Local Osceola County attorneys established the Osceola County Bar Association in the late 1800s. The composition of the first group of leaders was indicative of the times: all male, all white, and all established, prominent lawyers in the Osceola County community. Over the last one hundred fifty (150) years, the local attorney composition in Osceola County has evolved and the membership of the Osceola County Bar Association reflects that change.
On January 18, 2019, the Honorable Stefania Jancewicz swore in the 2019 Executive Board of the Osceola County Bar Association. The entire elected Executive Board is composed of young lawyers (aged 36 and younger), all of whom currently serve as government lawyers. While this level of involvement from young, government lawyers is not prevalent in many counties throughout Florida, this is not unique in Osceola County. Over the last six (6) years, a majority of the Osceola County Bar Presidents were government lawyers during their tenure: Grant Lacerte (General Counsel for the Kissimmee Utility Authority), Robert Holborn (Assistant State Attorney, now General Counsel for the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office) Celia Thacker Dorn (Ninth Judicial Circuit Staff Attorney, now Assistant City Attorney for the City of Kissimmee), and Warda Ali (Assistant State Attorney).
The 2019 Osceola County Bar President is Jose Campa, Assistant General Counsel for the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office. Mr. Campa was born in Havana, Cuba, raised in Central Florida, and attended the University of Florida for his undergraduate education and for law school. Upon law school graduation in 2013, Mr. Campa started his public service in the State Attorney’s Office in the Fourth Judicial Circuit and later transferred to the Ninth Judicial Circuit. In 2018, Mr. Campa made the move from prosecutor to the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office, where he spends his time helping law enforcement officers build strong cases and uphold the law.
The election of Ebony Cobb, Assistant Public Defender, as the 2019 Osceola County Bar President-Elect ensures the legacy of young government lawyers at the helm of the Osceola County Bar shall continue. Ms. Cobb was born and raised in Orlando, Florida. She completed her undergraduate education at Florida State University and attended law school at the University of Florida. After law school graduation in 2014, Ms. Cobb took a position with the Ninth Judicial Circuit Public Defender’s Office, where she remains today aggressively representing hundreds of indigent clients who are charged with serious crimes.
The future of young government attorneys in Osceola Bar leadership does not stop with Mr. Campa and Ms. Cobb. The 2019 Osceola Bar Secretary, Rachel Jones, currently serves as an Assistant State Attorney for the Ninth Judicial Circuit, a position she has held since her 2015 graduation from Barry Law School. The 2019 Osceola Bar Public Information Officer: Alesha Smith, Membership Director: Alex Johnson, and Treasurer, April Rembis, all work as Assistant Public Defenders for the Ninth Judicial Circuit. Ms. Smith completed her undergraduate education at the University of Central Florida and attended law school at Stetson University. After graduating from Stetson in 2013, Ms. Smith started her service as an Assistant Public Defender. Mr. Johnson graduated from law school at the young age of twenty-three (23) and started his legal career in 2017 as an Assistant Public Defender. Ms. Rembis, the newest attorney on this Board, was sworn into the Florida Bar in 2018 and also started her legal career as an Assistant Public Defender. Finally, the 2019 Young Lawyer’s Section Director, Natasha Billyer, currently serves as a Staff Attorney for the Ninth Judicial Circuit. Ms. Billyer completed her undergraduate education at Montclair State University and attended law school at Nova Southeastern University. Since graduation in 2013, Ms. Billyer worked in Legal Aid, for a personal injury firm, and moved into government practice in 2015 with the Ninth Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office.
These talented young lawyers with experience ranging from six (6) years to ten (10) months of practice understand the benefits of engaging with the legal community and serving the public. The Osceola County Bar fosters government employees’ involvement through its use of the Osceola County Courthouse Jury Services room for monthly bar lunches, decreased yearly dues for government lawyers, free monthly lunches included with those bar dues, and free CLEs. However, even with all these perks provided by the Osceola County Bar, involvement for young government lawyers requires support from the top down. Ninth Circuit State Attorney Aramis Ayala’s office continues the practice of previous administrations of paying the Florida Bar dues for all of her Assistant State Attorneys if those ASAs join a local bar association. Ninth Circuit Public Defender Robert Wesley also encourages involvement in local bar associations, and his office pays the membership dues for the Assistant Public Defenders to join the Central Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Through these incentives and encouragement, these elected officials are helping the young lawyers in their offices get involved and give back even more than they already do inside the courtroom.
Congratulations to the 2019 Osceola County Bar Association Executive Board. We look forward to the great things you have planned this year!