miami-Dade FAWL's Corporate Counsel Liaison Committee hopes to see you all at future Table for Eight lunches and dinners!

By: Rebecca Ocariz

The Zika virus presents a specific risk that the fetus of pregnant women will develop a debilitating birth defect called microcephaly, a condition causing a baby's head to be much smaller than expected.  Babies with microcephaly can have a range of other health issues including seizures; developmental delays, such as problems with speech or other  developmental milestones (like sitting, standing, and walking); intellectual disabilities; problems with movement and balance; feeding problems, such as difficulty swallowing; hearing loss and vision problems.  These conditions can range from mild to severe and are often lifelong.  Severe microcephaly also can be life threatening.

As has been widely publicized in the media, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a travel advisory advising pregnant women to avoid travel to designated areas of Miami Beach and to the Wynwood neighborhood because of confirmed active Zika virus transmission in both areas, and advising women and their partners who have traveled to these areas to postpone attempts to become pregnant for at least 8 weeks.  The CDC has also advised that pregnant women and partners of pregnant women who are concerned about potential Zika virus exposure may also consider postponing nonessential travel to all parts of Miami-Dade County. 
To address this growing concern, several Eleventh Judicial Circuit judges have accommodated pregnant women, partners of pregnant women, and/or partners of women trying to get pregnant, by permitting telephonic attendance at hearings or by ordering a deposition that was properly set in Miami-Dade County to occur in Broward County.  These accommodations are necessary, greatly appreciated, and commendable given the viable and serious threat that the Zika virus presents to pregnant women and their partners.  
However, along with the threat of becoming infected with the virus itself, Zika has presented another risk to pregnant women in the form of the potentially harmful pesticides that are being utilized by Miami-Dade County to fight the spread of the virus. One of the pesticides used in aerial spraying in Miami-Dade County is banned for agricultural use in the European Union over concerns that the chemical degrades and can cause genetic mutations. Last month, the governor of Puerto Rico decided against using the pesticide to fight the virus given widespread opposition to its use in the Commonwealth. In contrast, the CDC and the United States Environmental Protection Agency do not believe that the aerial spraying of this pesticide is harmful to human health when applied according to label instructions.
In light of this controversy, some Miami obstetricians have counseled their pregnant patients living in the area where the pesticide is scheduled to be sprayed to evacuate for a 48-hour period to allow the most concentrated effects of the chemical to subside. Fortunately, the spraying schedule, as well as a map as to where the spraying is to take place, is published enough in advance to allow for routine hearings and depositions to be scheduled accordingly. However, emergency hearings - as their name implies - tend to be scheduled on a more immediate basis.  
Recently, a pregnant lawyer had an emergency evidentiary hearing scheduled with two-days' notice during a period when aerial spraying was to occur within a 10-mile radius that fell directly over her house. Her obstetrician had advised her to leave Miami-Dade County while the spraying occurred and for 48 hours thereafter. Opposing counsel refused to accommodate her request that the hearing be postponed for 48 hours so that she might follow her doctor's orders and evacuate her home. While the Court offered to allow her to appear by telephone, the attorney would have had to leave her frightened, lay-client to appear in court and testify at an evidentiary hearing without her attorney by her side. The pregnant lawyer was placed in the unreasonable position of having to choose between heeding the advice of her doctor, offered to protect the health of her unborn child, and providing the best representation for her client. She went to the hearing.
Clearly pregnant attorneys, and attorneys planning to become pregnant, who want to continue practicing as litigators throughout their pregnancy are facing unique challenges. We can assist by providing reasonable accommodations to these attorneys when appropriate. We can also educate the legal community of the health risks that certain attorneys are being forced to take in order to pursue their careers and represent their clients.
Miami-Dade FAWL and Athleta: Restorative Yoga and Mindfulness Practice

By: Amy M. Bowers-Zamora

On July 17, 2016, a group of Miami-Dade FAWL members and their families came together for a morning of restorative yoga and mindfulness practice at Athleta's flagship store in Miami Beach. The class, led by Jeska Brodbeck of Be Light Yoga, emphasized the importance of connecting with the breath to ease physical tension and create a peaceful, focused mental state while practicing yoga and in everyday life.
After an hour of relaxing, family-friendly yoga, members were treated to an hour of private shopping at the Athleta store, and a portion of all sales were donated to the Miami-Dade FAWL Scholarship Fund. Participants enjoyed a delicious, light breakfast prepared by Rosa Mexicano while they shopped.

