Woman on fire: Lavina Johnson’s crusade for justice

first_img November 1, 2005 Regular News Passion burns for woman who has become the ‘unofficial’ spokeswoman for the Kids Deserve Justice plate Camille Murawski Special to the News When Lavina Johnson was just 10 years old, she gripped a pistol with both hands and placed it in her mouth. Lavina had been sexually molested since she was 2, and she was tired, so very tired. Surely, she thought, it would be better to die than to live.Tears rolled down her cheeks as Lavina paused. She noticed the bitter taste of gunpowder residue on the cold hard barrel. Somewhere, in the distance, a child laughed. In the span of that moment, Lavina had one new thought on her mind: “I want to live.”Lavina Johnson, now 38, has crawled from the abyss of despair that day in Paterson, N.J., to become the unofficial spokeswoman for the Kids Deserve Justice specialty license plate. Kids Deserve Justice, one of Florida’s newest specialty tags, funds free legal services for children. Every dollar of the $25 cost of Kids Deserve Justice will go toward grants administered through The Florida Bar Foundation. The Foundation began funding special legal services programs for children in 1999, and last year awarded $697,000 to 15 programs throughout the state. Since the plate’s April debut, sales and donations have recently passed $11,000.The funds generated from the sale of the plate will be used in a variety of ways, including representation of abused or neglected children in dependency court, helping parents advocate before school officials to obtain special education testing and services for their children, helping low-income children gain access to health care, and helping older individual foster children receive the intended services necessary for them to successfully transition out of state care and avoid homelessness.Much of the work done by Foundation-funded children’s legal aid projects goes unnoticed. But just ask, and Johnson will tell you how children’s legal services has changed her own children’s lives.It hasn’t been easy, Johnson acknowledged. Growing up in the projects might have turned a lesser person bitter. “Bitter people can’t hear children laugh,” Johnson said.Johnson and her husband, Rodney, live in Midway, and have four children. Lavina beams as she talks about the accomplishments of each. Raising them to be caring, happy people has also been a struggle, and not just because the Johnsons are poor. For years — nobody knows just how many — a stealthy tumor camped out in Lavina Johnson’s brain, growing cancerous tentacles until it took up nearly a quarter of the space in Lavina’s skull.Lavina never knew. Well-meaning family members covered up her fainting spells. She had never even had a bad headache until one day in 1996, when she was driving to a local grocery store. “I thought someone had shot me,” Lavina said.And even though it wasn’t until months later that a surgeon cut into Lavina’s brain and scooped out as much of the tumor as he could, Lavina still is not bitter. Even when she was nearly electrocuted by faulty wiring in a subsidized home, Lavina kept her cheery attitude. And recently, when she suffered third-degree burns from a grease fire over much of her leg, Lavina has kept smiling. “Why not me?” Lavina asked. “My misery don’t love company. I want everyone to be happy.”Lavina wants everyone to be happy, but she has a special place in her heart for children. Once, when Lavina was picking up her daughter from school, she encountered a crying child. The girl was crying, Lavina said, because she had just moved to the area and was afraid no one would like her. Lavina promised to introduce the child to her own daughter, and a friendship blossomed.Despite a kindness somehow borne out of those bleak days in Paterson, Lavina is not to be trifled with. Soon after she enrolled her children in high school, Lavina said her daughter was attacked by some fellow students.Lavina reported the incident, but trouble kept simmering at the school. Rumors began to circulate that Lavina’s son was the next target. Again, Lavina reported the incident. Again, the matter was largely ignored.About five months after the incident with her daughter, Lavina’s son was attacked. School administrators responded by suspending him, and threatening him with expulsion. Johnson knew she would need an attorney. She contacted Legal Services of North Florida and spoke with Tara Rosenblum and Scott Manion.As Rosenblum, a former teacher, reviewed Marquiece Johnson’s school records, she became convinced that the young man might be an “unidentified exceptional education student.” Rosenblum said she and Manion represented Marquiece at a school hearing during his suspension that resulted in his not being recommended for expulsion (and they requested that he be tested for ESE — exceptional student educational services).Lavina Johnson knew she had found the right person to help her son. “She has passion,” Johnson said of Rosenblum. “She had Marquiece’s back. She made it about my child and she fought the good fight.” Because of Rosenblum’s legal intervention, Marquiece is now in the process of ESE testing, and he has enrolled at a local technical institute. Marquiece is studying welding, and is planning to help rebuild New Orleans once he receives his certificates.Rosenblum called Lavina Johnson “an amazing woman who never gives up. I’ve never seen anyone like her.”Lavina Johnson has no intention of giving up. “I believe in children’s legal services so much,” she said. Looking back, Johnson said she wished she would have known about legal aid in high school. When she was a 17-year-old student, Johnson said other students harassed her. According to Johnson, when she tried to report the incidents, she was largely ignored by school administrators. Knowledge is a powerful thing, Johnson said, and she simply didn’t know that what was happening to her could have been a case for legal aid.Because of Lavina Johnson’s passion for justice, she was recruited to speak at a recent press conference for Kids Deserve Justice. She told her story to a rapt audience as children blew a rainbow of bubbles in the background. “To have any lasting impact on the world,” Johnson read, “We must focus our energy on people, not profits or success. If we can help one person, our efforts will never be in vain.” Camille Murawski is the communications coordinator for The Florida Bar Foundation and can be reached by calling (407) 843-0045 or e-mail [email protected] flabarfndn.org. Woman on fire: Lavina Johnson’s crusade for justicecenter_img Woman on fire: Lavina Johnson’s crusade for justicelast_img read more

