'Bipartisan' is not a four-letter word, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen says

By Julie KayContactAll Articles
Daily Business Review
November 10, 2012

U.S. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen thanked a group of 350 women judges from around the world Friday for “safeguarding our rights and freedoms.”

Speaking at the 34th annual conference of the National Association of Women Judges in Miami Beach, the newly re-elected Miami Republican called an independent judicial branch, coupled with a free press, “the hallmark of democracy.”

“Human rights violations in Cuba continue,” said Ros-Lehtinen, a native of Cuba.
“They remind us every day how fortunate we in America are. You are the ones who safeguard rights and freedoms, so thank you. I thank you for what you do.”

Ros-Lehtinen was the luncheon speaker at a conference that drew women judges from as far away as Pakistan, Afghanistan and India. She was supposed to share the podium with U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, but the Broward County Democrat was a no-show.

Ros-Lehtinen was in high spirits, posing for photographs for nearly an hour. She spoke of how a record 20 women will now sit in the U.S. Senate and wondered whether that will lead to more bipartisanship.

“We will see whether that changes anything or not,” she said. “Are women more likely to be partisan than men? I think it depends on the personality.”

Ros-Lehtinen called for an end to gender discrimination and for “the doors of opportunity to fly open.”

She said she has introduced a bill to ban human organ trafficking, the practice of selling human organs on the black market.

“It can impact us in South Florida,” she said, adding she will try to work in a bipartisan manner to get the bill passed.

“Bipartisan,” she quipped to audience laughter, “that’s not a four-letter word, is it?”

In between discussing such weighty issues as human rights, how the economy affects the legal system and visiting the Homestead Correctional Institution for Women, conference attendees squeezed in receptions at Joe’s Stone Crab, Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado’s chambers in City Hall and the Coconut Grove mansion of prominent Miami divorce lawyer A.J. Barranco.

A Pakistani judge came from the same town as Malala Yousafzai, the 15-year-old girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban for promoting education for girls. Sofia Wagar Khattak said it was her first visit to the United States.

While U.S. judges are grappling with issues like gay marriage, Pakistani judges are facing issues like terrorism and acid attacks on girls.

When asked whether U.S. legal problems pale in comparison to those in Pakistan, she said, “Whatever problem someone is experiencing is important to them. ... If you have a headache, and someone else has a stomachache, those are their problems.”