Attorney Profiles

Karen Ladis
Executive Director

A graduate of the University of Michigan, B.A., and the University of Miami School of Law, J.D., Karen Ladis joined the agency in 1991 as Coordinator of Put Something Back Pro Bono Project, the official pro bono project of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit and Dade County Bar Association. In 2014, she rose to executive director of Dade Legal Aid. Ladis was awarded The Florida Bar YLD Pro Bono Service Award (1998), The Inaugural Robert Shevin Memorial Award (2006), and the Inaugural Eleventh Judicial Circuit Family Division “Above & Beyond Award,” (2012 & 2015) for exemplary contributions to the justice system. She serves on The Florida Supreme Court IOTA Task Force, The Florida Bar Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services, the Statewide Project Directors Association, the Florida Pro Bono Coordinators Association, and Pro Bono Committees of Miami-Dade FAWL, South Miami Kendall Bar Association, US Bankruptcy Court of the Southern District of Florida, Florida Bar Business Law Section, and United Way Mission United. She served on the Boards of the MDFAWL Foundation, ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono, Public Service Committee of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation Attorneys Division and Young Leadership Council. She is a Member of the Florida Bar, Board of Governors Government Attorney Liaison, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida and the following bar associations: Dade County, South Miami Kendall, Florida Association of Women Lawyers, Bankruptcy, Gwen S. Cherry and Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. She is a frequent contributor to the DCBA Bulletin and served as an Editor. She was awarded a DCBA Lifetime Achievement Award (2017), was selected as a Legal Elite Government & Non Profit Attorney, (2018, 2019 & 2020), received the Women of Distinction Award (2019), the Outstanding GAL Award for the Eleventh Judicial Circuit from the Statewide GAL Program (2019) and the University of Miami Law Alumni Association Henry Latimer Award for Leadership & Professionalism (2019).

Juanita Cendan
Senior Supervising Attorney - South Dade

Juanita Cendan is a graduate of Seton Hall University and Rutgers University School of Law. Upon graduation, Ms. Cendan was in private practice in New Jersey for several years prior to moving to South Florida and joining the staff of Legal Aid Society in 1990 as a Family Law Staff Attorney. In 2000, she became the Senior Supervising Attorney of Legal Aid’s Family Law Department training dozens of new attorneys and law student interns. She also serves as a vital liasion to the South Dade Community and coordinates services for victims of Human Sex Trafficking. In 2018, she became Dade Legal Aid’s new South Dade Guardianship Project Attorney to provide direct representation for clients in need of a legal Guardianship residing in deep South Dade. In this capacity, she coordinates outreach efforts and workshops and provides representation for family members and loved ones of indigent adult disabled individuals including migrant farm workers, elders, the medically fragile and other marginalized populations. Ms. Cendan is a member of the Dade County Bar Association Probate & Guardianship Committee and Family Violence Service Prevention Network. She served on the Board of Connect Familias which provides vital services to family and children in need.

Bruce Levine
Pro Bono Manager - Deputy Director

Mr. Levine joined Put Something Back Pro Bono Project in 1993 as part of the Hurricane Andrew We Will Rebuild efforts funded by generous support from the Knight Foundation. At the conclusion of the grant he joined the staff of Dade Legal Aid as the Lead Attorney for Put Something Back. Currently, he serves as the Pro Bono Manager of Put Something Back, the Circuit’s Official Pro Bono Project, and as the agency’s Deputy Director. A leader and community organizer, he is a Past-President of the Florida Pro Bono Coordinators Association and Recipient of the Kay Meyers Pro Bono Coordinator Award for his passion, dedication and service to the community. Mr. Levine screens, refers and assists thousands of clients annually and refers them to pro bono attorneys and 100% Law Firm Stakeholders. He has personal relationships with hundreds of Coordinators, law schools, and law firm Pro Bono Committees. In addition to coordinating Projects and cutting edge CLE seminars, he staffs monthly clinics and recruits and supervises law school and college interns year round. Mr. Levine served as Vice-Chair of the Dade County Alliance Against Domestic Violence and is an active member of the Dade County Anti-Defamation League Civil Rights Committee. Mr. Levine was born and raised in Hollywood, CA. He received his B.A. from the University of Southern California and J.D. from Whittier Law School.

