CABA Pro Bono Legal Services began in 1984, when Jose Garrido, a past president of CABA Pro Bono Project, saw the need of Spanish speakers in the community who did not have access to legal representation. A group of attorneys gathered, united by one passion: to
help the disadvantaged by providing pro bono representation.
In 2006, CABA Pro Bono’s serving president, Manuel L. Crespo, advocated for the project to become its own entity, establishing it as a 501c3 nonprofit organization, with its own board members and permanent physical location in Little Havana at the nonprofit Abriendo Puertas. Here, Mr. Crespo set up shop, painting the walls, redoing the floors, and hiring its first employee, Maria Jacqueline Rodriguez, who is currently still employed and working hard for them.
CABA Pro Bono remained at this office until 2008, before relocating to a location near the Orange Bowl. In 2009, under executive director Raul Flores, CABA Pro Bono hired its first staff attorney to handle foreclosure cases in-house. Before this, CABA Pro Bono referred all cases to volunteer attorneys. CABA Pro Bono continued to grow with the hard work of many, including past president, Sandra Ferrera, who served as the Pro Bono Chair for many years.
In 2013, under the leadership of executive director, Lesley Mendoza, Esq., CABA Pro Bono moved to its current offices at 2400 South Dixie Highway and added another staff attorney. At that time, the immigrant children’s program (“Mi Futuro”) was created to benefit abused, abandoned, and neglected immigrant children. This program has represented over 1,200 immigrant children since its inception.
CABA Pro Bono continued growing and adding additional staff and staff attorneys. In 2014, “Podemos” was created to provide legal and holistic representation to victims of domestic violence. By 2015, CABA Pro Bono added a third program for victims of human trafficking. In 2019, the Veteran’s Representation Program was created to address the unmet needs of veterans participating in Miami- Dade Veterans Court. Also, in 2019, CABA Pro Bono received a grant from the Florida Bar Foundation to strengthen its pro bono efforts. Currently, CABA Pro Bono employs eight attorneys and four staff members.
None of this would have been possible without the generous support and time dedicated to fundraising by so many of CABA & CABA Pro Bono’s past presidents and board members. Vivian de las Cuevas held the first Art in the Tropics to raise funds for CABA Pro Bono in 2005. Isabel Diaz and Yara Lorenzo organized the first CABA Pro Bono 5K. Giselle Gutierrez held the first CABA Marlins Night in 2016. Maria D. Garcia traveled annually to our State Capital for close to 10 years, each time accompanied by many other board members to advocate for increased funding of CABA Pro Bono. Her efforts paid off as each year, the legislature increased CABA Pro Bono’s funding.
In its 35 years, CABA Pro Bono has provided indispensable relief to individuals in their cases ranging from sex trafficking to domestic violence to foster children to immigration and much more. CABA Pro Bono has expanded its services for veterans in family law matters and to children who are victims of neglect and abuse by focusing on delivering quality representation. The work of its dedicated staff is of immeasurable value to the community as a whole and to the individuals who receive their help. The need for legal representation is growing, but with the help of CABA Pro Bono and its volunteers, the community will continue to find much-needed relief.