Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Professor Wiessner Shares Expertise in International Law at Conference in China

St. Thomas Law faculty continues to provide highly sought-after contributions and perspectives on national and international legal issues.

Last month, Professor Siegfried Wiessner participated in the 8th Conference on the New Haven School of Jurisprudence at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China, co-sponsored with Yale University and Tulane Law School. His lecture explored “New Haven in Context: A Critical Appraisal of American Classics in International Law.”

Professor Wiessner (standing) delivering lecture: New Haven in Context
He also shared his expertise as moderator of a panel of distinguished scholars from Singapore, China and Australia as they discussed discrete issues of international and domestic dispute resolution.

The New Haven School is a policy-oriented perspective on international law. The goal of the New Haven School jurisprudence is the interpretation of international law as a system of creating minimum world public order.

Professor Wiessner (far left) moderating panel with (L-R) Professors Locknie Hsu (Singapore), Jane Willems (China) and
Rajesh Dharma (Australia)

Professor Wiessner is a Professor of Law and Founder and Director of our  LL.M. and J.S.D. Programs in Intercultural Human Rights. He teaches U.S. Constitutional Law and International Law and is the author of a number of books and articles in the fields of constitutional law, international law, human rights, the law of indigenous peoples, the law of armed conflict, arbitration, space law and refugee law.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Alum Brett Barfield to be Honored by The Florida Bar for Pro Bono Work

Brett Barfield '99
St.Thomas Law alum, Brett Barfield, will be recognized this month by The Florida Bar for his extensive pro bono work.

Mr. Barfield, a Miami partner with Holland & Knight, led his firm to handle more than 80 cases under The Hague Convention on International Parental Child Abduction. The Hague Convention is a multilateral treaty developed by the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH) that provides a method to return children internationally abducted by a parent from one member country to another. 

He donated more than 380 hours of his time in 2016 and coordinates Holland & Knight's pro bono program.

The Florida Bar Pro Bono Service Awards will be presented at the Florida Supreme Court on January 19.

Monday, January 9, 2017

St. Thomas Law Alumni Gabriel Caballero Named Partner at Holland & Knight

Gabriel "Gabe" Caballero '06
St. Thomas Law proudly announces that alum, Gabriel Cabarello '06 has been named partner at Holland & Knight's Miami office and a member of the firm's Financial Services practice group.

Mr. Caballero concentrates his practice on the representation of domestic and multinational organizations (including banks, broker dealers, money services businesses and other financial institutions) on a broad range of business, licensing, regulatory and compliance matters.

Prior to being named partner, he was Senior Counsel at Holland & Knight. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

St. Thomas Law Students Experience a Life-Changing Week at the Karnes Family Detention Center in Texas

St. Thomas Law continues to provide unique, transformational experiences for its students outside of the classroom.  During the week of December 12, 2016, after final exams were over and before graduation, a team of fifteen  first, second and third-year St. Thomas Law students, under the guidance of Professor Lauren Gilbert, spent a week volunteering at the Karnes Family Detention Center, in Karnes, Texas, securing the release of (mostly) Central American mothers and children who had been detained by Homeland Security after seeking refugee status in the United States.

The St. Thomas Law team included Belkys Yzquierdo, Yohania Santana, Lory Toledo, Professor Gilbert, Carolina Andrade, Sophia Carballosa, David Cruz, Ashley Emeric, Manon Ferdani, Jackie Gadea, Leydis Gomez, Renzo Iparraguirre, Yailiana Leyva, Veronique Malebranche, Darcy Ruiz, Diego Sanchez, and Milagros Zepeda. 

The majority of the women and children at the Karnes Detention Center, which is located about an hour southeast of San Antonio, fled their countries because their governments are unable to protect them from horrific gang-based and/or domestic violence. The Karnes Pro Bono Project was coordinated by St. Thomas Law's Public Interest Law Society (PILS) vice-presidents Belkys Yzquierdo and Yohania Santana, who together with Professor Lauren Gilbert, recruited, trained, and organized the group prior to and during their week in Texas.  While at Karnes, the students were supervised by Andrea Meza, a law fellow at the non-profit agency, RAICES, who oversees the volunteer program at Karnes. The team was also joined by Lory Toledo, a trauma specialist at the Trauma Resolution Center in Miami, who provided services to the women and children in detention as well as support for the students. 

The first day, Andrea Meza provided a brief orientation, after which the team was separated into groups of two or three. Most of the team members prepared women and children for their credible fear interviews (CFIs) before an asylum officer. Detainees must pass their CFI in order to obtain release and seek asylum, or refugee status, in the United States. If they fail their CFIs, they have one last chance to convince an immigration judge (IJ) at an IJ Review. 

