JUDGE DAVID MILLER FOR MIAMI-DADE CIRCUIT COURT, GROUP 8
Judge David Miller was born in 1953 and earned his BS degree from the University of Florida in 1975. In 1978, he received his JD from Nova University and went into private practice from 1978-2000. He practiced appellate and trial work where he gained years of experience that eventually led him to his current seat on the bench. Judge Miller was elected in November of 2000 and knocked out his opponent in the general election with astounding numbers. In 2006, Miller was unopposed and reelected to a new six year term. He has been on the bench for more than 11 years and has earned the respect of his colleagues along with a wide range of support. He quickly earned the reputation as a hard working judge on the bench and has a brilliant legal mind. Judge Miller has proven to be accessible, knowledgeable and dedicated to his job.
For Miami-Dade Circuit Court, Group 8, Community Newspaper Recommends Judge David Miller.
ROBERT COPPEL FOR MIAMI-DADE CIRCUIT COURT, GROUP 15
Mr. Robert Coppel has served as an Assistant Public Defender for 23 years and has a wealth of experience as a felony trial attorney, a training attorney and presently serves as the Director of Training and Professionalism for the Public Defender’s Office. Mr. Coppel has accumulated both civil and criminal trial experience. He also serves as a legal liaison for the Public Defender’s Office, a recruiter and member of the hiring panel for the Public Defender’s Office, a member of the advisory panel for American Bar Association National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers National Defender Training and as a director of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys and Co-Chair of the Continuing Legal Education Committee for the group.
Mr. Coppel is the creator and teacher of trial skill workshops for Assistant Public Defenders, including Introduction to Voir Dire, Seven Steps to a Winning Opening Statement, A Winning Performance for Lawyers and Your Ultimate Voice in the Courtroom.
Mr. Coppel’s community involvement include his involvement as a Big Brother with the Big Brothers Big Sisters Organization and he has acted as the artistic director and vice-president for The Main Street Players, a community theater based in Miami Lakes. He has a wife, three step-children, and four wonderful granddaughters.
For Miami-Dade Circuit Court, Group 15, Community Newspaper Recommends Robert Coppel
MARIA DE JESUS SANTOVENIA FOR MIAMI-DADE CIRCUIT COURT, GROUP 47
Maria De Jesus Santovenia is no stranger to the courtroom. Ms. Santovenia has 22 years of courtroom and trail experience dealing in areas of complex commercial and environmental litigation as well as at the appeals court level. She has over 12 years of experience in public service working as an assistant city attorney for two local cities. Ms. Santovenia is board certified in city, county and local government law.
Ms. Santovenia graduated from the University of Miami in 1983 with a B.A. and attended the University of Pennsylvania Law School where she graduated with a J.D. in 1988. She has joined numerous organizations demonstrating her commitment to her community. She is an active member of American Bar Association, Ethics Committee, the Florida Association of Women Lawyers, the Cuban American Bar Association, Dade County Bar Association, Coral Gables Bar Association. She is active in the city, county & local government law sections of the Florida Bar. She has bar memberships in the Supreme Courts of Florida and Pennsylvania, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, the Southern District of Florida, and the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
Ms. Santovenia has been married for 15 years and has an eight year old daughter.
For Miami-Dade Circuit Court, Group 47, Community Newspaper Recommends Maria de Jesus Santovenia
TERESA MARY POOLER FOR MIAMIDADE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, GROUP 49
Teresa Mary Pooler has 30 years of experience working in the Miami- Dade County Courts. Ms. Pooler has practiced in criminal court, family court, and various administrative courts. In addition, she has 11 years of experience as a hearing officer, and has presided over 100,000 civil traffic infractions hearings. Ms. Pooler has tried more than 70 jury trials, and argued before the Third District Court of Appeal and the Florida Supreme Court. Ms. Pooler’s experience includes working as a prosecutor in the State Attorney’s Office where she was the director of the children’s center dealing with sexually abused children. Ms. Pooler developed protocols for forensic interviews of physically or sexually abused children, acted as liaison between law enforcement officers and the State Attorney’s Office, set up numerous training sessions for prosecutors, law enforcement officers and others on issues pertaining to child victimization, including how to best interview child witnesses. In addition, Ms. Pooler has also served at a Guardian ad Litem, watching out for the best interest of children. Ms. Pooler has taught criminal and constitutional law, both at the college and masters level, at Florida International University.
