MDFAWL had an active summer and is having a great year so far. Read on to learn how our members have impacted the community, advanced gender equality, and made meaningful connections that will last for years to come.
“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” – Amendment XIX (passed by Congress on June 4, 1919.)
MDFAWL’s 39th Annual Installation: Celebrating Suffrage
By: Elisa D’Amico
On June 4, 2019, MDFAWL hosted its 39th Annual Installation and Awards Dinner at the JW Marriott Marquis in downtown Miami. Guests dressed in white were greeted by a stark white venue backlit in purple and dozens upon dozens of yellow roses, all carefully chosen in honor of the American women suffragettes. While the suffragettes believed that gender equality would be a positive change, their critics did not. Opponents of the suffragettes – whose red roses were in stark contrast to the yellow roses donned by supporters – believed that supporters of the suffrage movement wanted to destroy American society, politics, and morals. The truth, however, is that these brave women aimed to fix the system, not to break it.
Ultimately, winning white women the right to vote involved three generations of brilliant, fearless women. Although Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton penned the Nineteenth Amendment in 1878, it wasn’t until decades later that their dream became a reality. On June 4, 1919, Congress passed the 19th Amendment granting white women the right to vote – of course, women of color were not given the right to vote until several decades later when the Civil Rights Act was passed.
The suffragettes proved that when women support each other, incredible things later. One hundred years after their victory, MDFAWL members and supporters gathered together not only to honor those strong women, but to celebrate the incredible women leaders who continue to make positive change each and every day and our future leaders.
Future MDFAWL member, Joseph D’Amico, kicked off the evening’s program by reciting a poem about Susan B. Anthony. During the program, MDFAWL honored past, present, and future leaders (including some inspiring and adorable children who were present at the event with their parents). Outgoing President, Lara Bueso Bach, presented the Rising Star Award to MDFAWL Director Marianne Curtis, and the President’s Award to MDFAWL Newsletter Editor Amber Kornreich. The Honorable Beth Bloom, United States District Judge for the Southern District of Florida, presented the Mattie Belle Davis Award, MDFAWL’s highest honor, to The Honorable Carroll J. Kelly, Administrative Judge of the Miami-Dade County Court Domestic Violence Division. Judge Kelly was honored for her incredible work on behalf of domestic violence victims, her leadership, and her commitment to MDFAWL’s mission. The Honorable Rodolfo A. ("Rudy") Ruiz II, United States District Judge for the Southern District of Florida swore in the new officers and directors.
Longtime MDFAWL member and supporter Ira Leesfield took the stage to speak on behalf of the MDFAWL Foundation, MDFAWL’s recently established 501(c)(3) corporation, which will continue to help grant scholarships to law students who are committed to women’s rights and who embody the passion and perseverance of the trailblazing suffragettes, MDFAWL’s past presidents, and the inimitable Sookie Williams. At the event and with Sookie’s family present, Ira announced the establishment of, and his financial support for, the Sookie Williams Scholarship.
Before the evening closed (but not before taking a selfie), Lara passed the torch to the 39th President of MDFAWL, Elisa D’Amico, who spoke about embracing the opportunity to create meaningful and long-lasting change for MDFAWL, our legal community, women and men, and future generations. She introduced the four pillars that will support MDFAWL’s programing during the 2019-2020 year: diversity, inclusivity, leadership, and innovation. Elisa advocated for ending the stigma surrounding disability and mental health and committing to collaborate with local bar associations to bring solutions-based programming designed to train, mentor, empower, and support MDFAWL members.
Thank you to the Installation sponsors and supporters, including:
U.S. Legal Support
Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr
RCC Family Law
Please check out our Installation video and the incredible event photos. Check out our upcoming events – and our new website: www.mdfawl.org. If you would like to learn more about the MDFAWL Foundation or make a tax-deductible donation, you can do so online: www.paypal.me/mdfawl.
Congratulations to MDFAWL for being honored at the statewide FAWL Installation with the coveted 2019 Outstanding Chapter of the Year Award!