N. Brenda Rivera-Lopez
Senior Supervising Attorney - Domestic Violence Grant Manager

A 1996 graduate of St. Thomas University School of Law, Ms. Rivera is a Senior Supervising Attorney and Grant Manager of Dade Legal Aid’s Domestic Violence Department. As an intern with Dade Legal Aid during law school, Ms. Rivera achieved success advocating on behalf of victims and collaborated on numerous boards and committees. In 1997, she joined the agency as a Staff Attorney and helped establish Dade Legal Aid’s South Dade Office located in Homestead which brings dedicated services and representation to the growing population of vulnerable victims of domestic violence in South Dade. As an Adjunct Professor at St. Thomas University School of Law, she directs the Family Law and Domestic Violence Clinic, is on the Faculty for the National Council of Family Law and Juvenile Judges and serves on the Battered Womens’ Justice Project National Custody Workgroup. Ms. Rivera received the “Victim Service Professional of the Year Award” in 2000 and the St. Thomas University School of Law “Arete Award” in 2003 for staunch commitment and dedication to public service. She is an outstanding volunteer Guardian ad Litem, and served on the Boards of MUJER (1999-2008); Domestic Violence Oversight (2006-2008) and WeCare South Dade (2004-2009). She is also a Founding Member of the Miami Inclusion Alliance. Ms. Rivera was born and raised in Miami and is fluent in Spanish.

Wendy L. Robbins
Senior Supervising Attorney - Guardianship & Child Advocacy

Ms. Robbins manages the Guardianship and Child Advocacy Departments where she focuses on the areas of Probate & Guardianship, including Administrative Law, Appeals, Dependency, Family Law and Domestic Violence. In addition to handling a heavy caseload, she supervises multiple attorneys, offices and projects, including the Transitioning Youth Administrative Appeals Project and the Foster Youth Guardianship Project, where she represents former foster youth with various legal issues. She also lectures and trains on local, statewide and national levels and is a certified NITA instructor. During law school, she was a Florida Bar Foundation Fellow in the summer of 1996. Prior to joining Dade Legal Aid in 1998, Ms. Robbins practiced civil litigation in Lake Worth. She is a 1997 graduate of the University of Miami School of Law and is member of the Iron Arrow Honor Society, the highest honor attainable at University of Miami. She is the 2016 Recipient of the Robert L. Shevin Public Service Award.

Mark R. Brown
Senior Supervising Attorney - Family Law

Mr. Brown joined Dade Legal Aid in 1998 as a Florida Bar Foundation Fellow while attending St. Thomas University School of Law. In 2000, he joined the team as a Staff Attorney in the pro bono department where he managed hundreds of cases, coordinated countless CLE seminars and staffed a variety of pro se clinics. In 2001, he managed Dade Legal Aid’s first Domestic Violence Office in Miami Beach where he represented hundreds of petitioners at domestic violence hearings. In 2003, he joined the Family Law Department where he currently serves as the Senior Supervising Attorney and represents South Florida’s diverse indigent population in all aspects of family law. Mr Brown lectures frequently, supervises, trains and supports attorneys and administrative staff and mentors countless pro bono attorneys in partnership with Put Something Back..

Nikki Weisburd
Senior Attorney - Child Advocacy/Pro Bono Coordinator

A 2000 graduate of Emory University School of Law, Ms. Weisburd joined Dade Legal Aid in 2004 in the Child Advocacy Project as an Advocate for Foster Youth representing teenagers living in foster care in dependency hearings as well as assisting with social service and educational needs. Upon joining Dade Legal Aid, she researched and wrote “Achieving Independence,” the Road to Independence Training Manual for judges and attorneys representing youth aging out of foster (“TYP”). She advocates, handles cases, coordinates pro bono referrals from various partnering agencies and 100% Law Firm Partners and supports and mentors dozens of pro bono child advocates. Ms. Weisburd worked as an Advance Staff Member for Vice President Al Gore and the Clinton/Gore 1996 Presidential Campaign and as an Associate at Hunton & Williams in Atlanta prior to joining Legal Aid. Ms. Weisburd served as a board member of the City of Miami Beach Commission for Women and is an active member of the community. In September 2019 Nikki was Foster Care Review’s Child Welfare Professional of the Month. She is licensed in Florida and Georgia.

Steven G. Paulson
Senior Attorney - Domestic Violence/Director of Litigation

Mr. Paulson graduated from St. Thomas University School of Law in 2004 and has practiced public interest law since 2005. He has worked in Dade Legal Aid’s Miami Beach Domestic Violence Department in the Miami Beach Police Station and in Dade Legal Aid’s Downtown Miami location under the Victims of Crime Act Project. He handles a high-volume practice specializing in domestic violence and family law matters and has represented victims in over 1,000 bench trials. In addition to representing victims of Domestic Violence, Sexual Violence, Dating Violence and Repeat Violence in Permanent Restraining Order hearings, Mr. Paulson serves as Dade Legal Aid’s Director of Litigation, training, mentoring and supervising staff attorneys, volunteers and certified legal interns. He also participates in outreach programs with training service providers, victim advocates and police officers. He is a Past-President of the South Miami-Kendall Bar Association and continues to be active and engaged throughout the community. Mr. Paulson is a member of The Florida Bar and is admitted to practice in the Southern and Middle Districts of Florida. In his free time, he is a talented musician and aviator.

