Roderick N. Petrey
Roderick N. Petrey (Rod) founded the Florida Justice Institute in 1978, and has served on its Board of Directors since then. More recently, he founded New Equity Partners after serving as President of the Collins Center for Public Policy, a Miami-based Think Tank, for twenty years. He is retired Senior Counsel to Holland & Knight LLP, a large international law firm, and serves as general counsel for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Flight Attendant Medical Research Institute, Florida International University and various other public and private institutions. Mr. Petrey is Vice-President and legal counsel for the P.L. Dodge Foundation and a member of the Board and Secretary of BAC Florida Bank. He has served as Vice-President of the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation in New York, President of The Donors’ Forum of South Florida, President of the Florida Bar Foundation, Chairman of the We Will Rebuild! Foundation, chairman of the Florida Justice Institute, Chairman of the Miami Museum of Science, senior adviser to the Council for Educational Change, and an active member of other civic and business organizations. He received the Tobias Simon Pro Bono Service Award from the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Florida, given to one lawyer in Florida each year who exemplifies the public service spirit of the legal profession. Mr. Petrey has received the “Spirit of Excellence” award from the Miami Herald, the Cal Kovens Distinguished Community Service Award from Florida International University, the Juvenile Justice Award from the Florida Conference of Circuit Court Judges and other recognitions. He is a member of the America Law Institute and the American Bar Foundation. Mr. Petrey was born in Lakeland, Florida. He received his BA degree magna cum laude from Yale University and his law degree from Harvard University. He has served as a consultant with McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm. He is a military combat veteran, serving as a Captain in the U.S. Army Special Forces (“Green Berets”) in Vietnam and as a paratrooper with the 101st Airborne Division.
Sowmya Bharathi is a first-chair trial attorney with extensive and broad federal court experience. She has tried 24 federal cases to jury verdict, many of which involved cutting edge matters of statutory interpretation and constitutional issues, as well as myriad experts. Sowmya tried an intricate multi-week bank and wire fraud case, defending a former pharmaceutical CEO against allegations by the FDIC and shareholders of a fraud exceeding $140 million. She served as second chair on three potential death penalty cases, conducting nuanced and far-ranging investigations and presenting to the Attorney General’s Capital Section – work that contributed to obtaining agreed settlements in high-profile and emotionally-charged cases. She also tried and litigated matters involving media disclosures and the First Amendment. She has navigated sensitive internal investigations, preparing and guiding high-level executives through governmental agency interviews.
Through strategic planning and aggressive pretrial litigation, Sowmya has won several court-ordered dismissals of charges mid-trial, as well as government dismissals of six indicted cases pretrial. Dismissed matters included a national security case and a case that raised novel Second Amendment arguments.
Sowmya’s range of experiences assisted her in securing clemency for individuals during both President Obama’s and President Trump’s terms.
Sowmya is an experienced appellate advocate. She has written over 20 federal appeals, including an en banc matter, and has argued before the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. She has secured wins in the Eleventh Circuit, including a case that she litigated starting from a bench trial through authoring the appellate briefing that triggered a reversal on the papers. Most recently, she argued before Florida’s First District Court of Appeals and secured a major appellate win for a national insurance carrier.
Sowmya previously worked at a mid-sized AmLaw firm in Chicago, where she defended corporate clients against contractual disputes, employment discrimination claims, wrongful death cases, and overtime and wage disputes. Having established her reputation as a seasoned trial and appellate attorney, Sowmya is routinely called upon by the courts and national programs to speak and train on trial presentation and other federal court issues.
Maria Fernanda Borges
Maria Fernanda Borges is the Vice President of Global Consumer Products, Economics Optimization at Mastercard. She has over 25 years of finance experience, and is excited bring her strategic planning and finance expertise to the board.
Tiffani G. Lee
Tiffani G. Lee is Deputy Managing Partner at Holland & Knight and a member of the firm’s South Florida Litigation Group. She concentrates her practice in the area of complex commercial litigation in the state and federal courts of Florida. She is experienced in handling contract disputes, corporate dissolution actions, securities fraud actions, shareholder derivative actions and actions alleging various business torts. Ms. Lee tries cases in the state and federal courts of Florida.
In 2018, Ms. Lee was appointed as a special master in Chinese drywall litigation pending in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. As the court-appointed special master, she will coordinate disclosure and discovery schedules, resolve privilege or similar questions, monitor scheduling of depositions, and make recommendations to the District Court on discovery disputes.
Ms. Lee has been involved in the firm’s diversity and inclusion initiatives throughout her career at the firm. Since 2009, she has served as the firmwide Diversity Partner. In that capacity, she leads the Diversity Council and serves on the firm’s Practice & Operations Committee and Partner Compensation Committee. She frequently speaks on diversity-related issues at conferences sponsored by national organizations and at client-sponsored diversity programs.
In the community, Ms. Lee is a member of the Orange Bowl Committee, Greater Miami Chapter of The Links, Incorporated, and the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Professionalism Panel. She is also a Big Sister with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Miami.
