ORLANDO – The key message in a seminar presented by the
Florida Association for Women Lawyers (FAWL) at the Florida Bar’s June convention
was that women should “never give up,” according to FAWL President Leora Freire,
who put together a course and panel focused on helping women make their way
through the judicial nomination process.
FAWL’s presentation “Road to the Bench: Getting On, and
Through, the JNC” was presented on June 16 at the Florida Bar event.
Women in law was one point of focus throughout the
conference following a Florida Bar study highlighting discrimination and other
difficulties for female lawyers. The convention also included a showcase presented
by the Young Lawyers Division’s Commission on Women on advancing women in the
“Keep trying; keep applying because Judicial Nominating
Commission (JNC) panels change, the pool of applicants change, governors
change, and your experiences change over time as well,” Freire told the Florida
Record. “All of those factors play a role, and all of them change at different
Freire said FAWL’s portion of the conference also covered
the steps involved in the judicial nomination process.
“Other than the overarching message to keep trying, there
was the obvious advice about making sure your application is completed fully
and properly, how to handle some difficult questions, how to select your
references, and general advice about the process,” Freire said.
The conference came while Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi
was facing public scrutiny in connection with her ties to presidential
candidate Donald Trump and her recent interview with Anderson Cooper of CNN
following the shooting at an Orlando nightclub.
The controversy surrounding Bondi’s ties to Trump stems from
reports that she accepted a contribution from Trump for her personal
re-election campaign while her office was considering whether to participate in
an investigation of alleged fraud at Trump University. A Trump family
foundation reportedly contributed $25,000 to Bondi’s re-election efforts in
September 2013. After the check from the Trump foundation was received, the
Florida attorney general’s office decided not to take part in the Trump
University investigation. The contribution also allegedly breaks rules related
to political contributions from charities.
In an interview with Cooper following the Orlando nightclub
shootings, Cooper questioned Bondi on statements made in court in 2014 that if Florida
recognized same-sex marriages performed in other states, that recognition would
“impose significant public harm” to Florida residents. Bondi told Cooper in the
interview that she never said she did not like homosexuals, and that her previous
comments only reflected her desire to abide by the state’s constitution.
While Freire declined to comment on Bondi, the specific
incidents surrounding the public outcry and how they relate to the need for or
challenges related to a greater female presence in the law, she did say “FAWL’s
mission is to seek gender equality, which includes equality on the bench and in
the profession as a whole.”
“We need to have the same opportunities made available to
women and men, which would allow women to elevate within their organizations at
the same pace as men,” Freire said. “The numbers show we are simply not there
yet. We still have work to do.”