Photo from left to right: Brion Blackwelder, Joel Mintz, and Richard Grosso will spearhead a national conference in 2014 that will address issues concerning energy law and policy.
Faculty and Staff Community Engagement
It is no surprise that NSU was named to the 2013 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). This designation is the highest honor a college or university can receive for its commitment to volunteering, service learning, and civic engagement. Community engagement is one of NSU’s eight core values, and a core value of the NSU Law Center: “We believe and model the assumption of leadership roles and service to the community.”
This past year, 95 students from the class of 2013 qualified for pro bono honors recognition at graduation by performing at least 50 hours of pro bono service. In total, all the students who participated in the Pro Bono Honors Program volunteered 23,688 hours of pro bono legal work while in law school. This total number of pro bono service hours is the equivalent of more than 470 workweeks (at 50 hours per week) or more than 9.5 years of service (at 50 workweeks per year). The number of students who participated, and the number of pro bono hours performed continues to grow each year. Throughout the school year, many NSU Law Center student organizations also raise funds, hold collections for donations, and volunteer their time for a variety of local and national charities.
Not only are NSU Law Center students involved in bettering the community and demonstrating that core value, but so are many faculty and staff members. Faculty and staff members at the NSU Law Center like to lead by example and show that they fully embody the mission to provide service to the community. Here are some of their stories.
Brion Blackwelder, professor of law and director of the Children and Families Clinic, is involved in a variety of environmental policy and preservation organizations. For almost 30 years, Blackwelder has been an appointed member of the Broward County Water Resources Advisory Board, which addresses drinking water resources, storm water drainage, and water conservation of the entire county. His involvement in the Broward County Climate Change Task Force helped develop the Climate Change Action Plan. The task force was developed in response to an increasing sea level rise; variation in storms; and temperatures affecting the county now and in the decades ahead. Furthermore, his involvement in the Broward County
Sierra Club Political Committee supports public interest aspects of health and natural resource conservation. When not advocating for the local environment, Blackwelder also volunteers his time as a member of the Legislative Delegation Elections Task Force of 2013. The task force was created by Florida State Senator Eleanor Sobel, and the delegation was created to evaluate voting problemsâ€”like long lines and uncounted ballots.
For Blackwelder, his involvement in these organizations helps “keep tabs on public policy and nudges it for environmental quality. The teamwork and cooperation built over years of attentiveness is paying off for our local community. Broward County now has extensive environmental monitoring, and it uses and promotes green buildings and construction.
Additionally, the county is making strides in finding ways to increase energy savings in transportation, preserve the Everglades and area parks, and encourage wildlife conservation,” he said. The most gratifying aspect for him is, “knowing I am on the good side of things and that I support the people and organizations that care and make a difference.”
Joel Mintz, professor of law, is a champion for change and a member (since 2003) of The Center for Progressive Reform (CPR), a Washington, D.C.-based “green think tank.” He works with scholar members to promote reform of federal and state regulation of public health and safety, the environment, and the workplace. Its members include law professors, economists, and scientists from universities around the United States. The members volunteer their time by writing reports, books, and white paper documents, as well as testifying before Congressional committees and subcommittees. His work with CPR has helped “prevent the passage of some ill-advised, anti-environmental legislation” and was of assistance to the Environmental Protection Agency and Occupational Safety and Health Administration in their regulatory efforts.
Mintz is also a member of the American Law Institute (ALI), which consists of distinguished law professors, judges, and practicing attorneys who develop and discuss Restatements of the Law and other authoritative documents that are intended to reform selected areas of U.S. law. He has been a member since 2009, and during that time, has been part of the development of an environmental law project that has helped cast light on an important new area of focus for the organization.
Locally, Mintz has been on the board of directors and chaired the litigation screening committee of the Everglades Law Center since the 1990s. The center is a nonprofit, environmental public interest law firm that works to protect the Everglades and the Florida Keys through strategic, public interest lawsuits. His work with the organization has helped make significant contributions to Everglades protection and environmentally sensible growth and development in South Florida. “My involvement with each of these organizations has given me the opportunity to contribute to causes and projects that are important to me. It has also provided me with wonderful opportunities to meet, work with, and know many like-minded people with similar interests and goals,” Mintz said.
