Business and community leaders recently collaborated with judges from the North Dade Justice Center to present the annual Law Day celebration featuring keynote speaker Ervin Gonzalez, a noted trial attorney recently named one of the “Top 11 Attorneys in the Nation” by LawyersWeekly USA.
Judges overseeing Law Day 2013, themed “Realizing the Dream: Equality for All” included Associate Administrative Judge Linda Singer Stein, Judge Myriam Lehr, Judge Caryn C. Schwartz, Judge Charles K. Johnson, Judge Carlos Guzman, Judge Betty Capote and Judge Jason Dimitris. A special introduction was given for newly-elected Chief Judge Bertila Soto, the first Cuban-American woman and Florida International University graduate to serve as Chief Judge of the 11th Judicial Circuit.
Judge Capote noted, “Today, we reflect upon the work that remains to be done to eliminate discrimination, stop human trafficking and to rectify injustice. As the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, ‘An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’” Chief Judge Soto added, “Our court systems are invaluable - defending equality to ensure that the citizens of our great country are protected under the law.”
Law Day continued with an invocation by Aventura Mayor Susan Gottlieb; the Sunny Isles Beach Police Department Honor Guard; the Pledge of Allegiance led by the Bailiffs of the North Dade Justice Center; and the National Anthem, sung by Lauren Vasconez of Alonzo and Tracy Mourning Sr. High. Mayors, Commissioners, police chiefs, city managers, city clerks and city attorneys joined community leaders and students from the Law Academies of Dr. Michael Krop Sr. High and Alonzo and Tracy Mourning Sr. High in the audience for this inspiring event.
Taking the podium, Gonzalez emphasized, “What distinguishes us from every other country is that the U.S. justice system really is ‘just.’ We can realize the dream of equality every single day. There are no handouts - no one gives you anything except opportunity and whatever you do with it is up to you.”
Sharing inspiring stories about how his parents came to America from Cuba and “worked their tails off to succeed,” Gonzalez said he never gave up on his dream to attend college and law school. “I used to be a supermarket bag boy,” he said. “One day, a cute girl came in as I was scraping gum off the floor. I told her, ‘Someday, I’m going to be a lawyer.’ I believed it to be true because here in America we have the freedom to be who we want to be. Today I’m privileged to present cases before esteemed judges and jurors - and that cute girl I saw in the supermarket became my wife!”
During Law Day, it was announced the first place winner of the North Dade Bar Association’s Law Day essay contest for students was Kiara Paul, of David Lawrence, Jr. K-8 Center. Her essay on “Stopping Human Trafficking in the form of Domestic Servitude in the 21st Century” highlights awareness about the Polaris Project – a national anti-human trafficking organization; and South Florida’s Project SOS - identifying and helping victims of human trafficking.
Ruling Law Day 2013 “ highly successful,” North Dade Justice Center judges expressed special thanks to supporters including: Elaine Adler, president of the Aventura Marketing Council and AMC Law Day Chair Mark Hurwitz of Crossroads Investigations; Jacky Marti, president of the North Dade Bar Association; the Law Firm of Fenstersheib & Berkowitz, P.A; Higer Lichter & Givner, LLP; Coconut Grove Bank; Florida Advocates, a Private Law Firm; Haitian Lawyers Association; North Dade Bar Association; Cuban American Bar Association; Dade League of Prosecutors; Wilkie D. Ferguson, Jr. Bar Association; Judge Mercedes Armas Bach; Spanish-American League Against Discrimination; Caribbean Bar Association; Clerk of the Courts; Costco, North Miami Beach; Dade County Bar Association; Gwen S. Cherry Black Women Lawyers Association; Legal Services of Greater Miami; Neufeld, Kleinberg & Pinkiert, PA; Northwestern Mutual Laser Financial Group; and 247OnlinePrinting.com.
By Bari Auerbach
Photography by John Christie