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Women’s History Month: Janet Reno – The First Woman Attorney General Of The United States

Janet RenoArticle Courtesy of the New York Times
By Carl Hulse

Janet Reno, rose from a rustic life on the edge of the Everglades to become attorney general of the United States — the first woman to hold the job — and whose eight years in that office placed her in the middle of some of the most divisive episodes of the Clinton presidency.

Major Events During Her Tenure

Ms. Reno’s tenure as attorney general was bracketed by two explosive events: a deadly federal raid on the compound of a religious cult in Waco, Tex., in 1993, and in 2000 the government’s seizing of Elián González, a young Cuban refugee who was at the center of an international custody battle and a political tug of war.

In those moments and others, Ms. Reno was applauded for displaying integrity and a willingness to accept responsibility, but she was also fiercely criticized. Republicans accused her of protecting President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore when, in 1997, she refused to allow an independent counsel to investigate allegations of fund-raising improprieties in the White House.

After leaving office, she mounted a surprise though unsuccessful bid in Florida in 2002 to unseat Gov. Jeb Bush, the brother of President George W. Bush, amid the resentment of Cuban-Americans in South Florida over her negotiating for the return of Elián to Cuba.

Never Part Of The Inner Circle

Ms. Reno was never part of the Clinton inner circle, even though she served in the Clinton cabinet for two terms, longer than any attorney general in the previous 150 years. She was a latecomer to the team, and her political and personal style clashed with the president’s, particularly as she sought to maintain some independence from the White House.

Her relations with the president were further strained by her decision to let an independent inquiry into a failed Clinton land deal in Arkansas, the so-called Whitewater investigation, expand to encompass Mr. Clinton’s sexual relationship with the White House intern Monica Lewinsky, an episode that led to his impeachment.

Mr. Clinton and his allies thought that Ms. Reno was too quick to refer to special counsels in the Lewinsky matter and other cases of suspect administration behavior. The president let her dangle in the public eye for weeks before announcing in December 1996, after his resounding re-election, that she would remain for his second term.

Doing The Right Thing

Ms. Reno was never a natural fit in Washington’s backslapping, competitive culture. At weekly news conferences, held in the barrel-vaulted conference room outside her office in the Justice Department building on Pennsylvania Avenue, she was fond of telling reporters that she would “do the right thing” on legal issues and judge them according to “the law and the facts.”

Imposing at 6-foot-1, awkward in manner and blunt in her probity, she became a regular foil for late-night comics and a running gag on “Saturday Night Live.” But she got the joke, proving it by gamely appearing on the show to lampoon her image.

The comedy could not obscure her law-enforcement accomplishments. Ms. Reno presided over the Justice Department in a time of economic growth, falling crime rates and mounting security threats to the nation by forces both foreign and domestic.

Law Enforcement Accomplishments

Under Ms. Reno, the agency initiated prosecutions in the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 and in the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995, helping to lay the groundwork for the pursuit of terrorists in the 21st century.

The Reno Justice Department also prosecuted spies like the C.I.A. mole Aldrich H. Ames; it filed an antitrust suit against Microsoft, a milestone in the new-technology era; and it sued the tobacco industry to reclaim federal health care dollars spent on treating illnesses caused by smoking.

Ms. Reno was a strong advocate of guaranteeing federal protection to women seeking abortions and safeguarding abortion clinics that were under threat.

But in some areas, she seemed conflicted about the law. She opposed the death penalty, for example, but repeatedly authorized her prosecutors to ask juries to impose it.

When she took office, she endorsed the use of independent counsels to investigate administration figures. But she later testified against renewing the law governing their use, saying it did nothing to take politics out of the inquiries.

Before becoming attorney general, Ms. Reno was the Dade County state attorney for 14 years, when the Miami area was growing rapidly and experiencing rising drug-related crime, widening racial divisions, demoralizing police corruption, and waves of immigration from Cuba.

Clinton’s Third Choice

Mr. Clinton, committed to appointing a woman as attorney general, settled on Ms. Reno after his first two choices — the corporate lawyer Zoë Baird and the federal judge Kimba Wood — withdrew their names in the face of criticism after it was disclosed that they had employed undocumented immigrants as nannies.

“I’m just delighted to be here, and I’m going to try my level best,” Ms. Reno said at the Rose Garden ceremony at which Mr. Clinton announced her nomination on Feb. 11, 1993.

Two months later, she gained the nation’s full attention in a dramatic televised news conference in which she took full responsibility for a botched federal raid of the Waco compound of the Branch Davidians, an offshoot of the Seventh-day Adventists.

