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.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

St. Thomas Law Students Deliver Arguments before the Third District Court of Appeal

Sitting before a packed Moot Court Room, the Third District Court of Appeal of Florida convened one of its official sessions on campus on Wednesday, April 5, 2017. Presiding over the proceedings were the Honorable Richard Suarez, Chief Judge; the Honorable Barbara Lagoa; and the Honorable Thomas Logue. St. Thomas Law students were given a rare opportunity to witness actual proceedings as attorneys presented oral arguments in real appellate cases before the Court. 

Among the memorable moments of the day was the appearance of a third-year law student, Kielan Saborit, presenting oral argument to the Court in her capacity as a certified legal intern in J.C. v. State of Florida, Case No. 3D16-825, supervised by Professor Howard Blumberg. Third-year student, Ana Perez-Dorrego,  assisted in the preparation of the initial brief.

As in prior years, there was great excitement as students watched the dynamic interactions between the Court and the attorneys unfolding before them. 

Law student Kielan Saborit delivers arguments before the court
 “The highly-anticipated visit of the Court was a rare opportunity for law students to learn about effective appellate practice and oral advocacy,” observed Professor Annie Chan, Director of the Legal Writing Program, who supervised the organization of the event. “Each year, the Court’s visit provides educational insights into the legal system which students gain only from watching the Court in action.” 

St. Thomas Law's Appellate Litigation clinic students Kielan Saborit, Jessica Biedron, and Meagan Sanchez are Certified Legal Interns and represented Appellants in three actual cases; two of which were argued in sessions at the Third DCA building on downtown Miami. Ana Perez-Dorrego, also a student in the clinic, offered invaluable contributions as legal intern on two of the cases.

Being allowed the opportunity to argue actual cases before sitting judges is one of the unique benefits that students enjoy as a part of the clinical program at St. Thomas Law.

Friday, April 7, 2017

STU Law Student, Chanae Wood, Honored by Dade County Commission for Being First Black Editor of the St.Thomas Law Review

Chanae Wood, 2L
On Tuesday, April 4th, second-year St.Thomas Law student, Chanae Wood, was recognized by Miami-Dade County Commissioner Barbara Jordan for being the first black Editor-in-Chief of the St.Thomas Law Review.

Chanae was honored in a ceremony attended by other county commissioners as well as her family and supporters, including St.Thomas Law Professor Amy Ronner. The presentation took place at the Board of County Commissioners meeting at the Stephen P. Clark Government Center in Miami.

"It was an absolute honor to be recognized by Commissioner Barbara Jordan," stated Chanae. "Commissioner Jordan has been a champion for the residents of District 1, which encompasses the city of Miami Gardens, where I was raised. Therefore, I was extremely excited to find out that she wanted to honor my accomplishment."

"I’m honored to have been selected as the first Black Editor-in-Chief, especially considering that there is a lack of representation of people of color in the legal field," she continued. "However, I’m even more honored that I was selected based on my merit and passion for the organization."

Pictured (L-R) Commissioners Barbara J. Jordan, Esteban L. Bovo, Jr. (Chairman), Chanae Wood, Xavier L. Suarez, Professor Amy Ronner, and Miami-Dade County attorney Abigail Price Williams.

As editor, she plans on focusing on quality publications that bring awareness to trending areas of the law, and by bringing  innovative programming to the law review.

Chanae, who is also President of the St. Thomas Law chapter of the Black Law Students Association (BLSA), aspires to become a government law attorney, specializing in state government funding and appropriations. She secured a coveted summer internship with Greenspoon Marder, where she hopes to gain more insight on this area of law by working within the firm’s Government and Government Relations practice. She noted that the incidences of senseless violence, high incarceration rates, and lack of resources seen in marginalized communities of color influenced her decision to attend law school.

The St. Thomas Law Review is a student-run scholarly legal journal. The Law Review was founded in 1987 and published the inaugural issue in the fall of 1988. Membership in the St. Thomas Law Review is limited to second and third-year law students who are invited to join based on their academic success or performance during the write-on competition administered at the beginning of the summer term.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Dean Alfredo Garcia Awarded South Florida Chamber of Commerce's Hispanic Leadership Award

St. Thomas Law Dean, Alfredo Garcia, has been awarded the South Florida Chamber of Commerce's Hispanic Leadership Award.

Dean Garcia was presented with the award during a ceremony March 24th in the Legal category in recognition of his “leadership, trajectory, experience and commitment to the field of law." 

The Chamber of Commerce stated that Dean Garcia  has clearly distinguished himself as a very successful lawyer, educator and writer, making the Hispanic community “extremely proud of [his]many contributions...”

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

St. Thomas Law's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program - 33 Years of Community Service

For 33 years, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program at St. Thomas University has helped community residents secure tax refunds. VITA is the oldest pro bono program at St. Thomas University School of Law. Founded by St. Thomas Law Professor Mark J. Wolff, the program has secured taxpayers in excess of $10,000,000 in refunds; student, faculty, and staff pro bono hours have exceeded 40,000.

Last year, St. Thomas Law’s VITA program assisted hundreds of taxpayers. St. Thomas Law School students and other volunteers will spend each Saturday until the end of tax season providing this important free service to the most needy and vulnerable members of our surrounding communities.

IRS Certified Volunteers are available at St. Thomas University every Saturday through April 18, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., to prepare federal income tax returns, free of charge for individuals and families with a yearly income of $54,000 or less.

For more information, visit, call 305-474-2415, or email is at

Can't Make it on Saturdays?
No worries, STU’s Tax Clinic is now offering “Open Intake Thursdays,” a faster tax preparation experience, every Thursday through April 13, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. All you have to do is bring the required documents (see below), fill out a form, and the clinic volunteers do the rest! And there's no need to wait around as they crunch numbers, they’ll schedule a later date for you to come in and review/file your returns.