Richard Grosso, professor of law and director of the Environmental and Land Use Law Clinic, is also an advocate for environmental preservation. Along with his law students in the clinic, he helps provide legal and policy advice to environmental organizations, representing them in nonlitigation and litigation settings, helping to restore and protect the Everglades. He gives advice, counsel, and representation to environmental organizations frequently throughout the year as they advocate before various county, regional, state, and federal agencies.
He has also been involved with the Everglades Coalition for more than 20 years. The Everglades Coalition is an alliance of 57 local, state, and national conservation and environmental organizations dedicated to full restoration of the Greater Everglades Ecosystem - from the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes into Lake Okeechobee, through the “River of Grass,” out to Florida Bay and the Keys. The coalition works in the public arena to inform decision-makers on the collective view of the conservation community regarding the greater Everglades ecosystem.
Most recently, Grosso has been and will be working with Broward County staff members and officials concerning the significant initiative to respond to sea level rise in the community. Broward County is one of four counties in Southeast Florida to create a regional climate compact, which is now a national model for regional cooperation on what is today’s defining environmental issue â€” rising sea levels and the effects on coastal communities. He provides legal and policy advice, and he speaks at and moderates various forums conducted for municipal and county officials in Southeast Florida and around the country.
In 2014, Blackwelder, Mintz, and Grosso are taking their advocacy of environmental preservation to a national level. The professors are spearheading a national conference (“Energy, Climate Disruption, and Sea Level Rise: New Directions in Law and Policy”) aimed at addressing the many issues concerning energy law and policy. Public interest groups, practicing attorneys, scientists, scholars, policy makers, and those interested in myriad environmental issues will be present to brainstorm on a variety of topics such as sea level rise, “green” building, and alternatives to fossil fuels. The conference is of increasing significance to the
local community because almost all of Florida is at, or very close to, sea level and there has been increasing flooding of developed areas, along with salt water intrusion into fresh water sources.
Michael J. Dale, professor of law, helps protect the rights of the most vulnerable members of our community: children. Dale is a founder, the first executive director, and currently a board member of the Youth Law Center in San Francisco, a public interest law firm he helped start in 1978. The firm works to protect children in the nation’s foster care and justice systems from abuse and neglect.
He also currently serves as a board member of the Florida Association of Counsel for Children (FACC) - part of the National Association of Counsel for Children (NACC), a nonprofit child advocacy and professional membership association dedicated to providing high-quality legal representation for children. The Florida Association of Counsel for Children advocates “for every child who is a party to child welfare proceedings in the state of Florida to be represented by a competent attorney who has the time and training to effectively represent the child.”
Dale has been a longtime supporter of these organizations and regularly attends fund-raisers and other events to support these groups. In 2009, Dale received the Robert Oliphant Service award from the National Institute for Trial Advocacy for his exemplary service as a program director, teacher, and leader in the child advocacy programs.
Last spring, Dale organized a national symposium “Improving Outcomes for Children: The American Bar Association (ABA) Model Act Governing the Representation of Children in Abuse, Neglect, and Dependency Proceedings.” The ABA Model Act requires the appointment of a lawyer for every child and youth in abuse or neglect proceedings in which the state has removed the child from the home. The model act outlines a set of standards, duties, and mechanisms that states can put in place to ensure the provision of high-quality, effective lawyering for children. Leading children’s rights advocates from Florida and across the country discussed designing strategies for implementing the ABA’s model act on representing children in child welfare cases. Dale helped develop this symposium to help highlight the urgent need for lawyers to help protect the rights of abused and neglected children in all court proceedings.
Michael Masinter, professor of law, has been a member of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida (ACLUFL) since 1978, when he became a member of the NSU Law Center faculty. According to the organization’s mission, it is “the guardian of liberty, working daily in courts, legislatures, and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties
guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.”
