by Justice Barbara J. Pariente and Annette Boyd Pitts and Jodi Wilkof
Note: In September 2002, Florida Supreme Court Justices Barbara J. Pariente and Peggy A. Quince along with Annette Boyd Pitts, executive director of the Florida Law Related Education Association, Inc., visited the Florida Institute for Girls (FIG) in West Palm Beach. The visit, arranged in conjunction with the Supreme Court justices’ annual Constitution Week program, was scheduled because Justices Pariente and Quince had been concerned about the issue of the increasing number of girls entering the juvenile justice system in Florida. In April 2003, Justice Pariente returned to FIG to follow up on the girls she had seen in September and to view the success of the “Breakfast and Books” program. These visits to FIG generated a renewed commitment by the authors to explore the increase in female juvenile crime. This article represents an expression of the lessons we learned and a call for lawyers and judges not only to recognize the predictors unique to female delinquent behavior, but to become actively involved in prevention and intervention efforts.
We knew from the start that this would be no ordinary classroom. And we knew that this visit would be different from the many classroom visits we had previously made. The gate slammed shut and locked behind us. We were asked to remove our jewelry and leave our purses and briefcases in the car. We were not allowed to take pictures. Staples had to be removed from our handouts because, we were told, they could be used as weapons. Pencils had to be collected before we left. Although we cannot tell you the names or show you the faces of the students we worked with that day, those students had a profound impact on us.
As they filed into the classroom, the students counted off: “One ma’am, two ma’am, and three ma’am . . . .” They looked like ordinary teenagers, but their lives were far from ordinary. There were no t-shirts or blue jeans; instead these teenagers wore blue scrubs. Activities that most 13 to 18 year olds take for granted were not part of their daily routines. These girls were not talking on cell phones or planning their next trip to the mall. They were not listening to their favorite music or checking out the latest movies. Their rooms were concrete cells with a mattress for sleeping and no television or radios.
These students were teenage girls in Florida’s first maximum-risk facility for serious female juvenile offenders, the Florida Institute for Girls (FIG) in West Palm Beach. Many of the crimes they committed were violent, ranging from armed robbery and aggravated assault to carjacking and manslaughter. We came to teach them a lesson on the courts and the constitution. The lessons they taught us, however, were even more valuable.
Recognizing the great strides women have made in the field of law, it is equally important to recognize the enormous numbers of women who have also found their way into our jails and prisons—and into our juvenile justice system. The girls at FIG awakened our interest in the risk factors and life circumstances that contribute to female juvenile crime and what we can do to help prevent today’s juvenile girl from becoming tomorrow’s adult offender.
The visit to FIG was part of the Constitution Week program sponsored by the Florida Law Related Education Association, Inc., in cooperation with the justices of the Florida Supreme Court. The justices visit classrooms across Florida to teach about the role of the courts in our democracy and their unique role in protecting rights granted by the U.S. Constitution. The experiences are always rewarding and this visit was certainly no exception. The genesis of the visit was a conversation with Linda Fagan, a teacher from the FIG facility who participated in the Palm Beach County Justice Teaching Institute in February 2002.1 After learning more about the facility, we planned our visit and invited local attorneys to participate, including members of the Palm Beach County Florida Association of Women Lawyers (FAWL) under the leadership of its president, Michele Suskauer. The goal was to provide positive female role models for the girls and to learn more about the paths that led to their confinement in FIG. Members of FAWL agreed to remain involved beyond the visit in a long-term mentoring relationship.
The students at FIG are among the most serious female juvenile offenders in Florida. Depending on the crimes they committed and their progress at FIG, the girls may stay at this highly secure, gender-specific facility from 15 to 60 months, according to Dr. Jackie Layne, FIG director. The students participate in a specially designed academic and cultural education curriculum with an emphasis on vocational training, social skills, self-sufficiency, and mental health. These girls will be reentering society and will be back in our communities. What happens during their stay at FIG may be their last chance to gain the skills to succeed in life.
The visit was intended to share a human side to justice, to let the students experience the judicial decision-making process, and to present an exercise in critical thinking and the U.S. Constitution. The case we presented was Florida v. J.L., 529 U.S. 266 (2000). We have used this case countless times in schools to “teach” students about the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the role of the court system in protecting rights. Even though this time we knew that we had a captive audience, we expected either a lack of interest or outright hostility. What we found instead was a group of 18 girls from diverse ethnic and racial and social backgrounds who were bright, articulate, and eager to learn and question. They all knew the three branches of government (a fact that many adults do not know).
