News & Notes

Congratulations to the Honorable Gilberto Perez, Former Legal Aid Attorney, on his appointment to the Circuit Court Bench in the 20th Judicial Circuit in Ft. Myers. Gilbert began his public interest care while at law school during a program where law students were sent to urban cities such as Miami to learn about public interest law over the Christmas break. As a native of Miami, Gilbert selected Miami and came to the agency. Upon graduation from Notre Dame Law School in 1993, Gilbert returned to Legal Aid as a Family Law Staff Attorney.

“Legal Aid was my first job and set me on the path to public service.”

He later moved to Ft. Myers and opened his own practice, becoming Board Certified in Family Law. In 2015, he was appointed as a General Magistrate and on September 23, 2020, he was appointed as the newest Circuit Court Judge in the 20th Judicial Circuit , filling his lifelong dream.

It’s a Wrap Class V -Dade Legal Aid Leadership Academy
Dade Legal Aid’s Leadership Academy wrapped up Class V with a virtual Happy Hour on June 4. Class V included Adrian Acosta, Tammy Brito, Nicole Comparato, Paige Comparato, Kelly Cox, David Emas, Tara Faenza, Adam Finkel, Matthew Kohen, Francesse Lucius, Nora Rotella, Jessica Saiontz, Alex J. Saiz, Jordan Shaw and Alec Shelowitz.

DLA’s Leadership Academy recruits Rising Stars in the legal field that have a proven track record in pro bono legal services. Fellows participate for the duration of the bar year, attend workshops and presentations, and develop a deeper understanding of effective leadership while learning about issues facing Dade Legal Aid and Miami’s indigent population. Class V was forced to change direction mid-year due to COVID19. Many events were cancelled, so the programs pivoted to a virtual platform for the remainder of the bar year in order for the fellows to maintain connections and communication.

My experience with Dade Legal Aid’s Leadership Academy and Staff of dedicated attorneys was phenomenal and I am forever grateful! Not only did I make new friends but they reinvigorated my passion for the practice of law and to help the underserved through pro bono legal service and community outreach. The sessions and speakers taught me powerful lessons that I will continue to share with other members of the legal community,” said Adrian Acosta, Class V.

Dade Legal Aid Leadership Academy was an incredible experience. I met a great group of lawyers, and learned from speakers on the importance of pro bono, and work life balance. However, nothing in my career has been quite as fulfilling as the Guardian Ad Litem case I accepted through the program. They introduced me to the program, trained me and mentored me through the process where I was lucky enough to help a child who really needed it. When it was done, I signed up for another,” said Alex Saiz, Class V.

I look forward to continued involvement with Dade Legal Aid and pro bono work,” said Adam Finkel, Class V. “Through the opportunity to participate in Dade Legal Aid’s Leadership Academy, I have been provided the opportunity to perform pro bono work that truly matters especially during these difficult times. Participation has likewise increased the breadth of my skill set and will lead to even more pro bono cases and perhaps even new business through new networks.

I am honored to have taken part in Class V of Dade Legal Aid’s Leadership Academy. The programming and series of speakers have been enriching both professionally and personally. Dade Legal Aid’s Leadership Academy also provided me with opportunites to network with other professionals and hone my leadership skills. I look forward to committing more time to pro bono work in the future. Special thanks to Karen Ladis, Stephanie Grosman and those who made this experience so memorable!” – Jessica Saiontz, Class V

Adrian Acosta, Esq.
Alex J. Saiz, Esq.
Adam Finkel, Esq.
Jessica Saiontz, Class V

STAY TUNED FOR 2021 BATTLE OF THE LEGAL BANDS! The next Battle of the Legal Bands will be held in 2021 as soon as it is safe to do so in order to ensure the health and well being of all of our sponsors, bands, staff and fans. Like past year, this epic event will be held at an outdoor event where we will rock out with South Florida’s leading rock star bands, judges, lawyers and groupies gathering for Dade Legal Aid. Stay tuned for details about the event that will feature talented lawyer rock bands. To sponsor please email To join the Band Together for Legal Aid Committee email

