Domenick Giovanni Lazzara moved to South Florida in 2004 to attend the University of Miami where he majored in Psychology and minored in Anthropology. While attending the University of Miami, Domenick was a member of the Club Rugby Team, he acted as a Miami Children's Hospital Play Room Volunteer and was also a Research Assistant in the Child Psychology Department, working specifically with Autistic children. He graduated with his Bachelors of Arts from UM in 2007.
Domenick spent one year after graduating college working for a financial services company, Northwestern Mutual. It was during his time studying and training to be a financial planner that he realized his true calling: to become a lawyer. Domenick started studying at St. Thomas University School of Law in 2009 after spending the summer as a Judicial Intern with the Honorable Ada B. Pozo. During his second year of law school, Domenick joined the Mock Trial Team and went on to compete in two mock trial competitions including the ABA Labor Law Mock Trial Competition and the American Association for Justice Mock Trial Competition, both in Miami, Florida, as well as receiving the Trial Team's Most Improved Award in 2010. Domenick was elected President of the St. Thomas Trial Team at the end of his second year and elected Chairman of the Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity Mock Trial Committee. Domenick began interning with Lawyers to the Rescue's Chairman of the Board Spencer Aronfeld during the summer before his third year of law school, and at the end of his internship became a full time Law Clerk with Mr. Aronfeld and Aronfeld Trial Lawyers. During this same summer, he was a Judicial Intern with the Honorable Jennifer Bailey and became actively involved with Lawyers to the Rescue, both Pro Bono Legal Aid opportunities.
Mr. Lazzara is an outstanding addition to several of Lawyers to the Rescue projects including working with individuals at the legal clinic for the homeless and recruiting law students to volunteer with Lawyers to the Rescue.
Law Student of the Year Award: Domenick G. Lazzara
Lawyers to the Rescue
Public Service Award
On February 28, 2012, Lawyers to the Rescue hosted its 2012 Public Service Award Event at the University of Miami Law School. Law students, legal service providers, distinguished Lawyers and individuals attended the event to honor the award recipients while showing their support for pro bono and community service programs.
Juris of the Year Award: Judge Scott Bernstein
Judge Scott Bernstein was born and raised in Miami, Florida. He received his B.A. at Vanderbilt University in 1981 and J.D. at the University of Florida College of Law, graduating with honors. He went into private practice from 1983 to 1998 with a large corporate firm and later in his own firm as sole practitioner, concentrating in commercial litigation and appellate practice.
From 1996 to 1997 he served as Traffic Magistrate, in 1998 was elected as a Circuit Judge and assigned to Juvenile Court so he could dedicate his Judicial career to the needs of Children. Judge Bernstein was the Chair of the 100th Anniversary Committee, which celebrated the founding of the first Juvenile court in the United States.
Judge Bernstein was Chair of Delinquency Case Management project for Miami Dade County Juvenile court, which significantly restructured the way Delinquency cases, are processed and greatly reduced the time delay in providing services for children. He was appointed to coordinate and manage the Unified Family Court Pilot Project for the Miami-Dade County Circuit Court. The Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court to the Statewide Commission appointed Judge Bernstein for Families and Children in the Courts and also chaired the Delinquency subcommittee.
Judge Bernstein lectures nationwide, teaching the Juvenile Law course for all newly appointed and elected Judges statewide at Florida Judicial College.
In 2002 Judge Bernstein presided over Dependency Drug Court, the Nation’s first treatment based specialty court dealing with issues of abuse, abandonment, and neglect. In 2002 Judge Bernstein was awarded with the Extraordinary Voices Award from Mothers Voices and in 2003 received the annual award for services to Children and the Guardian ad Litem Program from the Voices for Children Foundation. In 2008, the Dade County Bar Association presented Judge Bernstein with its Community Service Award.
