Attorney Profiles

Karen Josefsberg Ladis
Executive Director

Karen Josefsberg Ladis has been working with Dade Legal Aid since 1991. For the first 23 years she served as Coordinator of Put Something Back. In 2014, she became Executive Director where she continues to passionately advocate for underserved populations, lead staff and pro bono efforts. Ladis serves on The Florida Bar Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services and is a member of the Statewide Project Directors Association. She served on the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono, the Florida Pro Bono Coordinators Association, the Dade County Bar Association Bulletin Committee, the Public Service Committee of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation Attorneys Division and Young Leadership Council. She is a Member of the Florida Bar, United States District Court, Southern District of Florida, the Dade County Bar Association, South Miami Kendall Bar Association, Florida Association of Women Lawyers, Bankruptcy and Federal Bar Associations, Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr., Bar Association and the Attorneys Division of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation. Ladis received The Florida Bar YLD Pro Bono Service Award, 1998, The Inaugural Robert Shevin Memorial Award, 2006 and the Inaugural 11th Judicial Circuit Family Division “Above & Beyond Award,” 2012 and again in 2015. Recently, she was selected by her peers as a 2018 Legal Elite “Government & Non Profit” Attorney. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan, BA English, and a graduate of the University of Miami School of Law and is an active member of both Alumni Associations. Contact kladis@dadelegalaid.org

Juanita Cendan
Senior Supervising Attorney

Juanita Cendan, Senior Supervising Attorney, graduated from 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 Dade Legal Aid. In 1990, she began as a Family Law Staff Attorney and in 2000 became a Senior Supervising Attorney overseeing staff attorneys and interns in the Family Law Department. Currently, she is practicing within the agency’s Guardianship Department focusing on South Dade and also serves as a vital liaison to the community coordinating multiple outreach programs and initiatives benefiting migrant farm workers and other marginalized populations. Ms. Cendan is a member of the Dade County Bar Association Probate & Guardianship Committee, Mission United and the Family Violence Service Prevention Network. She served on the Board of Connect Familias which provides vital services to family and children in need. In 2014, she received the “Legal Aid Leader of the Year Award” and in 2016, was recognized for “Exemplary Service to the Bench, Bar and Community” for extraordinary public service. Contact Jcendan@dadelegalaid.org

Bruce Levine
Senior Supervising Attorney - Pro Bono Manager

Mr. Levine, Senior Supervising Attorney and Manager of the Pro Bono Department, joined Dade Legal Aid in 1993 as part of the Hurricane Andrew We Will Rebuild efforts funded by the Knight Foundation. At the conclusion of the grant he joined “Put Something Back” Pro Bono Project as a Staff Attorney and is currently the dedicated Pro Bono Manager of the Circuit’s Official Pro Bono Project. He is a Past-President of the Florida Pro Bono Coordinators Association and a Recipient of the Kay Meyers Pro Bono Coordinator Award for his passion, dedication and leadership in 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 and law firm Pro Bono Committees. In addition to coordinating Law Firm Projects and cutting edge CLE seminars, he staffs a monthly Legal Hotline and recruits and supervises law school interns year round. Mr. Levine has served as Vice-Chair of the Dade County Alliance Against Domestic Violence and is a member of the Dade County Anti-Defamation League Civil Rights Committee. Mr. Levine was born and raised in Hollywood, CA, and received his B.A. from the University of Southern California and his J.D. from Whittier Law School. contact blevine@dadelegalaid.org

N. Brenda Rivera-Lopez
Senior Supervising Attorney

A 1996 graduate of St. Thomas University School of Law, Ms. Rivera is the Senior Supervising Attorney for Dade Legal Aid’s Domestic Violence Department. As an intern with Dade Legal Aid during law school, she 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, MUJER Board Member (1999-2008); Domestic Violence Oversight Board Member (2006-2008) and WeCare South Dade Board Member (2004-2009). Ms. Rivera was born and raised in Miami and is fluent in Spanish. contact brivera@dadelegalaid.org

Wendy L. Robbins
Senior Supervising Attorney

Ms. Robbins, Senior Supervising Attorney, joined Dade Legal Aid in 1998. She oversees the Guardianship Department where she focuses on the areas of Probate & Guardianship, including Administrative Law, Appeals, Dependency, Family Law and Domestic Violence. In addition, she supervises several 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 lectures and trains on a local, statewide and national levels and is a certified NITA instructor. Prior to joining Dade Legal Aid, Ms. Robbins practiced civil litigation in Lake Worth, Florida. She is a 1997 graduate of the University of Miami School of Law, where she is a member of the Iron Arrow Honor Society, the Highest Honor Attainable at the University of Miami and is the 2016 Recipient of the Robert L. Shevin Public Service Award. Contact wrobbins@dadelegalaid.org