Masinter currently serves on the board of directors executive committee and is chair of the legal panel with principal responsibility for reviewing and approving proposed ACLUFL litigation. Since he joined the organization, he has helped bring lawsuits as an ACLUFL cooperating attorney that have culminated in a class action consent decree ending racially discriminatory employment testing in the Palm Beach County Fire Rescue Service. Additionally, his involvement helped produce a precedent-setting decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals enforcing the prohibition against familial status discrimination in a Tamarac development.
In his role as a board member, he has assisted in the development of major ACLUFL litigation conducted by ACLUFL staff attorneys. This litigation within the past year has produced judgments prohibiting Florida from enforcing a statute requiring applicants for public assistance to undergo mandatory, suspicionless drug testing; prohibiting Rick Scott, Florida’s governor, from requiring state employees to undergo mandatory, suspicionless drug testing; and requiring Florida to offer expanded early voting in the 2012 election.
Masinter believes that his work through the ACLUFL has made an impact on the community because thousands of Florida families who need temporary cash assistance will be able to get help without submitting to suspicionless drug testing. Additionally, many Floridians were able to vote because of expanded early voting hours during the 2012 election. Masinter feels that by “volunteering for the ACLUFL, it fulfills my sense of duty to defend the Bill of Rights for those who most need its protection.”
Chad Moulder, Todd Hauser, and Karen Rose, Law Library and Technology Center staff members, founded a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing material support for public school educators to offset out-of-pocket expenses associated with teaching.
For many years, Moulder has been collecting school supplies and gift cards for public school teachers. Moulder states that, “if we are to rely on teachers to inspire and educate children, then we should really try, in any way we can, to help them do that.” Through his efforts, and with some help from his friends, last year he was able to collect enough materials and money to completely supply three entire classrooms (64 students) in a Title I girl’s school for low-income students. This outpouring of generosity spurred Moulder to do more.
Moulder approached his NSU Law Center colleagues, Rose and Hauser, and asked them to help him research ways in which assistance to public school educators could be provided. During the research phase, they found that the average public school teacher will spend approximately $1,000 out of pocket on items they need just to teach their class, and that public school teachers have a 46 percent washout rate within their first five years of teaching. The number one reason given for people exiting the profession was that classrooms were underfunded and there was a general lack of basic supplies.
Together, the trio founded the Abecedary Fund in January 2013. Their goal is that, with enough funding, educators would be able to realize their teaching goals without having to worry about taking on additional jobs. Currently, their fund-raising focus has been to attract young and socially active people into helping the cause with innovative fund-raising events like film festivals.
Jennifer Jarema, director of communications, publications, and special events at the NSU Law Center, has been a board member for the Miami/Fort Lauderdale affiliate of Susan G. Komen since 2009. During the past four years, Jarema, along with her fellow board members, has helped raise more than $12 million through such events as the annual Race for the Cure in downtown Miami.
The money raised has provided funding to more than 35 nonprofit organizations, public health agencies, and community groups in South Florida (Broward, Miami-Dade, and Monroe counties) dedicated to furthering the Komen mission to save lives and end breast cancer. Through these organizations, the money is used for projects that benefit a diverse group of individuals within the community including uninsured and underinsured, high-risk, LGBT, minorities, and low income individuals. Although all of the programs vary, each of the group’s missions is clear - to increase breast cancer awareness through education and to provide the community with access to the resources needed to help save lives.
Jarema’s motivation to get involved in this organization came from an unforgettable personal experience. Only four years old at the time, Jarema witnessed her grandmother’s battle with
the disease that ultimately took her life. As the youngest member of the board of directors at the affiliate, Jarema feels it is her mission to educate and spread awareness to young women and men about knowing the risk factors, the importance of early detection and self-exams, and the steps one can take for overall breast health.
According to the National Cancer Institute, based on current breast cancer incidence rates, experts estimate that about one out of every eight women born today will be diagnosed with
breast cancer at some time during her life. Jarema states that “having seen firsthand the battles that have been fought and lost with breast cancer, it was important to me to volunteer with this organization as a way to honor my grandmother, as well as all the women, men, and families that have been affected by this disease. It is extremely fulfilling to help so many and turn a
tragedy into an opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives.”