July 1, 2006 News and Notes

first_img News and Notes Joel Stewart of Fowler White Burnett in Miami spoke to the Dade County Bar Association on new trends in immigration. The program focused on how to prepare and file an application for alien labor certificates. Michael Rosenberg of Packman, Neuwahl & Rosenberg in Coral Gables spoke at the Georgia Society of CPAs 2006 Real Estate Conference in Atlanta and at the Pennsylvania Bar Institute CLE Conference in Philadelphia. Thomas O. Wells of Berger Singerman’s Miami office spoke at a 2006 Annual Wealth Protection Conference about asset protection after the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act. Howard S. Krooks of Boca Raton received the 2006 Outstanding Achievement Award from the New York Chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. Stuart R. Morris of Morris Law Group in Boca Raton presented “Advanced Uses of Life Insurance in Estate Planning” at the UBS Financial, Inc. Regional Insurance Educational Forum in Orlando. Ellen Wasserstrom of Greenspoon Marder in Ft. Lauderdale graduated from the Leadership Ft. Lauderdale Class XII. Diana Santa Maria spoke at the National Crime Victim Bar Association’s National Conference on Civil Actions for Criminal Acts at the George Washington Universty Law School in Washington, D.C. Santa Maria’s topic was “Handling Sex Abuse Cases Involving Minors in Public Schools.” Douglas M. McIntosh of McIntosh, Sawran, Peltz & Cartaya in Ft. Lauderdale received the 2006 Archbishop Edward A. McCarthy Award from the South Florida Chapter of the St. Thomas More Society. St. Thomas More is the patron saint of lawyers. Luis Viera of Walton Lantaff Schroeder & Carson in Tampa was appointed to the Tampa Tribune board of community columnists. Robert E. Banker of Fowler White Boggs Banker’s Tampa office was honored by the Trial Lawyers Section of the Hillsborough County Bar Association with the Herbert G. Goldburg Award. Darlene Corey of the 11th Judicial Circuit Domestic Violence Court Case Management Unit received the 2006 Female Mentor of the Year Award from the Dade County Bar Young Lawyers Section’s e-Mentoring Program. Jose “Pepi” Diaz of Akerman Senterfitt was appointed to represent lawyers under the age of 35 in the ABA’s House of Delegates. Harold E. Patricoff, Jr., of Shutts & Bowen’s Miami office was elected to the board of directors of The American Red Cross of Greater Miami and The Keys. Patricoff will serve a three-year term. Evett Simmons of Ruden McClosky’s Port St. Lucie office was named chair of the ABA’s Presidential Advisory Council on Diversity in the Profession. Mike Gora of Shapiro, Blasi, Wasserman & Gora in Boca Raton was named executive vice president of the board of trustees for the Boca Raton Museum of Art. Brett Alan Panter of Panter, Panter & Sampedro in Miami spoke at a National Business Institute seminar in West Palm Beach on “Handling the Auto Injury Claim.” Cathy R. LeBeau of Fowler White Boggs Banker in Tampa was elected vice chair of the board of directors of Life Path Hospice. Carlton Fields’ West Palm Beach office co-sponsored the 2006 EIPF Emerging Issues Policy/Communications Forum: Innovation and Convergence in the Communications Industry. The keynote speaker was Gov. Jeb Bush. Robert W. Barron of Berger Singerman’s Ft. Lauderdale office served as an advisory chair for Leadership Ft. Lauderdale’s Class XII and spoke at a luncheon honoring the graduating class. Julia Luyster of Bernstein Chackman & Liss in Hollywood spoke at the 10th Annual Florida Liability Claims Conference in Orlando on the topic of “ Frye and Daubert Challenges: How to Get Rid of the Other Sides’ Expert.” Ronda Ellis co-chaired the St. Andrew’s School Parents’ Association and Friends of the Arts annual fundraising event, “Mediterraenean Magic.” Richard A. Greenberg of Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell’s Tallahassee office spoke about “Ethics for the Pro Bono Representative” at the Volusia County Association for Women Lawyers’ Consumer Law Training for Pro Bono Service seminar. Bill Ricker recently received the 2006 Isaac Hecht Law Client Protection Award from the National Client Protection Organization, Inc. Ricker, a former president of NCPO,who praticed in Ft. Lauderdale before his recent retirement and move to Missouri, served for 20 years as a member of the Florida Bar’s Client Security Fund Committee, twice as its chair. He also served one term on the ABA Standing Committee on Client Protection and three terms on the ABA Advisory Commission on Lawyers’ Funds for Client Protection. Nina L. Ferraro of Fox Wackeen Dungey in Stuart was elected vice president of the Justice Major B. Harding Inn of Court for 2006-07. Homer Duvall III of Holland & Knight’s Tampa office was recently named chair of the Title Insurance Committee of the Real Property, Probate, and Trust Law Section. Ronald G. Meyer of Tallahassee gave the keynote address to Brigham Young University’s Utah Education Law Institute in Provo. Meyer’s address was titled “The Florida Voucher Story,” which addressed issues raised by Bush v. Holmes. Mark Eiglarsh of Miami Beach was re-elected to the board of directors of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Miami Chapter. Jaret J. Fuente and Lori Baggett of Carlton Fields’ Tampa office graduated from Tampa Connection, a civic organization that develops volunteers and leaders in the Tampa Bay area. Milton Hirsch of Miami spoke at the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers annual meeting in Sarasota on recent developments in constitutional criminal procedure. The Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers elected Jesse J. Bennett, Jr. , of Winter Haven as its new president. Other officers include Gordon C. Brydger of Ft. Lauderdale, president-elect; Stann Given of Tampa, first vice president; Roberta G. Stanley of Ft. Lauderdale, second vice president; and Kristin Adamson of Tallahassee secretary/treasurer. Paul Consbruck of Jacksonville was ordained as a deacon in the Roman Catholic Church by Bishop Victor Galeone after completing five years of religious study and discernment. LaShawnda K. Jackson and Candy Messersmith, both of Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell’s Orlando office, were elected to the Paul C. Perkins Bar Association executive board. Jackson was elected president and Messersmith was elected parliamentarian. Edward H. Zebersky of Zebersky & Payne was inducted as the new president of the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers at a Hollywood luncheon. J. S. Lucas Fleming of The Fleming Law Group in St. Petersburg was elected to the executive committee of the St. Petersburg Bar Association to serve a two-year term. Fleming also agreed to chair the Solo, Small Firm, and Practice Management Section of the St. Petersburg Bar. Judge Tonya Baccus Rainwater was elected chief judge of the 18th Circuit. She will begin her term July 1, when current Chief Judge Kerry I. Evander assumes his new duties with the Fifth District Court of Appeal. Leonard Gilbert of Holland & Knight’s Tampa office received the Douglas P. McClurg Professionalism Award from the Tampa Bay Bankruptcy Bar Association. The award was established to recognize a lawyer for his or her outstanding effectiveness in judicial proceedings through preparation, civility, and courtesy to counsel and parties. Jack R. Reiter of Adorno & Yoss’ Miami office addressed the Wilkie D. Ferguson, Jr., Bar Association on the benefits of board certification. Robert Blanchfield, of Allen, Norton & Blue, P.A. spoke at a one-day Lorman seminar on the “Common Misconceptions in Human Resources.” David A. Garfinkel of Rogers Towers in Jacksonville received the 2006 Hernandez Professionalism Award. July 1, 2006 News & Notes July 1, 2006 News and Noteslast_img read more

