Cissy Boza Sevelin for Circuit Court Judge, Group 25 Interview
Cissy Boza Sevelin: I have three beautiful children who are ages 40, 38 and 33 and a 20 year-old stepson. The love of my life of course is my husband, Ralph … but, my eight-year old granddaughter stole my heart many moons ago. We have three dogs and reside in Thonotosassa.
Jolie Gonzalez-Padilla: Where is your husband, Ralph employed?
Cissy Boza Sevelin: Ralph has worked for Tampa Electric for thirty-five years. He began reading meters in 1982, then worked in the line department until 1990 and now is in meter operations.
Jolie Gonzalez-Padilla: Where did you grow up?
Cissy Boza Sevelin: I am a Florida native. I grew up in West Tampa. We first lived on Union Street and then moved to Carmen Street where I resided until I married. I began working for Olympia Bakery when I was 12 years old. Although I reside in Thonotosassa, my heart remains in West Tampa.
Jolie Gonzalez-Padilla: Tell us about your education.
Cissy Boza Sevelin: I was married at a very young age. When I was 25 years old and a single mother of three, I decided it was time to better my life and that of my children. I began taking classes at Hillsborough Community College while working fulltime and achieved my Associates Degree. I then applied to the University of South Florida where I first obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting and then a Bachelor’s Degree in Finance. During my time at the University of South Florida I was required to take a business law class. As a result, my interest continued in the study of law. I attended the Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law, Barry University and obtained a Master of Business Administration and my Juris Doctorate. During my time in law school, I also became a Florida Supreme Court County Mediator and a Florida Supreme Court Family Law Mediator.
Jolie Gonzalez-Padilla: What did you do prior to becoming an attorney?
Cissy Boza Sevelin: I was a Florida Supreme Court Family Law Mediator, Florida Supreme Court County Mediator and an accountant. Prior to attending law school, I was the Assistant Vice President, Operations Manager and Loan Officer for First Florida Bank, N.A., who ultimately merged with Barnett Bank, N.A. and then Regents Bank.
Jolie Gonzalez-Padilla: Why did you choose you career?
Cissy Boza Sevelin: Although at one point in my life, I thought I wanted to be a doctor. As a small child, I truly enjoyed watching Perry Mason. I recall one day saying I am going to be like Perry Mason and then I am going to be the judge. Of course, my family laughed and here I am pursuing my ultimate dream of being a judge.
Jolie Gonzalez-Padilla: Tell us why as a practicing attorney you choose to do your cases pro-bono.
Cissy Boza Sevelin: I spent approximately nine years working for the Federal Bankruptcy Court in the Middle District of Florida, as a Career and Term Law Clerk. During my time with the court, I was not permitted to do any type of pro bono work. During the same time, I also owned and operated a wedding venue, Victorian Gardens, located in Thonotosassa.
Prior to becoming an attorney, I needed legal help and couldn’t afford to pay an attorney. In October 2013, after my position with the Bankruptcy Court was abolished due to the death of my Judge, the Honorable Alexander L. Paskay, I decided – I had been very successful and very blessed and now it was time for me to give back. So, with the support of my husband, I provide legal assist to the indigent and oppressed, in areas of domestic violence, family law, dependency, delinquency, wills and trust and take on other matters when appropriate.
Jolie Gonzalez-Padilla: Where do you find your clients?
Cissy Boza Sevelin: I am on the referral panel and a mentor for Bay Area Legal Services, Inc. I am also a voluntary attorney for Are You Safe, Inc. where I represent children, women, men and the elderly who are victims of domestic violence. I also serve on the injunction committee for Are Your Safe, Inc. Many times I represent the victims in their family law cases so they may move on with their lives and promote a healthy and happy environment for their children.
I am also a volunteer Attorney ad Litem for Crossroads for Florida Kids, Inc. As an Attorney ad Litem I represent teens and young adults in the foster care system that must appear in dependency or delinquency court. If I am able to save one teen from going to prison and bettering their life, I will do anything legally possible to make that happen.
As a Guardian ad Litem for the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit, I am the voice for a child. I appear on behalf of children in court who are abused, neglected, or abandoned. My goal is to prepare a clear and healthy path for children to flourish and assist in providing them with emotional security.
Jolie Gonzalez-Padilla: Have you been recognized for your pro bono efforts?
Cissy Boza Sevelin: I have. I am honored to have received the following awards; however, I am most humbled to have given the opportunity to represent so many clients who truly appreciate all that I am able to do for them so they can go forward with the lives.
