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Hispanic National Bar Association’s annual conference comes to New York City

October 3, 2019 Rob Abruzzese

The Hispanic National Bar Association kicked off its 2019 annual convention in Manhattan last Thursday and held a series of continuing legal education seminars, leadership programs and symposiums.

It also honored 10 people and groups during an awards ceremony on Friday and held a gala that included speakers like U.S. Representatives Adriano Espaillat and Nydia Velazquez on Saturday.

The awards ceremony, hosted by the HNBA Vision in Action Fund, the charitable arm of the HNBA, was held at Caroline’s on Broadway.

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The honorees included Maria Dantes Sanchez, vice president and regional general attorney for Liberty Mutual Group, who received the Lifetime Achievement Award; Robert Carlson, immediate past president of the American Bar Association, who received the President’s Award; Hon. Jeffrey Bryan, a Minnesota trial court judge, who received the Judge of the Year Award; Laura Pena, an immigration attorney from Texas, who received the Latina Attorney of the Year Award; and Ernesto Rafael Palomo, a partner at Locke Lord LLP in Chicago, who received the Latino Attorney of the Year Award.

From left: Marjorie Soto, Hon. Javier Vargas and Daniel Hernandez.

Regional President of the Year went to Benjamin Sigel; Pro Bono Attorney of the Year went to Monica Welby, deputy director of litigation at the Legal Action Center in New York; Partner of the Year went to Holland & Knight LLP; Affiliate of the Year went to the New Jersey chapter of the HNBA; and Law Student Organization of the Year went to the Chicano/Latino Law Students Association at Arizona State University.

Brooklyn attorney Frank Francis, president of the HNBA, Region II, which encompasses all of New York State, took part in the HNBA’s fourth annual LGBT Summit. The former chair of the Young Lawyers Committee at the Brooklyn Bar Association, and secretary and second vice president of the LGBT Bar Association of New York, sat on a panel entitled, “How to Be Part of the Next Generation of LGBT Leaders for the HNBA, the LGBT Division, and Other Bar Associations.”

Francis was joined on the panel by Chezare Palacios, Robert Maldonado, Raquel Matas, Jerry Ruiz and Jamie Francesca Rodriguez.

The message from the group is simple — it’s good to get involved in a bar association that shares similar interests to yours, and the best way to take on a leadership role is to put yourself out there and volunteer.


“If you ask, you will be rewarded with responsibility,” Francis joked.

“This is an amazing opportunity,” Francis continued. “Have a little gumption and get involved. If you see something that has a need, or if you have a special skill, then bring it forward. It doesn’t have to be a huge time commitment.”

The convention also had a Youth Symposium that included a speed mentoring program and Latina leadership programs.

Brooklyn Judge Javier Vargas, who sits in the Kings County Family Court, moderated a panel entitled, “Pathways to the Judiciary” that also included Hon. Ramon Reyes, magistrate judge from the Eastern District of New York, and other federal court judges who shared their personal stories about their path to the bench.

Judge Vargas also sat on a panel entitled, “Helping Our Community: Immigration Removal Cases in Immigration Court,” that also included Brooklyn attorney Beth Krause of the Immigrant Youth Project, Legal Aid Society of New York.


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