Friday, August 3, 2018

St. Thomas Law Hosts Annual John J. Brunetti Human Trafficking Academy

This summer, The John J. Brunetti Human Trafficking Academy hosted its week-long professional development training from July 23rd to July 27th, 2018. The primary focus was addressing the issue of human trafficking within the United States.

The Academy, directed by St. Thomas Law professor Dr. Roza Pati, welcomed 54 participants from around the country. These participants represented various professional groups including social service providers, child protective investigators, psychologists,  government representatives, attorneys, law enforcement, teachers, academics, human rights advocates, entrepreneurs, students, and faith-based organizations. The Academy was especially pleased to welcome several recipients of the 2018 Survivor Scholarship, generously funded by the Thomas E. Lemons Foundation.

Rev. Msgr. Franklyn Casale, former President of St. Thomas University,  paid tribute to Mr. John J. Brunetti for his support to St. Thomas University over the years and his most recent contribution to the Human Trafficking Academy, which now bears his name.

In her opening remarks, St. Thomas Law’s Acting Dean Tamara Lawson, noted that the Academy is one of the most important events held at St. Thomas Law. "Iinjustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere and I believe that is why you all are here today, to address injustice…especially for those who cannot speak up for themselves,” she stated.

The Academy consisted of 15 training courses taught by top-experts in the field, drawing from their own professional and personal experiences. The week of concentrated courses covered a range of topics arranged thematically by day.

Day 1 covered sex trafficking with courses on child sex trafficking, a profile of sex traffickers, and a profile of the buyers of sex;

Day 2 turned greater focus to the survivors of trafficking, with sessions about populations facing a higher risk of exposure to trafficking, a powerful course from a trafficking survivor’s perspective on the debate between the language of ‘Victim’ or ‘Survivor’, as well as a trauma-informed screening and interviewing course;

Day 3 was focused entirely on labor trafficking, with courses about domestic servitude, trafficking in the agricultural sector, and trafficking in the hospitality industry;

Day 4 shed light on the different contributors to the fight against trafficking and the importance of forming partnerships, including courses on the Florida Safe Harbor Act, government & NGO partnerships, and the response of Miami’s G.R.A.C.E. Court to child trafficking cases;

Finally, Day 5 focused on the causes and effects of vicarious trauma, featuring a course about coping with trauma exposure, a second session about understanding the ethical implications of dealing with vicarious trauma and burnout, and closing with course about building self-care and happiness. Father Paul VI Karenga, current J.S.D. candidate of the Intercultural Human Rights Program concluded the Academy with a closing prayer.

The esteemed course instructors hailed from across the world and various disciplines:

Nathan Earl
Founder and Executive Director of Ark of Freedom Alliance
Dr. Mohamed Mattar
Clinical Professor of Law and Director the Law Clinic at Qatar University College of Law
Bill Wolf
Retired Detective, Fairfax County Police Department, Executive Director & Trainer, Just Ask Prevention Project

Tessa Juste
Graduate Fellow, Human Trafficking Academy
Marina Rakopyan
Human Trafficking Academy Research Assistant and J.S.D. candidate, St. Thomas University School of Law
Savannah Parvu
Survivor Leader and Speaker
Brenda Mezick, Esq.
Chief, Human Trafficking Unit, Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office
Victor Williams
Retired Special Agent, Department of Homeland Security

Barbara Martinez, Esq.
Chief, Special Prosecutions Section, Human Trafficking and Project Safe Childhood Coordinator, U.S. Attorney’s Office
Todd Forester
President, i-5 Freedom Network
Brianna O’Steen
Ph.D. Student & Instructor, Oregon State University
Ana Vallejo, Esq.
Co-Director VIDA Legal Assistance, Inc.
The Honorable Maria Sampedro-Iglesia
Associate Administrative Judge, Unified Children’s Court & Human Trafficking Division, G.R.A.C.E. Court
Milagros Santiago-Maldonado
Clinical Director, Trauma Resolution Center
Dr. Ana Christina Nuñez
Researcher, Americas Division, Human Rights Watch
Dr. Jodi Grace, Associate Professor of Psychology, St. Thomas University

The Academy also had the privilege of welcoming a special luncheon guest speaker, Maria Kaldani, who serves as the Scientific Supervisor at The HOME Project in Athens, Greece. Ms. Kaldani shared with participants the powerful work that her organization is doing to meet the needs of child refugees who have migrated to Greece. The HOME Project provides long-term housing, immigration assistance, psychological support, educational skills, and whatever else the children may need to adjust to the circumstances with which they are faced. In her presentation, Ms. Kaldani outlined the overlap between issues of trafficking and the migrant crisis in Europe, and shared how it has affected some of the children who have come to be cared for by The Home Project.

