Category Archive: Uncategorized

  1. National Hispanic Heritage Month Profile – Hon. Rubén Castillo (ret.)

    Leave a Comment

     

    What service to the Latino community impassions you?

    I was very privileged to serve the Latino community for more than 25 years as a federal judge, including six years as Chief Judge. It is my fond hope that my service inspired members of our Latino community to enter the legal profession and adopt Cesar Chavez’s “Si Se Puede” mentality. During my judicial tenure, I tried to interact with as many Latino students as possible so that they could see that judges are just plain human beings. I have been blessed to have mentored many young Latino professionals throughout my forty-year legal career. This is a small repayment for the many Latino attorneys and judges—like Justice David Cerda—who mentored me as a young attorney.

    I also would like to pay homage to all our dedicated Latino law enforcement officers. Because of my good friend Felipe Sanchez, I was able to serve as an Assistant United States Attorney for four years prior to becoming a judge. During those four years, and my entire judicial career, time and time again I saw dedicated Latinx law enforcement officers and prosecutors readily give their time and risk their lives for our community. These law enforcement professionals make us proud and thankful.

    During my next professional chapter, as a Big Law partner, I will continue to try to serve the Latino community by striving to consistently champion the twin goals of diversity in our legal profession and social justice.

    Sinceramente,

    Rubén Castillo

    Akerman LLP

  2. National Hispanic Heritage Month Profile – Jim L. Arce

    Leave a Comment

     

    What service to the Latino community impassions you?

    I am so fortunate to be where I am at and to hold the position that I currently hold. And I recognize that I am here through some combination of luck, hard work, and really fantastic mentors. That is why I am so passionate about doing my best to pay it forward; to be a resource for the next generation of Latinx lawyers; and to offer advice whenever and however I can. Although our community has made great strides in achieving more representation in the legal community, we still have a long way to go. There are a myriad of reasons for this, but one thing that current Latinx lawyers can do to help is to reach out, reach back, and lift up folks who want to be part of this profession. This is why I am happy to serve as the chair of the Pipeline Committee for HLAI. We want law students, undergraduate students, and even high school students to know that we are a resource for them. These resources range from scholarship opportunities to coffee on a weekday afternoon to answer some questions. If we, as Latinx lawyers, are going to realize our full potential as a driving force in the legal community, we have lay the ground work for future generations. The first step is to let folks know we are here for them and that we want to help.

    Jim L. Arce
    Assistant United States Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Illinois

  3. National Hispanic Heritage Month Profile – Andrea Belard

    Leave a Comment

     

    What service to the Latino community impassions you?

    I didn’t go to law school thinking I’d end up in Public Interest law or mentoring several students a year… it just happened that way and I couldn’t be happier! I have been working as an attorney for the Legal Aid Society for almost six years, assisting victims of domestic violence in our Hispanic community. Through this journey, I have had the honor to mentor more than a dozen law students – most of them Hispanic – and this has become my favorite part of my job.

    I think it’s very important that our law students feel welcomed, and feel like they belong in a profession in which we are certainly a minority. I am also honored to serve as the current President of the Hispanic Lawyers Association Charities, where we strive to support and mentor students in their law school journey.

    Andrea Belard
    Metropolitan Family Services, Supervising Attorney

  4. National Hispanic Heritage Month Profile – Nicholas Flores

    Leave a Comment

     

    What service to the Latino community impassions you?

    As a prosecutor, I am impassioned by treating everyone in the criminal justice system fairly, respectfully, and equally. That “everyone” includes victims of crime, witnesses to it, and—never to be forgotten—defendants accused of it. Latinos comprise a significant percentage of members in each of those categories. Thus, I am personally and professionally fulfilled by evaluating cases involving our community in terms of what makes us unique: how our families operate, what our shared values are, and what legal obstacles we face. Taking my oath of office solemnly, I aspire to exceed the high ethical standards required of my post to address the needs of our community and society at large.

    Deportation, for example, is a terrifying prospect that deters many from reporting domestic violence or sexual assault. It also deters Latinos in particular from testifying against dangerous persons, and, more insidiously, not accepting reasonable plea offers to get necessary therapy or avoid incarceration. In response, I take time to explain how participation in the process can protect families and victims, not by separating them from each other or punishing those who help them, but by equipping them with the tools to prevent further crimes and bettering the community overall. I explain as much each and every day, whether in a courtroom before a judge, in a police station with a witness or victim, or in one of many different community centers across the city to large groups of Latinos who simply want to know how the process works. Ultimately, I am impassioned to instill the Latino community with a justified sense of confidence in a system that can protect and help us all.

    Nicholas Flores
    Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office

  5. National Hispanic Heritage Month Profile – Martha-Victoria Jimenez

    Leave a Comment

     

    What service to the Latino community impassions you?

    The service to the Latino community that impassions me is mentoring young people and creating a pipeline into the legal profession so that the legal profession mirrors the community we serve. As a child of immigrant parents with little formal education, the prospect of a career in the law was daunting and became a goal I achieved only by figuring things out for myself along the way. I came to realize that most of my peers had “insider” knowledge and social capital that I lacked. Their advantage was powerful. While they may not have been smarter or more driven, their journey into the law was much easier. Once I was an attorney, in both my government and private roles, I have had the benefit of outstanding mentors and sponsors that have encouraged me and guided my steps. As a result, whenever I have the opportunity, I try to be the person I needed.


    Martha-Victoria Jimenez

    Supervisor at the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, Civil Actions Bureau

  6. National Hispanic Heritage Month Profile – Ernesto R. Palomo

    Leave a Comment

     

    HLAI is proud of the work of its members, like Ernesto, particularly during this month. Please read his personal statement below.