In celebration of Legal Aid’s 70th birthday, Honorable Richard Suarez served as Master of Ceremonies and kicked off the festivities by welcoming guests and introducing CRAZY TALK, a high energy rock and roll dance band featuring Circuit Court Judge Spencer Multack on guitar, Steven Paulson, Dade Legal Aid Domestic Violence Attorney on drums and vocals, Bart Garratt on keyboards, Vicky Cabrera on vocals, Mark Ochoa on bass, and Manny Sardina on guitar. Following their performance, Judge Yvonne Colodny, Administrative Judge, Probate Division, recognized the dedicated staff of Dade Legal Aid and thanked the Guardianship team for their assistance and dedication in helping nearly 1,000 low income families in need of Guardianship services each year. She also recognized every lawyer in Miami-Dade who helps the Court by “Putting Something Back” and taking cases in every division

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Judge Martin Zilber, Circuit Judge, encouraged all guests to get involved and take a pro bono case. He then introduced THE URGE, a rock cover band  comprised of Fred Fein a Partner with Clyde & Co, on lead vocals and guitar, Mark Meland, Partner at Meland Russin & Budwick, on lead vocals and bass, Dean Crews on lead guitar and vocals, and Frank Del Campillo on drums. 

Judge Suarez introduced CHILLABLE HOURS, which consists of 100% University of Miami Law School Alumni. CHILLABLE HOURS formed three years ago and features Jeff Kucera, a Partner with K&L Gates on Guitar, Joe Wasserkrug, an Associate with McDermott Will & Emery on Bass, Jordan Shaw, a Partner with Zebersky Payne Shaw and Lewenz on Drums, Daniel Silver, an Associate with Gautier & Hasty, LLP, and Freddi Mack, Esq., on Vocals.  

Judge Carrol Kelly, Administrative Judge in the Domestic Violence Division and Judge William Altfield discussed the importance of Dade Legal Aid’s work saving lives and introduced and recognized each of Dade Legal Aid’s attorneys from the various departments: FAMILY LAW, DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, PRO BONO, CHILD ADVOCACY, HOUSING AND GUARDIANSHIP. They introduced FEEDBACK, whose guitarist and founding member David Axelman practices law at Bryan Cave LLP.  Feedback’s lineup is rounded out by Diego Espinosa on lead vocals, Nick Cabrera on bass, and Rocky Ricardo on drums. 

Chief Judge Bertila Soto and Judge Gina Beovides, Associate Administrative Judge, County Court,  welcomed guests and dignitaries including future Miami-Dade County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava and introduced The 540s. Chief Judge Soto,  Judge Beovides and Commissioner Levine-Cava discussed what a difference Legal Aid, the Legal Aid Society and Put Something Back Staff and Pro Bono Volunteer Attorneys make in the lives of the impoverished in our community.  The Courts and County are  extremely grateful to the dedicated attorneys who assist indigent clients every day and help to provide access to justice to the neediest residents.  Each year, Dade Legal Aid serves over 5,000 clients impacting tens of thousands of individuals in all areas of law, Family Law, Guardianship, Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy for low income individuals. Judge Beovides, a former Dade Legal Aid Domestic Violence Staff attorney, recognized all of her former colleagues for their tireless efforts and recognized each staff member.  

THE 540s featured Carlos H. Gamez, Assistant City Attorney with the City of Miami, on lead vocals and saxophone, Manuel Mesa, Principal at Mesa & Pepin LLC, on keyboards and background vocals, Mike Mesa on bass and background vocals, Rick Santos, Product Manager at DRIVEN/ONE DISCOVERY SOFTWARE SOLUTIONS on lead guitar and background vocals, Alejandro Herrera on drums and Christopher Green, Senior Assistant City Attorney at City of Miami, solo guitar. 

LLP, final band for the evening, was introduced by Circuit Court Judges Alexander Bokor and Judge Vivianne Del Rio, who stated that pro bono assistance is greatly appreciated by the Court in Children’s and Civil matters.  LLP was established in 2015 by John E. Meagher, Esq. on guitar and vocalsand Frank A. Zacharl, Esq., on guitar and vocals, Partners with Shutts & Bowen LLP,  along with Joanne Meagher, vocals, Jose Godur, drums, and Damien Reynolds, bass guitar and vocals. Making their first appearance at Dade Legal Aid’s event, LLP is only getting warmed up in the South Florida music scene! 