Students listened to the women’s experiences, and helped them organize their stories so that they could convince the asylum officer that they had a “credible fear” of persecution based on their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. Over the next few days, in addition to CFI preparation, several students helped women prepare personal declarations for their IJ Reviews, and most of the students were able to first observe and then do their own “release charlas” (or talks) for women who were being released from detention. 

Two teams of students, Yohania Santana and Belkys Yzquierdo, and David Cruz, Renzo Iparraguirre, and Veronique Malebranche, spent that first day preparing two Salvadoran women and their children, for their IJ Review the next day. These women had failed their CFIs the previous week. If the IJ affirmed the Asylum Officer’s decision, they would be deported. If he vacated the Officer’s decision, they would be released. 

On Tuesday, December 17, the teams successfully represented their Salvadoran clients before Judge Santander, who vacated, or overturned, the Asylum Officer’s negative decision. Judge Santander, who met with the teams afterwards, and with another group of students on Thursday, spoke highly of their performance and of the St. Thomas Law students in general. Students described their conversation with Judge Santander as one of the high points of their trip. Judge Santander followed up with an email to Professor Gilbert:

I spoke with a few of your students yesterday and I must tell you that I was very impressed with them.  They are bright and enthusiastic and it was absolutely my pleasure to have them in my courtroom. 
Please do consider sending more teams.  The individuals who are detained could always use the help and it helps the students jump in and practice law.  I even asked questions of them to see how they would handle it.  They did not panic and calmly and professionally answered my questions.  I wish you could have seen it, you would have been extremely proud. 
What you are doing is such a great opportunity for them to learn and I am honored to be a part of it
Daniel J. Santander
U.S. Immigration Judge

Other highlights of the week included Leydis Gomez demonstrating her proficiency in Portuguese in helping Brazilian asylum seekers and Veronique Malebranche, who is from Haiti and fluent in Creole, helping some of the Haitian detainees and also, demonstrating proficiency in Spanish during the release charlas!  RAICES has been limited in its capacity to serve Haitian detainees, so they were delighted to have Veronique as part of their team that week. They asked her to meet on Thursday in San Antonio with another Haitian woman at Casa RAICES, the transit shelter for women and children.   Another highlight was a group release charla held in one of the courtrooms.   When the legal assistant, Jill, was unable to operate the speaker phone Darcy Ruiz played the role of the phone operator, sending the women into peals of laughter that resulted in the bailiff in the next courtroom telling us to quiet down. Visitors are prohibited from carrying cell phones or cameras into the center, so the team could not capture on film what they experienced inside, but they described their experiences as "unforgettable."

After the team returned safely to South Florida, several students learned that women they had assisted with their IJ Declarations had been successful in their IJ Reviews and were being released.  Ashley Emeric and Diego Sanchez, who worked on an Immigration Judge declaration in its entirety on behalf of a Salvadoran woman and her son, Noel, learned that the  judge had vacated the Asylum Officer’s negative CFI in time for Christmas.  Another team, Milagros Zepeda and Jackie Gadea, uncovered a high-profile case involving a former police officer who fled her country after being wrongly implicated in the murder of a top government official.  The woman had been unwilling to talk to the RAICES team, but after she failed her interview with the Asylum Officer, she met with Milagros and Jackie, to whom she told her story.  They drafted a declaration for her IJ Review, and the Judge vacated the following week. 

The team saw many of the women and children they had helped being released from detention.  In addition to helping them with their cases, they also spent slower periods during the day helping them fill out forms and making them Christmas cards.  Andrea Meza from RAICES sent this email to the group in the week after Christmas: 

Hi!  I just wanted to say thank y’all so much for everything and for making those Christmas cards.  We had some left over, and I just met with a woman who fled horrific domestic violence that started when she was a teenager.  She turned 43 today, and you can tell that the DV has really affected her.  Since it was her birthday, I gave her a few of the cards and read them to her.  She has the most beautiful aquamarine eyes (yes, they are really aquamarine!), and for the first time they lit up and she smiled as I read your messages.  Thank you!
It would not be an exaggeration to say that for everyone, this was a life-changing experience.  Most of the women and children the team helped were released from detention in time for the Christmas holidays.  First-year law students who had just completed their first final exams, witnessed the good they could do with their law degrees.  Upper level students put skills they had learned in the classroom or in law offices to good use in the field.  The project coordinators saw all their efforts to ensure that the week was a success brought to fruition, and the St. Thomas Law students who spent the week at Karnes not only proved that they all will make great lawyers, but fulfilled our Catholic mission many times over.  

St. Thomas Law Alumna Appointed to Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court

St. Thomas Law proudly announces the appointment of alumna, Victoria del Pino to the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court. The appointment was announced by Governor Rick Scott on Thursday, December 15.

"I am honored and humbled by the news that Governor Rick Scott elevated me to Circuit Court," stated Judge del Pino.

