President Gelpí's Recent Visit To Miami

On October 25, 2013, I traveled to Miami, Florida (a short two-hour flight from Puerto Rico). The South Florida chapter is very vibrant, strong and now our sixth largest chapter. I arrived in Miami at mid morning. Outgoing Chapter President Bernie Pastor picked me up at the airport for a full day's schedule.

At noon, Bernie and I met for lunch with the incoming (and, as of now, current) Chapter President Ana Maria (Ani) Martinez, who is an assistant U.S. attorney. Also present was Brett Barfield, past chapter president and current 11th Circuit vice president. The presidents of the law student divisions at University of Miami and St Thomas also joined us. We had a very productive talk about the chapter, its events and law student divisions. The student divisions at University of Miami and St. Thomas law schools, as well at Florida International College of Law, were launched this year. The respective deans are very supportive of this initiative. The chapter is also doing a fine job of recruiting law students.

The South Florida Chapter increased its membership by 40% during this past year; if we go back two years, the increase is more than 50%. The chapter won the Presidential Chapter Activity and Newsletter awards at the Puerto Rico Annual Convention. It has now a web page, a hard copy newsletter, a women's initiative, and a mentorship program for law students. Over 60 law students have signed up for the mentorship program. Each law student is assigned one or more chapter members as a mentor. The chapter also holds a variety of regular events, such as luncheons, brown bags, and an annual judicial reception (attended by over 800 attorneys and judges the last occasion). The chapter also has its own "sections"/practice areas. That is, it holds different events for civil and criminal practitioners, and the topics/themes encompass a broad spectrum of federal practice areas.

The chapter is also very diverse in its membership; not just as to ethnic or cultural origin, but as to areas of practice. For example, Ani Martinez, is a federal prosecutor in Miami; Bernie Pastor also served as an assistant U.S. attorney in Miami. Following lunch, Bernie and Ani took me to the federal courthouse for a meeting with the Hon. Federico Moreno, the chief judge for the Southern District of Florida. Judge Moreno informed me that he was very impressed with the FBA and informed me that the judges are quite active and supportive of the organization. This is always great to hear from my colleagues!

The day ended with the Annual Chapter Installation and Awards Dinner. The event was sold out and attended by 350 judges and attorneys, many whom I was able to personally meet. Most of the district, magistrate and bankruptcy judges (about 25 in total) were in attendance, some whom I previously knew. The judicial feedback about the FBA was extremely positive. Also, I was able to meet the U.S. attorney and federal defender for the district, as well as the deans of St. Thomas and Florida International law schools, all of whom provided very positive feedback about the FBA as well. During the dinner, the Hon. Stanley Marcus, U.S. Court of Appeals judge for the Eleventh Circuit (and also a former U.S. district judge and U.S. attorney) was honored. I had the opportunity to speak with him and he also was very supportive of the FBA. 

Hon. Gustavo A. Gelpí
FBA National President, 2013-2014.