WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The South Florida population is growing, that growth includes diversity. But there's work to be done when it comes to diversity on the judicial bench in Palm Beach County.
According to the president of the Palm Beach County Hispanic Bar Association, there are very few Hispanics that pursue law careers and only a fraction makes a run for the bench, even though 23% of the county’s population is Latino. Currently, there are only two Latino judges in Palm Beach County.
“We definitely need representation to support and actually represent those people, that 20% that is included in that population. Which we have not done in Palm Beach County since 1990, we’ve only had six Hispanic judges,” said Lizza Constantine, president of the Palm Beach County Hispanic Bar Association.
According to Dan Zuniga, a personal injury attorney in Jupiter said many Latinos oftentimes may have trust issues within the judicial system. Zuniga echoed the need for more Latino lawyers as well on the bench, which could help navigate and ease their minds.
“It’s vitally important that your judiciary accurately reflects your community,” said Zuniga. “It builds trust that they believe the system is justice. If they can also see somebody that looks like them making the ultimate decisions.”
Constantine said it takes years for an attorney who wants to run for the bench to build up a reputation in a community. She said having support, opportunity and resources for that attorney to make a run for the judiciary is vital. Constantine adds that change begins when more students of color pursue law degrees because without them, there aren’t enough diverse applicants to draw from.
Constantine is a graduate of Florida Atlantic University and Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad College of Law. As president of the Palm Beach County Hispanic Bar Association, she wants people to know there are outreach and mentoring programs to help inspire Latinos in the legal field.
“I emigrated from Peru when I was 13. I can tell you, I never imagined that I was going to be a practicing attorney in the United States, and here I am,” said Constantine. “I think it’s still some kind of idea that Hispanics, that’s not the career that we follow and it’s something that anybody can do.”