    What service to the Latino community impassions you?

    Beginning on the day he announced his candidacy for President, the current occupant of the White House branded Latino immigrants as “rapists” and “drug dealers” and a drain on public resources. During a presidential debate, the candidate told the entire country that “[w]e have some bad hombres here, and we’re ‎going to get them out.”‎ He referred to Latino immigrants as an “infestation” and advocated that undocumented immigrants should be deported immediately without any due process. As President, he adopted a hardline stance on immigration and literally ripped immigrant children away from their parents in order to discourage immigration from Mexico and other Latin ‎American countries.‎ These sentiments have incited horrific violence against the Latino community.

    Based in large part on the Administration’s complete disregard for the humanity of our community, I decided to volunteer my services towards defeating the controversial “citizenship question” from appearing on the 2020 U.S. Census. The Census Bureau itself concluded that the citizenship question may be a determining factor for millions of Latinos in deciding whether to participate in the 2020 Census. The inevitable undercounting of Latinos would cause Latino communities to lose federal funding in critical areas such as education, healthcare, and other social services. It would cause a dilution of political power in the Latino community and may actually prevent non-English-speaking Latino citizens from exercising their right to vote. Finally, it would reduce capital investments in the Latino community and hinder emergency responders from adequately preparing to deal with natural disasters in Latino communities. I lead a team of Locke Lord LLP attorneys in drafting an Amicus Curiae brief filed on behalf of LatinoJustice PRLDEF and 15 other Latino organizations in the United States Supreme Court case Department of Commerce v. New York. On June 27, 2019, the Supreme Court blocked the citizenship question from the 2020 Census. This was most rewarding experience of my legal career, and I encourage all HLAI members to take on causes that protect the rights of the Latino community.

    A link to the Amicus Curiae brief can be found here – https://www.supremecourt.gov/DocketPDF/18/18-966/95012/20190401170211513_18-966%20Amicus%20Brief.pdf

    Ernesto Rafael Palomo

  7. National Hispanic Heritage Month Profile – Daniel R. Hernandez

    Leave a Comment

     

    What service to the Latino community impassions you?

    Serving my Latinx brothers and sisters impassions me. I have built a law practice where our only billing method is a reasonable flat-monthly fee. A majority of the Firm’s clients are Spanish speaking only and earn wages that disqualify them from receiving pro bono services, however, they cannot afford the uncertainty of the traditional hourly rate. Our fee structure has assisted so many Latinx clients, who only dreamed of affording a lawyer. My ability to communicate with them in Spanish creates a level of openness where the client feels no judgment based on their immigration status or legal situation.

    My service to the Latinx Community is also at the heart of my volunteer work. I am proud that I regularly receive pro bono Guardian Ad Litem appointments for children who only speak Spanish. This provides a level of protection and comfort to children within the Domestic Relations realm. As Vice President of the Board of Directors at Between Friends, a nonprofit committed to ending domestic violence, I regularly meet with and work on behalf of a majority Latinx client population. I also advocate on LGBTQ Latinx legal issue through my work and leadership at the Annual LGBTQ Summit by the Hispanic National Bar Association. The summit brings together LGBTQ Latinx attorneys and empowers them to build and advocate for a stronger LGBTQ Latinx community.

    My service, through my practice and volunteer work, presents multiple touch points of individual conversations that strongly impact the Latinx Community. You see, by having a conversation in Spanish, you can calm someone’s worries, relieve their stress, and empower them with the confidence to continue forward. By bringing together Latinx attorneys and having conversations concerning our community, we progress policy issues by way of the courts and legislature. These conversations become small acts. when multiplied, bring the community together truly progress it forward.

    Daniel R. Hernandez

  8. National Hispanic Heritage Month Profile – Leilani Pino

    Leave a Comment

     

    What service to the Latino community impassions you?

    My driving force as a first generation Cuban-American attorney is to encourage Latinx students to join me in the courtroom. Since I began practicing, I continue to find myself being the only Hispanic attorney in the courtroom. I have made it my mission to inspire Latinx students to realize their potential for a practice in litigation. I work with several organizations to assist Latinx law students in their clerkships and internships so they can be better prepared for their future practice. I also regularly reach out to my network of attorneys to help guide Latinx law students. I am committed to changing the future legal landscape by including as many Latinx lawyers as I can and I hope others to do the same.

    Leilani Pino

  9. National Hispanic Heritage Month Profile – Leynee A. Cruz

    Leave a Comment

     

    What service to the Latino community impassions you?

    In my probate and estates practice, I work extensively with individuals and families navigating loss. For Latino families, these legal processes can be even more intimidating and difficult to traverse. It has been my privilege to assist families from all backgrounds in every aspect of probate and guardianship administration and litigation. I am also proud to be able to help on a volunteer basis with the Center for Disability & Elder Law in Chicago and other organizations where I have advised, drafted and executed estate planning documents for low-income elderly and disabled clients, many of whom have been Latinos. It has also been my honor to assist Cuban national beneficiaries working alongside attorneys in Havana, Cuba.

    It is through service to others that I find fulfillment, whether as a volunteer, guardian ad lidem, or in my daily work. Any contribution that I can make to the Latino community, particularly the elderly and disabled, through my work has rewarded me beyond words. I will continue to give back to Latinos with my legal expertise and through my presidency of HLAI and beyond. I encourage you to do the same and connect with our organization in the furtherance of service to others.

    Leynee A. Cruz,
    President 2019/20