The assault, after a long siege involving close to 900 military and law-enforcement personnel and a dozen tanks, left the compound in flames and the group’s charismatic leader, David Koresh, and about 75 others dead. A third of the dead were children.

Ms. Reno’s candor was viewed as refreshing in a city where blame-shifting is the norm, and it gave her sudden celebrity status in the new administration.

The luster faded quickly. Within weeks, Ms. Janet Reno faced tough questions about the raid and her claim that children were being abused at the compound. She was also faulted for failing to influence an important crime bill. By the end of her first year in office, she was facing mounting scrutiny in the news media.

Pressed By Republicans

With Mr. Clinton’s re-election and his decision to keep Ms. Janet Reno at her post, Republicans began questioning her independence when she resisted their calls for a special counsel to look into allegations that Mr. Clinton and Mr. Gore had broken campaign fund-raising laws in 1996.

The clamor, led by the House speaker, Newt Gingrich, and Senator Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, grew when it was disclosed that Louis J. Freeh, the head of the F.B.I., also favored a special counsel.

Ms. Reno would not budge, saying her stance had nothing to do with protecting the president. A review of the evidence, she said, convinced her that a special counsel was not warranted.

“Let me be absolutely clear,” Ms. Reno told hostile Republican questioners during one of several hearings on Capitol Hill about the call for a special counsel. “I’m not going to violate my oath in this matter because of pressure from any quarter, not from the media, not from Congress, nor from anywhere else.”

Questions about her handling of the Waco raid resurfaced in 1999, when new evidence suggested that the F.B.I. might have started the fire that destroyed the compound.

The disclosure further soured her dealings with Mr. Freeh — a relationship that had been close early in her tenure but had grown tortured by 1999. He let it be known that he favored a special counsel in the fund-raising case and a new inquiry into Waco. She sent marshals to F.B.I. headquarters to seize a tape of communications made the day of the assault.

Her final and perhaps most personal crisis as head of the Justice Department was the case involving Elián González, the 6-year-old Cuban boy who was found floating on an inner tube off the coast of Florida after his mother and 10 others had drowned in a failed crossing from Cuba by small boat.

The boy became a unifying figure among Cuban exiles in South Florida, who were determined to see him remain in the United States in defiance of the Cuban leader, Fidel Castro.

Ms. Reno favored returning Elián to his father in Cuba, and she became immersed in negotiations over his fate because of her ties to Miami.

Ms. Reno was on the phone almost up to the moment agents of the Immigration and Naturalization Service burst into the Miami home of Elián’s relatives and took him away at gunpoint. Congressional Republicans and many Cuban exiles were outraged. Some in Miami said Ms. Reno would be in danger if she returned there after her service in Washington.

Early in 2001, however, she did go home, her service finished. She said she was excited about a red pickup truck she had bought.

A Name Picked From a Map

Janet Reno was born in Miami, on the edge of the Everglades, on July 21, 1938, to Henry Olaf Reno and the former Jane Wood. Her father, born Henry Rasmussen in Denmark, came to the United States in 1913 with his own mother and father, who chose the name Reno off a map, believing it sounded more American.

Henry Reno was a police reporter in Dade County for more than 40 years. Jane Reno, born in Georgia, was an eccentric naturalist who would have a profound effect on Ms. Reno.

“Outspoken, outrageous, absolutely indifferent to others’ opinions, Jane Reno was truly one of a kind,” Paul Anderson, a former Miami Herald reporter, wrote in his biography of Janet Reno. It was her mother who had wrestled small alligators, though the stunt was sometimes erroneously ascribed to the daughter.

Ms. Reno, the eldest of four siblings, was about 8 when her parents bought 21 acres bordering the Everglades and moved there. Her mother, who had no construction experience, built the family home. “She dug the foundation with her own hands, with a pick and shovel,” Ms. Reno told senators at her confirmation hearing in 1993.

It was a rustic life; peacocks and other creatures roamed the property, and Janet and her siblings — Robert, Mark and Margaret — cavorted barefoot. But she also glimpsed a more sophisticated world: After junior high school, she traveled to Europe to stay with an uncle, a military judge, as he presided over a spy trial.

Besides her sister, who is known as Maggy, Ms. Reno is survived by seven nieces and nephews. Her brother Robert, a former columnist for Newsday on Long Island, died in 2012 at 72. Her brother Mark had an adventurer’s life: game warden, boat and oil supply ship captain, alligator wrestler, scuba diver, paratrooper as well as carpenter and bailiff at the Miami-Dade Justice Building. He died in 2014, also at 72.

