PREP Students Present Ethics Training to Miami-Dade County Attorneys and Public Defenders

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First Assistant County Attorney Geri Bonzon Keenan, Assistant County Attorney Erica Zaron, Noelia Vaccaro, Alessandria San Roman, County Attorney Abigail Price-Williams, Justin Boyd

Every semester Miami Law’s Professional Responsibility & Ethics Program visits with government attorneys in Miami to present customized CLE ethics trainings that explore unique ethical dilemmas in public service.  During the past spring semester, PREP students and PREP director Jan L. Jacobowitz returned to the Miami-Dade County Public Defender’s Office and to the Miami-Dade County Attorney’s Office.

PREP interns Nicole Comparato, Paige Comparato and Daniel Celaya engaged public defenders with current ethics issues dealing with opening statements, objections, attorney-client privilege, false testimony, technology, and mindfulness.

Focusing on ethical issues in pre-trial and trial practice, Act I and II of the three-act presentation sparked lively conversation among the lawyers. Act III, led by Celaya, combined an application of Florida’s recent technology amendments with an introduction to the benefits of mindful decision-making. “Knowing the best practices of professional responsibility is only one side of the coin," said Celaya. "Being able to mindfully react to situations enhances decision-making by increasing the chances that our actions will reflect best practices, particularly in emotionally charged and highly stressful situations.”

On the civil side of the law, PREP students Alessandria San Roman, Noelia Vaccaro, and Justin Boyd presented at the Miami-Dade County Attorney’s Offices and discussed ethical issues involving conflicts of interest, litigation holds, spoliation, and closing arguments, specifically the use of statements to appeal to the jury.

Providing a three-act hypothetical for County Attorney’s Office lawyers to consider, the law students invited discussion about the best practices for government attorneys. Act I, presented by San Roman, gave rise to a discussion about the challenges of representing government employees as well as County departments in litigation. “Often times, government attorneys have to confront conflict of interest issues in attempting to determine whether they may represent specific individuals as well as the governmental entities in legal proceedings,” said San Roman.

Act II, led by Vaccaro, incorporated matters of litigation holds and spoliation in litigation. “Conducting the research on complicated nuances in the law provided me with a firm grasp on these concepts. I particularly enjoyed discussing the issues with such a  knowledgeable and experienced audience,” said Vaccaro.

For fellow Justin Boyd, presenting Act III regarding issues in closing arguments was an enlightening conversation. “I enjoyed listening to the County attorney's share their personal experiences and relate it to the issues we discussed,” said Boyd.

PREP is an award-winning program, which develops continuing legal education ethics training for the legal community. The program combines the attributes of an ethics institute and an ethics clinic, and has dedicated hundreds of student hours to public service and has educated thousands of members of the Bench & Bar. During training, students are often able to make a positive impact on attendees by prompting them to consider and reconsider their approaches to some of the toughest ethical dilemmas that may arise in the practice of law.

In 2012, PREP was recognized by the ABA with its E. Smythe Gambrell Professionalism Award, the leading national award recognizing programs and projects contributing to the understanding and advancement of professionalism among lawyers and judges. In addition to presenting ethics training, throughout the semester PREP students publish blog posts regarding the nation’s newest ethics opinions. The blog, Legal Ethics in Motion, can be found here.