Reconstruction project to close Glenwood Avenue in Binghamton for weeks

first_imgBINGHAMTON (WBNG) — The city of Binghamton is alerting residents to a road closure that will last around 60 days. Funding for the project comes through the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery, the city says. The office of Mayor David says Glenwood Avenue between Brown and Clinton Streets will be closed beginning March 2 to allow for reconstruction of a storm water pumping station under the railroad viaduct on the road.last_img

MBB : Waiters struggles to lead comeback as Jardine sits final 6 minutes

first_imgDion Waiters received the orders from Jim Boeheim with 13:23 remaining in the first half. With Syracuse down one to Villanova, Waiters entered the game for the first time, replacing his struggling cousin Scoop Jardine.Boeheim told the freshman Waiters to take the game over.‘I had to try and get us going, we had to find our offense some way,’ Waiters said. ‘Coach just told me to take over, make plays. So I tried to go out there and make plays.’With the substitution, it was the start of a game in which the SU head coach relied on his freshmen to make a difference. Because of Jardine’s struggles, Boeheim chose to play Waiters for 25 minutes, including the final 6:30 of the 83-72 loss to the Wildcats. He chose to stick with the aggressive mindset and style of play Waiters showcased Saturday, leaving his starting point guard Jardine on the bench in the process.Even if, after the game, the head coach felt both Jardine and Waiters played poorly. Even though Waiters failed to score in the second half.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text‘It was a disappointing game from Scoop and Dion’s perspective,’ Boeheim said. ‘They have played well. They have had a good week of practice. We are not going to win if those two guys go 3-for-20.’Boeheim did not specify why he chose to play Waiters in place of Jardine to end the game, saying only that the point guard play was not good Saturday and that the Orange needs more leadership out of the position. Jardine went 1-of-8 from the field, registered two turnovers and failed to grab a rebound in 22 minutes. Waiters went 2-of-12 with two turnovers and five assists.‘I take somebody out,’ Boeheim said, ‘I take them out for a reason.’Waiters attempted to be the offensive catalyst for SU after a start to the game in which Boeheim, Jardine and Waiters all said the Orange didn’t bring enough energy. Waiters brought his usual confident, crass mentality to the court, attempting eight shots in 12 first-half minutes.With an Orange offense looking stagnant for the second game in a row, Waiters exhibited a certain mindset to put the SU offensive burden on himself. It was one of brashness, best exemplified when he fouled Villanova wing Corey Stokes hard on a 3-point attempt midway through the first half, only to glare down and crack a smile at Stokes as he lay on the court.Jardine was relegated to the bench for those final seven minutes of the game. The point guard said he understood why he was on the bench to end the game: He played poorly, going 1-of-8 from the field. He brought ‘nothing’ Saturday. As simple as that.‘I didn’t run the team, I didn’t execute nothing. I did nothing to help our team at all,’ Jardine said. ‘I didn’t get us in sets.’In the first half, Jardine looked lost. The junior point guard struggled against the ball pressure of Wildcat guards Maalik Wayns and Corey Fisher. The Orange offense rushed sets to keep up with the eight first-half 3-pointers of Villanova. By halftime, the Orange was down 40-29 as Boeheim grew weary of not only Jardine’s play but Waiters’ as well.The duo attempted 14 of the Orange’s 27 first-half shots, too selfish for the head coach’s liking.‘I feel like we were trying to score more than we were trying to get the team in stuff,’ Boeheim said.In the second half, Waiters spelled Jardine from 15:30 to 9:30, tallying only one assist in the six minutes. But 12 seconds after Jardine returned for Waiters, he turned the ball over. He would leave the game for good less than three minutes later, watching next to SU assistant coach Rob Murphy as Waiters played his part in applying a frantic end-game press.For Jardine, it was just one of those games. It was his turn to sit on the bench, not directing his team as he watched his little cousin fail to take the opportunity to carry a comeback.‘Coach is going to go with how the game feels,’ Jardine said. ‘I would have done the same thing.’[email protected] Comments Published on January 21, 2011 at 12:00 pmcenter_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more