After finishing high school in Miami, Ms. Reno attended Cornell University, graduating in 1960 with a degree in chemistry. She won admission to Harvard Law School and graduated in 1963, one of a handful of women in her class of more than 500.

Seeking to practice law in South Florida, Ms. Reno was turned down by one of the state’s best-known law firms, Steel Hector & Davis, and went to work for a smaller firm instead. She became active in local Democratic politics and met a fellow Harvard graduate, Gerald Lewis, a lawyer with electoral aspirations. Ms. Reno helped him win a State House seat in 1966, and the two opened a general-practice law firm together.

Ms. Reno entered government service in 1971 as general counsel to the Judiciary Committee of the Florida House of Representatives, where she worked on a difficult overhaul of Florida’s courts. Her work in Tallahassee, the capital, whetted her appetite for public office, and she campaigned for a state legislative seat of her own the next year. She lost in an upset to a Republican candidate helped by the landslide re-election victory of President Richard M. Nixon.

Ms. Janet Reno did not wait long for her next opportunity. The day after her defeat, Richard Gerstein, the state attorney for Dade County, offered her a job on his staff. As she told The Miami Herald, she expressed reservations in her characteristically straightforward manner.

“My father was always convinced you were a crook,” she said she told Mr. Gerstein. “And I’ve always been a critic of yours.”

Mr. Gerstein replied that those were the reasons he wanted to hire her. Within a few years, she was Mr. Gerstein’s chief assistant.

Ms. Reno left the prosecutor’s office in May 1976 to join Steel Hector & Davis, the firm that had rejected her out of law school. But her tenure there was short.

After Mr. Gerstein announced that he would resign in early 1978, after 21 years in the office, Gov. Reubin Askew appointed Ms. Reno interim state attorney, choosing her from about 50 candidates. She was the first woman to hold the title of state attorney in Florida and one of the few in the nation’s history to be responsible for such a large jurisdiction.

Ms. Reno retained the post through a thicket of drug, murder and corruption cases. In one, she was accused of being antipolice when she prosecuted five Miami officers in the beating death of a black insurance executive after a traffic stop; the officers, she said, had tried to make it look like an accident.

The officers were acquitted — one by the presiding judge in the trial, held in Tampa, and the others by an all-white jury — provoking criticism of her legal strategy and four days of deadly riots in Miami’s predominantly black Liberty City neighborhood.

To quell the furor, Ms. Janet Reno undertook an outreach effort that restored some support among Miami’s black citizens. She remained state attorney through five election campaigns — until February 1993, when the White House called.

Ms. Janet Reno was formally nominated to be attorney general that month, just a few weeks after the death of her mother, Jane, the guiding influence in her life. She invoked her mother’s memory in her remarks that day at the Rose Garden ceremony with Mr. Clinton.

“My mother always told me to do my best,” she said, “to think my best and to do right.”

In addition to her work as litigator and public servant, Janet Reno was a founding director of the Innocence Project. She died from Parkinson’s disease on November 7, 2016.

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Reno, Janet

Women’s History Month: Lyda Burton Conley – America’s First Native American Woman Lawyer.















Courtesy of

By: Emma Rothberg, NWHM Predoctoral Fellow in Gender Studies I 2020-2022

Standing before the Supreme Court, Eliza “Lyda” Burton Conley argued to protect her ancestral burial ground. Considered the Guardian of Heron Indian Cemetery, her appearance made her the third woman, and the first Native American, to argue a case in front of the Supreme Court. For her, this case was personal.

Early Years

Eliza Burton Conley was born sometime between 1868 and 1869 to Eliza Burton Zane Conley, a member of the Wyandotte tribe and descendant of a chief, and Andrew Conley, an English farmer in Kansas. Conley was one of four sisters. The Wyandotte were sometimes controversially called “Huron,” hence the name of the cemetery. A very active and independent young woman, she and one of her sisters would row across the river every day to attend school at Park College. During her lifetime, she became a lawyer, was admitted to the Missouri Bar, trained as a telegraphic operator, taught at Spalding Business College in Kansas City, and taught Sunday School at her Methodist Episcopal Church. She did all of this before women had the right to vote in the United States. 

