The Orange County Bar Association - The Briefs - February 2022

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Diversity and InclusionCommittee Orange County Bar Association Unveils & Advances The Florida Bar Path to Unity Project


he Florida Bar’s Standing Committee on Diversity and Inclusion launched its Path to Unity project in Jacksonville in October 2021, approximately one year after the formal announcement of the project. Orlando was the second stop for the traveling exhibit, which honors Florida lawyers who contributed to diversity, inclusion, and equalJill Davis, Esq. ity in the legal profession. To tell the story of The Florida Bar’s evolution, the project highlights five trailblazing lawyers (including Orlando trial lawyer and activist Larry D. Smith) whose significant contributions paved the way for others based on their achievements championing race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and disability rights and issues. The Florida Bar’s Standing Committee on Diversity and Inclusion commissioned five college student artists to paint formal portraits of the five lawyers, and the portraits form a traveling exhibition that will hang in courthouses around the state. The Five Trailblazing Lawyers The five Floridians being honored as legal legends for breaking barriers of race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and disability are James Weldon Johnson, Anna Brenner Meyers, Judge Mario Goderich, Larry D. Smith, and James Kracht. James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938) became the first Black person admitted to The Florida Bar through an examination. Born in Jacksonville, he moved to Atlanta to attend high school and college because at the time Jacksonville only offered education through the eighth grade for Black students. He returned to Jacksonville to be the principal of Stanton Elementary School. Johnson expanded Stanton into a 12-year school and at the same time studied law, eventually winning admission to the Bar after examination by three lawyers and a judge (Johnson later recalled one of the lawyers left and refused to participate). Johnson was a novelist, historian, civil rights leader, and editor. In 1900, he wrote the poem “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which his brother later set to music. The song became known as the Black national anthem. Anna Brenner Meyers (1896-1983) was first a nurse and then a teacher in New York City, organizing the Medical Social Service of Israel Zion, working at the New York City Crime Prevention Bureau, and in the Emergency Relief Administration. After graduating from the Brooklyn Law School of St. Lawrence University, Meyers began practicing law in Miami and Miami Beach in 1936. Besides her law career, Meyers was chair of the Miami Beach Public Library Board of Trustees, chair PAGE 8

of the Greater Miami Women’s Division of Bonds for Israel, an organizer for Temple Beth Sholom, and was a long-time member of the Dade County School Board. She ran unsuccessfully for circuit judge in 1954 but continued her practice and service, including as treasurer and vice president of the Federation of Women Lawyers and on the Dade County Welfare Planning Council. In 1951, Meyers was a founding member and first president of the Florida Association of Women Lawyers (now the Florida Association for Women Lawyers). A year later, the group adopted its constitution and bylaws, which provided, “Its object shall be to advance the science of jurisprudence, to promote reform in the law, to facilitate the administration of justice, to uphold the highest standard of integrity, learning, honor and courtesy in the legal profession, and to cultivate a spirit of cordiality and fellowship among the members of the Bar and between them and the Bench.” Judge Mario Goderich began practicing law in Cuba in 1957 but came to Miami in 1961. Working non-legal jobs, Goderich enrolled in the University of Miami School of Law, graduating in two and a half years. It took another three years before he could become a citizen and then join The Florida Bar. He was admitted in 1969. He became the first president of the Cuban American Bar Association (“CABA”) in 1974 and was appointed as a judge of industrial claims the following year. In 1978, he was appointed as an 11th Circuit judge and was elected and reelected in 1980 and 1986. In 1990, he was appointed to the Third District Court of Appeal, where he served until retiring in 2005. In all of his judicial posts, he was the first Hispanic/ Cuban American to hold the post. His service has been recognized with many awards and honors, including the Lawyer of the Americans Award by the University of Miami InterAmerican Law Review, the Order of Democracy from the Republic of Colombia, the first Francisco Garcia-Amador Award from the University of Miami Law School Center for Hispanic and Caribbean Legal Studies, and the Jurist of the Year Award from St. Thomas University School of Law. Florida International University has a CABA merit scholarship in Goderich’s name. Larry D. Smith joined the Bar in 1984, and since then has made numerous civic and community contributions. He has advocated consistently for the LGBTQ community, including helping persuade Orlando to amend its human rights ordinance to prohibit workplace, housing, and public discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Similar successful efforts followed with the Orange County Board of Education, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, and the Orange County Commission. Smith organized the Central Florida Gay and Lesbian Law Association, the first LGBTQ bar association outside of South Florida, and is a past president. In 2013, he received the Diversity Leadership Award from the ABA Section of Litigation

theBriefs February 2022 Vol. 90 No. 2