This past weekend I had the honor of speaking at the Greater Tampa Bay Area Council’s Law Merit Badge Day Program. Judge Thomas Palermo organized the event and served as the Law Merit Badge Counselor.

The Law Merit Badge Day is a unique experience that allows Boy Scouts interested in legal careers to complete the requirements for the Scout Law Merit Badge and provides an opportunity for Scouts to learn about criminal law, civil law, legal history, and the opportunity to participate in a mock trial with real judges and lawyers.

I had the opportunity to talk about my work as an advocate for justice for policyholders at Merlin Law Group. Astrid Guardado, an attorney at Bush Ross and President of the Tampa Hispanic Bar Association, and I spoke about several different areas of law as well and answered questions from the Scouts about being an attorney.

Here at Merlin Law Group, I get to wake up every single day and fight for policyholders’ rights against insurance companies. Lawyers at their very core are changemakers. Being a lawyer allows you the opportunity to really help people. It’s an awesome responsibility that I take very seriously. I love doing what I do, and I always get such an incredible sense of fulfillment speaking to the next generation of future lawyers about this noble profession.

Judge Palermo said:

Professional development starts early. In this case, it started with 61 Scouts from across the Fort Brooke District (Hillsborough County) and also some from the broader Greater Tampa Bay Area Council. The Scouts came to the George E Edgecomb Courthouse to Courtroom 1 at the 13th Judicial Circuit. The Scouts came to earn their Law Merit Badges.

To help them, a large group of volunteers came together. This included:

Circuit Judge Darren Farfante, 13th Circuit
District Judge Susan Rothstein-Youakim, 2nd DCA
District Judge Suzanne Labrit, 2nd DCA
Martin Hernandez, Fernandez and Hernandez, LLC
Amy Casanova-Ward, ASA, 13th Circuit (LTA ECU; Scout leader)
Alex Haddad Palermo, corporate counsel, Syniverse Technologies
Tiffany Oshiro, APD, 13th Circuit
Justin Fahringer, APD, 13th Circuit
Tracie Reese, APD, 13th Circuit
Jocelyn Small, APD, 13th Circuit
Lyndsey Siara, Staff Attorney, 13th Circuit
Richard McDonald, ASA, 13th Circuit (Eagle Scout)
Rocky Brancato, Chief Assistant Public Defender, PUBLIC DEFENDER CORPORATION FOR 13TH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT (Eagle Scout)
Danielle Villamil, ASA, 13th Circuit
Amy Currotto, Esq., Merlin Law Group
Astrid Guardado, Bush Ross (and President of the TAMPA HISPANIC BAR ASSOCIATION)
Steven Ray, Special Agent, Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS)
Mike Furgason, Assistant Special Agent in Charge, DEA
Lindsay Shaffer, Special Agent, DEA
Joe Pelz, Special Agent, DEA
Brett McKean, Special Agent, ATF
Matt Kamat, Lieutenant, Tampa Police Department (Eagle Scout)
Ryan Flannigan, Corporal, Tampa Police Department
Dayle Urquhart, Voices for Children of Tampa Bay
Lorne, the amazing Court Facility dog
Judge Michael Baggé-Hernández (guest appearance)
John Guard
Ben Sheaffer

In addition to those above, special thanks to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (two bailiffs assisted first thing in the morning and the Sheriff provided other support for the program), the Office of the Public Defender for the 13th Judicial Circuit (Hillsborough County)(Julie Holt) (in addition to all of the wonderful volunteer support, sending the Chief Assistant to lead the Scouts in the Pledge of Allegiance), and the 13th Judicial Circuit for opening up the George Edgecomb Courthouse and Courtroom 1 for this program.

Thank you for Katie Sheffield and Jeremy Twachtman for the support in getting the program together.

And a special thanks to Chief Judge Ronald Ficarrotta for not just supporting the program and Scouts but also for ensuring the day was first class and for letting me use his courtroom and lending me his mega gavel.

There are definitely some future lawyers and judges in that group of Scouts!

Thought of the day:

Being a lawyer is not merely a vocation. It is a public trust, and each of us has an obligation to give back to our communities.
—Janet Reno