Faculty Spotlight: Kathy Cerminara

You may not expect a lawyer to have hot pink boas hanging on her office door. But Kathy Cerminara, associate professor of law at the Shepard Broad Law Center, does and above the boas is a banner that reads, “For peace of mind, resign as general manager of the universe.”

Cerminara said that at the end of each school year, the law center holds a faculty and student roast as well as a fashion show where the students model the “dos” of dressing at a law firm and the faculty model the “don’ts.”

“I use a boa as part of my ‘don’t’ every year,” Cerminara said.

Cerminara has been teaching at NSU since 1998. She was attracted to its lawyering skills program.

“To teach is a nice privilege,” said Cerminara. “You get to work with new students every single year, and you get some fresh blood, and you can get re-excited about your subject every single year because somebody new is coming in, and you’re helping them understand it.”

Cerminara said she reminds students why they entered law school. She said every student goes to law school with a goal in mind.

“Especially during your first year in law school, when you get really, really tired because you have hundreds of pages to read and you have thousands of hours to put in on writing a memo, if you can remember why you’re there and remind yourself that law school is a step toward that goal, that can really help get you through,” she said.

Helping students find their purpose in their law careers has paid off. Among the frames in her office is a letter from a former student, thanking her. She said she remembers a student who was able to overcome family issues in her first year of law school and become successful.

“Individual little victories like that — seeing that someone got the job they wanted — those kinds of things become really, really important,” she said.

Cerminara said that she is proud that the law center is committed to the idea that it takes different kinds of people to serve the public well. She said that someone whose intelligence and skills have not been predicted on standardized law tests can still become great lawyers.

“We’ve made a commitment as a school to do some things that allow people to earn their way into law school — people that other law schools aren’t interested in. And a number of these people become incredible attorneys, and I’m really glad that we take the risk on them so that they have a chance to do that,” she said.

Cerminara said that it’s rewarding to be able to fulfill the three requirements of her job: teaching, scholarship and service.

“With teaching, you send out good practicing attorneys,” she said. “With scholarship and service, you can put ideas out into the world and maybe try to get legislation passed or get courts to change their minds and to make the area that you work in better.”

As part of her service, Cerminara helps citizens negotiate with the health care system. She also works with community groups to make sure they understand what their rights are as patients, particularly near the end of life. She recently spoke to community groups about hospice care and how it is funded. She worked with NSU’s geriatric education center and their Boomers and Beyond health fair, providing health law information with law students.

Cerminara also co-authored a timeline of the events in the Terri Shiavo case, on which she wrote extensively.

“We had congressmen and congresswomen’s offices calling us like crazy in those heated days when both the Florida legislature and the federal legislature were considering whether or not to pass bills about Ms. Shiavo,” she said.

She was also interviewed by CNN also interviewed her to com-ment on the case, and in his book, Michael Shiavo, Terri Shiavo’s husband, thanked her and her co-author for the timeline.

Outside of her work and service, Cerminara enjoys doing jazzercise and reading mysteries by P.D. James, Iris Johansen, Janet Evanovich and John Sanford. She is interested in local history and said that she is always trying to find local historical events and history walking tours. She is a member of History Miami and does walking tours for them. She was also a volunteer tour guide at a historic site in Miami.

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