2022-2023 GSCBWLA Leadership


Officers

Michele SamarooPresident 

Lotoya K. BrownPresident-Elect 

Ashley GanttVice President

Dwon Huggins, Secretary

Janeen Lofton, Historian

Nakia Ruffin, Immediate Past President

Directors

Mark Berrios-Ayala

Iris A. Elijah

Monifa Hall

Shantrell Lewis
Candice Michael
Sylvie Rampal
Sherria D. Williams


Michele Samaroo, Esq. • President 


Lotoya K. Brown, Esq. • President-Elect

Lotoya K. Brown, Esq. is a Senior Associate at Andell Brown & Associates, a boutique family operated firm in Aventura, FL. She concentrates her practice areas in business transactions, estate planning & legacy building education. She also provides healthcare directives, power of attorney and notarial services. Lotoya has also gained experience in municipal law as the previous Interim Deputy City Attorney of the City of Sunny Isles Beach.

Lotoya earned her Juris Doctor from Shepard Broad College of Law at Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad College of Law (2017) and her undergraduate degree from Florida State University. She is a proud alum of both schools. During law school, she was a repeated Dean’s List recipient, Law School Ambassador, Moot Court Member, an Executive Board Member for the Black Law Students Association (BLSA), National Black Law Students Association (NBLSA), PULSE! Health Law Association, and a general member of the Caribbean Law Students Association. Currently, she serves as Board Member for the Caribbean Bar Association, member of the Real Property, Probate & Trust Law section of The Florida Bar and of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. When not working, Lotoya enjoys spending time with her family and cultivating new ways to expand her legal knowledge and community impact.

Ashley Gantt, Esq. • Vice President

Ashley V. Gantt, Esq. was born and raised in Miami, Florida. She graduated from the University of Florida in 2007 with a Bachelor of Arts in English. She was a 2007 Teach for America Mississippi Delta Corps (TFA) member and taught in the Miami-Dade County Public Schools as a middle and high school teacher. In 2016, Ashley graduated from Nova Southeastern School of law serving as secretary and president of the Nova Black Law Students Association. She competed in the National Black Law Students Association Southern Region Thurgood Marshall Mock Trial Competition and the Texas Young Lawyers Association National Trial Competition. Ashley was inducted into The Order of the Barristers and is currently a Broward County Assistant Public Defender since 2016 and has received a “Hat Trick” Award from the Broward Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys for two consecutive years as recognition for attaining not guilty verdicts in at least three successive trials. Ashley has continued to be active in her community by serving on the executive board of the T.J. Reddick Bar Association as corresponding secretary, recording secretary, and will be inducted at the President-Elect for the 2019-2020 year. She also serves as the treasurer for the Broward Association of Criminal Defense attorneys. Ashley is also a Wm. Reece Smith Jr. Leadership Academy Fellow for 2019-2020. Ashley is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and the University of Florida Association of Black Alumni South Florida chapter.

Dwon Huggins, Esq.  Secretary

After receiving her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with minors in Biology and Political Science from the University of Miami, Ms. Huggins earned her Juris Doctor, cum laude, from St. Thomas University School of Law. While attending law school, Ms. Huggins interned at the United Nations through the Pax Romana-United Nations Internship Program, and served as a Member of the Mock Trial Team and the Intercultural Human Rights Law Review.  Additionally, Ms. Huggins earned a Book Award in the Low-Income Tax Clinic.

Ms. Huggins is a member of the Florida Bar, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. Ms. Huggins focuses her professional practice in the areas of construction litigation and design professional liability defense.


  Janeen Lofton, Esq• Historian 

 Ms. Lofton is currently an Attorney at Liebler, Gonzalez & Portuondo:  a law firm based in Miami,   Tampa and Orlando Florida servicing banking, business, commercial, and real estate law needs   throughout the State of Florida, Southeastern United States and the US Virgin Islands.  Her     background hails from Wall Street whereas she was an Investment Banker in the area of Asset     Backed Securities. After graduating law school, Ms. Lofton served as an Attorney Advisor for the   Washington, DC Court Systems, then transitioned out of public service back into the private sector at   Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe law firm where she worked in the Fixed Income Group, then later clerked for Honorable James S. Carroll.

