On March 12, 2020, I attended an event on Civil Rights & Human Trafficking at Nova Southeastern University’s Shepard Broad Law Center (in Fort Lauderdale, Florida). I attended despite the initial concerns hitting the U.S. news about Coronavirus. The next day, the school closed and went online, but upon arrival the speakers thanked everyone for coming, given the circumstances. Attendees sat with an empty chair between them to adhere to social distancing, but attendance was strong.
Why? I think it was because the compulsion to learn and do better was stronger!
I am still learning about Human Trafficking and organizations like the Life Preservers Project (LPP). During my prior work with legal service providers, I worked with Michael Dalewitz and Johanny Olmedo and knew several other LPP board members. I found the cause compelling and decided to get more involved.
I went from being Director of a 140-seat managed review center, to working back at an exceptional law firm with a smaller team and much closer to home. My firm, Berger Singerman, encourages community involvement and working on projects like Habitat for Humanity and others. That nudge, plus the added time gained by not driving two hours daily allowed me to reach out and get involved in a cause so vital to many of my eDiscovery colleagues. However, I needed more information to understand the problem and where the help is needed.
Ironically, as I felt compelled to learn more, I learned that human trafficking is loosely defined as compelled or forced labor that includes traditional labor and/or sex trafficking by fraud or coercion (if adults) or for any juvenile (under 18, and does not require fraud or coercion). The chat focused on statistics, explaining fraud and coercion (i.e., fake “modeling jobs”), discussing increased penalties, and defining “profit” and “vulnerability”. In particular, if a person does not have one of their top five needs (food, clothing, safety, shelter, love), vulnerability exists for someone else to exploit.
The panel was comprised of the following:
- (Moderator) The Honorable Stacy Ross – Juvenile Delinquency Division, 17th Judicial Circuit
- Former Federal Prosecutor, Barbara Martinez – Chief of the Special Prosecutions Unit, U.S. Attorney’s Office
- Federal Prosecutor, Francis Viamontes – Has tried 8 human trafficking cases federally to verdict.
- Jumorrow Johnson – Human Trafficking Coordinator for the 17th Circuit
- Cali Simek (C.S.) – A 23-year old college student who survived 10 years of trafficking from age 7 to 17.
C.S. was extraordinary in detailing her path to progress improvement and the number of resources she had to get there. She was trafficked by her adoptive family, adopted at age 7, and it took her three (3) years to get out after addiction, trauma, and breaking bonds created in the life.
I was comforted by the fact that the Federal laws have mandatory minimums for offenses against minors under 14 (minimum 15 years), 14-17 (minimum 10 years) including “Johns”, with a maximum of life in prison and that Florida (#3 in trafficking volume behind California and Texas, respectively) has similar laws. Broward county has a Task Force and Katherine Fernandez Rundle (Miami-Dade County’s current State attorney) started the Human Trafficking Task Force in Miami-Dade in 2012 where the prosecutions are victim-focused, meaning they take into account what they can prove depending on the willingness of the victim to proceed.
During the panel discussion, they covered prevention programs (for Johns), plus the numerous educational/awareness programs in place for nurses, doctors, teachers, uber-drivers, pilots, flight attendants and others.
I left the meeting knowing I could do more. The information is readily available. Sure, I could share the phone number (1-800-96-Abuse) in a blog post, but that is not enough. I can share a story about it, but that seems inadequate. I left this meeting with the realization that compulsion can be positive, if one feels compelled to do more, be more, help more! Once this current global war is secured, there will be many global battles in desperate need of our attention.
So my question to you is “Are you ready to join LPP and me to do more, be more, and help more?”
For more than 10 years, the Life Preservers Project has been helping victim in the New York metro area. However, California, Texas and Florida (especially South Florida) have a significant number of victims who could use help. During this period of downtime, we are hopeful the legal community (and others) will feel compelled to learn more about this incredibly important cause. Jessie Torres, Esq., is the Discovery Team Manager at Berger Singerman and working with Life Preservers Project to get the legal community in South Florida more involved.
About Jessie G. Torres
Jessie Torres is Berger Singerman’s Discovery Team Manager based in its Miami office. Jessie is a proven, creative eDiscovery professional with more than seven years of eDiscovery and managed review experience. At Berger Singerman, he designs and implements eDiscovery best practices and policies regarding staffing, collections, hosting, culling, ESI protocols, document review, privilege logs, and productions.