What is your Hispanic Heritage: Puerto Rico
What area of Florida do you live in: Tampa, Florida
What is your profession: Elected Circuit Court Judge and Attorney
Meet Miriam and other Lideres at the Hispanic Heritage Celebration at 3rd Annual FORD Taste Of Latino Festival!
Latin Times Magazine: Tell us about what you do for a living and how you got into it?
Miriam: I am presently a County Court Judge serving in the county civil division. I was elected to office in 2016 and have proudly served the community since that time. Prior to my election to the county court bench in 2016, I worked with my husband Jason at the Law office Valkenburg & Velez, PA where we concentrated in the areas of civil, criminal and family law primarily serving the Hispanic community.
Latin Times Magazine: In your industry, what would you say separates you from your competition?
Miriam: One characteristic that sets me apart from others in my profession is my sense of community and desire to continue giving back through my community involvement and mentorship of young professionals.
Latin Times Magazine: During Covid-19, tell us about your Biggest Challenge/obstacle and how you overcame it/or are overcoming it?
Miriam: Access to court is a fundamental right therefore the Court system never really “shut down”, instead we conducted court hearings and trials utilizing electronic programs such as the Zoom platform. Some of the challenges that I encountered while conducting video conferences were connections and audio issues. At times, I found it challenging to manage a large docket due to unintentional (or at time intentional) disruptions by the parties.
The most significant challenge that many judges encountered is that the use of electronic platforms diminishes the seriousness and importance of a court of law and devalues the process. The best way to overcome these challenges is to transition back to in-person court hearings and trials. While, the use of electronic platforms was a great temporary solution, it cannot be used long term.
Latin Times Magazine: Tell us about your biggest achievement, and how you achieved it (Covid or non-related)
Miriam: In 2015, I was recognized on a national level for my contributions to the Hispanic community, receiving the NFL National Hispanic Heritage Award for her leadership contributions to the community and the legal profession. This award recognized me for my commitment and dedication in assisting victims of domestic violence and for providing free legal services to indigent individuals that would otherwise not have access to the legal system.
I am also very proud to serve on the Diversity & Inclusion committee for the Florida Supreme Court Standing Committee on Fairness & Diversity in the Courts. I strive to continue my commitment to my community by serving on varies committee and by mentoring young men and women of Hispanic descent.
Other Awards that I have received:
2019 RECIPIENT OF THE HONORABLE E.J. SALCINES “SPIRIT OF TAMPA” AWARD
HCBA James M. “Red” McEwen Memorial Award, 2019
Raymond Fernandez Award Recipient, HCSO Hispanic Advisory Board 2018
Tampa Hispanic Bar Association, 2017 Appreciation Award from President Iurato.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 2015 NFL Hispanic Heritage Leadership Award
Florida Legal Elite Award – Recognized as a Top Lawyer in Florida 2015
Are You Safe, Inc. Board of Directors Civic Award 2014
Thirteen Judicial Pro-bono Service Award 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015
Latin Times Magazine: What is next for you? What can people expect to see from you?
Miriam: I hope to continue serving the citizens of Hillsborough County as a Judge. I love my job and am honored and humbled to serve our community.
Latin Times Magazine: What does being a U.S. Citizen mean to you?
Miriam: I feel incredibly privileged to live in a Democratic Country where each citizen has a voice and a right to elect their public officials. Being a United States citizen symbolizes freedom and a Country where every American is guaranteed fundamental rights and protections.
Latin Times Magazine: What is your opinion of the state of affairs in our nation?