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.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

St. Thomas Law Alum, Collett Small, Installed as Chair of the Florida Bar Elder Law Section

The Florida Bar Elder Law Section has elected St. Thomas Law alum, Collett P. Small as their new chairperson.  Small, the first woman of color and of Jamaican heritage to hold this position, was installed at a swearing in ceremony in Boca Raton on June 23rd.

Collett P. Small, Esq. '05
During her tenure, Small’s platform will include:
  • Increasing the use of technology in the section 
  • Increasing diversity while growing the size of the section 
  • Incorporating a Public Relations strategy to help consumers understand the merits of having a family plan for your elderly loved ones and help to alleviate the struggles that can ensue without one 
  • Working with legislators to improve the quality of life for senior citizens in Florida
 “I am humbled and honored to serve in my capacity as chairperson and look forward to working towards assuring families appreciate the value of engaging an Elder Law attorney before their loved ones become ill or incapacitated,” stated Small. "I feel encouraged by my selection as Chair and I am looking forward to improving the Elder Law Section’s image while taking the Section to the next level of service and efficiency."

Small, a 2005 graduate, has been practicing law for 12 years. She is a Board Certified Elder Law Specialist and is one of only 105 attorneys in the State who are certified in Elder Law. The former banking executive runs her successful law practice in Pembroke Pines, Florida.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

St. Thomas Law Student Kicks off Summer of Service with Rural Summer Legal Corps

On June 1st,  the 2017 Rural Summer Legal Corps officially kicked off at a joint training in Washington DC. The event was hosted by Equal Justice Works and the Legal Services Corporation. Rising St. Thomas Law 2L, Melissa Ramos will be serving at Legal Services of North Florida, Inc.

To prepare for the 2017 program, Equal Justice Works and Legal Services Corporation actively recruited law students to fill 30 positions nationwide. Selected participants begin the summer with intensive training from poverty law experts on housing, domestic violence, public benefits, migrant farmworkers, Native American, and family law. After the training, the law students return directly to their host site to continue their 8-10 week placement.
Melissa joins 29 other public interest law students in addressing pressing legal issues facing rural communities Specifically, Melissa will advocate for and guide these individuals who are hindered within their communities because of past criminal convictions.

These students will travel to Martinsburg, West Virginia to gain firsthand experience and training on the unique challenges and benefits of working with legal clients in a rural setting.

We salute Melissa and the organizers at Equal Justice Works and the Summer Legal Corps for creating this unique opportunity for our legal students.

Friday, May 19, 2017

St. Thomas Law Student Making Her Mark in Sports and Entertainment Law

D'Bria Bradshaw
St. Thomas Law rising 3L D'Bria Bradshaw recently presented a workshop titled Becoming a Sports Legal Scholar at a sports law summit hosted by Bowie State University. Her presentation included steps to take in the law school application process, experiences of what its like to be in law school, and pursuing a career in the sports industry.

"I thought it was a great opportunity to speak at this event because the sports industry is very competitive and it is important to find your niche as early as possible," stated D'Bria. "Not many African Americans work on the business side of sports so it was beneficial for students to see different paths that they can take in the sports industry with a law degree."

She explained that speaking to students that attend a Historically Black College/University (HBCU) about the benefits of law school was fulfilling because African Americans make up about 5% of the legal community so it is important to instill the importance of representation and education to undergraduate students who are thinking about what is next for them after receiving their sports management degrees.

D'Bria was invited to present at the summit by an Assistant Professor at Boise State who she connected to through her online networking. Based on her profile - sports business/legal experience in the industry and the fact that she had been published, she was an ideal choice.

Earlier this year, the American Bar Association Entertainment and Sports Lawyer published two of D'Bria's articles in the Winter 2017 Issue: 33-2. The articles were titled: Breaking into the Industry and Sports Team General Counsels. She is also the Senior Articles Editor for the St. Thomas Journal of Complex Litigation Editorial Board and her comment titled: Has the National Basketball Association Lost its Competitive Touch? will be published in Volume 4 of the Journal.

St. Thomas University has a leading Sports Administration program.  Our dynamic Joint Degree program, within which D'Bria is enrolled, allows students to earn their Masters in Sports Administration and Juris Doctor degree simultaneously.

Friday, April 21, 2017

St.Thomas Law Trial Team Hosts Alumni from Successful Alumni-Founded Law Firms

. Seated (L-R)  Houson Lafrance ‘14, Michael Mayer ‘07, and Joey McCall ‘11.
Standing are student members of St. Thomas Law's Mock Trial Team.
St.Thomas Law's mock trial students recently hosted three St. Thomas Law alumni for a panel discussion on  the importance of professional and personal reputation in the legal community as well as strategies for achieving ideal work-life balance.  All three guest panelists were active members of the Trial Team during their law school years. 

The approximately 40 student attendees got the opportunity to participate in discussions surrounding topics such as what motivated our panelists to join the mock trial organization initially as law students, what they find most enjoyable and challenging about litigation (“winning and winning”), and how their experiences at St. Thomas Law helped prepare them to become successful attorneys.  
Our guest attendee profiles: 

Houson Lafrance '14 is a criminal defense attorney and founding partner of Cox, Golondrino and Lafrance, PA, a Plantation firm founded by three members of the Class of 2014 (Tim Cox and Luis Golondrino).  

Mike Mayer '07, adjunct professor at St.Thomas and director of the Trial Team, is the litigation managing attorney at Peyton Bolin, PL, a Fort Lauderdale real estate firm founded by two St. Thomas Law alumni (Mauri Peyton ’07 and Jane Bolin ’07).  

Joey McCall ,11 is a junior partner at Farrell & Patel, a Miami-based firm also founded by two St. Thomas Law alumni (Wes Farrell ’09 and Ricky Patel ’09).  

St. Thomas Law's Mock Trial Team  promotes excellence in litigation and trial advocacy skills. Students participate in state, regional and national advocacy competitions, vying for team membership through tryouts. St. Thomas University School of Law trial teams have achieved prominence in numerous competitions.