Ashley Gantt gets Florida Bar award for work on diversity, inclusion
Ashley Gantt posts another blockbuster month.

Past recipients include renowned trial lawyers and the first African American woman to head any branch of Florida government.

Freshman Miami Democratic Rep. Ashley Gantt is this year’s recipient of the Florida Bar’s Henry T. Latimer Diversity and Inclusion Award.

The annual award recognizes individuals whose work has encouraged participation and opportunities for all within the legal profession, but particularly the historically marginalized.

Gantt, a lawyer in private practice, spent more than a decade and a half working in community and public service before founding her own law firm. That included a stint as an assistant public defender in Broward County, where she earned back-to-back “Hat Trick” awards from the Broward Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers for earning “not guilty” verdicts in at least three consecutive trials.

Last year, she unseated incumbent Democratic Rep. James Bush III, a fellow former educator who in recent years voted with his Republican colleagues for Florida’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks, restrictions on LGBTQ-inclusive public school instruction and withdrawing Florida workplaces from oversight by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. He was the only Democrat to do so.

Since winning office with 52% of the vote in August, Gantt successfully passed legislation to require lactation spaces for nursing mothers in most Florida courthouses and secured an $817,000 payment for a Broward man the state wrongly imprisoned for 16 years.

She also successfully co-sponsored bills boosting retirement benefits for state employees, easing the use of technology in juvenile court proceedings, cracking down on antisemitic displays, banning seven “foreign countries of concern” from buying land near military bases and critical infrastructure, and a measure called “Greyson’s Law” meant to improve protections for children at risk of parental harm.

Despite those successes, Gantt said she is “candidly … in shock” to win the Latimer award, whose past recipients include former Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Peggy Quince, former Justice James E.C. Perry, Fort Lauderdale lawyer Eugene Pettis and lawyer H.T. Smith, who served as Miami’s first African American assistant county attorney before opening the first Black-owned law firm in the city’s downtown area.

“To be included amongst legal giants who continue to advocate for inclusive spaces within and outside the legal community is humbling,” Gantt said in a statement. “I have been and will continue to be committed to working towards equity, equality, diversity, and inclusion in my capacity as a state Representative and as an attorney.”

The Florida Association for Women Lawyers, Virgil Hawkins Florida Chapter National Bar Association and the Florida Bar Standing Committee on Diversity & Inclusion cooperate yearly in nominating and selecting recipients of the award.

It is named for Henry T. Latimer, one of Florida’s first African American judges, whose 30-year legal career “was exemplified by passion, excellence, wisdom and diplomacy,” a Florida Bar press note said.

Latimer died in a 2005 car accident just six months before he was to become the Florida Bar’s first African American President. In his honor, the Florida Supreme Court renamed the Center for Professionalism the Henry Latimer Center for Professionalism.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.

One comment

  • Tom

    June 28, 2023 at 4:02 pm

    Diversity and inclusion – rhonda would not approve. Them’s fightin’ words.

Comments are closed.


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