Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press
MIAMI — As a young associate in a prestigious Miami law firm, Barbara Lagoa took on an unusual pro bono case , one without a supervising partner and against a formidable adversary: the Clinton administration.
Ms. Lagoa represented a relative of a 5-year-old boy found off the Florida coast after his mother had drowned trying to cross over from Cuba. His name was Elián González.
Federal agents would eventually seize Elián and return him to his father in Cuba, setting off political shock waves that arguably cost former Vice President Al Gore the 2000 presidential election when he lost Florida.
“After six months, countless briefs, a few all-nighters, two oral arguments and one midnight raid by armed commandos, we learned what it was like to lose,” Eliot Pedrosa, another lawyer on the team, said at a ceremony last year when Judge Lagoa joined the Florida Supreme Court. The experience of “watching armed federal agents use force to pre-empt process,” he said, was “seared into her soul.”
That formative episode helped shape Judge Lagoa’s career as a federal prosecutor and appellate judge and thrust her into South Florida’s political culture, dominated by Cuban-American Republicans.It is an electoral dynamic that remains powerful two […]
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