In addition to excelling at this constitutional activity, the girls also taught us some valuable lessons. They shared their life experiences with us and each girl told a personal story. Although each girl’s life was unique, many of the stories were similar. The girls told of victimization and abusive childhoods, drug and alcohol use, failure in school, and many other issues. Some had parents who also had been incarcerated. They told of their experiences with the juvenile justice system and specifically the courts—and of the judges who had sentenced them to this facility. Some felt their judges “really cared” and “took an interest” in them.2 It seemed as if the judges, in some cases, provided the discipline and structure missing from the girls’ lives.
Other girls, however, perceived that they were treated harsher because of their gender. Indeed, Dr. Layne related that many times the juvenile girls see the judge as “the man.” She expressed that there was a need for judges to receive more education about the causes of delinquent behavior in juvenile girls and the type of girl who could benefit from this high-end program.
These stories increased our interest to learn more about the unique issues of girls in our juvenile justice system, an issue that has gained much attention recently, both nationally and statewide.3 Girls are entering the juvenile justice system at an accelerated pace. According to the June 2002 final report of The Florida Bar’s Commission on the Legal Needs of Children, “the number of girls in Florida’s juvenile justice system has skyrocketed, yet gender-specific programs are lacking.”4 The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice describes the profile of the typical female delinquent in Florida as 15 years old, white, charged with retail theft, with two prior delinquency referrals.5 Although the rise in female crime was largely for minor crimes, the number of girls arrested for violent felony offenses almost doubled during the last decade in Florida.6 Nationally, the violent crime index arrest rate for girls increased 74 percent between 1980 and 1999, whereas the arrest rate for boys declined seven percent during this period.7 Although boys still commit a much higher percentage of crime overall, it is important to recognize that one out of every four juveniles arrested in Florida is female.8 The rapid acceleration of juvenile crime committed by girls warrants an examination of the types of offenses they are committing, the life circumstances of these young offenders, and what we can do to make a difference.
Predictors of Female Offending
National studies have identified a series of predictors specific to female juvenile offenders.9 These predictors include traumatic experiences and at-risk behaviors that may help signal trouble ahead. Studies conducted and substantiated over the past 25 years by Joanne Belknap, Meda Chesney-Lind, and Leslie Acoca, among other academics and practitioners, suggest some common life circumstances shared by adult and juvenile female offenders.10
One of the most prevalent indicators on the pathway leading to female involvement in the juvenile justice system is a history of being abused and neglected as a child. Indeed, research on the connection between abuse as a child and delinquent behavior later in life shows that although abuse in childhood does not necessarily lead to delinquent behavior later in life, the relationship between the two is considerable. One study, for example, concluded that individuals who had been abused or neglected as children had a 59 percent greater likelihood of arrest as juveniles than nonabused individuals.11 More specifically, individuals who were abused as children were more likely to be arrested as juveniles (27 percent versus 17 percent), as adults (42 percent versus 33 percent), and for a violent crime (18 versus 14 percent).12
For girls, the connection between childhood abuse and later delinquent behavior is even more striking. Studies show that nearly 70 percent of the girls in the juvenile justice system have a history of physical abuse.13 This compares to the approximately 20 percent rate of physical abuse for teenage females in the general population.14 In addition, 67.5 percent of incarcerated adult women in the criminal justice system report having been violently victimized as young girls.15 Similar to these national statistics, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice reports that among female delinquents in Florida, an estimated 70 percent have a history of sexual abuse.16
Apart from these numbers, it appears that the experience of abused girls, as that experience relates to future delinquent behavior, is different than the experience is for boys. For instance, research indicates that females who have been the victim of abuse or neglect have an increased risk of arrest for a violent crime but that this pattern does not hold true for males.17 Moreover, girls often run away to escape the abuse that they have suffered at home18 and girls are more likely than boys to be arrested and ultimately placed outside of the home for running away.19 In 1999, girls accounted for 27 percent of all juvenile arrests, but represented 59 percent of all runaway arrests.20 In fact, recent statistics indicate that there remain only two arrest categories where more girls are arrested than boys: running away from home and prostitution.21
Clearly, the relationship between childhood abuse and teenage delinquency is a complex one. One thoughtful analysis by Judge Cindy Lederman and Eileen Nexer Brown explains the connections as follows:
The lack of protective factors in the lives of abused and neglected girls, such as close parental supervision, appropriate discipline, and effective parental role models, facilitates girls’ derailment into the criminal justice system. Abused and neglected children are reared in families that lack traditional social controls. The barriers to derailment to the juvenile justice system that keep the normal female on “the path of virtue” do not exist in homes where child maltreatment is present. A study of girls in the California juvenile justice system conducted by the National Council on Crime and Delinquency found that more than 95 percent of the girls lacked a stable home environment, more than 54 percent of the girls reported having mothers who had been arrested or incarcerated, and 46 percent of the girls had fathers who had been incarcerated. The criminogenic nature of the home environment enhances the opportunities of delinquent girls to engage in relationships with deviant friends, relatives, and potential mates, and to model their antisocial behavior.22
Aside from a history of abuse and neglect during childhood, other indicators to female involvement in the juvenile justice system include:23
• School failure problems. Middle school failure is a strong predictor of future trouble. School suspensions or expulsions as well as having to repeat grades have been identified as issues in the lives of many female juvenile offenders.
