Haitian Lawyers Association's 19th Annual Scholarship Gala
March 16, 2017 | 5h12PM ET
MIAMI (Le Floridien) -- The Haitian Lawyers Association held its annual scholarship gala, Saturday, March 18, 2017, at the Miami Marriott Biscayne Bay Hotel.
The Haitian Lawyers Association is a non-profit voluntary bar association in the State of Florida that was founded in 1997. Its members include lawyers, law professors, law students, and judges who are of Haitian or Haitian-American descent as well as others who have a vested interest in issues that impact the Haitian community. HLA is dedicated to protecting and advocating for the legal rights of the Haitian community.
"Celebrating 20 Years of Excellence - PUSHING TOWARDS PROGRESS" was this year's theme. Held on the second floor ballroom, the 19TH ANNUAL SCHOLARSHIP GALA event was a raving success once again. It was a night of honor and entertainment, celebrating the great works the HLA performs throughout the year.
Three law students, Natacha Bien-Aimé (St. Thomas University), Reginald Guillaume (Florida International University) and Olestine Turenne (Nova Southern University) were honored as scholarship recipients.
The event kicked off around 7:30pm with a welcoming address by Master of Ceremony James Pierre. Attorney Ron Surin provided the invocation before the American and Haitian national anthems filled the ballroom as attendees honored the nation of their heritage as well as their adopted homeland.
Outgoing President Patricia Elizée, Esq. provided opening remarks. She addressed the audience and thanked the numerous law firms and local businesses that sponsored the event.
"It has been an honor serving as president of the Haitian Lawyers Association (HLA). With your help, we are able to continue to provide scholarship funds to law students of Haitian descent currently enrolled in south Florida law schools," said Mrs. Elizee.
The Honorable André Birotte. Jr., Judge of the United States District Court for the Central District of California, then took the stage as the keynote speaker to address the audience. The son of Haitian immigrants this past February ordered the Trump administration to stop blocking travelers trying to reach the U.S. from seven Muslim-majority countries, delivering the latest and largest blow yet to the president's extreme vetting policy.
This year's honorees were: Dr. Laurinus 'Larry' Pierre, Executive Director of the Center for Haitian Studies (CHS), who received the Leadership Award; The Honorable Joseph P. Farina, retired Chief Judge of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida received the Ally Award; Hans Ottinot, Esq. received the Member of the Year award; and the Haitian-American Nurses Association of Florida, Inc. (HANA) received the Advocacy Award.
Numerous well-known individuals, such as Miami-Dade Commissioner Jean Monestime, District 2, North Miami Mayor Dr. Smith Joseph, Marie Paule Woodson (Director, Human Services Division, Miami-Dade County Community Action and Human Services Department), and Johnson Napoleon, CEO of Azure College, were also in attendance.
A new Board of Directors for the HLA was sworn in by Judge Fred Seraphin, the first Haitian-American judge in Miami-Dade County. Lody Jean, Esq. replaced Patricia Elizee as President of the Board of Directors. Altanese Phenelus took over as Vice-President and Francesca Lucius as Treasurer. As President-Elect, Pedro Gassant will be in charge for the 2018-2019 period.
Lody Jean was born and raised in Haiti and is of Lebanese ancestry. She attended the University of Miami where she received her bachelor's degree in International Studies and Political Science, as well as a minor in Foreign Languages. Ms. Jean received her Juris Doctor from St. Thomas University School of Law, during which time she was a recipient of the Haitian Lawyers Association scholarship.
From August 2004 to June 2012, she served with the State Attorney in Miami-Dade County, first as an Assistant State Attorney and then as a Felony Division Chief. As a Deputy Chief, she prosecuted homicide cases and supervised Assistant State Attorneys. She is now the owner of Lody Jean, PA, specializing in immigration and criminal defense with a focus on deportation related matters.
The incoming Board of Directors President closed the event by expressing a heartfelt request for more professionals within the law field to join the organization.
Hors d-oeuvres, wine, and delicious entrees were served to the attendees who were dressed to impress. Entertainment was provided by well-known compas band Nu-Look for more than an hour until the event ended around 11:30pm.