/stories/2019/03/two-miami-law-alums-appointed-to-the-eleventh-judicial-circuit-court

Two Miami Law alums appointed to the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is flanked by new court appointees Michelle Alvarez Barakat, left, and Tanya Brinkley. Photo: TJ Lievonen/University of Miami
By Robert C. Jones Jr.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is flanked by new court appointees Michelle Alvarez Barakat, left, and Tanya Brinkley. Photo: TJ Lievonen/University of Miami

Two Miami Law alums appointed to the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court

By Robert C. Jones Jr.
“Both will serve with integrity,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said of the two appointees at a midday press conference on the UM campus.

Already a wife and young mother when she started law school at the University of Miami in the early 1990s, Tanya Brinkley knew her journey to becoming lawyer would be filled with challenges most other law students never face. 

Each day, she would bring her 3-year-old daughter with her to campus, dropping the toddler off at Canterbury Preschool and then dashing off to class at Miami Law.

Today, Brinkley looks back on those days with fondness, crediting UM with “nurturing and supporting” her in the pursuit of her dreams. 

On Wednesday, Brinkley’s dreams continued to be fulfilled when Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed her and fellow School of Law alumna Michelle Alvarez Barakat to the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court.

Duerk and DeSantis
UM executive vice president for academic affairs and provost Jeffrey Duerk with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“Both will serve with integrity,” DeSantis, who was introduced by UM Provost Jeffrey Duerk, said at a midday press conference held in the Kislak Center at the University’s Richter Library. “Being able to sit down and talk with them, I was confident that they have the integrity, the intellect, but also the appreciation of the important role judges play and the limited role judges play. They both demonstrate an appreciation for the separation of powers that is very important.” 

Originally from Miami Beach, Barakat, 47, has served on the Miami-Dade County Court since 2013. She earned her undergraduate degree from UM in 1995 and her J.D. from the School of Law in 1998. She fills the vacancy created by the elevation of Judge Eric Hendon to the Third District Court of Appeal. 

The 52-year-old Brinkley is a native of Philadelphia. She earned a finance degree from Howard University in Washington, D.C., in 1991, going on to graduate from UM’s School of Law in 1995. She fills the vacancy created by the elevation of Judge Bronwyn Miller to the Third District Court of Appeal. 

At Wednesday’s press conference, both Barakat and Brinkley said they were looking forward to taking on their new roles. 

“It’s most meaningful that my family is here with me today to share in this moment,” said Brinkley. 

She credited UM law professor Donald M. Jones for helping her understand the responsibilities that went along with being a law student and for instilling in her the importance of time management. 

“Confident” and “smart” is how Jones remembers Brinkley, who was a student in his constitutional law, criminal procedure, and employment discrimination classes. “She had that special ability to relate with other students, and it was always clear to me that she would play a leadership role in the community,” said Jones. “Whatever project she took on, it turned to gold.” 

Laurence Rose, a professor emeritus at the School of Law, recalled Barakat and Brinkley as extremely “bright and talented students.” 

“They were very understanding and knowledgeable about litigation and the courtroom in an era when we see a number of judges getting on the bench who do not have a background in the courtroom,” said Rose, who instructed the two in his litigation skills course. “It’s a pleasure to see these two become circuit court judges. They understand the system and what it’s supposed to do. Both are highly ethical and understanding of the rights of individuals and entities, and both are pretty good trial lawyers.” 

Barakat’s mother, Maria Alvarez, who came to Miami from Cuba in 1962, said her daughter was always a good student. “Her grandfather, who was a judge in Cuba, had a big influence on her,” said Alvarez. 

With a mother, sister and daughter who are also lawyers, Brinkley is part of a family of legal eagles. Many of those family members attended Wednesday’s press conference, including Brinkley’s mother, Barbara Walker, an NYU law graduate who recalled her daughter as being “outspoken” and always having “strong viewpoints.”

“No one deserves this more,” Walker said of Brinkley’s appointment.