Carlos Reyes Featured for Success of Broward County Hispanic Bar Association

The Broward County Hispanic Bar Association—Thirty Years Later

The Broward County Hispanic Bar Association (BCHBA) is celebrating its 30-year anniversary during its annual gala June 1. In light of this achievement, the BCHBA will be honoring its beginnings by interviewing several of the BCHBA’s past presidents, and asking how and why the organization was started.

By Alicia Gonzalez | May 21, 2019 at 09:29 AM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Alicia Gonzalez, associate with Weiss Serota Helfman Cole & Bierman in Fort Lauderdale.

The Broward County Hispanic Bar Association (BCHBA) is celebrating its 30-year anniversary during its annual gala June 1. In light of this achievement, the BCHBA will be honoring its beginnings by interviewing several of the BCHBA’s past presidents, and asking how and why the organization was started.

One of the BCHBA’s founding members and its first president, Judge Marina Garcia-Wood of the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit, recalled in her interview what inspired her to start the organization, stating “In the fall of 1988, I came to Broward County for a new legal opportunity and I found myself feeling isolated. I would go to court, and I wouldn’t see people on the bench … [or] … attorneys that looked like me or sounded like me.” That was when Garcia-Wood decided to do something about it.

She was introduced to attorney Carlos Reyes (of the Reyes Law Group), who would become BCHBA president from 1991 to 1992. Reyes was also motivated to create a networking community for Hispanic attorneys and judges in Broward County. The group started small. “Back then, we were a rag-tag team of about 15 people or so,” Reyes recounted.

In an age without the internet, Garcia-Wood consulted the Bar Journal (the “phone book” of Florida attorneys) writing letters to lawyers and judges in Broward County with Hispanic surnames, inviting them to the organization’s first meeting. Garcia-Wood told Reyes that if anyone showed up, she would consider it a success. Thankfully, 25 people showed up to the first meeting, and the BCHBA was formed.

“It was a great beginning that I hope will continue given that the Hispanic population in Broward County has increased,” said Mariaelena Gayo-

Guitian, a bankruptcy attorney at Genovese Joblove & Battista and BCHBA president from 1997 to 1998.

In 1980, Hispanics in Broward County made up a mere 4% of the population. Currently, Hispanics make up 28.4% of the Broward County population—it is no longer rare to see people who “sound like us or look like us” on the bench or practicing.

The BCHBA founding members fought hard for the Hispanic legal community of Broward County, both in supporting Hispanic judicial candidates as well as lobbying the governor to appoint Hispanic attorneys to the Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC).

Catalina Avalos, former president from 2003 to 2004 and an attorney with Tripp Scott, recalls that the BCHBA “helped promote diversity in a county that needed a little help promoting diversity.” Avalos advises the future boards to build bridges between the BCHBA and the community in order to continue pursuing that goal.

Currently, the BCHBA remains committed to being a platform for Hispanic legal professionals and students to connect with one another, with an emphasis on charitable community outreach. During its annual gala, the BCHBA recognizes individuals and groups who have contributed to the growth and prosperity of the Hispanic community in South Florida and awards scholarships to deserving law school students from various law schools in South Florida. Aside from its annual gala, the BCHBA hosts several events throughout each year for its membership and the Hispanic Broward County community in general. The annual events include continuing legal education seminars, charitable events, an annual domino

tournament and various joint events with other volunteer bar associations and organizations.

The sitting president of the BCHBA, Diana Salomon, a criminal, family and personal injury attorney, explained what the BCHBA means to her in this more diverse Broward County that the BCHBA past presidents helped to build: “More important than ever, being a part of the BCHBA has allowed us to help our community regardless of race, religion or cultural background. We are an example of the average Hispanic in this country; hardworking, family-oriented and willing to sacrifice for the community. This is why I am very proud to be a part of this great association,” said Salomon.

“Being Hispanic lawyers is a part of us. The reality is we live in the greatest country in the world and we have the ability to make a difference in everything we do,” said Reyes.

The BCHBA gala will be held June 1, 6:30 p.m. at Pier Sixty-Six Hotel & Marina, 2301 SE 17th St, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33316. The keynote speaker of the Gala is Ariana Fajardo Orshan, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. Tickets may be purchased on the June 1, 2019, page at www.blacktie-southflorida.com.

Written by Reyes Law Group