Janeen received her B.A. & B.S. from Xavier University and her J.D./M.B.A. through the Howard University/Texas University consortium. Currently, Janeen works in LGP’s Commercial Banking Litigation Group premised on her extensive experience in banking law litigation and regulation litigation practicing USVI matters and managing Florida trials.  She is a community advocate happy to serve as a Board Member of Gwen S. Cherry’s Black Women Lawyers Association, Board Member of Miami’s Bach Society, an active member of the Young Patronesses of the Opera, member of the Bach Miami Symphony as a violinist, a member of Junior League Miami, and actively leads programs for Camillus’ House community.

Nakia Ruffin, Esq.  Immediate Past President

Nakia Ruffin currently serves as an Associate General Counsel for Universal Property & Casualty Insurance Company. Prior to joining Universal, Ms. Ruffin served as an Assistant General Counsel for the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida, providing legal services to the Administrative Office of the Courts. In addition to advising administration, she also provided advice to the judiciary on administrative and court-related matters. She received her degrees from the University of Florida and St. Thomas University School of Law.

Ms. Ruffin serves on various Florida Bar committees and is active in the community. She is the past Chair of a Florida Bar grievance committee. Currently, she is part of Broward Sherriff's Office Social Justice Task Force. Ms. Ruffin is a member of the League of Women Voters of Broward County where she serves as a Co-chair for the Youth Engagement Committee and serves on the Executive Board for their Education Fund.

Mark Berrios-Ayala, Esq. • Board Member

 Mark Berrios-Ayala currently is In House Counsel to Jefferson Capital Systems, LLC. Previously,  Mark worked at two firms dealing with personal injury and bankruptcy while a student at the University of Central Florida. Mark also worked as the legal intern for the Honorable Migna Sanchez-Llorens of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court of Florida in Miami. Mark also served as a Certified Legal Intern at the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office. Being a first-generation college graduate, Mark graduated from Florida International University College of Law in the spring of 2017. During law school, Mark was awarded the pro bono medallion for over 200 pro bono hours completed while in law school. Mark obtained his bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Florida in 2014: graduating honors in the major. Mark obtained his Associate of Arts degree from Valencia College in 2011. In his free time, Mark authors articles on trending topics in the Puerto Rican community, is the Vice President of Communications of PROFESA, community organization, and enjoys traveling around the world.

Iris A. Elijah, Esq.  Board Member

Iris A. Elijah serves as the Associate General Counsel of Florida International University (FIU). Previously Iris was the Assistant General Counsel at the State University System, Board of Governors and the Assistant General Counsel of Florida A&M University. Iris is a graduate of the FIU College of Law and University of South Florida. Iris is active in the civic and legal community serving on the Executive Board of the Florida Association for Women Lawyers (FAWL), as an officer for the Gwen S. Cherry Black Women Lawyers Association, Board of Governors of The Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division, several The Florida Bar committees, committee chair for the Miami-Dade Chapter of FAWL, an active member of the Miami Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and a frequent volunteer with Smile Miami. Iris has been honored with several distinctions including Brickell Magazine Top 20 Under 40, FIU's Charles E. Perry Young Alumni Visionary Award, University of South Florida Outstanding Young Alumni, and the Tallahassee Network of Young Professionals Golden A.C.E. Award. 