MOVERS & SHAKERS
Immediate Past President Lara Bach was honored with the American Bar Association's "On the Rise" Award for the Top 40 Young Lawyers. The On The Rise Award program provides national recognition for ABA young lawyer members who exemplify a broad range of high achievement, innovation, vision, leadership, and legal and community service. Read more about the award here.
Jaclyn Behar, Co-Chair of the Law School Liaison Committee, was recently appointed by John M. Stewart to chair The Florida Bar’s Student Education and Admission Committee. This is Jaclyn’s third year on the Committee.
President-Elect Ardith Bronson was recently appointed by The Florida Bar President John M. Stewart to serve as the Chair of the Civil Procedure Rules Committee. Ardith has been a member of the Committee for two consecutive three-year terms.
Marianne Curtis, MDFAWL Director, was honored with the Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division (YLD) Outstanding Woman Lawyer of Achievement Award. The Outstanding Woman Lawyer of Achievement Award honors a woman lawyer or judge who excels in her field, possesses an excellent reputation for integrity, exhibits dedication to her community and her profession through Bar-related or similar activities, and who demonstrates a commitment to the success and advancement of young women lawyers.
Marianne Curtis and MDFAWL State FAWL Representative Iris Elijah have been newly elected to the Florida Bar YLD Board of Governors.
On September 12, 1918, Fordham Law voted to admit women to the law school. To celebrate “100 Years of Women,” the law school has recognized its women alumni, faculty, and students. MDFAWL President Elisa D’Amico was featured for her pro bono work and her commitment to protecting sexual privacy. She was a panelist at the Fordham Law Review’s conference on Gender Equality and the First Amendment in November 2018, received Fordham Law’s Rising Star Award in March 2019, and was interviewed for an article about her work founding the Cyber Civil Rights Legal Project in Fordham Law News in June 2019.
Shutts & Bowen LLP has expanded its Appellate Practice Group with the addition of partner Julissa Rodriguez, who will lead the firm’s appellate team in Miami. A Florida Bar Board Certified Appellate Practice Lawyer with more than 17 years of experience, Julie focuses her practice on appellate litigation and trial support during all stages of litigation, including pre-trial motion practice, jury instructions, post-trial motion practice, and proceedings supplementary. She joins Shutts from Greenberg Traurig, where she served as chair of its Miami Appellate Department and was a member of its National Appellate Practice.
MDFAWL Director Schuyler Smith, Annika Ashton, and Lara Bach have been re-elected to Florida Bar YLD Board of Governors.
Alice Sum was honored with the Inaugural President's Award by the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of South Florida for her extraordinary contributions to the organization.
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ISSUES WE'RE TACKLING...
Lara Bach, Immediate Past President of MDFAWL, argued before The Florida Supreme Court alongside Michelle Coughlin, Susan Warner, Jennifer Shoaf Richardson, and Kyleen Hinkle in favor of the proposed Parental Leave Rule 2.570.
*If you missed oral arguments, fear not! You can watch here.
ANTI-BULLYING & GENDER DISCRIMINATION
The International Bar Association, the Dade County Bar Association, and MDFAWL co-hosted a panel at Greenberg Traurig on the topic of Anti-Bullying and Sexual Harassment in the workplace. The panelists discussed the results of the International Bar Association's report on that topic, entitled Us Too? Bullying & Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, and how workplace discrimination can be addressed. MDFAWL President Elisa D'Amico served on the panel alongside Hilarie Bass, Loreal Arscott, and Michael Maya. The panel was moderated by Julian Jackson-Fannin. Elisa shared her insights on the interplay between sexual harassment and technology (including social media) and some innovative tools that law firms can implement to facilitate reporting of violations of harassment and/or bullying policies and, investigating these claims. Programming such as this helps bring awareness to the problem, but there is more critical work to be done.
by: Haley Moss
MDFAWL continues to grow by emphasizing a focus on inclusion. It was through the MDFAWL family I learned the late Shirley Chisholm’s wisdom: “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” As women, we often bring folding chairs to show up and be heard at tables where we belong. After all, inclusion isn’t merely an invitation, but being asked to meaningfully participate; the invitation is the first step, but change occurs when we join in.
