Tuesday, November 14, 2017

St. Thomas Law Celebrates its Charter Class with Reunion Dinner

We were thrilled to welcome members of the St. Thomas Law Charter Class back to campus on November 3, 2017.

The reunion dinner, hosted by the Office of Alumni Affairs, was a unique opportunity for the first group of St. Thomas Law graduates to reconnect and reminisce.

Members of the St. Thomas Law Charter Class
St. Thomas Law students, staff, and administrators

Thursday, November 9, 2017

St. Thomas Law's Human Trafficking Academy Receives $2.5 Million Gift

St. Thomas Law and its highly-acclaimed Human Trafficking Academy just became the beneficiary of a $2.5 million gift, generously donated by Mr. John Brunetti, Chairman of the Hialeah Park Racing & Casino.
Mr. John Brunetti (center) presenting $2.5 million check to St. Thomas Law’s 
Human Trafficking Academy
Professor Roza Pati, who has been working on the issue of human trafficking since the early 1990s described the multi-million dollar gift as a blessing that will help the academy accomplish countless desired goals, enhance the Academy’s presence throughout the State, and nurture its agility and profoundness. 

"The ultimate beneficiary will be communities aspiring to be free of slave labor, products and services [and] survivors, whose lives we will help put back together," stated Professor Pati. "Our work will assist human trafficking victims regain and own back their lives."

The Academy's reach will simultaneously empower Florida’s human resources, whose mission is to condemn and bring to justice those who appropriate people’s legal personality, their free will, labor and sweat. 

"We are proud and humbled to be the recipient of this generous gift," stated Dean Alfredo Garcia. "Our unstinting efforts, through the work of Professor Pati and our faculty, staff, and alumni, to eradicate the scourge of human trafficking will be enhanced."

The Academy will also continue its cooperation with federal agencies that combat human trafficking, and with the State Attorneys’ offices, the private sector and civil society in order to expand synergies and take advantage of available resources to better understand the physiognomy and trends of human trafficking as well as the needs of national and foreign victims.

Founded and directed by Professor Roza Pati, the Human Trafficking Academy was established in 2010 with the support of a grant by the Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance. A pioneer of its kind, the Academy is home to a variety of multi-disciplinary anti-trafficking initiatives that includes conferences, symposia, trainings, presentations, workshops, research and publications. Its impact crosses national borders.

Monday, October 30, 2017

St. Thomas Law Trial Team Wins ABA Labor and Employment Law Regional Mock Trial Competition

The St. Thomas University School of Law Trial Team won the ABA Labor and Employment Law Regional Mock Trial Competition that took place in Miami from October 28-29, 2017.

Victorious: St. Thomas Law Trial Team members Luis Garcia, Chanae Wood, Karina Harduvel, and Jillian Tate.
St. Thomas Law students, Jillian Tate, Chanae Wood, Karina Harduvel and Luis Garcia were crowned champions and will represent St. Thomas in New Orleans for the Nationals in January.

Two teams of four students from the trial team represented St. Thomas at the competition. Leonard Caracappa, Gabriella Espaillat, Jose Leal and Vanessa Pressoir represented the other St. Thomas team and received rave reviews for their skill, advocacy and professionalism. The teams were coached by Jeff James, Esq., Dionne McDonald- Josephs, Esq., and faculty advisor, Michael Mayer, Esq.

The competition consisted of twelve teams from eight law schools around the country. In each round, the students represented either the Plaintiff or the Defendant. As the Plaintiff, the students argued to a jury that the Plaintiff, an employee of the Defendant, was discriminated against, and fired for, religious reasons. As the Defendant, the students argued to the jury that the Plaintiff was not fired for religious reasons, but rather, because the Plaintiff was harassing other employees.

In the preliminary rounds, one team competed against the Universities of Denver and Texas. The championship team competed against Washburn University School of Law and Florida Coastal School of Law. After going undefeated and seeded #1 in the preliminary rounds, the championship team advanced to the semi-finals against the Texas Law School and argued for the Defendant. Receiving a unanimous verdict, the team advanced to the finals and competed against Emory University School of Law. At the end of a zealously advocated round, St. Thomas Law was named winner.

The trial team would like to extend its thanks to Professor Kenya Smith for working with the team and offering his guidance, knowledge and support.

Congratulations to the entire trial team on this incredible accomplishment. After months of group and individual practice, simulated trials against other members of the trial team, these students exemplified the meaning of hard work, dedication and sacrifice - way to make the entire St. Thomas family proud!

Good luck at nationals!

Monday, October 23, 2017

St. Thomas Law Professor Michael Vastine - Legal Leader on Immigrant Rights

Professor Michael Vastine

St. Thomas University School of Law remains on the front lines in the efforts to establish and preserve immigrant rights. Through the St. Thomas Law Immigration Clinic and the Human Rights Institute, a broad range of immigration and human rights-related issues are being tackled including  legislation and its effect on immigrants.