Are You Safe, Inc. Alberto Romero Pro Bono Attorney of the Year – September 29, 2016
The Charlie Hounchell Community Advocate Award – April 30, 2016
Rosemary Award – Proven Producer – March 5, 2016 and March 2017
Florida Bar President’s Pro Bono Award – January 28, 2016
Are You Safe, Inc. Volunteer Attorney of the Year Award – September 24, 2015
The Thirteenth Judicial Circuit & H.A.V.E. a Heart – Outstanding Pro Bono Service by a Lawyer – April 23, 2015
Are You Safe, Inc. Volunteer Attorney of the Year Award – September 4, 2014
Pro Bono Pledge Individual Award – 2014 HCBA 5K Pro Bono River Run March 22, 2014.
Jolie Gonzalez-Padilla: When did you decide that you wanted to become a Judge?
Cissy Boza Sevelin: As I previously mentioned, it has been a lifelong dream of mine to become a judge. I have watched, when time permitted, virtually every legal television show which has been produced. To boot, I watch live hearings of real cases being televised.
Jolie Gonzalez-Padilla: Why do you think you will make a good and fair Judge?
Cissy Boza Sevelin: I have the experience; balance and maturity that make me stand out as a candidate. My work has encompassed banking, accounting, bankruptcy (debtor and creditor), foreclosures, family law, and civil trial. I worked as a judicial assistant to various county and circuit court judges and in mediation and diversion service. Through this experience, I have not only gained a sense of various areas of the law, but the many functions of the clerk of court. I have significant practical work experience in all of these areas. I have worked for the government, as a solo practitioner and in a small law practice and in the corporate world of banking. These work environments have prepared me to understand the challenges facing the attorneys who could practice before me.
The varieties of job settings and community involvement I have had in my life have given me a balanced perspective on the importance of everything life offers. Family, spirituality, and giving to others is important, just as it is vocation. I am a complete person in consideration of all these facets of my life.
My personal experiences as a grandparent, parent and daughter have given me maturity and greater understanding of people. It is important to have the patience and compassion to really listen to people, to be available to them when they communicate and express themselves. This is possible only when we have grown into the ability to appreciate other people. I have grown tolerant as I have grown older and experienced the many ups and downs that life has offered. A judge must accept that his or her role will be to consider the issues of citizens from all aspects of life. The decisions are very important; they may encompass loss of life or property, and are to be taken seriously, with sensitivity and compassion. I would humbly attempt to always rise to this challenge.
Jolie Gonzalez-Padilla: What are the attributes of a good judge?
Cissy Boza Sevelin: Intellect; maturity; analytical ability; calm and patience; ability to move a docket and to make decisions; organizational skills; research and writing; compassion; sensitivity; caring and listening.
Jolie Gonzalez-Padilla: If elected, what qualities will you bring to the bench?
Cissy Boza Sevelin: I will continue to apply the qualities that I have learned throughout my years of experience. My experience includes legal research and writing, family law, domestic violence, dependency accounting, banking, bankruptcy, finance and business.
I will continue to mentor young attorneys to better themselves and to be more efficient attorneys. I will continue to strongly promote pro bono legal services to members or our community.
Jolie Gonzalez-Padilla: What will happen to your practice when you become Judge?
Cissy Boza Sevelin: As a sole proprietor, my practice – Isabel Cissy Boza Sevelin, P.A., will be closed. My current caseload must be completed or transferred to another attorney who will then represent my clients prior to being sworn into office. At this time, I am not taking on any new cases. I do not and will not permit my campaign from impeding on someone’s life. With that being said, I am assisting new attorneys by mentoring them with their cases.
Jolie Gonzalez-Padilla: Who is eligible to vote for you?
Cissy Boza Sevelin: All Hillsborough County registered voters are eligible to vote for me.
Jolie Gonzalez-Padilla: How can people help you win your campaign?
Cissy Boza Sevelin: Tell friends about me. Volunteer to canvass neighborhoods. Put signs up at their businesses and in their yards. Volunteer to be at the voting locations the weeks prior to and/or the day of the election. Invite me to gatherings were I can meet voters in person. Volunteer to be on my host committee or contact my host committee to hold fundraisers. Attend functions on my behalf so I can attend other events which are being held on the same day and at the same time. Follow me on Facebook at Cissy4Judge and share my page. Visit my website located at cissysevelin4judge.com and signup to volunteer.
Jolie Gonzalez-Padilla: One last question, what do you do when you are not practicing law?
Cissy Boza Sevelin: My husband and I enjoy family time, going to church, doing yard work and maintaining our home. Yes, I drive a tractor and mow the lawn and find a sense of peace when doing so. I truly enjoy working in the nursery at our church and cooking. When time allows – we like canoeing, going for long drives, reading, but most importantly … we love our quality time together and with our families.