THE BLOG

Should Miami Celebrate Its Lawyers?

02/15/2012 01:03 pm ET | Updated Apr 16, 2012

Why should South Florida celebrate lawyers? It is a good question, especially after an unprecedented recent string of members of the Bar who are currently serving time in jail. A two-minute Google search revealed a Florida lawyer who was recently arrested for assaulting his girlfriend while naked and armed with a sword, another was a young lawyer recently charged with allegedly acting as a prostitute on an adult website.

Many are in still in shock over the conviction of Scott Rothstein for his involvement in a $1.2 billion fraud committed out of his Fort Lauderdale law firm of Rothstein, Rosenfeldt and Adler. A court-appointed trustee has filed lawsuits seeking some $500 million against various entities connected to Rothstein in hopes of recovering money for both investors and creditors.

Yet at this time, when the public perception of lawyers is understandably at an all-time low, the not-for-profit organization, Lawyers to the Rescue, has identified several South Florida lawyers who have set a new standard for their commitment to public service and is hosting "The First Annual Public Service Awards Ceremony" on February 28, 2012, at the University of Miami School of Law.

At the event, Bennett Brummer, the former Miami-Dade Public Defender, will receive a "Lifetime Achievement Award" for his nearly fifty years of service to Miami's legal community. Mr. Brummer graduated from the University of Miami in 1965 and from 1976 served eight consecutive terms as Miami Dade's Public Defender. During his tenure he oversaw hundreds of thousands of criminal cases for Florida's largest and busiest judicial circuit. He was responsible for supervising the thousands of lawyers, investigators, paralegals and secretaries that provide competent legal representation to our community's indigent who are accused of committing crimes. Mr. Brummer stands as a shining example of what a lawyer can and should do when given the privilege of being a member of the Florida Bar.

At the event, our current State Attorney, Katherine Fernandez Rundle, will receive the "Lawyer of the Year Award" for her decades of service to the office of the State Attorney as well as her work on behalf of our community's children, ensuring that receive the appropriate child support through the Child Support Enforcement Program.

Miami Dade County Judge, Scott Bernstein, will be honored for his service as the "Jurist of the Year." Judge Bernstein presided over the first Dependency Drug Court in the country, dealing with issues of abuse, abandonment and neglect. He is committed to the rights of children and serves on the Florida Supreme Court's Standing Committee on Fairness and Diversity.

Miami lawyer, John Kozyak, has passionately promoted diversity and inclusion of minorities for black law students throughout Florida. He has worked in creating mentoring relationships between black students and Florida judges and lawyers through the Kozyak Minority Mentoring Foundation. He is honored as the "Humanitarian of the Year."

Jessica Laleh has only been a lawyer for a few years, but in the short time she has been a member of the Bar, she has distinguished herself as a lawyer who cares. She is a founding member of Lawyers to the Rescue and has created a strategic alliance between Lawyers to the Rescue and the Humane Society of Greater Miami. She has represented dozens of members of Miami's homeless community by donating thousands of hours of pro bono legal services. She will be recognized as the Young Lawyer of the Year.

Domenick Lazzara is not even a lawyer yet. He is finishing his third year at Miami's St. Thomas University School of Law. Yet, before even graduating, Domenick has made a statement that he cares about those in need. He volunteered his entire summer, splitting his days working for both Miami-Dade Judge Jennifer Bailey and Lawyers to the Rescue. He not only helped interview dozens of clients at the homeless shelter, he organized and recruited other law students to join the cause. After the clinics were completed, Domenick was often found working in the Camillus kitchen preparing and serving meals. Domenick demonstrated that the future is bright for the next generation of lawyers.

Miami has lawyers that are worthy of both recognition and celebration. As a Miami lawyer, I believe we should be proud and grateful to have these outstanding advocates in our community. The event is open to the public, both lawyers and non-lawyers. For more information contact Lawyers to the Rescue.