STU’s Tax Clinic is located on the second floor of the Law School, Suite 205.

Items to bring to STU’s Tax Clinic’s Open Intake Thursdays & VITA Saturdays:

  • Government issued identification for you and your spouse (to prepare and file your taxes on a married-filing-joint return, both spouses must be present; for a married-filing-separate return the name of your spouse with social security number is required).
  • Original Social Security Cards for you, your spouse, and dependents. An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) assignment letter may be substituted for you, your spouse and your dependents if you do not have a Social Security number.
  • Birth dates for you, your spouse and dependents being listed on the tax return.
  • Wage and earning statement(s) Form W-2, W-2G, 1099s, from all employers, and/or Social Security benefits statement.
  • All Forms 1095-A, B or C, Affordable Health Care Statements or Health Insurance Exemption Certificate, if applicable.
  • Interest, brokerage, and dividend statement(s) (Form 1099s).
  • Form 1098-T Tuition Statement form an eligible education institution, such as a college or university or Form 1098-E Student Loan Interest Statement.
  • Any and all expenses (including business) must be accompanied by a receipt. Expenses must be organized and itemized.
  • Total paid for daycare provider and the daycare provider's tax identification number (provider’s Social Security number or the provider’s business Employer Identification Number.
  • Any other forms or documents necessary to complete your income tax return.
  • Proof of bank account routing numbers and account numbers for Direct Deposit, such as a blank check.
  • A copy of last year’s federal and state returns or copies of income transcripts from IRS, if applicable.

Friday, March 24, 2017

St.Thomas Law Students Awarded Scholarships from Florida Association of Women Lawyers

St. Thomas law students, Shannon McGee (2L) and Erika Hernandez (1L) were recently awarded scholarships from the Miami-Dade FAWL Chapter, after being selected from a statewide pool of applicants.

Florida Association of Women Lawyers (FAWL) is a professional organization dedicated to "promoting the advancement of women in the legal profession. Its membership is comprised of lawyers, judges, and professionals within the business community."

The scholarships were presented on March 22, 2017 at the Women Making History Award and Scholarship Presentation Ceremony at the History Miami Museum. Ms. McGee received the Jeannie Perwin Memorial Scholarship and Ms. Hernandez the Judge Gill Freeman Scholarship.

Announcing Erika Hernandez (1L) as winner of the Judge Gill Freeman Scholarship 

Shannon McGee accepting scholarship award

Shannon McGee.(2L) and Laura Varela, Private Sector Career Counselor at St. Thomas Law

St. Thomas Law Human Trafficking Academy - Continuing to Make World of Difference

St. Thomas Law’s Human Trafficking Academy recently concluded its week-long anti-trafficking training. The Academy, directed by law professor Dr. Roza Pati, welcomed fifty national and international participants; some hailing from as far away as the United Kingdom. They represented various professional groups including attorneys, public defenders/prosecutors, law enforcement, social service providers, students, and faith-based organizations.

Through its multidisciplinary and immersion approach, the Human Trafficking Academy - the only one of its kind - brings together these professionals of various disciplines, training them to work together and complement each other’s efforts in identifying and protecting human trafficking victims. The training highlights the investigation and prosecution of perpetrators, strengthening cooperation amongst anti-trafficking institutions and increasing awareness in order to prevent and combat human trafficking.

During the week, 21 courses were taught by top-level experts and professionals. These courses were designed to empower participants with knowledge and skills to actively and effectively engage in anti-trafficking work.

Center front: Kyla (a survivor of human trafficking), Dr. Roza Pati (right) and Michele Gillen (left),
Participants of the Human Trafficking Academy 2017
During the week, the Academy hosted the renowned South Florida television anchor and investigative reporter, Michele Gillen. She discussed the role of the media in combating human trafficking and shared the story of Kyla, a survivor of human trafficking, featured in her short documentary report titled “Trapped.”

Human trafficking survivor Barbara Amaya, who survived domestic sex trafficking as a minor, led a training session titled “Dismantling the Cult of Human Trafficking: A Survivor’s Perspective, in which she shared her transformational story with the attendees, discussed the similarities between domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST) and cult recruitment, and ways to address and break the existing trauma bond experienced by DMST victims.  At the age of 12, Ms. Amaya was forced into sex trafficking in Washington, DC and later on the streets of New York City, for over 10 years. 

Barbara Amaya (Author, Advocate & Survivor)
Attendee Feedback:
  • “The course was fabulous—the curriculum well thought out. The speakers were well prepared and relevant. I am disappointed it came to an end so quickly. Dr. Pati and her staff were very welcoming, hospitable and genuine.”
  • “This program was AMAZING. We learned so much. The topics were great and we really enjoyed [them] and had our eyes opened to many things we were unaware of.”
  • “I would be interested in additional training offered by the Academy. This academy was excellent! I think additional levels of the academy would be a great way for those within different fields to come together again, and learn from each other.” 
  • “Thank you for putting together this training on human trafficking. It was superbly executed and very educational. I appreciated the breadth of instruction on legal efforts, law enforcement actions and social services that target human trafficking. Thank you for bringing in such distinguished lecturers, and some exceptional public speakers such as Regina Bernadin, Michelle Gillen, Maria Jose Fletcher, Benjamin Widlanski, Brenda Mezick, Barbara Amaya, and Sean Sellers. I really enjoyed the entire week and appreciated the opportunity to network with professionals from across the country. Thank you, Professor Pati, for your tireless dedication to fighting human trafficking. It is truly inspiring!”

For more information and to join our efforts, please visit or contact us at