As an added perk, several items were raffled off: Vivian Fazio was the lucky recipient of a $50 shopcard to Athleta, Vivian Fazio's daughter won a $100 gift card to Rosa Mexicano, Amy M. Bowers-Zamora won a complimentary in-home blowout from Glamsquad, and Kelly M. Peña won a private yoga session with Jeska Brodbeck. 
Be on the lookout, in the FAWL Friday, for more health and wellness-themed events! 

Miami-Dade FAWL Supports Creation of a  Mandatory Parental Leave Continuance Rule

By: Rebecca Ocariz

In July, 2016, the Board Executive Committee of The Florida Bar established a Joint Task Force between The Florida Bar's Standing Committee on Diversity and Inclusion and the Standing Committee on the Rules of Judicial Administration to reexamine the necessity of a mandatory Parental Leave Continuance Rule in the State of Florida (the "Rule"). The Joint Task Force provides an important opportunity for the Committees to work together to make meaningful change in favor of gender equality across the state.
The proposed Rule provides for a mandatory continuance when based on parental leave unless exceptional circumstances are shown. The comment to the rule recognizes that "[t]he profession is committed to parental leave and to the importance for attorneys to be able to balance work and family."
Miami-Dade FAWL supports the enactment of the Rule, which advances gender equality and ensures that attorneys are able to provide the best possible service to their clients by allowing them the flexibility to continue to represent their clients even when they become parents. The Rule also helps foster a greater work-life balance by allowing both women and men the judgment-free opportunity to be active in their children's lives from the time of birth without sacrificing the advancement of their careers.
Miami-Dade FAWL believes that, rather than simply establishing a policy, a mandatory Rule is required to effectuate meaningful change in favor of gender equality. Miami-Dade FAWL's position is that parental leave always constitutes good cause and that the only issue to consider in ruling on a motion for continuance is whether there is substantial prejudice to the other side. Even then, the court should seek to provide as much of a continuance as possible under the circumstances.

  International NAWJ Conference Celebrates Women in the Judiciary 

By: Amber Kornreich
This past May, over nine hundred enthusiastic women judges from 82 countries met in Washington D.C. to attend the International Association of Women Judges Conference, hosted by the National Association of Women Judges (NAWJ). Judge Lisa Walsh, Miami-Dade Circuit Court judge, a Miami-Dade FAWL Past-President and past Recipient of the esteemed Mattie Belle Davis Award, is the current President of the NAWJ.
Judge Walsh described the amazing initial "Roll-Call of Nations" as similar to the Olympics Opening Ceremony. As each country represented at the Conference was called, the judges from that country stood up in unison- many of them donning their Country's traditional attire.  The 180 U.S. judges in attendance --  wearing red, white and blue -- rose together waving their American flags. In a poignant moment that brought many in the room to tears, only a single solitary Judge stood up when Syria was acknowledged. Syrian Judge Rasha Rajab was recently expelled from her native country after the rise of ISIS and is now a refugee bravely living in Turkey. Judge Walsh is currently spearheading efforts, with former Miami-Dade FAWL President Alex Bach-Lagos, to bring Judge Rajab to the United States to share her story.