This intensive week of training was organized to empower anti-trafficking professionals and advocates with the tools and knowledge to work as effectively and compassionately as possible against the scourge of human trafficking. 

The feedback of participants indicates that the 2018 Human Trafficking Academy succeeded in this aim.

“An incredible week full of education, inspiration, fantastic speakers and building a network of connections across the community. I’m so thankful I was able to attend.”

-  Lucas Samuel Hall, Ark of Freedom Alliance


“As a survivor, I’m sure one can imagine that this course is a lot for me all at once. I would like to thank the Academy for providing a trauma-informed education. I felt that his atmosphere and approach were sensitive and understanding. What a great variety of instructors and attendees! Even as someone who has experienced some of these crimes firsthand, I learned new things and was exposed to new ideas and information. Thank you!”


“I believe this academy opened my eyes to this level of crime that damages victims more often than not. It has changed my thinking and encouraged me to get involved in the solutions.”


“Outstanding program. Thank you for all of the content and community engagement.”

St. Thomas Law Delegation Aid Separated Migrant Families in Texas

The humanitarian crisis caused by the separation of migrant children from their asylum-seeking parents has had an effect on everyone that has heard the heartbreaking stories.

The St. Thomas Law family answered the call, sprung into action and headed to Texas to lend their much-needed expertise to assist detained and separated families. This time the effort was launched by the Immigration Law Students Association (ILSA) at St. Thomas University, its president, Andrea Valencia, and immediate past president, Diego Sanchez. The ILSA raised their own funds with the help of generous contributions from our law school faculty members.

The St. Thomas Law Karnes Pro Bono Project partnered with RAICES, a non-profit organization that remains on the front lines on this issue. Nathalia Lozano, Vanessa Baez and Catherine Perez were the Project Coordinators.  

This is the third such trip that St. Thomas Law has taken to the Karnes Detention Center in Texas, having gone there in 2016 to assist with immigrant issues.

But this trip was different. While all the stories are hard to hear and difficult to fathom, the ones that detail the ripping of children from their parents heightens the urgency of the situation.

Led, once again, by supervising St. Thomas Law Professor Lauren Gilbert, who teaches Constitutional Law, Family Law, Immigration Law, and an Immigration Seminar, the team was comprised of law students, professors and mental health professionals.

The Team from St. Thomas University at the Alamo in Texas.

The law students chosen for the 2018 team are: Lucas Aisenberg (3L), Jacqueline Vazquez-Aldana (3L), Vanessa Baez (3L), Alida Bustos (2L), Sofi Henshaw (2L), Maria Cornu Laport (2L), Nathalia Lozano (3L), Stefanie Morse (3L), Donna Nasimov (3L), Jasmine Ramos(3L), Otto Ruiz Frantzen(3L), and Alexsandra Simoes (3L).

The group also included a team of mental health experts. Professor Dr. Judith Bachay, Program Director of the St. Thomas University Graduate Counseling Programs, oversaw the trauma specialists. Lory Toledo, Executive Director of the Trauma Resolution Center who accompanied the  Karnes team in 2016, sent members of her team, including Carla Barrows, Camila Montesano, Stephanie Vasquez, and Tizrah Neves.

STU Law student, Donna Nasimov, created a blog, within which the other attending students wrote about the experience from their own perspective.  One of the most poignant perspectives comes by way of a letter written by Professor Gilbert. It can be read below:

I am writing after our fourth day at the Karnes Detention Center.  It has been an overwhelming, inspiring, devastating, exhausting week.  Today, Wednesday, was a particularly hard day, and left some of us feeling a bit empty inside.  On Saturday afternoon, after the entire STU team assembled at the Alamo, we received a call from Kathryn Delgado, the pro bono coordinator.   She said that we were needed at Karnes on Sunday.  An injunction preventing the reunified families from being deported was about to be lifted, and they needed us to meet with the fathers and sons to determine if they wanted to fight their cases.  Most of these were new arrivals to Karnes.  Almost all of them were separated upon arrival to the United States and held in separate detention facilities until Judge Sabraw ordered their reunification by July 26, 2018.  Many of the parents and kids we met with that Sunday had only been reunited for a few days. 

