Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Human Trafficking Academy Hosts Representative Ross Spano to Commemorate 'National Crime Victims’ Rights Week'

On April 11th, in honor of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, the Human Trafficking Academy was honored to host Florida State Representative Ross Spano in a talk attended by law students, faculty, staff, and community members. Professor Roza Pati, Director of the Human Trafficking Academy, welcomed Representative Ross Spano to St. Thomas Law and highlighted his tremendous work in the State of Florida to confront the problem of trafficking in human beings, to find solutions and to eradicate this scourge.

Representative Spano, who is also currently a candidate for Florida Attorney General, opened up about why it is that he was called to advocate on behalf of victims of human trafficking, and offered insights into the laudable legislative efforts that he has championed in the pursuit of this aim.

Representative Spano began the talk by emphasizing the need to stand up to bullies, which he learned from his own childhood experiences. “There are all sorts of bullies in life,” he said, “and one of those bullies takes the form of a human trafficker.” He shared the experience of pushing for the passage of numerous bills to protect victims of sex trafficking. These legislative measures covered a range of issues including, the ability for victims of sex trafficking to petition for any prostitution convictions in their record to be vacated or expunged, an increase on the criminal penalty for pimps and for those who solicit the services of sex trafficked persons, the ability for prosecutors to pursue RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) charges against traffickers, and protecting the locations of safe-houses for trafficking victims from public disclosure.

Representative Spano’s passionate commitment to eliminating human trafficking in Florida was palpable and was mirrored by the audience. The attendees were engaged throughout, asking many thought-provoking questions during the latter half of the session.

Some students who were in attendance shared their thoughts about the talk afterwards. Kimberly Colón, an LL.M. student, said that “Representative Ross Spano was very insightful on the different laws regarding human trafficking in the State of Florida.” Diego Sánchez, a 2L, stated that, “It was great to hear from someone who has been at the legislative forefront of tackling this very important issue in our State.” Added Nadia El Nur, another student from the LL.M. program, “I really enjoyed the lecture organized by the Human Trafficking Academy. The discussion held afterward was inspiring and very informative.”

Representative Spano has pledged to continue to “fight for victims of human trafficking until we completely eradicate this scourge from Florida.” There can be no doubt that his work, including the talk he gave on the 11th, has inspired others to take up the fight as well.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Professor Roy Balleste Joins High-Level International Team Crafting New Outer Space Laws

St. Thomas Law Professor Roy Balleste has been asked to join a new team of internationally-renowned  experts on space law who will be developing rules applicable to the military use of outer space.

The project, MILAMOS (Manual on International Law Applicable to Military Uses of Outer Space), was inaugurated at McGill University in 2016,  and aims to develop a "widely-accepted manual that clarifies the fundamental rules applicable to military uses of outer space by both States and non-State actors in times of peace, in periods of rising tensions, and in times of armed conflict."

To date, the MILAMOS Project has already gathered the support and endorsement of various stakeholders, academic institutions and governments around the world, and has gained widespread attention in the international media.

Professor Balleste was selected as a member of the team based on his American and international perspectives in cyber security, space law and human rights, as well as his service in the United States military. He will be one of dozens of high-level experts and other international government and non-governmental contributors including Federal Ministry of Defense of the Federal Republic of Germany, Intersputnik (Russia), University of Western Sydney (Australia), Leuven University (Belgium), Keio University (Japan), Harvard University-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (USA), University of Geneva, Xi'an Jiatong University (China) who will draft this manual that may shape State behavior, and strengthen the security and sustainability of outer space.

St. Thomas Law salutes Professor Balleste on his hard work and the dedication to his field that has led him to be internationally-recognized and invited to be part of such a prestigious project.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

St. Thomas Immigration Law Students Host Free Legal Screening Clinic

On Saturday, March 17th, the School of Law and the Immigration Law Students Association (ILSA) partnered with Catholic Legal Services and Americans for Immigrant Justice to provide free immigration legal screenings to the surrounding community. The clinic primarily offered an interview and legal consultation for the purpose of determining immigration relief eligibility.