Many of this country's most prominent jurists were in attendance including United States Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, along with Florida Supreme Court Justices Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince. U.S. District Court Judge Beth Bloom, Circuit Court Judge Cindy Lederman, Circuit Court Judge Carol Kelly, Linda Leali, Miami-Dade FAWL Leadership Committee Co-chair and co-chair of the NAWJ Informed Voter Project, and Elizabeth Hernandez, former CABA President, also attended from Miami. Judges from around the world, including from the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia, came together to share ideas, reflect, and strategize to create a more inclusive and just global society.
The diverse panels covered a wide array of topics, ranging from cutting-edge legal discussions on new developments in international human rights law and approaches to stopping gender violence and war crimes, to more personal considerations such as challenges women judges face in North Africa, as their role as impartial jurists is challenged by theocracies that do not always respect their independence.
Aside from the panel presentations, one of the highlights of the annual conference was the moot court exercise. This year, the moot court case was a child custody dispute involving a same-sex couple. The judges served in all roles, with some acting as lawyers and others as acting as parties. The judges pushed boundaries, challenged expectations, and struggled together to find common ground across cultures.
The conference was an environment for discussion and planning, but also for celebration and honoring of the members who have worked so hard to improve women's lives. Judge Patricia Wald, the first woman to be appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, who later became its Chief Judge, and a former Judge on the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, received the prestigious Human Rights Award. Judge Wald graduated as one of only eleven female students in her law school class at Yale, and has championed human rights issues around the world, including at home, working to investigate crimes against prisoners in Guantanamo.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit side-by-side with Judge Wald, inspired the conference attendees with her message that, in spite of the challenges that are still to be overcome, there is optimism for the future when women judges are empowered. Justice Ginsburg remarked:

"Women in positions of authority, and that includes members of this assemblage, can contribute importantly to repairing tears in our society and to the humanity of the decisions our courts make. As my dear colleague, and first woman on the Supreme Court of the United States, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, counseled: 'For both men and women the first step in getting power is to be visible to others, and then to put on an impressive show... As women achieve power, the barriers will fall. As society sees what women can do, as women see what women can do, there will be more women out there doing things, and we'll all be better off for it."
On July 22, 2016, Judge Walsh presided over a panel discussion at the Capitol with the Congressional Caucus on Women's Issues.   Senator Claire McCaskill (MO) and Mr. Robert Taylor, Principal Deputy General Counsel for the Department of Defense, discussed legislation drafted by Senator McCaskill, passed in 2014, which dramatically changed the way in which the military investigates and adjudicates allegations of sexual assault and harassment. Panelists also included Laura Dunn, founder of SurvJustice, an organization that provides representation to those proceeding in campus hearings on allegations of sexual assault; Professor of Law Suzanne B. Goldberg, Executive Vice President for University Life at Columbia University; and retired judge of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas and NAWJ Past-President, Judge Carolyn Engel Temin, who has presided over hearings on allegations of sexual harassment and assault on college campuses. All panelists recognized the challenges in developing processes among campuses that vary in size, budget and resources. Professor Goldberg agreed that at the very least, evidence-based study should be made of systems in place to determine their efficacy. Our judges may wish to reach out to provide guidance and support to our academic communities on such issues as fact-finding and adjudicatory processes.
Miami-Dade FAWL Congratulates Judge Lisa Walsh for her tremendous work to make this year's conference a success and commends her for making sure that Florida women lawyers, through her representation, are able to guide policy towards a more inclusive and just society for all.
Pssssst......Are you interested in helping plan the Third Annual Miami-Dade FAWL Foster Day Youth Picnic?

Miami-Dade FAWL is planning its Third Annual Foster Youth Day picnic to take place in February 2017. This picnic provides a day of fun, games, and food for over two hundred current and former members of Miami's foster youth community, and a chance for members of the legal community to learn about pro bono opportunities and spend a day with the kids. To get involved in this project, please contact Kelly Peña.
Miami-Dade FAWL is a voluntary bar association dedicated to actively promoting the advancement of women in the legal profession, expanding the leadership role of its members in the community at large, and promoting women's rights.
Ardith Bronson, Newsletter Editor | Miami-Dade FAWL