For many it has been a joyful experience, but many parents told us that they keep asking their children for forgiveness for what happened.  Some must confront horrible choices, such as whether to remain together and fight their cases, to remain together for deportation, or for the fathers to accept deportation while their sons to seek a better life.  Most of the time, fathers and children are in agreement, but sometimes conflicts arise.  Today we asked children, from age 6 to age 16, what they wanted to do, away from their fathers who had asked to be deported because they could not bear another day in detention.  It was devastating, particularly where the child’s desires were at odds with the parent’s, which was how our day ended.  

I suspect that Karnes is being used by ICE as a staging ground for removal of fathers and sons who range in age from 5 to 17.  Most fathers were separated from their sons within 1-2 days of their arrival. Some had a few minutes to say goodbye.  Dads and kids remained separated while in the same detention facility for 1-2 days before being shipped off to their destinations. Many dads were then sent to federal prisons, where they were prosecuted for illegal entry.  After completing brief sentences or being sentenced to time served, they were transferred to ICE detention centers.  Most of the dads had their credible fear interviews (CFIs) with the Asylum Office and IJ Reviews with the Immigration Judge (IJ) soon after their separation from their kids.  Many described severe symptoms of trauma and anxiety during these interviews, including chest pains, headaches, and extreme anxiety.  Their hearts were literally aching!   Most received negative decisions by the Asylum Officer and Immigration Judge, which, in many cases, we are now trying to overturn. 

After Judge Sabraw set July 26 as the deadline for reunification, ICE shipped many fathers and kids to a facility in El Paso.  Some fathers were given humanitarian parole, made to sign a ton of documents, told they were being released, and then reunited with their kids.  This was a moment of great hope, until they realized that they were not being released after all.  The same night of their reunification, fathers and sons were put on buses and sent to Karnes.  The next day, their humanitarian parole was revoked. 

We have seen loving fathers who want the best for their sons.  Many are sacrificing themselves to be deported so their sons can remain.  We have encouraged these fathers, many who have strong cases, to stay and fight.  Sadly, it seems like those with the strongest cases are most torn between staying here with their sons and returning to their countries to protect their remaining family members.  Although we expected to work with women and children when we planned our trip to Karnes, I have to say that I am grateful for this opportunity to work with these fathers and sons.  Their strength of character and love for each other has been an inspiration. 

Lauren Gilbert, Esq.
Professor of Law
Director, Immigration Practice Certificate Program
St. Thomas University School of Law

The words of Professor Gilbert and the efforts of the entire St. Thomas team highlight our school's core mission.

St. Thomas Law's legal education goes beyond simply training attorneys; but also focuses on creating advocates who give voice to the voiceless.  Our school remains committed to teaching, training, and empowering the next generation of  community leaders, and instilling a lasting service ethic within our students that benefits them well beyond graduation.

We are grateful that our team did not simply shake their heads and offer comment about how sad the crisis is, but rather, took life-changing action to effectuate change. 

For more details and images please check out the student blog here:

Monday, July 23, 2018

Professor Jennifer Martin Appointed Associate Dean of Faculty Development

Associate Dean Jennifer Martin
Jennifer S. Martin, Professor of Law at St. Thomas University School of Law, has been named Associate Dean for Faculty Development, effective July 11, 2018.

In announcing the appointment, Acting Dean Tamara Lawson thanked Martin for her "outstanding scholarship, teaching, and service, and her willingness to support the faculty’s continued commitment to excellence for all our students."

"I am thankful and honored to have the opportunity to serve the Law School in this role." stated Martin. "I wholeheartedly embrace St. Thomas University’s mission in legal education of serving a diverse student body, sensitive to the needs of the underrepresented communities. I look forward to working with my outstanding colleagues as we work collectively to be better scholars, teachers, and mentors."