Pacquiao wins again, in court

first_imgThree weeks removed from his decisive victory over Brandon Rios in Macau, Manny Pacquiao earned an even more decisive win in a federal courthouse. On December 18, the United States Court of Appeal for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a multi-million dollar lawsuit against Pacquiao filed by a startup Texas promotional company named Imperial ED Promotions.Imperial ED filed the lawsuit in November 2010, claiming that Pacquiao failed to appear at a promotional event in September 2010. Imperial ED didn’t tell the court that they failed to pay the Filipino star the full appearance fee that had been negotiated.In July 2012, Pacquiao’s counsel, led by David Marroso a partner at O’Melveny & Myers LLP, questioned whether Imperial ED was the right party to bring the claim since the appearance contract had been signed by a different person.Imperial ED responded with a highly suspicious document that supposedly transferred ownership of the contract. Marroso and his team questioned the document and were granted the right to question Imperial ED’s principals under oath and to have one of the world’s foremost ink dating experts examine the document.After reviewing the evidence, federal judge Ricardo Hinojosa agreed with Pacquiao, found that the document had been falsely backdated, and threw out the case. On Wednesday, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the decision, putting an end to the three-year legal saga.“As Manny’s popularity increased, he has become a target,” observed Marroso. “People file meritless lawsuits against Manny hoping cash in on his success.” Pacquiao hopes the Court’s decision will cause future plaintiffs to pause before filing frivolous lawsuits and trying to cheat the system, according to Marroso. Pacquiao advisor Michael Koncz added that “Manny took a stand in this case and vowed to fight until his name was cleared.”last_img read more

Local Artist Romero Britto Offers Artistic Option for Quarantined Residents

first_imgA South Florida artist is offering a unique way for children and adults to keep busy while they are self-quarantined during the COVID-19 pandemic.Brazilian-born Romero Britto, who lives in Miami and has a studio in the Wynwood art district there, is providing “at-home entertainment” in the form of a coloring book.It is available to download by clicking here.He encourages artists to post their masterpieces on social media, tag @RomeroBritto and use the hashtag #HappyArtBritto on Instagram in order to be featured in his story.In a news release, Britto said his mission “has always been to share love, happiness and optimism around the globe through his unique art and colors. Be part of The Happy Art Movement founded by Britto and help us share optimism and hope right now with people and places that need it the most!”last_img read more

