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Legal chat talk show popular in South Florida Haitian community.

Language is not a barrier for South Florida Haitian-Americans who want to know more about legal issues. The Haitian Lawyers Association provides a weekly television and radio show, spoken in Haitian Creole, for a growing South Florida Haitian-American community.

Since 1999, the Haitian Lawyers Association (HLA) has produced a television legal talk show, called "Koze Legal." Koze Legal, translated to English as Legal Chat, was established as a forum to educate South Florida's Haitian-American community about important legal issues and its rights and responsibilities in various areas of law.

Additionally, the association began a call-in radio show in February that broadcasts on local talk radio and expands the listening audience to include more than 300,000 Haitian-Americans living in South Florida. Plans are underway to broadcast the pretaped television shows on radio, too.

"The show has received great reviews from the community," said Lisa Metellus-Hood, president of HLA. "It serves as another avenue to provide access to the legal community that is not readily available for some, especially Haitian people."

The project is one opportunity for the nonprofit voluntary bar association to ensure it carries out its mission to protect and promote the general welfare of the Haitian-American community and other minority residents in the South Florida area, Metellus-Hood added.

Koze Legal covers a wide spectrum of legal topics related to immigration, criminal law, family law, bankruptcy, domestic violence, real estate, and landlord/tenant law. With its unique format, it is the only television program run by Haitian lawyers, spoken in Creole, and completely created for the Haitian community to address particular legal concerns.

Attorney Beatrice Cazeau, HLA vice president, and HLA member and attorney Donald Gelin produce the show and have served as hosts of the show. The 30-minute show, produced four times each month, usually includes a host with three guests. Several HLA members and other various professionals from the community appear as guests to discuss their specific areas of law as well as assist in the production of the show.

Cazeau added that she receives "wonderful feedback from the public." The show provides a forum to answer questions about topics that may be culturally accepted but are legally unacceptable in a city or county.

Since radio is a primary source of information for the Haitian community, the move to add a radio show was ideal. A recent South Florida poll showed that 60 percent of Haitians 30 to 49 years of age and 68 percent of those 50 and older listen to Creole radio.

The television shows are aired periodically throughout a given week on Island TV, a local television network. In past years, the show previously aired on the Haitian Television Network and WLRN Public Access Television.

To help fund the legal chat shows, The Florida Bar Foundation awarded HLA with a $5,000 Voluntary Bar Association Community Grant.

Another aspect of HLA's mission is to increase the enrollment of Haitian law students through education and mentoring opportunities as well as creating community networking opportunities for its members, local organizations, and businesses.

HLA provides scholarships to deserving Haitian law students at four South Florida law schools. Its annual gala, a celebration of the many accomplishments within the Haitian community, is held in January to support the scholarship program. Metellus-Hood said the gala is a wonderful testament to the support the Haitian community receives from the larger community.

More than 400 judges, lawyers, community leaders, politicians, family, and friends attend the festive event. In addition to scholarships, proceeds from the 2005 gala will help fund tuition expenses for at least 75 Haitian students in the hurricane-ravaged area of Gonaives, Haiti.

HLA also coordinates a joint judicial reception with other minority bar associations in the South Florida community--Caribbean Bar Association and Wilkie D. Ferguson, Jr., Bar Association. It held its first CLE seminar in May, entitled, "The ABCs of a Successful Law Practice."

Metellus-Hood concluded by reiterating how important it is to provide legal services to those who can't afford them.

"We are a small group but we are committed to serving our community."

Attorney and HLA member Lissette Labrousse and The Florida Bar's Toyca Williams, voluntary bar liaison, contributed to this report.
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Author:Labrousse, Lissette; Williams, Toyca
Publication:Florida Bar Journal
Date:Apr 1, 2005
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