- For Members
- Pro Bono
- Contact Us
The Cuban American Bar Association Marks its 25th Year
Florida Bar Journal, April 1999 Issue
The Cuban American Bar Association (CABA) was established in Miami in 1974 by a group of 20 or so Cuban attorneys adapting in a different culture. They depended on each other as resources to function in a foreign legal community. Today the organization functions very similarly to other voluntary bars in Florida, but CABA is different. A bond exists not evident in most organized bars.
Twenty-five years from its establishment, the measure of that original bond is reflected when board member Eugenio Hernandez speaks of a trip to Guantanamo. In 1994, Hernandez was part of a group of CABA attorneys who traveled to Cuba to expedite the legal rights of detained Cuban rafters caught in political limbo. The attorneys contributed more than 5,000 hours representing the refugees, pleading their cause before U.S. government authorities and visiting Guantanamo to ensure they were receiving fair and adequate treatment.
Sergio L. Mendez, installed as CABA's president in February, was two years old when his family came over from Cuba and has firm roots in CABA. His father Luis, also an attorney, was one of the original founders of the association. Other founders include Mario P. Goderich, now a judge on the Third District Court of Appeal, and Carlos Benito Fernandez, father of Katherine Fernandez Rundle, Dade County state attorney.
When discussing CABA, Mendez emphasizes an organization which keeps ever-present the value of living and participating in a democratic society. From this perspective, it is easy to understand why CABA supports judicial elections, rather than merit retention, for state court judges.
"We feel that members of the community should retain their right to elect the judiciary. We acknowledge that there are problems with the present election systems," Mendez stated when sharing CABA's position. "Reforms are in order, but those problems don't merit abrogating the system as a whole."
The association feels lawyers and the media are responsible for ensuring the public is informed about the qualifications of competing judicial candidates. CABA will not endorse a candidate running for elective office, choosing instead to provide voter education about the choices available. During the last judicial campaign, CABA's board of directors hired a marketing consultant to assist in the design of a vociferous radio campaign aimed at encouraging the public to vote for qualified, fair, and impartial judges.
All members of the judiciary are also invited to present their positions at a judicial luncheon sponsored by CABA. Last year 68 judges and all the judicial candidates attended the well-established luncheon.
A surprising factor is the association has no staff support, especially due to its size, being one of the larger voluntary bars in Florida with over 1,300 members. Mendez credits an organization built upon an active leadership; one that attracts members without conducting membership campaigns. CABA is "composed of lawyers from the community who know our reputation, not just Cuban Americans," he says.
Members pay an annual dues fee of $60 and receive the quarterly newsletter, CABA Briefs. The full-color publication is edited by Miguel Rodez, who also serves as membership chair.
Activities of the association include an annual program in cooperation with the National Hispanic Bar; a scholarship program for law students funded by an annual golf tournament; the "CABA Smoker," a networking fundraiser honoring Cuba's cigar-making tradition; and the pro bono project in conjunction with the Dade County Bar. Additionally, Mendez is planning a ski trip to Colorado for the first time for interested members during his presidency.
Former leadership is kept involved. The theme for last year's installation gala was "Homage to the Founders," and featured Jeb Bush as the keynote speaker. Past CABA presidents make the final selection of the law school scholarships each year, choosing from students representing Nova Southeastern University, St. Thomas University School of Law, and the University of Miami School of Law.
Congratulations, CABA, on your 25th year. Your founders have reason to be proud.
- Special Counsel - Open House May 23 (15 hours)
- LAW DAY- AT THE HIALEAH BRANCH COURTHOUSE(1 day)
- CABA' s CLE "Let’s Get Dirty The Life of a Real Estate Deal from Start to Finish" June 5, 2013(13 days)
- CABA Celebrates "El Dia Del Abogado" June 6th(14 days)
- The Minority In-House Counsel Association's First Annual Conference, June 12-14(20 days)