• Physical and mental health issues. High percentages of girls interviewed in the juvenile justice system report serious physical health or mental health problems requiring medical intervention. Reports of suicide attempts and psychological counseling were noted in the studies.
• High-risk behaviors. Profiles of girls in the juvenile justice system note the prevalence of drug and alcohol abuse as well as other high risk behaviors such as truancy and sexual activity early in their lives.
• Family instability. Female juvenile offenders report tremendous instability in their family lives. Their families often are separated due to poverty, incarceration, or death. Many report moving from relative to relative or living in foster care.
• Offense patterns. Studies suggest that girls begin their involvement with the juvenile justice system charged with less serious offenses such as property, drug, and status offenses including running away, curfew violations, and truancy.
• Parental incarceration. Children of incarcerated parents show higher rates of subsequent juvenile and adult criminality.24 Studies of girls in the juvenile justice system show high percentages with one or both parents incarcerated. In 1999, more than half of all state and federal prisoners reported having children.
These indicators may provide valuable insight into ways in which we as lawyers and judges can intervene to help these girls. The National Council on Crime and Delinquency interviews with girls in the juvenile justice system noted that many of the criminal experiences occurred between the ages of 12 and 14 years. This should lead us to identify and target at-risk girls to avoid future confinement in secure facilities. Just as importantly, early intervention efforts targeting girls between eight and 11 years of age may be a critical factor.25
Indeed, these are unique challenges, which we as lawyers and as judges have an obligation to confront as we study the multiple causes of the increased number of girls who come in contact with our juvenile justice system and as we explore solutions. The 2002 final report of the Commission on the Legal Needs of Children contains a specific recommendation regarding juvenile girls:
Of equal concern to the commission is the dramatically increasing number of females entering the juvenile justice system, without sufficient gender-specific programs in place to intervene and rehabilitate. The commission also recommends that this disturbing trend be specifically addressed with a focus on developing and making available appropriate services to young women in the juvenile justice system.
In an apparent attempt to address this type of concern, the state of Oregon enacted a law in 1993 requiring that state agencies serving children under 18 ensure that girls and boys have equal access to appropriate services, treatment, and facilities.26 Because of heightened awareness of girls’ issues prompted by this law, the state commission on children and families and the state criminal justice commission in Oregon funded the development of guidelines. Significant to the issue of the role of mentoring, one of its guidelines states:
Guideline: Significant Relationships with Caring Adults. Help girls establish significant relationships with caring adults through mentor programs. Matching a girl with a mentor who has a similar ethnic heritage, culture and background is encouraged. Mentors play a significant role in a girl’s success, especially with continual, reliable contact that avoids competition with a girl’s mother/family. Girls also need adult females who can model and support survival and growth along with resistance and change . . . .
Mentorships should be a component of all programs, connecting mentors/volunteers with girls during the program, and certainly before they transition out of it. It is critical that girls have adult women in their lives who can serve as examples of internal strength and ability. Adult women can exemplify survival and growth as well as resistance and change . . . .
Although there are many complex factors that may have affected the lives of female juvenile offenders, there are also many opportunities for lawyers and judges to contribute to successful intervention. These opportunities arise not only in our professional capacity, but also through volunteering both in traditional pro bono capacities such as the representation of children and serving as guardians ad litem and, additionally, in other volunteer capacities such as mentoring.
