Children & Youth Law Clinic Intern and second-year law student Frank Florio recently presented an oral argument before the Third District Court of Appeal.
Frank Florio (center) with fellow clinic students Ashley Singrossi, Zohra Khorashi, and Christina Robinson and Clinic Professor Kele Stewart.
Florio advocated for a young woman who had aged out of foster care to receive federal funds, known as Education and Training Vouchers (ETV), to assist her with living expenses while in college. Congress created the ETV program to provide financial assistance to former foster youth enrolled in post-secondary education, as a way to help reverse homelessness, incarceration and other poor outcomes commonly experienced by foster youth after they leave care.
"It was an amazing experience and an unbelievable opportunity that I was only able to fulfill because of my participation in the Children and Youth Law Clinic,” said Florio, who is certified to speak in court and appeared under the supervision of clinical professor and co-director of the clinic Kele Stewart.
The case was on appeal from an adverse decision by an administrative hearing officer. The client was eligible for ETV under federal law; however, the hearing officer relied on a Florida rule that applied narrower eligibility requirements precluding the client from receiving aid. The Clinic argued that federal law should prevail over the conflicting state rule.
Preparing for oral argument was a team effort.
"I learned so much during practice rounds with professors, fellow clinic students and outside attorneys,” said Florio. “When I stood before the judges I felt totally prepared.”
Practice judges included clinical professors Stewart, Bernard Perlmutter, Robert Latham and Craig Trocino; LCOMM professors Christina Frohock and Annette Torres; Professor Charlton Copeland, who teaches administrative law, and several lawyers from local firms.
“It was thrilling to see our students arguing a real case before real judges,” said attorney and adjunct professor Harvey Sepler. “The judges questioned Frank as vigorously as any attorney arguing before them and he was tremendous.” Sepler is a Senior Assistant Public Defender who teaches a course on appellate advocacy and coaches the Charles C. Papy, Jr. Moot Court teams at the Law School. He also helped coach Florio for the Third DCA argument.
"This case represents the hard work of clinic students over several semesters on behalf of a client who dreams of becoming a lawyer herself, and is determined to overcome the setbacks she had early in life,” said Stewart.
Former interns Jessica Goldberg, Giordi Valdivia and Amanda Powell worked on the administrative hearing, while Garrett Keane and Karissa Stigall helped draft the briefs on appeal.