Professor Michael Vastine, who serves as director of the St. Thomas Law Immigration Clinic, also holds a key leadership role in the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). He has argued before the US Court of Appeals, and submitted  arguments that get widely circulated within the immigration bar regarding major case issues with national and international impact.
  • In September 2017, he argued Choizilme v. U.S. Attorney General at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, regarding the immigration implications of the Florida drug sale statute that reverses the presumption of innocence regarding mens rea* of the illicit nature of the controlled substance involved. 
  • The Connecticut Supreme Court agreed, in Jerzy G. v. State of Connecticut, with the arguments he forwarded in as amicus curiae** counsel, and established that equal protection demands that Connecticut courts retain jurisdiction in criminal post-conviction (including appellate) Sixth Amendment-related litigation, notwithstanding the physical deportation of the defendant.
  • Professor Vastine was also a participant in the litigation summit of the American Immigration Counsel; and led a panel The Most Recent Developments in the Categorical/Modified Categorical Approaches, at AILA’s Advanced Litigation Conference, in Portland, Oregon.
  • He most recently attended the first two days of the October 2017 term of the U.S. Supreme Court in order to blog for AILA in the cases Sessions v. Dimaya (deportability for potentially violent crimes) and Jennings v. Rodriguez (prolonged immigration detention). His analysis of the case can be viewed below.

The St. Thomas Law Immigration Clinic serves as a conduit for the training of the next generation immigration lawyers and advocates. It is available to second- and third-year law students and is designed to provide the legal, ethical, and moral tools needed to provide high-quality immigration services to under-served communities. Students represent asylum seekers, battered spouses and children, and other non-citizens seeking immigration relief in Immigration Court, before the Board of Immigration Appeals, and the Department of Homeland Security.

mens rea* -  legal phrase used to describe the mental state a person must be in while committing a crime for it to be intentional
amicus curiae**  - person who is not a party to a case, but who assists a court by offering information that bears on the case.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

St. Thomas Law's Human Trafficking Academy: An Educational Pioneer in the Fight Against Modern Day Slavery

Barbara Martinez, Chief of the Special Prosecutions Section, U.S. DOJ, Miami U.S. Attorney's Office, Benjamin Widlanski, Assistant United States Attorney, and HSI-ICE Special Agent Claudia Velez discussing the Federal Prosecution of Human Trafficking Cases
St. Thomas Law hosted its one-week Human Trafficking Academy for the second time this year, on July 31 – August 4, 2017. The Academy, under the leadership of its director, Dr. Roza Pati, Professor of Law and Executive Director of the LL.M./J.S.D. Program in Intercultural Human Rights, brought together 62 participants from all over Florida, the United States and also from Thailand. They represented a multi-disciplinary group of various professional backgrounds including attorneys, law enforcement and border protection, social service providers, child protective investigators, academics, advocates, students and faith-based organizations.

Bretton Engle, Ph.D., Assistant Clinical Professor at FIU College of Medicine, interacts 
with Academy participants who role-play motivational interviewing
This summer’s Academy offered five days of intensive education on: Defining, Understanding & Identifying Human Trafficking; Victims’ Needs & Navigation through Services; Federal Prosecution of Human Trafficking; Addressing Human Trafficking through State Law; Social Responsibility & Community Involvement; Survivor-Centered Services & Advocacy; Technology & Human Trafficking; and the Media & Human Trafficking. The week-long training was designed to empower participants with the theoretical perspective and legal framework of human trafficking as well as with practical skills and tools that are essential in addressing and preventing this heinous crime. Each session was taught by a distinguished team of instructors including: Greg Bristol, former FBI Special Agent; Joseph Martinez, former NCIS Special Agent; Barbara Martinez, Chief, Special Prosecutions Section, U.S. DOJ, Miami U.S. Attorney's Office; Benjamin Widlanski, Assistant United States Attorney, U.S. DOJ, Miami U.S. Attorney's Office; Ana Isabel Vallejo & Maria Jose Fletcher, Co-Directors & Attorneys, VIDA Legal Assistance; Brenda Mezick, Chief, Human Trafficking Unit, Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office; Sean Sellers, Director of Strategic Partnerships, National Economic & Social Rights Initiative; Bretton Engle, Assistant Clinical Professor, FIU College of Medicine; Janet Basilan, Survivor & Vice-Chairperson, GABRIELA USA; Roy Balleste, Professor of Law, St. Thomas University School of Law; and Beatriz Susan Uitts, J.S.D. Candidate, St. Thomas University School of Law.