Martin joined the St. Thomas Law faculty in 2010 after spending a year as a Visiting Associate Professor of Law at the University of Oregon School of Law. She has previously taught at University of Louisville and University of Pittsburgh.

Professor Martin has written over 40 books and scholarly articles, including most recently Contracts: A Contemporary Approach (West, 3d 2018) (with Carol Chomsky, Christina Kuna and Elizabeth Schiltz); Learning Sales Law (West 1st 2016) ) (with Carol Chomsky, Christina Kuna and Elizabeth Schiltz); Uniform Commercial Code Survey: Sales of Goods, 72 BUS. LAW. (forthcoming 2018); and Opportunistic Resales and the Uniform Commercial Code, 2016 ILL. L. REV. 487 (2016). She has also authored numerous podcasts on Contract and Commercial Law available on ITunes at Lawdibles and law tutorials available at .

Martin is an Elected Member of the American Law Institute and a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation. She currently serves as the Chair of the Contracts Section of the American Association of Law Schools, is an Editor of the Annual Survey of UCC Law for the UCC Committee of the ABA Section on Business Law (where she also serves on the Working Group to Draft Human Rights Protections in Supply Contracts), and is the President of the Board of Directors of the Computer Assisted Legal Instruction.

She tweets @commercelaw and is the publisher and editor of Commercial Law Blog, a member of the Jurisdynamics Network.

Martin succeeds Dean Tamara Lawson, who served as Associate Dean for Faculty Development since 2015 and is now the Acting Dean for the Law School.

Monday, July 2, 2018

STU Law Student Awarded 2018 Fellowship for Legal Services of Greater Miami

Portia Bethea (3L)
St. Thomas University School of Law Student Portia Bethea (3L) was recently awarded the 2018 Fellowship for Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc. The award was announced at the Gwen S. Cherry Black Women Lawyers Association (“GSCBWLA”) Annual Installation and Awards Ceremony in Coral Gables on June 28, 2018.

The Fellowship will provide the opportunity for Ms. Bethea to continue Gwen S. Cherry’s Legacy of Equal Justice and, at the same time, make it possible for Legal Services of Greater Miami to help more vulnerable individuals and families resolve critical legal problems.

Law student fellows provide important assistance to Legal Services attorneys including interviewing clients and witnesses, drafting legal documents, discovery and briefs, and conducting research and investigations. Law student fellows have frequent opportunities to attend strategy sessions, hearings, mediations, depositions, and community events.

Gwen S. Cherry was a pioneer attorney at Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc. when it was founded in 1966. To honor her, the Gwen S. Cherry Black Women Lawyers Association (GSCBWLA) has established a Law Student Fellowship in her name.

St. Thomas Law had a long history of successful partnership with organizations that assist our communities with legal services; giving voice to the voiceless.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Associate Dean Tamara Lawson Begins Her Tenure as Acting Dean of St. Thomas Law

Acting-Dean Tamara Lawson began her
tenure this week.
Tamara Lawson, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of Law, this week began her tenure as Acting Dean of St. Thomas University School of Law. She succeeds Dean Alfredo Garcia, who is now Acting Provost of the university. Both appointments were made by retiring university President, Monsignor Franklyn Casale.

Lawson, who joined the St. Thomas Law faculty in 2004, was previously Associate Dean for Faculty Development. She has taught Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, and Evidence. Her research and writing interests focuses on trial advocacy, cyber crime, international criminal law, race and law, and professional responsibility; it also includes distinguished published writings including a lead article in the American Journal of Criminal Law, entitled, Can Fingerprints Lie? and an invited book chapter in Contemporary Controversies: Forensic Technology, entitled Before the Verdict and Beyond the Verdict: The CSI infection within Modern Criminal Jury Trials. She also co-wrote the legal casebook Criminal Prodecure- Cases and Materials.

In connection with her research on the Trayvon Martin case, Professor Lawson has made media appearances and was selected as the reporter for the American Bar Association's Task Force on Stand Your Ground Laws.

The St. Thomas Law family welcomes Acting Dean Lawson into this new position and wishes her every success. 

Monday, April 30, 2018

St. Thomas Law Student Interns at the United Nations in New York

St. Thomas University School of Law offers its students opportunities outside of the traditional classroom setting through its transformative clinical and internship programs.