Judge del Pino, of Coral Gables, has served on the Miami-Dade County Court since 2007. In June 2016, she was sworn in as Secretary of the Florida Conference of County Judges.

Del Pino began her career as an Assistant Public Defender in Monroe County, Florida, after which she worked as a family and criminal law attorney from 2000 until her judicial election in 2006. She was also a Traffic Magistrate/Hearing Officer in Miami-Dade County from 2004 to 2006.

Del Pino received her Juris Doctor degree from St. Thomas University School of Law. She was admitted to the bar in 2000.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Alumna Cassandra Jeffries Named Partner at Kelley Kronenberg

Cassandra Jeffries
St.Thomas Law is proud to announce that 2004 graduate Cassandra Jeffries has been named the newest partner at the South Florida office of Kelley Kronenberg Attorneys at Law.

Ms. Jeffries has years of experience representing insurance companies in First Party and Third Party matters. Prior to joining Kelley Kronenberg, she was a litigation attorney in Boca Raton representing financial institutions in contested foreclosure matters focusing on trials, depositions, and evidentiary hearings.

She has conducted depositions of party-opponents, medical providers and witnesses along with defending individual and corporate clients during depositions.

While earning her law degree, she served as a Research Assistant as well as a Legal Intern for the Honorable Stephen T. Brown, Southern District of Florida.   She also served as the Senior Articles Editor on the Board of Editors of the Law Review and was a member of the Moot Court team.

We salute Cassandra as she continues to forge new paths in her professional career while embodying the spirit of success fostered at St. Thomas Law.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Third-year Law Student Shares Experiences from United Nations Internship in New York

St. Thomas Law prides itself on the quality of experiential learning opportunities afforded to our students. Our clinical and externship programs are geared towards allowing our law students to serve the public, explore career possibilities in various areas of legal practice, gain first-hand insight into the strategic and ethical dimensions of the profession, and acquire valuable legal skills in a supportive educational environment. One of our most transformative programs is the Pax Romana United Nations Internship which aims to form global legal leaders by instilling in students the knowledge of multilateral international organizations, the importance of globalizing international relations, and a desire to use law to assist the world's most vulnerable.

Third-year student law student, Nabil Abu Nahlah, is currently in this New York-based internship and has begun to share his experiences. Below is a snapshot of his time so far.


By: Nabil Abu Nahlah 

My first few weeks as a Saint Thomas University School of Law Intern with the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta (“Order of Malta”) Permanent Mission at the United Nations (“UN”) at the UN Headquarters in New York was an extraordinary experience. Being introduced the first day to the UN halls and conference rooms, you are then directed to attend meetings and conferences on behalf of the Mission. For instance, as I am writing this article the President of Yemen is speaking in front of me at the 71st General Assembly, next to me is the Australian Foreign Minister who leans over to me every now and then and asks me questions regarding the next speakers.

It is the most exciting time of my life, I have met President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, Amal Clooney, George Clooney, Forest Whitaker, and numerous presidents, prime ministers and UN ambassadors including the Prime Minister of Bangladesh H.E. Sheikha Hasina, with whom I had a long and stimulating conversation at the Vienna Café in the UN building. This Internship at the UN has already allowed me to make high level contact with more than 30 countries and UN officials all holding prestigious positions. Please keep in mind that this is the very beginning of my UN Internship.

The 71st General Assembly of the UN is focused on Refugees and Migrants, it was the first time the General Assembly had called for a Summit with the Heads of State concerning large movements of refugees and migrants and was a historic opportunity to come up with a blueprint for a better international response to the ongoing humanitarian refugee crisis. The Summit was a watershed moment to strengthen governance of international migration and a unique opportunity for creating a more responsible, predictable system for responding to large movements of refugees and migrants. Given my interest in being an International Human Rights lawyer, this Summit is the pinnacle of my studies and will provide the opportunity to learn from international scholars and international leaders worldwide. This is the most unique and transformative experience of many in my lifetime. It also provides the opportunity to network at an international level, an opportunity that is impossible to replicate anywhere else in the World. Because of this exceptional opportunity and the guidance of Professor Mark J. Wolff, I believe that my professional future development is very bright and heading in the right direction.

Left to right: H.E. Ambassador Daniele Verga;  H.E. Ambassador and Permanent Observer Oscar R. De Rojas; H.E. Ambassador and Permanent Observer Ms. Rory McCarthy; H.E. Dominique de La Rochefoucauld-Montbel Grand Hospitaller;  H.E. Ambassador Stefano Ronca-Secretary-General for Foreign Affairs; 3L Nabil Abu Nahlah 

H.E. Sheikha Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh with Mr. Nabil Abu Nahlah 

Mr. Forest Whitaker-Actor and Activist and Mr. Nabil Abu Nahlah 

The Venezuelan Ambassador to the United Nations: H.E. Rafael Ramirez Carreño