Because middle school academic failure is a critical contributing factor in the lives of youthful female offenders, involvement in tutoring and mentoring initiatives in elementary and middle schools can be a powerful antidote to delinquency. Indeed, one study has concluded that:
[a]ll girls benefit from the opportunity to interact with successful female role models. Such role models offer girls insight into positive careers and educational opportunities available to women in today’s society. Mentoring is one method of relationship-building and therefore should be an available resource to delinquent girls.27
Volunteering even as little as one or two hours per week to help a student with homework or to be an encouraging presence in his or her life may provide the intervention needed to make a difference. Attachments and bonds can be formed and maintained over time. Contact the governor’s mentoring initiative (www.myflorida.com/myflorida/governorsoffice/mentoring/index.html), your local school district, the Take Stock in Children Program (www.takestockinchildren.com/home.jsp), the Communities in School Program, or Big Brothers/Big Sisters (www.bbbsa.org) to determine where mentors or tutors are needed in your community. There is no better use of your “spare” time than mentoring a child.
Another opportunity for lawyers and judges is to work directly in public school classrooms on a regular basis with teachers to present law-related education lessons. Involvement in the classroom through well-planned activities and lessons can provide opportunities for knowledge and skill building as well as attitudinal changes. Depending on your interest, contact local schools to determine appropriate classes for which to serve as a resource person. Ask about law studies, court procedures, and legal systems and concepts classes as well as American government courses at the high school level. Middle school civics classes and elementary character education classes are also excellent opportunities for law-related education programs. A sufficient quantity and quality of instruction is important. Lessons and tips for involvement are available from FLREA in Tallahassee (www.flrea.org).
Class visits provide opportunities for ongoing, direct relationships with students while teaching about law-related issues. You also can ask about dropout prevention, alternative education, or academic intervention programs. In addition, there are second chance schools and juvenile justice programs that could use your assistance.
Mentoring relationships and positive role models are important not only in preventing delinquent behavior, but also in helping a girl once she has had her first contact with the juvenile system—to try to prevent her behavior from escalating. Consider joining—or starting—a reading program at a juvenile detention facility for girls whose behavior is considered serious enough to warrant commitment. As stated earlier, members of Palm Beach County FAWL joined the FIG visit and, based upon that experience, launched a program whereby FAWL members meet with a group of girls at FIG once a month to share thoughts about a book.28 The program, which provides 20 FAWL members to mentor through reading, is called “Breakfast and Books” and has been a tremendous success. Indeed, since the program began, discipline problems are down, grades are up, and there is a list of girls who want to participate.29
In addition to school tutoring and mentoring opportunities, there are multiple opportunities for involvement after school hours and beyond the school doors. Girls clubs, after-school programs, and neighborhood association initiatives as well as community-based nonprofit youth centers provide ample opportunities for adult involvement in the lives of young girls. PACE (Practical Academic and Cultural Education) Centers work with female juvenile offenders and at-risk girls in a community-based program. Providing gender-specific services, PACE sponsors counseling, mental health services, parenting classes, sex education programs, health and hygiene classes, and programs addressing victimization. PACE (www.pacecenter.org) also needs positive adult role models and mentors.30
Further, many religious and civic groups identify prisoners with children during the holidays to ensure that the children receive presents. You can deliver the presents and visit with the families. Offering assistance throughout the year may help to develop relationships with these families and provide positive intervention opportunities. Because of the high percentages of juvenile offenders who have an incarcerated parent, this type of involvement, especially with young children, may be important to help provide positive adult role models and mentoring relationships.
Another opportunity for lawyer involvement in this arena is by joining your local family law advisory group. The Florida Supreme Court recently adopted a recommendation of the family court steering committee that all circuits create a family law advisory group, which includes among its participants members of the Bar, to support and advise the family court.31 The advisory group assists in reaching the goal of having a model family court through open communication among court staff, judges, attorneys, social service providers, and other community leaders.
Female offenders are unique in their pathways that lead to the juvenile justice system. They are more likely to be victims of sexual abuse and to suffer from depression, low self-esteem, poor self-image, and related mental health problems.32 Often, they have experienced widespread academic failures. Recognizing the predictors of future female offenders may provide avenues for prevention during the critical preadolescent years. But it is not too late for active intervention in the teenage years—even for girls whose delinquent behavior is categorized as serious.