Mark R. Brown
Senior Supervising Attorney

Mr. Brown, a Senior Supervising Attorney in the Family Law Department, joined Dade Legal Aid in 2000 upon graduation from St. Thomas University School of Law. He was first assigned to “Put Something Back” Pro Bono Project where he managed hundreds of cases, coordinated countless CLE seminars and staffed a variety of pro se clinics. He then worked in Dade Legal Aid’s Domestic Violence Project in Miami Beach where he represented hundreds of petitioners at domestic violence hearings over for two years. Since 2003, he has been in the Family Law Department where he directly represents South Florida’s diverse indigent population in all aspects of family law, lectures frequently, supervises, mentors and trains staff and pro bono attorneys on behalf of the agency.

Steven G. Paulson
Senior Attorney/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. He is fluent in Spanish. In his free time, he is a talented musician and aviator.

Nikki Weisburd
Senior Attorney/Pro Bono Coordinator

A 2000 graduate of Emory University School of Law, Ms. Weisburd joined Dade Legal Aid’s Child Advocacy Project as an Advocate for Foster Youth in 2004 representing teenagers living in foster care in dependency hearings as well as assisting with social service and educational needs. She handles cases, coordinates pro bono referrals from various partnering agencies and supports and mentors pro bono child advocates.
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”). 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. Ms. Weisburd served as a board member of the City of Miami Beach Commission for Women and is an active member of the community. She is licensed in Florida and Georgia.

Yolande Henry VanDam
Senior Attorney

Yolande Henry VanDam, a 2002 graduate of St. Thomas University School of Law, joined Dade Legal Aid as a Family Attorney in 2006 and has been practicing in the Family Law Division of Dade Legal Aid ever since where she handles complex paternity and divorce cases for indigent individuals and families in need of assistance with nowhere else to turn for help. Ms. Henry Van Dam is admitted to the United States District Court, Southern District of Florida and is a member of both the Jamaican American and Dade County Bar Associations. She is a Fellow in the inaugural Racial Justice Fellows Program of The Florida Bar Foundation, 2016-2017, where she actively participates as a leader for improvements to the delivery of services to the diverse poverty community.

Evita Llaguno-Feria
Senior Attorney

Since 2006, Ms. LLaguno-Feria has represented thousands of clients at Dade Legal Aid where she handles complex divorce, paternity and temporary relative custody cases. She also serves as a Guardian Ad Litem, a mentor and supervises multiple interns. Prior to joining Dade Legal Aid, she was an intern at Dade Legal Aid through St. Thomas University School of Law’s year-long Family Law Clinic program. During her internship, Mrs. Llaguno-Feria had the opportunity to represent, under the supervision of Staff Attorneys, Domestic Violence victims at their Injunction for Protection Against Domestic Violence hearings. Mrs. Llaguno-Feria is fluent in Spanish and is a member of The Florida Bar, Dade County Bar and Florida Association of Women Lawyers.

Kristen Feuer
Staff Attorney

Ms. Feuer is a graduate of the New England School of Law and joined the Florida Bar in 2005. She is a member of the Dade County Bar Association and Young Lawyers Section. Ms. Feuer joined Dade Legal Aid in 2006 as a Child Advocacy Attorney representing teenagers in the foster care system. She also works in the Guardianship Department representing older foster teens and others in Guardianship Proceedings. A thoughtful and dedicated champion of children’s rights, Ms. Feuer 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.

Stephanie Grosman
Staff Attorney

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 Department where she handles complex family cases. Ms. Grosman serves as a volunteer Guardian Ad Litem and mentors volunteer attorneys through Put Something Back. She is a founding fellow of the Inaugural Class of the Dade Legal Aid Leadership Academy, and currently serves as the Academy’s coordinator. In addition, Ms. Grosman assists with fundraising and organizing special events such as the Battle of the Bands and the Patently Impossible Project. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Dade County Bar Association and served on its Young Lawyers Section Board for several years. In 2016, she served as Host Committee Chair of the 5th Annual Singles for Switchboard Bachelor Auction. Also in 2016, she was featured in Brickell Magazine in “Miami’s Best Dressed” edition. Ms. Grosman has authored numerous articles featuring the importance of pro bono work including “Lawyers Can Lend a Hand by Doing Pro Bono Work” which was published in the Miami Herald in 2008. She earned her JD from Stetson University College of Law in St. Petersburg and her BA from Barry University in Miami Shores. She is fluent in Spanish.

Silvia Perez
Staff Attorney

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 with a Juris Doctorate. While at St. Thomas, she was an integral part of Law Review and the community 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. 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 feeatured 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.