Ms. Pooler is committed to Miami- Dade County volunteering at many community projects for women, children, and animals. Her community serves includes serving as Community Chairman for AidsWalk Miami, as a member of the Board of Directors 0f Health Crisis Network, Development Chair for the Humane Society Fundraising Volunteer (2009), Team Captain for the Susan B. Komen Breast Cancer Walk Team Captain, Friends Forever Humane Society (Dog Rescue), an Adoption Counselor/Teen Volunteer coordinator and a volunteer at the Felix Varella Senior High Veterinary Sciences Program.
For Miami-Dade County Circuit Court, Group 49, Community Newspaper Recommends Teresa Mary Pooler.
JUDGE ANA MARIA PANDO FOR MIAMIDADE COUNTY COURT, GROUP 10
Judge Ana Maria Pando serves as a Miami- Dade County Judge since 2001. Judge Pando has presided over County Civil cases including small claims, collection actions, landlord-tenant cases, and general civil litigation. Since 2004 Judge Pando has also acted as an Acting Circuit Court Judge over domestic violence matters. Judge Pando has also served in the County Court Criminal Division, handling all types of criminal litigation, including presiding over lengthy calendars involving motions, arraignments, soundings, reports, bench and jury trials; conducting a problem- solving court when appropriate. Judge Pando began her law career as a specially appointed Public Defender. In 1991, she joined the Miami City Attorney’s Office and was assigned to the Miami Police Department as Police Legal Advisor and was responsible for providing immediate legal advice to police officers concerning enforcement; reporting to crime scenes to assess civil liability concerns; responding to police shootings and police involved accidents to assess liability ramifications; riding with officers during operations involving novel enforcement efforts; training officers in a classroom and in the field on new laws and court decisions affecting law enforcement; representing the City of Miami Police Department in all contempt proceedings and all challenges to police procedures. In 1999, Judge Pando became the Assistant City Attorney responsible for code enforcement matters prosecuting violators before the Code Enforcement Board.
A native of Miami-Dade County, Judge Pando graduated Cum Laude from Barry University and received her Juris Doctorate from the University of Miami School of Law. In addition, Judge Pando is active in the community participating in Town-Hall Meetings geared toward educating the Miami-Dade County community concerning the court system. She consistently participates at community outreach events, such as Law Days, Constitution Day at Miami-Dade College, Red Ribbon Week, and career mentorship events at local schools and universities.
For Miami-Dade County Court, Group 10, Community Newspaper Recommends Judge Ana Maria Pando.
MICHELLE ALVAREZ BARAKAT FOR MIAMI-DADE COUNTY COURT, GROUP 20
Michelle Alvarez Barakat has over twelve years trial experience in the criminal and civil courts, spanning both the public and private sectors. Ms. Alvarez Barakat is dedicated to the ethical practice of law in Miami-Dade County. Ms. Alvarez Barakat acted as Bar Counsel in the Florida Bar’s local Miami Office, where she was responsible for litigating ethical complaints against lawyers at both the trial and appellate levels, including filing briefs to The Florida Supreme Court and working closely with members on the Board of Governors in the resolution of ethical complaints. Her work as Florida Bar Counsel provided her with a unique insight into the ethical practice of law and gives her a balanced insight into the practice of law and the proper role of the judiciary. Ms. Alvarez Barakat has also worked as a mental health advocate for the Public Defender’s office, advocating for those who are unable to speak for themselves due to mental disease and heavy medication. She has spent over 8 years litigating cases throughout the State of Florida while working for another criminal defense attorney before opening her own law firm. Later in her career, she expanded her practice areas to include commercial litigation, assisting clients in real estate disputes, contract and labor matters. She has practiced at the Small Claims, County, Circuit, District and Supreme Court levels. She has also briefed appeals at the District and Supreme Court levels.