As a co-chair of the Diversity Committee, I found myself confronting an initial assumption— I’m a white woman co-chairing this committee. Diversity values inclusion and how our gender identities intersect with other aspects of our lives, whether it's our race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, disability status, or if we are parents. MDFAWL is a place for all of us to feel safe and supported, and the Diversity Committee wants to work extensively to make that happen. Diversity is about being inclusive of everyone, whether you are marginalized in some ways and privileged in others. (All of us are privileged with our legal educations; all of us are marginalized as gender minorities and may additionally be marginalized by intersections of identities).
I believe in diversity and inclusion because I have a disability—autism, to be exact. When I was first asked about committee, I was asked if Health and Wellness was a better fit, but disability doesn’t inherently equate to health, nor should anyone assume people with disabilities are unhealthy or broken people needing to be fixed. Health and wellness indeed do cover disability, too—especially our friends who have psychiatric disabilities and mental illness—but it is exclusionary of our friends with physical disabilities or neurological differences. Yoga or good food choices might not help manage ADHD or make someone no longer need a wheelchair. Disability is diversity! The social model of disability operates under the belief that, at times, society can be more disabling than a diagnosis or condition. Including disability as diversity will help our members feel more empowered, whether you have a chronic health condition, mental illness, a learning difference, or one of many other conditions or disabilities you may not have wanted to speak up about because of potential discrimination, judgment, privacy, or fear. Whatever your reason, you are valid and welcomed, and I hope MDFAWL holds a supportive space for each of you.
One of the smallest steps towards being fully inclusive I’ve noticed is that our weekly MDFAWL Messenger includes a notice for members with disabilities to let us know how to be more accommodating. It’s an opportunity to be listened to and heard to ensure everyone feels welcome and has a seat at the table without bringing a folding chair. When it comes to disability, we’re one of the most populous minority groups in the country (25% of Americans, and it’s a minority group you could become a part of at any point in your life)—and yet we make up less than 1% of lawyers who self-report having a disability.
Times are changing. When I first entered law school at the University of Miami, I remember being one of two visibly or known disabled people in my 1L section. I’m autistic, so having a neurodevelopmental disability isn’t readily visible the way other disabilities may be. The second student in my section was a blind woman. I remember feeling disappointed when she did not return in the spring semester. Was it because campus was so inaccessible? Or the books? Or the exams? I had so many questions, and I hoped she didn't feel excluded and shut out from the profession entirely.
Four years after feeling dismayed about the blind law student at UM, I felt renewed hope. At our Installation gala, Elisa welcomed me and an incoming blind FIU Law student, Dory Mancebo. Elisa mentioned disability onstage in an inclusive conversation; it was the first time within our profession I remember feeling completely seen, heard, and welcomed for every aspect of my identity. Inclusion lives here, and it’s up to us to embrace it as we did when we kicked off the 2019-2020 MDFAWL year.
Women lawyers with disabilities are having a moment beyond the Installation gala. While some of you may have read about me when I was sworn in as Florida’s first openly autistic attorney, check out Haben Girma, dubbed the “millennial Helen Keller” by Oprah Magazine, a deafblind woman who conquered Harvard Law School. “Conquer” is the key word here– not just bringing your folding chair but rising above the obstacles placed in the way.
While we preach inclusion, it’s crucial to remember that inclusion is not a goal, it’s a mindset and a practice. We can practice inclusion daily when we ask those around us what we can do to make others feel more comfortable attending an event or when we listen to those who are different than us. Sometimes the best thing that you can do is listen. While I’m a woman with a disability, I do not have all the answers to disability inclusion, so I do a lot of listening. I especially listen to those who are otherwise marginalized or have other disabilities or circumstances; I learn from their experiences, desires, and goals. Every day, we have opportunities to learn and implement something new in our lives. It’s how we use those opportunities that counts.
I’m looking forward to how we pioneer diversity and inclusion within MDFAWL for this year and years to come. I have faith that the Diversity Committee—and all aspects of MDFAWL—will be working to be genuinely inclusive of everyone who wants to be a part of our community—without needing to bring folding chairs.
MINDFULNESS & BALANCE