Judge Bernstein serves as Chair of the Education Committee of the Florida Conference of Circuit Judges. The Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court also appointed Judge Bernstein Chair of the Standing Committee on Fairness and Diversity for the State of Florida for the next two years. The Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court also appointed Judge Bernstein to another term on the Standing Committee for Families and Children in the Courts.
Lifetime Achievement Award: Public Defender Bennett H. Brummer
Bennett Brummer has dedicated his life to public service, especially to providing legal services for the poor. He was born in New York City, came to Miami in 1958 and graduated from the University of Miami Law School in 1965. He has been admitted to practice law in Florida, New York, and the federal courts.
Elected to office in 1976, Bennett H. Brummer served eight consecutive terms as the County’s Public Defender.
Bennett Brummer provided novel, unwavering leadership and quality representation for hundreds of thousands of clients, despite often inadequate funding and limited resources. He was one of the first public defenders in the country to hire social workers to help defendants with drug addiction, trauma, and mental health problems.
Mr. Brummer is recognized as a national leader in promoting community partnerships to improve public policy, strengthen families and reduce crime and violence. During his tenure, Mr. Brummer also helped lead the fight for better funding for indigent defense, pulling his attorneys off hundreds of juvenile cases in 1992 because he said it would be unethical for his office to take on more cases than the attorneys could reasonably handle. He later refused to take more death penalty cases for the same reason. He took the issue all the way to the Florida Supreme Court and forced changes in the way public defenders across the state are funded.
Brummer even took his crusade for good representation for the poor to other countries, consulting around Latin America with governments setting up their own public defenders' offices. The Miami Herald has described Bennett Brummer as an “intelligent, cultivated and thoughtful public servant,” who “stick[s] up for those who can’t stick up for themselves.”
Lawyer of the Year Award: State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle
Since March 12, 1993, Katherine Fernandez Rundle has served Miami-Dade County as State Attorney. Prior to that, she dedicated 15 years as an Assistant State Attorney. When she later served as Chief Assistant, she acted as legal counsel to the Dade County Grand Jury. As such, she presented hundreds of murder and capital cases and oversaw the issuance of reports that initiated major reforms in such areas as juvenile justice and revision of the building code following Hurricane Andrew.
State Attorney Fernandez Rundle was a key partner in the creation of Miami-Dade's Juvenile Assessment Center. This facility is intended to improve the working of our juvenile justice system by collecting sufficient information on juvenile offenders in order to develop better overall justice programming, better diversion programs and create effective juvenile sentencing alternatives for offenders. As a part of the Miami-Dade County Juvenile Crime Task Force, Kathy helped create a new pilot program aimed at juveniles who have been arrested with guns in their possession. Recognizing the need to intervene with these kids before they commit a crime with a firearm, Kathy has brought the State Attorney's Office into a partnership with the Ryder Trauma Center of Jackson Memorial Hospital, aiming to bring the reality of living as a victim of gun violence back to those juveniles who are on the edge of potential violence.
Ms. Rundle has long recognized that the need to help children also entails getting them the financial support to which they were legally entitled. As the only State Attorney in Florida operating a Child Support Enforcement Office, Kathy recognized the urgent need to make the pursuit of delinquent child support payments easier. She created legislation which added such orders to the Florida Crime Information Computer (FCIC) accessible to every Florida police officer. This made every traffic stop in Florida an opportunity to provide needy children with their court ordered support. Those who refused to support their children and ignored a court order now faced a greater potential of arrest and appearance before a judge.
Through her tireless efforts, enthusiasm and community spirit, Ms. Rundle continues to provide encouragement and inspiration as she recruits the public to actively participate in the effort to make our neighborhoods safe.
Humanitarian of the Year Award: John Kozyak
John Kozyak is a founding partner of Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton and co-chairs the firm's bankruptcy practice. He graduated from Washington University School of Law in 1975 and has practiced in South Florida since then.
