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Miami�In an unprecedented alliance to increase the number of minority and female judges and law firm partners in South Florida, five attorney groups representing minority and women lawyers have announced they are joining forces. The groups that are linking up to increase diversity on the bench and bar are the Caribbean Bar Association, the Haitian Lawyers Association, the Florida Association for Women Lawyers, the Cuban-American Bar Association and the Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. Bar Association, formerly known as the Black Lawyers Association. The lawyer groups have long had an informal association with each other but never formally coordinated efforts. They are holding a conference on Nov. 13 in Coral Gables, Fla., titled “Securing Diversity on the Bench,” to discuss ways to get lawyers from diverse backgrounds appointed and elected to the bench. The leaders of the bar groups are also planning regular meetings to tackle issues of common interest. The first is scheduled for this month. “As members of the minority in the U.S.-women, blacks, Latinos-we felt the need to come together,” said Dahlia A. Walker, president of the Caribbean Bar Association. “Many of us are first-timers going to college, not to mention law school, and don’t know many others in the legal community. So there is a lot to be said for coming together.” The move comes as a variety of interest groups are stepping up their lobbying efforts to get their preferred candidates appointed to judgeships. Last month, the Broward Hispanic Bar Association protested the decision by Florida’s 17th Judicial Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission to pass over several Hispanic candidates for a state circuit court vacancy. Christian conservative groups, with some success, have pressed Governor Jeb Bush to appoint self-proclaimed Christian conservatives to the state bench. And last year, Governor Bush and his brother, President George W. Bush, were criticized for circumventing the traditional federal judicial nominating process and allegedly steering a federal court judgeship to a Cuban-American, Cecilia Altonaga. Leaders of the minority and female bar groups say more lobbying efforts are needed. It’s not clear whether the old-line bar groups will embrace this effort. Dade County Bar Association President John H. Hickey said he doesn’t know whether his organization would seek a closer relationship with the five. “I applaud their efforts but I don’t know if the Dade County Bar Association would want to get involved or act in concert,” said Hickey, a solo practitioner in Miami.

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