Monifa Hall, Esq.  Board Member

Monifa Hall is an Associate in the Litigation and Intellectual Property practice groups at Greenspoon Marder LLP. Ms. Hall focuses her practice in the areas of complex commercial, civil litigation, and intellectual property matters in both federal and state courts in Florida. Ms. Hall has experience representing clients in contract related disputes, international arbitration, patent infringement litigation, and evidentiary and civil procedure issues. Ms. Hall earned her Juris Doctor from American University Washington College of Law. During law school, she was a Research Assistant at the Center on International Commercial Arbitration, was a Staff Writer for the International Law Review, and competed in the Frankfurt Investment Arbitration Moot Court Competition in 2018 against students from all over the world. She was also the President of the International Trade and Investment Law Society and an active pro-bono legal volunteer for the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project. Ms. Hall is a Miami native and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology and African American Studies from the University of Florida. She previously served the Gwen S. Cherry Black Women Lawyers Association as Co-Chair of the Media & Marketing Committee, and still leads that Committee today.


Shantrell Lewis, Esq.  Board Member

Shantrell Lewis and was born and raised in Miami, Florida. Ms. Lewis lived in Virginia for a couple of years. She received her law degree from St. Thomas University School of Law and her undergraduate degree from University of South Florida. She currently works as an Attorney for the U.S. Small Business Administration, where she assist small business owners with their loans and ensure their compliance with same. Previously, Ms. Lewis worked as an Associate at a boutique law firm, concentrating on real estate matters, as well as a stint as an Assistant State Attorney in the Miami-Dade Attorney’s Office’s Child Support Enforcement Division. Ms. Lewis is an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Wilkie D. Ferguson Bar Association, and the Immanuel Temple AME church.


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Candice Michael, Esq Board Member 

Candice L. Michael, Esquire is a licensed Florida attorney, practicing marital and family law with a focus on children’s issues, domestic violence, and divorce.  She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminology with honors from the University of Florida in 2009, and her Juris Doctor degree from Howard University School of Law in 2014.  Ms. Michael was admitted to license law in the state of Florida in 2014. 

Following graduation, Ms. Michael served as a Judicial Law Clerk in the Superior Court of the Virgin Islands, and later developed her career as a litigation attorney while working for Florida Rural Legal Services, Inc. in Fort Myers, Florida, and Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc. in Miami, Florida.  Ms. Michael has successfully advocated, and obtained favorable results, for countless clients in marital and family law cases, including but not limited to contested divorces, guardian advocacy, relative adoption, paternity, temporary custody by extended family members, and child support matters.  Ms. Michael also has litigation experience with private and federally subsidized landlord-tenant defense work.

Sylvie Rampal, Esq.  • Board Member 

Sherria D. Williams, Esq Board Member  

"Where there is no struggle, there is no strength"-Oprah Winfrey  

Sherria Williams born December 8 a proud native of Miami, Florida insists that those words have guided her into some of many personal, professional, and spiritual accomplishments in life. Attorney, entrepreneur, and community supporter are few, of the many hats, worn by Williams.

Williams graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminology, from The Florida State University, and later earned her Juris Doctor degree The Florida State University College of Law in 2009. During law school, Sherria worked for the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation in the Division of Professions where she prepared and argued cases at the Division of Administrative Hearings. As a law clerk for the Honorable Judge Charles Francis,  ​she reviewed and analyzed writs of mandamus and prisoner petitions. During law school she participated as a regional board member of the Southern Region of the National Black Law Students Association, as well as the American Bar Association representative for her school. 

Sherria was fortunate to return to her hometown as she started her legal career protecting the residents of Miami-Dade County at the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office. As an Assistant State Attorney, Williams prosecuted cases from criminal traffic infractions to drug trafficking. Williams was persistent and during her four (4) years she tried 100’s of bench trials and over 25 jury trials. Sherria has always enjoyed giving back to others, and was given the opportunity to work in the Community Prosecution Unit where she was instrumental in starting the Junior ASA Program at local high schools, supporting and educating community members about the law and the criminal justice system. Williams practiced as a litigation attorney with Butler & Hosch, P.A., representing national banks in residential foreclosure matters from Monroe County to West Palm Beach. Presently Sherria Williams works at United Automobile Insurance Company​ in Miami Gardens, FL in the House Counsel defending personal injury protection claims and investigating fraudulent automobile accidents and treatment. In addition to her contribution as an advocate of the law she still makes time to serve her community through her quarterly Fatherhood Empowered events.

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