Ms. Alvarez Barakat has deep roots in Miami where she attended University of Miami School of Law, JD 1998, the University of Miami, School of Arts & Sciences, BA 1995 and Our Lady of Lourdes Academy High School 1991. She also has many affiliations, including the Florida Association for Women Lawyers, Gwen S. Cherry Black Women Lawyers Association, Women’s Chamber of Commerce, Dade County Bar Association, Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce, and the Granada Presbyterian Church. For Miami-Dade County Court, Group 20, Community Newspaper Recommends Michelle Alvarez Barakat.
JUDGE ANDREA RICKER WOLFSON FOR MIAMI-DADE COUNTY COURT, GROUP 24
Judge Andrea Ricker Wolfson was appointed to the County Court Bench in 2010. Ms. Wolfson was assigned to serve in the Criminal Division at the Hialeah Branch Courthouse where she presided over criminal and misdemeanor cases as well as civil domestic violence injunction hearings. Judge Wolfson currently serves at the Richard E. Gerstein Justice Building where she has presided over DUI, criminal traffic and misdemeanor cases. Prior to being appointed to the bench Judge Wolfson worked as an Assistant State Attorney were she prosecuted gang and gun violence cases including homicides and thousands of cases ranging from third to first degree felonies. As an Assistant State Attorney, Judge Wolfson supervised and trained over 50 attorneys and numerous certified legal interns. During her time at the State Attorney’s Office she dedicated her time to the Sexual Battery/ Child Abuse Unit. Judge Wolfson also spent some time serving as a Special Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida where she handled numerous complex cases.
Judge Wolfson is a graduate from the University of Notre Dame and earned a Master of Science in Biological Sciences from Southern Illinois University. She obtained her law degree from Chicago- Kent College of Law with Honors. Judge Wolfson gives of her time at domestic violence shelters and participates in numerous minority organizations such as the Minority Mentoring Picnic and the FIU Black Law Students Association.
For Miami-Dade County Court, Group 24, Community Newspaper Recommends Andrea Ricker Wolfson.
JACCI SUZAN SESKIN FOR MIAMIDADE COUNTY COURT, GROUP 27
Jacci Suzan Seskin will bring a lifetime of experience to the Bench. She currently works as an Assistant State Attorney for the Office of Katherine Fernandez Rundle. As a former Assistant Public Defender Ms. Seskin benefits from the unique experience of having worked both as a prosecutor and public defender which will make her a well-rounded judge. Jacci Suzan Seskin is a longtime resident of Miami-Dade County. Prior to becoming an attorney she worked as a registered nurse for over 25 years. She graduated from Florida International University Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelors of Science degree and proceeded to earn her JD at the University of Miami School of Law. Ms. Seskin also has experience working in the Guardian Ad Litem program for the Miami- Dade County Dependency Court and as Past Vice Chair of the Dade County Bar Juvenile Court Committee.
Ms. Seskin is also an active member of the Miami-Dade County community. She has served as Past PTA President of Ojus Elementary in North Miami-Dade. Ms. Seskin is also currently a Board Member of the Diabetes Research Institute Fundation at the University of Miami. As a two-time breast cancer survivor Ms. Seskin volunteers her time working with those who are battling with breast cancer and provides support to fellow survivors. Ms. Seskin is married with three children.
For Miami-Dade County Court, Group 27, Community Newspaper Recommends Jacci Suzan Seskin.
TANYA J. BRINKLEY FOR MIAMI-DADE COUNTY COURT, GROUP 28
For the past 17 years Ms. Brinkley has been a sole practitioner and has represented thousands of litigants in various areas of law, from civil matters involving issues of consumer disputes to criminal matters involving first-degree murder charges. For the past 12 years she has been a named partner in the firm Brinkley & Henrys, P.A. and currently practices in the areas of family and marital law, as well as criminal defense. Ms. Brinkley has represented countless defendants in both state and federal courts.