Everyone involved with the juvenile justice system in Florida—now more than ever—must concentrate on making every case and every girl count. It is imperative to recognize that if we focus our energies on effective prevention strategies, as well as on the needs of girls when they are first touched by the system, we may in fact be able to make a difference in their lives. Indeed, we left FIG with a renewed commitment to encourage members of the legal profession and the judiciary to become educated on the issue of girls in the juvenile justice system and to become involved in prevention and intervention efforts. All of the girls we met felt that they were going to turn their lives around. One girl expressed the aspiration of becoming a pediatrician. And Dr. Layne later told us that, after we left, one of the girls asked her how the title “Chief Justice” sounded. So, perhaps we did teach them a lesson. They certainly taught us one!
1 The Supreme Court of Florida hosts an annual Justice Teaching Institute to prepare teachers to teach about the Florida courts. Judges from various circuits also attend the institute. The justices and participating judges work with local teachers in the classroom and sponsor local training institutes to expand the numbers of students and teachers impacted annually. For additional information, see www.flcourts.org/sct/education/index.html.
2 The girls specifically recalled, with admiration and respect, the names of Judge Jose Rodriguez and Judge Cynthia MacKinnon from Orlando as well as Judge Kenneth Mara from West Palm Beach.
3 Leaders in the area include the American Bar Association and its former president, Florida attorney Martha Barnett, in collaboration with the National Bar Association and its former president, Florida attorney Evett L. Simmons, who jointly issued the publication, Justice by Gender: The Lack of Appropriate Prevention, Diversion and Treatment Alternatives for Girls in the Justice System (www.abanet.org/crimjust/juvjus/justicebygender.pdf). In addition, the Florida Commission on the Status of Women devoted its 2001 annual report to this issue, entitled Prevention by Intervention: Girls in Florida’s Juvenile Justice System (www.fcsw.net/documents/2001%20Annual%20Report%20web%20.pdf). Most recently, the Commission on the Legal Needs of Children, studying the entire gamut of issues relating to the legal needs of children, also focused on the particular problem of the increased number of juvenile girls in the system (www.flabar.org).
4 The June 2002 report of the Commission on the Legal Needs of Children represents the culmination of a three-year comprehensive study, under the leadership of Judge Sandy Karlan. This report covers the entire spectrum of the unmet needs of children.
5 See Kristin Parsons Winokur, Hidden Voices: The Experience of Delinquent Girls in Florida, printed in the Florida Commission on the Status of Women’s Tenth Annual Report (2001), Prevention by Intervention: Girls in Florida’s Juvenile Justice System at 13.
6 See Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, Juvenile Justice Frequently Asked Questions (8-15-2002) (www.djj.state.fl.us/faqs/).
7 See Winokur, supra note 5, at 10.
8 See supra note 6.
9 See Leslie Acoca, Investing in Girls: A 21st Century Strategy, 6 Juvenile Justice Journal (Oct. 1999). Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (www.ncjrs.org/html/ojjdp/jjjournal1099/invest8.html).
10 See id.
11 See Janet Wiig and Cathy Spatz Widom, et al., Understanding Child Maltreatment and Juvenile Delinquency: From Research to Effective Program, Practice and Systemic Solutions, at www.cwla.org/programs/juvenilejustice/ucmjd01.pdf at VI.
12 See id.
13 See Cindy S. Lederman and Eileen Nexer Brown, Entangled in the Shadows: Girls in the Juvenile Justice System, 48 Buff. L. Rev. 909, 915 (Fall 2000).
14 See id.
15 See id.
16 See Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Girls Initiative at www.djj.state.fl.uscomminvolve/listen.html.
17 See Winokur, supra note 5, at 15.
18 See Justice by Gender: The Lack of Appropriate Prevention, Diversion and Treatment Alternatives for Girls in the Justice System 10, jointly issued by the American Bar Association and the National Bar Association; see also Lederman and Brown, supra note 13, at 914–15 (noting that society gives women a different message than it gives girls in dealing with victimization; women are encouraged to leave a violent home as a healthy choice, but girls are considered runaways when they do so).
19 See Justice by Gender: The Lack of Appropriate Prevention, Diversion and Treatment Alternatives for Girls in the Justice System, supra note 18, at 10.