Professor Roza Pati, Director of the Human Trafficking Academy, 
and Janet Basilan, survivor of human trafficking and Vice Chairperson 
In welcoming participants at the opening session, Dr. Pati promised that the Human Trafficking Academy would be an extraordinary educational and training experience and that participants would leave empowered with the necessary knowledge and skills to combat the abhorrent scourge against human dignity.

The Academy featured guest speaker, Janet Basilan, a survivor of human trafficking and Vice Chairperson of GABRIELA USA, a Philippine-based organization in the United States seeking justice for trafficked persons. Ms. Basilan was one of the many Philippine teachers who were lured to the U.S., with false promises of well-paid teaching positions. Later she learned that everything was a scam. She was a victim of deception, debt-bondage and coercion. Her story was eye opening to many of the attendees who “never thought things like this happen in the U.S.” Ms. Basilan is a survivor-advocate determined to combat human trafficking in her home country and here in the United States.

Throughout the week, the participants were greeted and warmly welcomed by the most senior university officials, Monsignor Casale, President of St. Thomas University, Dr. Irma Becerra, Provost and Chief Academic Officer, and Professor Alfredo Garcia, Dean of the Law School. They all appreciated the contribution rendered by participants against human trafficking and their dedication to supporting victims in every institution and organization they hail from.

Msgr. Franklyn Casale, President of St. Thomas University, Dr. Irma Becerra, Provost and Chief Academic Officer,
and Professor Alfredo Garcia, Dean of the Law School—welcoming and greeting participants
The Academy concluded with a special screening of “Trapped,” a short documentary film produced by Emmy Award-winning investigative journalist, Michele Gillen.

Participant feedback was overwhelmingly positive and met Dr. Pati’s promise to them:

“This most recent academy was my second to attend and found both to be rewarding, challenging, and enriching. I was rewarded with knowledge through experience, challenged with theory and practical application, and enriched with an enhanced ability to better impact positively the horrific crime and human condition of human trafficking. In addition to the instructional environment, the physical space was well appointed for learning. Thank you, Dr. Pati, for the effort and the hard work of your staff.”
Cpl. Alan Wilkett, 
Pasco Sheriff's Office 

“The multi-disciplinary approach of the Human Trafficking Academy was excellent. The content of the presentations and materials were extremely informative, easy to comprehend and well organized. The professional and dedicated cadre of instructors represented academia, civilian attorneys, state and federal prosecutors, NGOs, media, volunteers and survivors. The real examples, scenarios and role play exercises definitely allowed for the students of the academy to apply knowledge learned during lectures. Finally, Dr. Pati, Karla and volunteers made everyone feel at home and comfortable during the training week.”
Benjamin Botero, Assistant Professor, 
Criminal Justice, Broward College 


“Very informative, value-based, practical, to [the] point, resourceful in real time, impressive instructor selection, well put together by staff, [and] well needed.”

“This is an invaluable place to learn as well as collaborate…Wonderful course and relevant to all levels of experience and understanding of subject matter. Thank you! Well done!”

“The materials presented were diverse including information germane to investigations by law enforcement, NGO’s, health care, and community based groups.”

“The training was well organized, well timed and I learned a lot. Definitely will be useful in my field of work. Thank you Prof. Pati for your hard work.”

“Excellent logistic! Very good room environment—well organized!!”

“Thank you for your commitment and passion. Good luck and God bless all of you.” 

St. Thomas Law's bi-annual Human Trafficking Academy is designed to conduct research, outreach and education in the field of human trafficking. In particular, it offers specialized training and technical assistance to law enforcement, lawyers, healthcare providers, teachers, students, researchers, religious institutions and the community at large on issues related to the crime of trafficking in persons. It looks at trafficking in persons as a gross violation of human rights and as an affront to the dignity of the human being.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

St. Thomas Law's Intercultural Human Rights Law Review Ranked No.6 in the World

The most recent Washington & Lee Global Law Journal Ranking (2009-2016) ranks St. Thomas Law's Intercultural Human Rights Law Review, in terms of its impact, No. 6 among all human rights law journals in the world.   It bested long-established reviews such as the Human Rights Quarterly, the Human Rights Law Review, and the International Review of the Red Cross.

Professor Roza Pati, one of the dedicated faculty advisors, attributes the review's success to two important elements: (1) the J.D. and LL.M. students who constitute the membership of the review and perform stellar work throughout the year; and (2) the fact that the publication features articles from the most highly acclaimed international law academics and practitioners, judges, legislators and UN officials.
"I am very proud to work with such an excellent team of students every year,” she stated.

Volume 12 of the acclaimed journal has just been published and features groundbreaking articles on the iconic Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina; the adaptation of human rights standards to local norms in the African Ebola crisis; a quantitative assessment of the United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review process; an analysis and call for action on classified websites and sex trafficking; and in-depth articles on the Law Review’s symposium on Florida’s Stand Your Ground laws.