Yolande Henry VanDam
Senior Attorney - Family Law

Ms. Henry VanDam is a 2002 graduate of St. Thomas University School of Law. After working as an attorney with the Department of Children and Families for several years, Ms. Henry VanDam joined the staff of Dade Legal Aid in the Family Department in 2006 where she handles complex Paternity and Divorce cases for diverse indigent individuals and families in need of assistance with nowhere else to turn for help. Ms. Henry Van Dam was admitted to the Florida Bar in 2003, is admitted to the United States District Court, Southern District of Florida, and is an active and enthusiastic member of both the Jamaican American Bar Association and Dade County Bar Association. In 2016, she was selected a Fellow for the Florida Bar Foundation’s inaugural Racial Justice Fellows Program to help improve the delivery of services to the ever growing diverse poverty community.

Evita Llaguno-Feria
Senior Attorney - Family Law

Ms. LLaguno-Feria embarked on her career at Dade Legal Aid in 2004 as a Certified Legal through St. Thomas University School of Law’s Family Law Clinic program. During her year-long internship, Mrs. Llaguno-Feria had the opportunity to represent domestic violence victims at their Injunction for Protection Against Domestic Violence hearings under the supervision of an attorney, and, in 2006, joined the staff as a Family Law Attorney shere she has successfully represented thousands of clients including victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in complex Divorce, Paternity and Temporary Relative Custody cases. She serves as a Guardian ad Litem, mentor and supervisor to new attorneys and law school interns. Mrs. Llaguno-Feria is a member of The Florida Bar, Family Law Section, Dade County Bar, Family Court Committee, Florida Association of Women Lawyers and is fluent in Spanish.

Kristen Feuer
Senior Attorney - Child Advocacy & Guardianship

Kristen Feuer joined Dade Legal Aid in 2006 as a Child Advocacy Attorney representing teenagers in the foster care system. Ms. Feuer is a graduate of the New England School of Law and member of The Florida Bar since 2005. She is a member of the Dade County Bar Association, Young Lawyers Section, Juvenile Courts Committee and Probate & Guardianship Committee. In addition to handling Juvenile Dependency cases, she also handles an active caseload in the Guardianship Department representing older foster teens and other needy clients in Guardianship Proceedings. A thoughtful and dedicated champion of children’s rights, Ms. Feuer is a frequent lecturer and received the First Annual Guardian ad Litem “Thinking Outside the Box” Award for her innovative and creative legal strategies in 2008. In 2012, Ms. Feuer was again recognized for her excellence in the field and named the 11th Circuit “Champion Attorney” in the area of Independent Living by the Guardian Ad Litem Program. She is a true collaborator and visionary.

Stephanie Grosman
Family Attorney - Leadership Academy Coordinator - GAL Mentor

Ms. Grosman began her career at Dade Legal Aid in 2006 representing victims’ rights in domestic violence injunction hearings. She is currently a Staff Attorney in the Family Unit where she handles complex family cases, serves as a Guardian Ad Litem in contested family cases, and mentors over 50 pro bono GAL attorneys annually through Put Something Back. She is a founding fellow of the Inaugural Class of the Dade Legal Aid Leadership Academy, and serves as its Coordinator. In addition, Ms. Grosman helps coordinate special events, fundraisers, and projects for the agency. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Dade County Bar Association and previously served on the board of its Young Lawyers Section. In 2017, she received the Legal Luminaries Top Pro Bono & Public Interest Attorney Award for her outstanding community involvement. In 2016, she was named one of the Top 40 Under 40 Lawyers of South Florida by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. She served as Host Committee Chair of the 5th Annual Singles for Switchboard Bachelor Auction and has been featured in Brickell Magazine “Miami’s Best Dressed” edition. Ms. Grosman wrote an article on the importance of pro bono work entitled “Lawyers Can Lend a Hand by Doing Pro Bono Work” which appeared in the Miami Herald and created a Pro Bono Users Guide for GAL Volunteer Attorneys. She earned her JD from Stetson University College of Law and her BA from Barry University. She is fluent in Spanish.