Student volunteers
More than 20 student-volunteers from St. Thomas Law received valuable hands-on experience working alongside a team of attorneys. The volunteers got the chance to complete intake forms for those seeking aid, observe attorneys conduct legal interviews, and were introduced to South Florida’s two leading immigration nonprofits for future internships and employment opportunities. 

“Participating in the clinic provided me with the unique opportunity to observe attorneys’ interactions with clients,” stated Catherine Yepes (1L). “This experience allowed insight into what my day-to-day life would be as an immigration attorney,” she added.


For Tessa Juste, an LL.M student graduating in May, the experience hit close to home. “My parents were immigrants to this country, and I know it was not an easy road for them. So I am grateful that, because of their struggles and efforts, I am able to bring things full circle and help people who are walking that same path today,” stated Tessa.

Students had face-to-face interactions with individuals who may be eligible for different types of relief, including asylum-seekers and survivors of domestic violence. Alida Bustos (1L) was excited to have the opportunity to complete an intake for someone who needed to renew her application for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. She hopes to be a part of future programs.

Students interested in participating in similar projects should contact ILSA at ilsa@stu.edu.

Monday, March 19, 2018

St. Thomas Law Intercultural Human Rights Law Review Hosts “Dreaming with DACA” Symposium

The St. Thomas Law Intercultural Human Rights Law Review recently hosted its annual symposium. This year, the event focused on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Titled “Dreaming with DACA”, the event took the form of a panel discussion featuring immigration attorney and St. Thomas Law alum Saman Movassaghi Gonzalez, Esq.’03; Andrea Senteno, Legislative Staff Attorney of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund; Adrian Escarate’11, St. Thomas Alumni and DACA Recipient; and Julio Calderon, a South Florida community organizer and DACA Activist.

The panelists had an open discussion about the issues regarding DACA, case laws, decisions and where the program stands. The symposium was sponsored by the St. Thomas Law's Intercultural Human Rights Law Review, the LL.M./J.S.D. Program in Intercultural Human Rights, the Human Trafficking Academy and the Themis Bar Review.

Ranked 6th amongst human rights journals worldwide, the Intercultural Human Rights Law Review is an annual journal, whose goal is to publish well-written, cutting-edge human rights scholarship by academics, practitioners, and students. Each year, the journal sponsors numerous discussions and debates on a wide variety of intercultural human rights issues.

Editorial Board Members of the Intercultural Human Rights Law Review
Professor Roza Pati, Faculty Advisor, and Guest Panelists

Thursday, March 15, 2018

St. Thomas Law Graduate, Tarlika Navarro, Appointed to Broward County Circuit Court

Tarlika N. Navarro '10
St. Thomas Law alum Tarlika N. Navarro is one of two recent South Florida judicial appointments made by Governor Rick Scott.  She will serve in the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit for Broward County.

Navarro, who graduated from St.Thomas Law (cum laude) in 2010, is currently in private practice. She is a managing partner at Tarlika Nunez Navarro PLLC. and the Bacchus & Navarro Law Group. She previously served as an Assistant State Attorney for the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit.

"I am humbled and excited for the opportunity to serve the citizens of Broward County," stated Tarlika.

While a student at St. Thomas Law, she was active on our Mock Trial Team, the St. Thomas Law Chapter of the Florida Association of Women Lawyers (FAWL), and the American Trial Lawyers Association. 

We proudly salute Tarlika on this achievement.

Monday, March 5, 2018

St. Thomas Law Students' Life-Changing Experience Assisting Detained Somali Refugees

Professor Lauren Gilbert and eight St. Thomas Law students -  Carolina Acosta-Fox, Mirtha Garcia-Alvarez, Tessa Juste, Diego Sanchez, Melany Cornejo, Catherine Perez, Vanessa Baez, Nathalia Lozano -  recently spent two days at the Glades County Detention Center working on behalf of several Somali deportees whose flight back to Somalia got turned back in Senegal for reasons that remain unclear.