Third-year student Janice Santiago recently completed one such opportunity through her externship at the United Nations in New York. This immersive experience allowed her to be a full delegate to the United Nations where she attended UN General Assembly and Security Council meetings, and rubbed shoulders with ambassadors and UN delegates from all over the world. She had full access to the UN including attendance at committee meetings, observation of general debates, draft resolutions, and informal consultations. 

Third-year St.Thomas Law Student Janice Santiago at the United Nations General Assembly 

Through these meetings, Ms. Santiago gained invaluable insight and was able to witness history in the making. 

"You attend a security council or general assembly meeting one day and read about it in the New York Times the next day," stated Janice."I am so lucky that our school and Professor Mark Wolff provides this incredible externship."

Located at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, the United Nations Internship is a residential, single-semester placement at Permanent Missions, inter-governmental organizations (IGO’s), and non-governmental organizational (NGO’s) credentialed to the United Nations. The interns function as accredited representatives to the UN and follow major policy issues on the agenda of the United Nations General Assembly such as the Commission on Sustainable Development, Commission on the Status of Women, HIV/AIDS, Law of the Sea, International Criminal Court, International Court of Justice, Human/Child Trafficking, and the Human Rights Council. Each intern prepares analytical reports on issues and a final in-depth research paper in one area, with these materials selectively published and shared electronically across the worldwide Pax Romana international network, through Pacem In Terris.

Click here to learn more about St. Thomas Law's Clinical and Internship Programs. 


Friday, April 27, 2018

St.Thomas Law Alumni Form Powerhouse Law Firm

Law partners and St. Thomas Law graduates, Wesley Farrell '09 and Ricky K. Patel '09 of the law firm of Farrell & Patel, have joined forces with the law firm Jomarron & Lopez; headed by St. Thomas Law alum Jesmany Jomarrón '09 and his partner Mario E. López, to form a new, combined powerhouse firm - Farrell, Patel, Jomarron & Lopez, Attorneys at Law - with five offices and a wide array of specialized services.

“It’s incredibly exciting to embark on this journey with our new partners,” said Ricky Patel, Esq. “Our number one priority is the care and attention we provide our valued clients, and it’s gratifying to team up with a like-minded firm that equally prioritizes helping those who need it most.”

Ricky Patel '09
Wesley J. Farrell, '09
Wesley Farrell and Ricky Patel initially created a law firm based on strength, compassion, and guidance because they wanted to help innocent victims find justice. After growing their law firm from the ground up and finding successful resolutions for thousands of clients, they continue to practice complex litigation nationwide. They have been continuously recognized nationally as some of the most innovative lawyers in America. Among other high-profile cases, Farrell & Patel stood up for those harmed by big business after the BP Oil Spill, one of the greatest environmental disasters in U.S. history. They successfully represented over 3,000 claims against BP stemming from the 2010 oil spill tragedy. More recently, the firm has focused on complex litigation, including class action cases against some of the largest companies in the world.

Jesmany Jomarrón '09
Partners Jesmany Jomarron and Mario E. Lopez have a long history of helping clients navigate through extremely complex legal issues. They built their practice on a foundation of trial advocacy. Their practice areas include complex business disputes, real property litigation, community association law, and high-value estates litigation. They also developed a specialized division to handle a high volume of large, catastrophic property losses throughout the State of Florida. This property insurance division is composed of a statewide network of attorneys, adjusters, contractors, experts, and engineers ready to handle all aspects of their clients’ property insurance claims.

“Growth just for the sake of it has never been our goal,” said Jesmany Jomarron. “Our primary objective is to help clients get through difficult times, and we expand intelligently to meet their growing needs. Combining forces with our partners accomplishes this goal and sets us up for tremendous future success.”

In addition to the success both firms have experienced on behalf of clients, they also focus on giving back to the communities they serve. By helping families who need it most with pro-bono legal work, as well as supporting myriad charities such as Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, Haitian Orphanages, Habitat for humanity and other organizations that help children in need. The firm believes in shared value and creating opportunities for those who need it most. All four name partners are self-made, and believe in helping the next generation of leaders succeed.

St. Thomas Law salutes these alumni who the embody the spirit and live the mission of the law school; showing that hard work coupled with compassionate community service will lead to success.