Dana Viggiano
Staff Attorney - Child Advocacy

Ms. Viggiano is a 2008 graduate of St. Thomas University School of Law. While in law school, she joined Dade Legal Aid as a Certified Legal Intern in the Domestic Violence Department and represented victims of domestic violence under the supervision of an attorney. After graduation, she joined the Child Advocacy team in 2009 where she zealously represented teens ages 14-19 years in dependency proceedings and assisted them with their transition from foster care to independent living. She is an accomplished and dedicated Guardian ad Litem Attorney, frequent lecturer on child advocacy issues and mentor to Put Something Back pro bono attorneys handling human sex trafficking cases for foster youth.

Alexandra Mesa
Staff Attorney - Family Law & Housing

Upon graduation from Florida International University College of Law in 2011, Ms. Mesa joined Dade Legal Aid as an FIU College of Law Fellow in the Family Law Department. While in law school, Ms. Mesa earned the Dean’s List, worked at the U.S. EEOC with the Chief Administrative Judge handling employment discrimination cases and was also part of the Florida International College of Law Immigrant Children’s Clinic where she represented children in Dependency and Immigration Court. At the conclusion of her fellowship, she worked in private practice handling insurance defense cases. In 2013, Ms. Mesa became the Housing Attorney for the agency handling an active caseload of Landlord Tenant matters including Trailer Park Class Action cases. In addition, she handles a full Family Law caseload and provides support to her colleagues. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Florida Atlantic University in 2006 where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration in International Business and Trade as well as General Marketing.

Silvia Perez
Staff Attorney - Domestic Violence

Ms. Perez graduated cum laude from FIU with a Bachelors of Arts in Psychology. In May of 2001, she graduated from St. Thomas School of Law where she was an integral part of Law Review and authored “Alternatives in Fighting Street Gangs,” which was published in the Winter 2001, St. Thomas Law Review. In her final semester, she interned at Dade Legal Aid as a certified intern in the Family Court Clinic. In 2001, she was hired to establish the satellite office in Florida City to provide assistance to the migrant farmworker community. The following year, she became the Project Attorney of the Homestead Satellite Office representing survivors of domestic violence, training and supervising Certified Legal Interns from St. Thomas University enrolled in the Family Law Clinic program. In 2011, she was in private practice handling cases in the areas of family law, domestic violence, dependency/juvenile, as well as arguing appeals before the Third District Court of Appeal. In 2017, she returned to her roots at Dade Legal Aid to represent victims of domestic violence. Her dedication and passion are evident both professionally and personally and throughout the community. In 2002, she received a Community Service Award from the City of Homestead and Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. In 2004, she was a Faculty Presenter at the 27th National Children’s Law Conference on Representing Children in Civil Cases involving Domestic Violence. In 2005, she was featured on “The Voice of Women” radio program at 1450 AM. In 2008, she presented at the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence training for South Florida Clerk of Courts. In 2009, she received The Arête Award for Distinguished Alumni in Public Service from St. Thomas University, School of Law.

Geoffrey Valdes-Alba
Staff Attorney - Domestic Violence

Since 2017, Geoffrey Valdes, Esq. has served as a dedicated and passionate Domestic Violence Attorney for Dade Legal Aid. Prior, he worked as an Attorney/Case Manager for the Eleventh Judicial Circuit for five years. As the Senior Attorney/Case Manager, he worked closely with judges, closing the highest number of cases in a one-month period, with the assistance of the judge and judicial staff. He mentored new attorneys, judicial interns and other case management staff, giving them direction and information as to how to proceed with problem cases. Previously, Mr. Valdes was in private practice for four years at Alba Law, P.A., handling Divorce Cases. He serves as Chair of the DCBA Family Law Committee and is knowledgeable in all aspects of Family Law, Bankruptcy, Wills, and Domestic Violence. Mr. Valdes is a member of the Florida Bar, DCBA and the United States District Court, Southern District of Florida. He is a graduate of Belen Jesuit Prep. School, 1999, a graduate of Florida International University, 2002, and a graduate of the Barry University, Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law, 2007. In his free time he likes to play guitar. He is fluent in English and Spanish written and spoken.