20 See id. at 17. The ABA/NBA report also discusses the fact that commentators have long attributed this disproportionality to bias in the discretionary decisions of police, probation, prosecutors, judges and agency personnel to handle runaway and other status offenses by girls through the delinquency system. Id. Indeed, the report states that although “the exact nature of justice system bias against girls is the subject of ongoing discussion and debate, there is general recognition of gender and race disparity in the processing of girls’ cases through the delinquency system.” Id. at 15. Similarly, the report states that preliminary studies suggest that the growth in the number of girls in the delinquency system is not due to an increase in their violent and aggressive behavior, but rather to a changed response about their behavior; for example, in relabeling girls’ family conflicts as violent offenses. Id. at 3.
21 See Lederman and Brown, supra note 13, at 917–18.
22 See id. at 915 (footnote omitted).
23 See Acoca, supra note 9.
24 See Barry A. Krisberg and Carolyn Engel Temin, The Plight of Children Whose Parents Are in Prison, National Council on Crime and Delinquency (Oct. 2001).
25 See Acoca, supra note 9.
26 See Or. Rev. Stat. §417.270; see generally Gender-Responsive Programming in the System–Oregon’s Guidelines for Effective Programming for Girls, 66 SEP Fed. Probation 57.
27 See Facing the Challenge: A Profile of Florida’s Female Juvenile Commitment Programs. Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Management Report Number 99-10 (Dec. 1999) at 30 (The Commission on the Status of Women also cited to this as one of its recommendations. See Florida Commission on the Status of Women Tenth Annual Report (2001), Prevention by Intervention: Girls in Florida’s Juvenile Justice System at 43). The DJJ studied also determined that for level 2 programs, ten percent have mentoring; for level 4, 12 percent have mentoring; at level 6, 18 percent offer mentoring; for level 8, zero percent reported mentroing programs. See id. at 62).
28 See Emily Minor, Troubled Girls Reading Up With Mentors, Palm Beach Post, January 2, 2003.
29 See Susan Spencer-Wendel, Justice’s Visit Boosts for Her, Inmates, Palm Beach Post, April 23, 2003 (noting also that the program has been recognized as a “best practice” by the Department of Juvenile Justice and will be started in other facilities).
30 Another successful effort at helping girls in the juvenile justice system is the Girls Advocacy Project (GAP), initiated by Judge Cindy S. Lederman, administrative judge of the juvenile division of the circuit court of Miami-Dade County and funded by the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. This project specifically serves girls while they are in held detention. Before GAP began serving them, the girls spent long idle hours in cells, and the opportunity to educate, garner trust, and modify behavior was lost. GAP fills that void by using that time to gain trust, educate, and break the cycle of incarceration. Topics of discussion include sexual education; violence; medical health; victimization, alcohol and illicit substance use/abuse; gang affiliation; coping with death and illness; academic performance; independent living skills; artistic interests; technology; support systems; self-acceptance; and conflict resolution. In addition, the girls write poems and material for the GAP Journal, which is also available for them to access during their free time. For further information on GAP, go to www.gapgirls.org.
31 See In re Report of Family Court Steering Committee, 794 So. 2d 518, 534 (Fla. 2001).
32 See Facing the Challenge: A Profile of Florida’s Female Juvenile Commitment Programs. Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, Bureau of Data and Research. Research Digest (2000).
Justice Barbara J. Pariente was appointed as the seventy-seventh justice of the Florida Supreme Court on December 10, 1997. She is chair of the Supreme Court Committee on Families and Children in the Court and she received the 2000 Florida Council on Crime and Delinquency Distinguished Judicial Service Award. In addition, Justice Pariente has served as a mentor to students through Take Stock in Children—a program for helping economically disadvantaged students earn a college scholarship. Justice Pariente graduated with highest honors from Boston University and then attended George Washington University Law School, where she graduated fifth in her class, earning highest honors and membership in the Order of the Coif.
Annette Boyd Pitts is the founding executive director of The Florida Law Related Association, Inc., a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the administration of justice through education. She is the recipient of the National Improvements in Justice Award and the 2002 American Bar Association Isidore Starr Award for Excellence in Law Related Education. Pitts is recognized nationally and internationally for her work in civic and law related education.
Jodi Wilkof served as a staff attorney to the judges of Florida’s 18th Judicial Circuit, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, and, most recently, for Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara J. Pariente. Wilkof also served as a big sister in the Big Brother/Big Sister program, volunteered at a shelter for abused and neglected children and was a founding member of the Florida Supreme Court’s mentoring committee. She is a graduate of Florida State University and the University of Virginia School of Law.