While in law school, Ms. Lee was President of the Honor Council, Writing and Research Editor of the University of Miami Law Review, elected to the Order of the Coif and awarded membership in the Iron Arrow Honor Society, the highest honor attainable at the University of Miami.
Amelia Rea Maguire
Amelia (Mel) Rea Maguire has over 30 years of business, governmental and academic experience, including 20 years in corporate law practice, with focus on financial institutions, international trade, economic development, and corporate finance and government relations, with the law firms of Holland & Knight LLP and Steel, Hector & Davis LLP. Mel is former Secretary of the Florida Department of Commerce and former Assistant Secretary for the Florida Economic Development and Tourism Divisions.
As a partner in two global law firms, Mel directed large platform client development initiatives and worked extensively with Fortune 500 companies. Mel also developed a variety of Client Development Programs as well as North-South strategies for multiple professional services firms at a global level. Mel has deep and wide relationships with business, government and civic organizations through the Americas and she has worked extensively with companies in the United States, Canada and Latin America. Mel’s recent work in academia includes Associate Dean for External Affairs, University of Miami School of Business Administration and Executive Director Management Development at Florida International University College of Business. Her work in academia includes development of programs, contracts and relationships with universities in China, Hong Kong, Brazil, Colombia, Paraguay, Mexico and throughout the Caribbean.
Mel graduated, with honors, from Florida State University College of Law and with a B.A. from the University of Florida. Mel has served as Board Member of The Florida Justice Institute, as Lifetime Trustee of the Coast Guard Foundation Inc., and Board Member of The Latin Builders Association, The InternetBar.org, The Harvard University Kennedy School of Government Women’s Leadership Board, The Executive Committee and Chair of Legislative Committee on the Florida State University Foundation, Inc., a member of the Western Hemispheric Summit Executive Committee, the Florida International Affairs Commission, and the Council of the Americas, and Governmental Affairs Chair of the Greater Miami Chamber Commerce, Florida State University College of Law Board of Visitors. Mel is a Fellow of the American Bar Association Foundation.
One of the state’s most prominent trial lawyers, Benjamine Reid represents a diverse corporate clientele in litigation, and serves as a Director and Board Member of the Florida Justice Institute. Mr. Reid has extensive appellate experience in both state and federal courts, and focuses his practice on products liability, toxic torts, antitrust, business, class action and pharmaceutical litigation. Mr. Reid currently serves on the Board of Directors of Carlton Fields Jorden Burt, P.A., and also serves on the Executive Committee for the Governor’s Council for Sustainable Florida, as a member of the Orange Bowl Committee, and as Co-Chair of the Legal Services Training Committee of the Litigation Section of the American Bar Association. Mr. Reid is a frequent lecturer and author in the fields of trial advocacy and class action litigation in both the United States and Great Britain. Examples of this activity include “The Trial Lawyer as Story Teller: Reviving a Lost Art” in Litigation Magazine as well as his design and presentation of a program in London entitled “Products Over the Pond! Has U.S. Style Litigation Invaded the U.K.?” Mr. Reid was also a faculty member at a trial advocacy program for U.S. attorneys and British Barristers at Wadham College at Oxford. Mr. Reid has received a number of awards for his pro bono activity and has been recognized in significant publications including Chambers USA Guide to America’s Leading Business Lawyers as well as in six separate categories in The Best Lawyers in America.
Whitney Untiedt has significant experience in a wide range of legal areas, including complex civil litigation and appellate practice. She is a partner at Untiedt Dabdboud & Tyler, a firm that handles high-stakes medical malpractice, product liability, catastrophic injury, and wrongful death cases in every phase of litigation. Over the course of her career, Whitney has tried dozens of cases and represented clients in hundreds of depositions. Before founding the firm, Whitney was a partner at an AmLaw 100 firm, a managing attorney in the Eighth Circuit Public Defender’s Office, and a law professor.
In 2016, Whitney was named South Florida’s “Lawyer of the Year” for her leadership in upholding the constitutionality of Florida’s criminal sentencing statutes. She has successfully represented clients in appeals before the Florida Supreme Court and the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals and has been recognized by Florida Trend Legal Elite every year since 2017.
Whitney holds leadership roles in several influential professional organizations, including The Florida Bar, National Institute for Trial Advocacy, and the Board of Trustees of the University of Florida Levin College of Law. Whitney is unparalleled in her commitment to strengthening the national legal community; she regularly presents across the country and around the world on topics of client representation, ethics and professionalism, trial advocacy, and legal strategy.
Whitney graduated with her B.A. from the College of William and Mary, where she received the prestigious James Monroe Scholarship, after which she worked as a writer and editor in New York City before attending law school at UF Law.
Founding Director and Board Member (1978-2003)
John Edward Smith
Founding Director and Board Member (1978-1998)
Founding Director and Board Member (1978-1991)
Eleanor Mitchell Hunter
Director and Board Member (1983-1991)
William J. Sheppard
Otis Pitts, Jr.