In 2004, the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Joseph Farina appointed Ms. Brinkley to the position of Civil Traffic Infraction Hearing Officer in the Traffic Division of Miami-Dade County Court. As a Traffic Hearing Officer, Ms. Brinkley has presided over more than 500,000 citations and in excess of 1,000 trials. She has demonstrated exceptional judgment and experience in presiding over hundreds of trials involving state and local law enforcement agencies, unrepresented litigants, and experienced defense attorneys.
Ms. Brinkley has experience in effectively and efficiently managing full courtroom staff while often presiding over more than 1,500 cases daily. Ms. Brinkley now also functions in an administrative capacity where she resolves various motions for relief and participates in training new hearing officers. Ms. Brinkley is actively involved in her community. She donates countless hours of pro bono legal services through various organizations in Miami-Dade County. Recently, she was awarded the 2010 Wilkie D. Ferguson, Jr. Bar Association Pro Bono Award and the 2009 Ray Pearson Guardian Ad Litem Pro Bono Award by the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Family Division Judges for her representation of children in contested family cases. Through the Legal Services Small Claims Law Clinic, Ms. Brinkley counsels lowincome litigants through the Miami-Dade County Court litigation process. She volunteers for Lawyers for Literacy, Florida Breast Health Initiative, and also serves as a Judge for the Miami-Dade County Teen Court, a juvenile delinquency diversionary program.
She attended Howard University in Washington, D.C., where she obtained her Bachelors of Business Administration in Finance in 1991. Ms. Brinkley earned her law degree from the University of Miami School of Law.
For Miami-Dade County Court, Group 28, Community Newspaper Recommends Tanya J. Brinkley.
JUDGE TERETHA LUNDY THOMAS FOR MIAMI-DADE COUNTY COURT, GROUP 33
MJudge Teretha Lundy Thomas has served as a Miami-Dade County Court Judge since 1993. Judge Lundy Thomas is currently the only African American Female Judge serving in Miami-Dade County. Judge Lundy Thomas is also the first African American female Administrative Judge in Miami-Dade County. She has presided over thousands of civil and criminal cases and both jury and non-jury trials. She was re-elected without opposition in 1996, 2000, and 2006. Prior to becoming a judge Ms. Lundy Thomas worked as an Assistant State Attorney for the Dade County State Attorney’s Office, Senior Assistant City Attorney for the city of Miami Beach, and City Attorney for the City of Opa-locka. Judge Lundy Thomas is a Miami native and proud graduate of Miami Jackson Senior High. She attended The University of Chicago and graduated from Brown University. After Brown, she worked for the U.S. Postal Service and then applied to law school. She was accepted at the University of Miami and University of Florida and chose to remain in her beloved hometown.
For Miami-Dade County Court, Group 33, Community Newspaper Recommends Judge Teretha Lundy Thomas.
JUDGE DON S. COHN FOR MIAMI-DADE COUNTY COURT, GROUP 40
In 2006 Judge Cohn was elected to the Miami- Dade County Court bench. Since his election Judge Cohn has clearly demonstrated his judicial ability, judicial experience, and judicial temperament. Judge Cohn has been assigned to preside over cases at the North Dade Justice Center, the Dade County Courthouse and the Coral Gables branch Courthouse. Judge Cohn has also been an Instructor at the state-wide County Court Judges Conference and is the Third District Representative which is a position for which he was elected by his fellow Miami-Dade County Court Judges.
Judge Cohn is a graduate of the University of Connecticut and the University of Miami’s Law School. He practiced law for thirty one years during which time he established his own law firm. He was admitted to the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, the Tenth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, the Fourth District Court of Appeals, the Eleventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, the Trial Bar U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, and in the year 2000 to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Not only has Judge Cohn established himself as a well respected jurist with knowledge, the ability to be fair, and is always showing respect to those who appear before him, additionally Judge Cohn is constantly giving back to the community. He is involved in many professional and community organizations and had received many community service awards.
For Miami-Dade County Court, Group 40, Community Newspaper Recommends Judge Don S. Cohn.