Evelyn Reyes '17
Maria Asencion '17
Volume 12 also features articles written by two St. Thomas Law students: Evelyn Reyes (“Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law:  How to Get Away with Murder”) and Maria Lourdes AsenciĆ³n (“Classified Websites, Sex Trafficking, and the Law:  Problem and Proposal”).

Professor Siegfried Wiessner, the other faculty advisor, noted that both students' articles apply New Haven’s policy-oriented approach to jurisprudence in model fashion.  

"I am very thankful for the opportunity to have worked with the IHRLR and to Professor Wiessner for all of his support," stated Evelyn.  "The Stand Your Ground law is a topic that I am very passionate about and I've followed several cases that have impacted the state of Florida since the law's enactment in 2005. I felt that people should be made aware of how easily a law that is meant to protect individuals can be used to kill them instead."

Maria is also grateful to have had the opportunity to contribute in the legal field with her publication, and expressed her thanks to Professor Wiessner for his belief in her topic and subsequent article.  She was moved to write on the issue of sex trafficking not only to increase awareness of the issue, but also to advocate for changes to laws that would result in the closing of loopholes that currently allow traffickers flourish online.

Founded in 2006, the Intercultural Human Rights Law Review is an annual journal of intercultural human rights scholarship affiliated with the St. Thomas University Law School and its Intercultural Human Rights Program.
The journal's goal is to publish well-written, cutting-edge human rights scholarship by academics, practitioners, and students. In so doing, this journal provides a forum for the exchange of ideas from a variety of intercultural perspectives.

The Intercultural Human Rights Law Review is committed to exploring new directions and perspectives and providing resources for scholars, policymakers, and practitioners. Its mission extends beyond publication. The journal strives to facilitate activism and outreach as well as scholarship. In furtherance of this goal it sponsors numerous intimate discussions and debates on a wide variety of intercultural human rights issues, and hosts an annual symposium focused on a specific topic related to intercultural and human rights law.


Editors in Chief

Tomas Randle
Amal Uthman

Managing Editor
Belkys Yzquierdo

Executive Editors
Pryscilla Nicolau
Denise Pichardo
Leighton Regis
Thomas Woldeghiorghis 

Student Articles Editor
William Johnson

Articles Procurement Editor
Danny Telcy-Louis

2017-18 IHRLR Editorial Board Members 

J.D. Editor-in-Chief: Denise Pichardo
Managing Editor: Ingrid Arzola
Executive Editor: James Sanchez
Student Articles Editor: Arturo Abreu

Faculty Advisors

Friday, August 18, 2017

St. Thomas Law Second-Year Student Appointed to National Advisory Committee of Equal Justice Works

2L Diego Sanchez
This summer, second-year St. Thomas Law student Diego Sanchez, was selected as a member of the Equal Justice Works (EJW) National Advisory Committee.

His term as a member began on July 1, 2017 and will end on June 30, 2018. As a member, he will be tasked with providing feedback on EJW's existing programs and new initiatives and to assist with outreach to member schools and students throughout the country. He is also required to attend one national meeting per year as well as monthly conference calls.

"As an immigrant rights advocate committed to equal justice, I was thrilled to learn I was selected to serve in this capacity," stated Diego. "This will allow me to play a leadership role at the national level in addition to supporting EJW’s programs and new initiatives."

The mission of Equal Justice Works is to "create a just society by mobilizing the next generation of lawyers committed to equal justice." They provide leadership to ensure that a sustainable pipeline of talented and trained lawyers are involved in public service and create a continuum of programs that begin with incoming law school students and extend into later careers in the profession. They also have the nation’s leading public interest law fellowship program and offer more postgraduate, full-time legal positions in public service than any other organization.

Michele Bastacky, Program Coordinator at Equal Justice Works noted that they had many exceptional applicants for the available positions, but were especially impressed with Diego's achievements and commitment to public interest work.

St. Thomas Law Professor, Lauren Gilbert, who has worked with Diego on numerous immigrants' rights initiatives including a week-long project at the Karnes Detention Center in Texas, describes his ability to connect with underserved asylum-seekers as inspirational.

During his first year at St. Thomas Law, Diego re-established the American Immigration Lawyers Association Student Chapter (AILA) and became active with the Public Interest Law Society (PILS). As a member of AILA, Diego is active in community citizenship clinics that assist low-income individuals with their citizenship applications.

St. Thomas Law remains committed to teaching, training, and empowering the next generation of advocates and community leaders. Our students are driven by a mission to serve. Leading the way is our nationally-recognized pro-bono program that instills a lasting service ethic among our students that benefits them well beyond graduation.

We proudly highlight the accomplishments of Diego and other students like him, who continue to embody the spirit and mission of St. Thomas Law.