Steel Sensations: Breaking down the Steelers draft needs

first_imgMike Tomlin, head coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers, talks with reporters in the AFC Head Coaches Breakfast at the NFL football annual meeting in Orlando, Fla., Tuesday, March 25, 2014. (AP Photo/John Raoux)Normally, by the end of April the NFL draft has taken place and we are discussing the additions the Steelers have made and how they’ll fit in.  Not this year. Starting this year, the NFL has elected to place the NFL draft in early May, leaving all draft experts and football pundits the opportunity to pontificate for another few weeks on what they expect will happen, who will get drafted early, late and who won’t get drafted at all.This year the Steelers have nine draft picks across the seven rounds and they have plenty of holes to fill. They’ll need to make the right picks if they want to continue to form a foundation of success that will lead to their 7th Lombardi trophy anytime soon. The draft clock is starting to tick, it’s time for the team to ramp up and get moving.Taking a look at what the team needs, it seems that they will fill the roster somewhat like what I have broken down below.Round 1, pick 15:  The Steelers are in desperate need of a young, playmaking cornerback.  They would be crazy not to go and grab this position here. With the 15th pick overall there should still be three or four of these playmakers available for the team to choose from.   There is an outside chance they could go wide receiver or defensive line here but that would mean that all the top corners were drafted earlier than expected.Round 2, pick 46:  In the 2nd round the Steelers will still most likely address the defensive side of the ball as they have a lot of rebuilding to do there. My expectation is for them to draft another linebacker somewhere during this draft and I believe it will happen in round two.  They can find a hard hitting, tough as nails guy here who can be an impact playmaker to go along with Jason Worilds and Jarvis Jones. Once again, they could go wide receiver or defensive line but I don’t expect it.Round 3, pick 92:  The team is in dire need of a big wide receiver. This is the round to do it. While they could take a guy earlier, a wide receiver that can make plays can be found in this round or later and I fully expect the black and gold to take advantage of this pick by picking up a guy they think can make big catches in the red zone and on third down. The point of this pick would be for this receiver to ultimately be their number two guy.  Outside chance they draft a defensive lineman.Round 4, pick 118:  This team no doubt will draft a defensive lineman here, assuming they haven’t done that already.  They clearly need to beef up in the nose tackle spot and a 4th round pick is a prime area to do so.  There is a chance they could draft a second linebacker in this spot as well.Round 5, pick 157 and pick 173: There are any number of directions the team could go in the fifth round with these two picks.  I anticipate they will be drafting a running back somewhere in the late rounds and having two picks in the fifth, it makes sense to use one of them on a backup running back who can be a third down guy and a guy who can play special teams as well.  Additionally, they may elect to use the other pick on another cornerback as the team needs more than just one and you can still find decent nickel backs later in the draft.Round 6, pick 192 and pick 215:  The two picks in the sixth round will go to whomever the team feels is the best left on their draft board. However, I would expect a second linebacker to be taken somewhere in here as the team will want to bolster the depth they have at that position if they haven’t addressed this already.  I won’t be shocked if the team also selects another young quarterback in this round. This may be a guy who won’t make the team but he could be a good guy during pre-season, a practice squad guy or he may have the potential to be the third string quarterback of this storied franchise.Round 7, pick 230:  This will truly be the best player left on the teams’ board. Whoever is picked here will be a long shot to make the squad in 2014 but could again be a practice squad player. I look for this final pick to be an offensive lineman to add depth at the position during the pre-season to ensure their main guys are uninjured heading into regular play.This draft will be heavily centered around the defensive side of the ball. It’s time to re build and re shuffle that unit and there is no better way and no faster way to do so than in the draft. The key now is for the Steelers grades on these players to be accurate, their projections to hold true and the character of all of these guys to be what it needs to in order to make a successful NFL player both on and off the field.The clock is ticking…Mike Pelaia hosts the website Steel Nation Association www.steelnationassociation.com- Covering the Steelers and helping Children’s Hospital All Day Everyday. You can e-mail him at [email protected]last_img read more