Dana Viggiano
Staff Attorney

Ms. Viggiano is a graduate of St. Thomas University School of Law. She joined Dade Legal Aid as a certified intern in 2008 in the Domestic Violence Department and represented victims of domestic violence under the supervision of an attorney. After graduation, she began working with the Child Advocacy Project zealously representing teens ages 14-19 years in dependency proceedings and assisting them with their transition from foster care to independent living. She is thoughtful and dedicated guardian ad litem attorney, frequent lecturer on child advocacy issues and mentor to pro bono attorneys handling human sex trafficking cases for foster youth.

Alexandra Mesa
Staff Attorney

Ms. Mesa is a 2011 graduate of Florida International University College of Law. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Florida Atlantic University in 2006 where she received a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration in International Business and Trade as well as General Marketing. 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. Upon graduation from law school, she joined Dade Legal Aid as an FIU College of Law Fellow in the Family Division. At the conclusion of her fellowship, she worked for a private firm handling insurance defense cases. Since 2013, Ms. Mesa has served as a Staff Attorney handling landlord/tenant and family law matters.

Rosario Torres
Staff Attorney

Ms. Torres graduated from St. Thomas School of Law in 2014 and is a Staff Attorney in the Domestic Violence Offices of Dade Legal Aid. Since joining the agency as a Staff Attorney, she has focused on representing survivors of Domestic Violence. During law school, she interned at Dade Legal Aid through St. Thomas Law School’s Family Law Externship Program. Throughout this year-long internship, Ms. Torres had the opportunity to provide legal representation to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking under the supervision of a dedicated Senior Staff Attorney. Through St. Thomas, she also interned in the Juvenile Dependency Division of the Court in Miami, in the Probate Division of the Court in Ft. Lauderdale, and with the City of Miami Attorney’s Office, Litigation Division. Ms. Torres is fluent in both English and Spanish.

Geoffrey Valdes
Staff Attorney

Geoffrey Valdes, Esq. is a Domestic Violence Staff Attorney that joined Dade Legal Aid in 2017. Prior to joining Dade Legal Aid, he worked as an Attorney/Case Manager for the Eleventh Judicial Circuit for five years. As the most Senior Attorney/Case Manager he worked hand in hand 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. Prior to working for the Eleventh Judicial Circuit, Mr. Valdes worked in private practice for four years at Alba Law, P.A., where he tried Divorce Cases. In addition to being admitted to the Florida Bar, Mr. Valdes is also a member of the United States District Court, Southern District of Florida. He is knowledgeable in all aspects of Family Law, including Divorce, Bankruptcy, Wills, and Domestic Violence. 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.

Yesenia Arocha
Staff Attorney

Yesenia Arocha, a Miami Native, represents low-income clients, mainly domestic violence and sexual assault survivors in abuse prevention matters. Before joining Dade Legal Aid, she served as Deputy Director for CABA Pro Bono Project where she spearheaded the launch of its Immigrant Children’s Program. As Supervising Attorney and co-developer of the program, she trained and mentored attorneys at firms throughout South Florida in the areas of Dependency, Family Law and Immigration and then matched their skill sets with indigent clients in the community who needed legal assistance. This program successfully assisted hundreds of child victims of abuse, abandonment and neglect. Yesenia is a member of The Florida Bar who earned her J.D. in 2007 from St. Thomas University School of Law and her B.A., in 2004 from Florida International University. 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

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, repeat 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.

Yohania T. Santana
Staff Attorney

Yohania T. Santana is a Staff Attorney at Dade Legal Aid’s Domestic Violence Unit focusing on representing survivors of domestic violence, sexual violence, repeat violence, dating violence, and stalking. Ms. Santana graduated cum laude from St. Thomas University School of Law in 2017. She graduated magna cum laude in 2014 from Florida International University where she received her Bachelor’s degree. During law school, Ms. Santana participated in St. Thomas University School of Law’s year-long Family Law Externship Program where she had the opportunity to represent survivors of domestic violence under the supervision of a Senior Staff Attorney. Ms. Santana went on to receive the CALI Excellence for the Future Award for obtaining the highest grade in the Family Law Externship Program. Ms. Santana was also a member of the Moot Court Board where she competed in the annual Jerome Prince Memorial Evidence Competition and was a Project Coordinator for the STU Law Karnes Pro Bono Project. In May of 2017, Ms. Santana received the Outstanding Volunteer Pro Bono Award at the 28th Annual Dade County Bar Association and Put Something Back Recognition Luncheon. Ms. Santana is fluent in Spanish.

Elizabeth Hubbart
Of Counsel