Cynthia A. Stafford
Staff Attorney - Domestic Violence

Ms. Stafford returned to Dade Legal Aid as a Domestic Violence Attorney in 2019, after serving eight years as a State Representative in the Florida House of Representatives. First elected to the Florida Legislature in 2010 and subsequently re-elected to four consecutive terms, Ms. Stafford served as a Legislator until 2018 when she was unable to run again due to term limits. During her time in the Legislature, Ms. Stafford was the House Minority Policy Chair and also served on the Appropriations Committee, Judiciary Committee (Ranking Member) and the Rules and Policy Committee. In 2013, the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar honored Ms. Stafford with the Legislator Award for her efforts on behalf of Florida’s families throughout the legislative session. In 2012, the Mary Kay Foundation awarded a grant in recognition of Ms. Stafford to the Miami Rescue Mission to support housing and services for domestic violence victims and their children. In 2018, Lotus House Shelter for Homeless Women and Children honored Ms. Stafford with the Leadership Award for her efforts in the Legislature. Ms. Stafford began her affiliation with Dade Legal Aid 20 years ago as an intern in the Domestic Violence unit, then served as the Staff Attorney implementing the Legal Aid Miami Beach Domestic Violence Collaborative which brought the first legal and social services, to victims of domestic violence residing in Miami Beach. Ms. Stafford was an Adjunct Professor teaching Constitutional Law, Civil Law, Legal Writing and Ethics. Ms. Stafford was born and raised in Liberty City and earned her J.D. from St. Thomas University School of Law. A true visionary and leader, in 2020 she helped launch Dade Legal Aid’s new satellite offices in The Joseph Caleb Center.

Yesenia Arocha
Staff Attorney - Domestic Violence

Yesenia Arocha, a Miami Native, represents low-income clients, mainly domestic violence and sexual assault survivors in abuse prevention matters in Dade Legal Aid’s Homestead Office. She is a member of The Florida Bar and Dade County Bar Association. Mrs. Arocha earned her J.D. in 2007 from St. Thomas University School of Law and her B.A. in 2004 from Florida International University. Prior to joining Dade Legal Aid, she handled cases for immigrant children and trained, supervised and mentored hundreds of pro bono attorneys and firms throughout South Florida in the areas of Dependency, Family Law and Immigration. Under her supervision, countless child victims of abuse, abandonment and neglect received legal services. She feels privileged to be representing clients in what is sometimes their darkest hour, and states that providing legal assistance to those in need is gratifying beyond measure.

Nicholas Koltay
Staff Attorney - Domestic Violence

Nick Koltay is a staff attorney in the Domestic Violence Unit, focusing his practice on guiding victims through the criminal complaint process and enforcing criminal violations of injunctions for domestic violence, dating violence, sexual violence and stalking. Previously, he was an Assistant State Attorney in Broward County for six years, serving in the Felony Trial Unit as a lead attorney handling first degree felonies, in the Juvenile Unit as a supervisor, and in the Drug Trafficking Unit, where he investigated and prosecuted cases against offenders facing minimum mandatory prison sentences of 7 to 25 years. He has tried over 35 jury trials and numerous bench trials, including charges for armed robbery, armed sexual battery, burglary of a dwelling, drug trafficking, aggravated assault/battery, and battery on a law enforcement officer. After graduating from law school, he served as a judicial law clerk to The Honorable Israel Reyes and The Honorable Barbara Areces in the Circuit Civil Division of the 11th Judicial Circuit. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 2005 and cum laude from Notre Dame Law School in 2010, where he was an Executive Editor on the Journal of College and University Law. Mr. Koltay was admitted to the Florida Bar in 2010 and is a member of the Notre Dame Club of Miami.

Tensie M. Suengas
Staff Attorney - Family Law

Mrs. Suengas joined Dade Legal Aid in 2018 to help victims of domestic violence in divorce, paternity, child support, and post-judgment cases. She graduated from American University’s Washington College of Law in 2013. In law school she began her work in public service assisting survivors of domestic violence with restraining orders, U-Visa petitions, and with custody disputes. After law school, she worked as case manager for the Eleventh Judicial Circuit in the Unified Family Court Division. As a case manager, she assisted judges in complex family cases that included domestic violence, dependency, and juvenile delinquency issues. Next, she helped victims of human trafficking in a wide range of legal proceedings including dependency, custody, expungement and permanent injunction hearings. She brings a wealth of experience to the agency.

Marietta Galindez Fanjul
Staff Attorney - Family Law

Mrs. Galindez Fanjul returned to Dade Legal Aid as a Family Law Staff Attorney in July of 2019. She began her original affiliation with the agency 18 years ago and held the same role for several years before moving to Texas. At Dade Legal Aid, Mrs. Galindez Fanjul manages complex family law cases, focusing her practice on helping survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault reach fair and positive outcomes in family proceedings. She earned her BA from Boston College with a degree in English and French and JD from Nova Southeastern Shepard Broad College of Law, where she was the recipient of an MPLE Scholarship and a Staff Member of the ILSA Journal of International and Comparative Law. Mrs. Galindez Fanjul is fluent in English and Spanish. She is a member of the Florida Bar (2000), Dade County Bar Association, South Miami Kendall Bar Association, the Florida Bar Family Law Section & First Family Law American Inn of Court.