Members of the student team from St. Thomas Law included  Catherine Perez, Diego Sanchez, Vanessa Baez, Nathalia Lozano, Mirtha Garcia Alvarez, and Carolina Acosta-Fox. 

A team of lawyers including groups from the University of Miami School of Law, Americans for Immigrant Justice and Broward Legal Aid successfully sought a preliminary injunction in federal court against the return of the Somalis on that flight. 

Ready to work: Members of the St. Thomas Law student group will be
participating in similar projects in the future.
Pictured are Cynthia Rosa (standing), Tessa Juste and Diego Sanchez. 
Many of these Somali fled their country when they were little children, and entered as refugees. Many still suffer PTSD as a result of their experiences, and several relived those experiences while meeting with the student teams. One young man, who fled with his family when he was eight, described being carried by his father through the jungle and witnessing his sister’s leg being blown off after she stepped on a land mine. 

Another young single mother described the fear she experienced about being sent back to Somalia as an Americanized woman, and how the guards on the plane refused to allow her to change into more traditional clothing before the plane landed. Several of these individuals are seeking a second chance, applying to have their removal orders reopened and for relief under the Convention Against Torture. 

Al Shabaab, an extremist group that has taken over large parts of Somalia and targeted Americanized Muslims and Christians, has carried out several bombings in recent months, including a deadly car bombing in February near the Presidential Palace. Also, the return of the Somalis’ flight has been extensively publicized in Somalia, making the persons on that flight likely targets of Al Shabaab. While the federal lawsuit is pending, pro bono attorneys and law students are seeking to have their cases reopened based on changed country conditions. 

"The Glades experience was life changing," stated Catherine Perez.  "After hearing some of the detainees stories, you really start to cherish principles like freedom of religion, that the great majority of Americans take for granted. This experience reminded me of why I chose to come to law school in the first place."

Over the two-day period, the students and Professor Gilbert met with approximately 15 individuals finishing up work on the cases, including finalizing I-589 applications, personal statements and notes from the meetings. The St. Thomas Law team has been collaborating with Miami Law and Americans for Immigrant Justice providing on the ground support for the pro bono attorneys around the country assigned to these cases. Each team worked on at least two different cases, and had the experience of drafting a personal statement and I-589, while some also explored other possible remedies. Diego Sanchez (3L), the President of  St. Thomas Law's  Immigration Law Students Association was pivotal in recruiting and organizing teams. 

There are similar, future projects being planned. Students interested should contact Professor Gilbert or Diego Sanchez

Thursday, February 15, 2018

St. Thomas Law Alum, Eneami Bestman, Recognized as Rising Star by Attorney-at-Law Magazine

St. Thomas Law 2016 graduate, Eneami Bestman, recently had the honor of being recognized as a "South Florida Rising Star" by Attorney-at-Law Magazine.

The magazine's January 2018 "Top Lawyers" issue featured an in-depth interview with Ms. Bestman, who was nominated for the recognition by her legal peers. The conversation covered Eneami's reason for pursuing a legal career, mentors who have helped her since graduating law school, and the relationships she has developed with her fellow attorneys.

"When I learned that I was going to be featured, I was humbled and overwhelmed," stated Ms. Bestman. "It is an honor."

She noted how much of her current work ethic and tenacity was learned while she was a law student. She also credits the St. Thomas Law incubator program - L.E.A.D. - for providing the groundwork and mentoring network for her to successfully launch her solo-practice, The Bestman Law Firm.

Eneami plans on continuing her work with a concentration in Elder Law. She sees herself as a public servant who will continue to use her legal platform for the greater good well into the future.

Attorney at Law Magazine is created specifically for  legal professionals providing relevant industry news and trends to the entire legal community.