John’s expertise has been recognized by Best Lawyers In America, in every edition since it was first published in 1983. For the past four years, he was identified as one of its “Bet-the-Company” litigators in Florida. In addition, John is ranked as one of the top bankruptcy lawyers in Florida by Chambers USA in its America's Leading Lawyers For Business, which bases its objective rankings on extensive interviews with clients, lawyers and judges. In 2011, John was selected as one of the top 10 lawyers in Florida by Super Lawyers and named to Florida Trend’s Legal Elite Hall of Fame and identified as its top commercial finance litigator in 2011.
In 2004, the firm received the Supreme Court Chief Justice's Law Firm Commendation in recognition of its commitment to providing free legal services to those who cannot afford legal fees. In 2006, Mr. Kozyak received both the Florida Bar President's Pro Bono Service Award and the Florida Bar’s highest award for humanitarianism, The G. Kirk Haas Humanitarian Award. In 2007, John received the ABA's "Spirit of Excellence" award for his work in diversity. In 2011, he received the ABA Litigation Section’s Diversity Award and the Florida Bar’s Henry Latimer Diversity Award.
Mr. Kozyak has passionately promoted diversity and inclusion in the community, with particular emphasis on mentoring programs for black law school students throughout Florida and in St. Louis. The minority mentoring programs at the University of Miami is named after John. During the past ten years, he has personally matched more than 900 black students throughout Florida with judges and lawyers, who serve as mentors. He and his wife established the Kozyak Minority Mentoring Foundation, which hosts an annual minority mentoring picnic. In 2011, it attracted more than 3,000 law students, judges, lawyers and guests. John is very active in the community and proudly serves on the Executive Committee of the National Parkinson Foundation.
Young Lawyer of the Year Award:Jessica Laleh
Jessica Laleh hails from New York, where she graduated magna cum laude from Stony Brook University with a Bachelor's in English Literature. A graduate of the University of Miami School of Law, Jessica is a member in good standing with the Florida Bar. While earning her juris doctorate, Jessica received Dean's List recognition and earned membership onto the Charles C. Papy Moot Court Board. Having proven her skills early in a courtroom setting, she was a semi-finalist in the Clyde C. Atkins Advanced Moot Court Competition, where she was awarded Best Brief. She was also a Semi-Finalist that took 3rd place nationwide out of 47 teams at the 18th Annual Duberstein Bankruptcy Moot Court Competition and winning Outstanding Brief.
During law school, Jessica attained recognition as a Certified Legal Intern and used this certification to represent indigent clients of South Florida while working at the Dade Legal Aid Society. Her experience includes two Florida appellate court internships, where she worked closely with the Honorable Mark E. Polen of the Fourth District Court of Appeal and the Honorable Frank A. Shepherd of the Third District Court of Appeal.
Since graduating law school, Jessica has coached two Moot Court teams for the University of Miami School of Law. Her wealth of knowledge and experience were indispensable as the coach of the Constance Baker Motley Competition held at UCLA in California and the Burton D. Wechsler First Amendment Moot Court Competition held at American University in Washington D.C.
Jessica is presently an associate at the law firm of Koltun and Lazar, P.A., a boutique firm located in South Miami, where she is focused primarily in the areas of family and personal injury law. She also has private firm experience in insurance defense, bankruptcy and foreclosures.
As one of the most active members of Lawyers to the Rescue, Jessica has always been a reliable landmark at the legal clinics held monthly at Camillus House. She continues to reach out to members of the community by offering them guidance and providing pro bono legal representation at the clinics and beyond. Numerous needy individuals have been assisted by Jessica with their legal needs. As an example, Jessica recently assisted one such individual by representing him in a modification action in a family law case. But she hasn’t only helped people, in 2010 Jessica established a relationship between Lawyers to the Rescue and the Humane Society of Greater Miami, where lawyers can volunteer their time to the shelter and its residents. Lawyers to the Rescue is thrilled to watch Jessica as she continues to demonstrate her longstanding commitment to serving the community through public interest work and her involvement with the organization.
Jessica speaks English, Russian and conversational Italian.
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