The verdict is in! The evening was a huge success and Karen Ladis, Executive Directorthanked event co-chairs, Stephanie Grosman and Steve Paulson, the dedicated staff, guests, bands, judges, co-sponsoring organizations, venue, crew and generous sponsors for making this event possible. Ladis and Judge Suarez recognized IBERIABANK and invited  Bert De Armas, Vice President, on stage to receive a plaque and recognition for IBERIABANK’s support and involvement in “Battle of the Bands” since its inception. Other long time loyal sponsors were recognized including: AKERMAN LLP, BILZIN SUMBERG, BAENA PRICE & AXELROD, BAST AMRON LLP, BOIES SCHILLER FLEXNER, CLYDE & CO, FOLEY & LARDNER, GREENSPOON MARDER, HOGAN LOVELLS US LLP, HOLLAND & KNIGHT, KL GATES, KOZYAK TROPIC THROCKMORTON, MELAND RUSSIN BUDWICK, MCDERMOTT WILL & EMERY, PANTER PANTER & SAMPEDRO, RATZAN LAW GROUP, RUMBERGER KIRK & CALDWELL, SHUTTS, STROOK and ZEBERSKY PAYNE SHAW LEWENZ.

Many distinguished judges, guests and dignitaries attended in support of Dade Legal Aid’s celebration and were recognized for their leadership in the community and support for Dade Legal Aid: COMMISIONER DANIELLA LEVINE CAVA, FLORIDA BAR PRESIDENT ELECT DORI FOSTER MORALES, CITY OF MIAMI BEACH MANAGER JIMMY MORALES, CITY OF KEY BISCAYNE FORMER MAYOR MAYRA LINDSEY, FLORIDA BAR BOARD OF GOVERNOR STEVE DAVIS, DADE COUNTY BAR ASSOCIATION PRESIDENT STEPHANIE CARMAN, WILKIE D. FERGUSON, JR. BAR ASSN. PRESIDENT MONIQUE HAYES, AND MIAMI-DADE FAWL PRESIDENT ELECT AND LEGAL AID ADVISORY BOARD MEMBER ELISA DAMICO. Also recognized and thanked were generous sponsors Freddie Mack, Esq., Ratzan & Faccidomo LLC, Foster Morales Sockel Stone, Phipps Reporting, Driven, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, LLP, Arts Business Council, Champion Legal, Bankruptcy Bar Association, Dade County Bar Association, DCBA Young Lawyers Section, Daily Business Review, Miami Dade FAWL, Wilkie D. Ferugson, Jr., Bar Association, Haitian Lawyers Association, Caribbean Bar, Gwen Cherry Bar, St. Thomas University School of Law, UMLaw and many others…  

The Host Committee was also thanked for their leadership: Stephanie Grosman and Steve Paulson, co-chairs, Mitch and Shari Panter, Alvin and Hon. Mayra Lindsey, Steve and Laurie Davis,  Steve and Susan Eisenberg, Elisa Damico, David and Joelle Josefsberg, Nicole Grimal Helmstetter, Monique D. Hayes, Mark Stein, Julie Harris Nelson, John Fulton, Jr., Bruce and Stacey Levine, Stu Weissman, Jude and Francis Faccidomo, Zach James, Zachariah Evangelista, Amber Kornreich, Dave Bixby, Josh Wintle, Rachel Gaspard, Mark Meland, David Axelman, Ariella Ederi and Austen Caraker. Special thanks to INSIDEOUT, ADAM’S FILLING STATION, ROASTERS, JOELLE’S DESSERTS, BAGEL EMPORIUM & GRILLE, CREPEMAKER, COLLINS SEAFOOD, & SUSHI MAKI for their hospitality. Ladis thanked the many lawyers for making a difference in the community and supporting Dade Legal Aid’s staff program and pro bono initiatives.  In the past year, Florida lawyers provided nearly 1.6 million hours of pro bono services to people in need.. For years, thousands of Miami attorneys and hundreds of Law Firm Partners have proudly filled their Oath of Admission through Dade Legal Aid and Put Something Back which began more than 70 years ago by members of the Dade County Bar Association who recognized in 1939 that there is a dire need to help the indigent and voiceless with nowhere else to turn to for help. 

Dade Legal Aid's 70th Anniversary

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