This semester, St. Thomas Law welcomed four distinguished, new adjunct professors to our roster, each bringing unique professional and personal histories to our learning spaces.
Adjunct Professor Houson LaFrance ’14, teaches Trial Advocacy Practice and is the faculty advisor for St. Thomas Law’s award-winning Trial Team. Houson is a partner at the law firm of Cox, Golondrino & Lafrance PA. His main practice focuses on criminal defense and business litigation.
Prior to starting his firm in 2016, he served for two years as an Assistant Public Defender for Broward County, Florida. As an Assistant Public Defender, he handled misdemeanors, DUIs, and serious felonies.
Houson graduated from St. Thomas University School of Law in 2014 with honors. He also was an active member of three honors organizations. As a member of the St. Thomas Law Review, Houson was honored to be published in the Thurgood Marshall School of Law Gender, Race, and Justice Law Journal. As a member of the Moot Court, he was Executive Vice President and won the Best Brief Award in competition. As a member of Trial Team, Houson was named Best Advocate for 2013-2014.
In law school, Houson interned with the Honorable Judge Patrick A. White, and in his final year, he participated in the Appellate Litigation Clinic under the direction and supervision of Adjunct Professor Howard Blumberg. Prior to law school, Houson attended Florida International University, from which he graduated with a degree in English.
Adjunct Professor José Javier Rodríguez teaches Florida Constitutional Law. In addition to serving in the Florida Legislature, Senator José Javier Rodríguez is a trial attorney. In 2018, he joined Sugarman & Susskind as partner, where he has a diverse litigation practice and represents employees, labor unions, and employee benefit funds. Prior to 2018, Senator Rodríguez represented individuals in complex litigation related to business and commercial disputes, dangerous and defective products, financial misconduct, employment, and personal injury matters as a trial attorney. He began his legal career in 2006 with Florida Legal Services where, until 2011, Senator Rodríguez litigated individual, complex, and representative actions on behalf of low-wage workers, tenants, homeowner associations, small businesses, and neighborhood-based organizations. From 2008-2010, Senator Rodríguez also taught as an Adjunct Clinical Professor with the Carlos A. Costa Immigration and Human Rights Clinic at Florida International University’s College of Law.
Senator Rodríguez has served in the Florida Legislature since 2012 when he was elected to serve District 112 in the Florida House (Miami, Coral Gables, Key Biscayne). Since 2016, he has served District 37 in the Florida Legislature, representing many of Miami-Dade County’s residents in the Florida Legislature. He has received numerous awards and recognitions for his work. Senator Rodríguez received a degree in International Relations from Brown University and his J.D. degree from Harvard Law School. Prior to attending law school, Senator Rodríguez served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Senegal from 2000-2003, first as a business advising volunteer and then as an advisor to Senegal’s Ministry of Labor. Along with his wife and two young sons, he lives in the City of Miami.
President of St. Thomas University, David A. Armstrong, J.D. joins us this semester teaching Sports Law. President Armstrong comes to St. Thomas University from Thomas More College, where he was president from 2013. Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, President Armstrong holds a Juris Doctor from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, with a minor in accounting, from Mercyhurst University.
President Armstrong has been recognized throughout his professional career as the recipient of the following awards: “Carpe Diem Award” (highest distinction awarded to graduating senior), Mercyhurst University (1986); Rhodes Scholar Candidate; GTE Academic All-American; Member, Football Hall of Fame, Mercyhurst University (1991); Charter Member Athletic Hall of Fame, Mercyhurst University (1996); Member, Alumni Hall of Fame, St. Peter Chanel (OH) High School (2009); and Distinguished Alumni Award for Outstanding Service in a Chosen Field, Mercyhurst University (2015).
President Armstrong is a nationally-recognized speaker on future trends of higher education law and Title IX issues. He has dedicated his career to making sure small, faith-based colleges not only survive but also thrive in the new landscape of higher education. President Armstrong strives to advance the mission and work of St. Thomas University with a collaborative, innovative spirit.
The Honorable Darrin P. Gayles teaches the class component of the Judicial Internship. Judge Gayles is a federal judge for the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida; nominated by then-President Barack Obama to the District Court in February 2014. He was unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate with a 98-0 vote.
Judge Gayles previously served for more than ten years as a judge of Florida’s 11th Judicial Circuit and was appointed to the County Court of that circuit by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush in 2004. In 2011, former Florida Governor Charlie Crist elevated Judge Gayles to the Circuit Court, where he served until his federal appointment.
A graduate of Howard University and The George Washington University Law School, Judge Gayles began his legal career in 1993 as an Assistant State Attorney in Miami-Dade County, Florida. Judge Gayles subsequently worked for the U.S. Department of Justice as an Assistant District Counsel for the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and later as Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida.
Judge Gayles is a former co-chairman of the 11th Judicial Circuit’s (Florida) Professionalism Committee. He is also an active volunteer in several of South Florida’s civic and charitable organizations, including Big Brothers/Big Sisters, 100 Black Men of South Florida, and the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project.
St. Thomas Law is grateful for the positive impact that our new adjuncts are having on our law students