Admitted to Missouri Bar and Kansas Bar

Conley is most well known for her attempts to protect the Huron Indian Cemetery located in downtown Kansas City, Kansas. As Kansas City developed, the cemetery’s land became prime real estate. Conley— whose mother, sister, and hundreds of her Wyandotte tribesmen were buried in the cemetery—paid close attention to discussions around the land. Realizing the potential threats against the land, Conley entered the Kansas City School of Law in preparation to fight for its protection. She graduated as one of the only women in her class and was admitted to the Missouri Bar in 1902.  She was reportedly also admitted to the Kansas Bar in 1910.

Protecting Her Heritage

In 1906, Congress approved legislation to sell the land and move the bodies buried there. As a lawyer, Conley filed a permanent injunction against the U.S. Secretary of the Interior and Indian Commissioners in U.S. District Court to prevent the sale. As a private citizen, Conley and one of her sisters, Helena, built a shack, known as “Fort Conley,” at the entrance to the cemetery, padlocked the gate, and hung a sign that warned against trespassers. As her lawsuit went through the courts, Conley and her sister guarded their family and ancestors’ graves day in and day out with a shotgun.   

In a 1906 interview, Conley said, “I will go to Washington and personally defend” the cemetery. She continued, “no lawyer could plead for the grave of my mother as I could, no lawyer could have the heart interest in the case that I have.” When asked by the interviewer if she could win, Conley smiled and responded, “If I lose, then I will admit that the constitution of the United States is as Greek to me.”

Appearing BeforeThe Supreme Court

When Conley appeared before the Supreme Court on January 14, 1910, she formally represented herself as the named plaintiff. She argued that the 1855 federal treaty with the Wyandotte prevented the U.S. from selling the land and that the descendants of those who signed the treaty had the right to enforce it. Despite her arguments, the Supreme Court argued the government had the right to sell the land. Conley and her sister were not discouraged, and continued guarding the cemetery.

Threat Of Development

While she lost in court, she won the longer battle to protect the cemetery. Her actions got the notice of Kansas state senator Charles Curtis. In 1913, Curtis wrote and passed a law protecting the cemetery from future development. Yet the threat of development was still there and Conley kept up the fight. She tried to get an injunction against the city in 1918, was arrested several times for interfering with city officials who she felt were disrespecting the graves, and in the 1930s spent 10 days in jail on a trespass charge for protecting the cemetery. In her later life, Conley and her sister continued to spend most of their time around the cemetery, near the graves of their sister and mother.

National Historic Landmark – Huron Indian Cemetery

Conley was murdered during a robbery in 1946. She is buried in the Huron Indian Cemetery next to her sister, Helena, and 400-600 other bodies. Many of the graves remain unmarked. Others, inspired by her determination to save the cemetery, kept up the fight. In 1971, the Huron Indian Cemetery was added to the National Register of Historic Places. In 2017, the cemetery was designated a National Historic Landmark, officially preventing any development from happening on the site.  

Joe Zarzaur is a Board Certified Civil Trial Attorney whose firm is dedicated to promoting community safety since 2007. ZARZAUR LAW’S AREAS OF PRACTICE: Serious Personal Injury, Product Defect, Auto Accidents, Cycling Accidents, Motor Vehicle Accidents, Products Liability, Wrongful Death, Community Safety, Boat and Jet Ski Accidents, Slip and Fall Injuries, and more. Licensed in Alabama and Florida.

It is also important to consult with a Board Certified Trial lawyer who has the knowledge and experience to help you. We know accidents can be stressful and want to make the process as easy as possible for you. Call Zarzaur Law, P.A. today at (855) Hire-Joe for a free legal consultation or visit


MLA – Rothberg, Emma. “Lyda Conley.” National Women’s History Museum, 2020. Date accessed.

Chicago – Rothberg, Emma. “Lyda Conley.” National Women’s History Museum. 2020.

Women’s History Month: Belva Lockwood – First Woman Admitted To The Bar Of The U.S. Supreme Court.

Belva Lockwood - First Woman Admitted To The Bar Of The U.S. Supreme CourtArticle Courtesy of National Archives © 2005 by Jill Norgren

In the years just after the Civil War, as women began joining the legal profession, only a handful of spirited applicants succeeded in breaking through the cultural barriers that made it difficult to train for the law or win bar membership. The law was still the domain of men. Most Americans felt that professional work “unsexed” or degraded women. Female brains, it was thought, were unfit for the strain of mental exercise. The hostility toward women with professional aspirations was so great that only the very brave pushed ahead.

Perhaps The Bravest Was Belva A. Lockwood.

At birth Belva Lockwood had neither wealth and social standing nor the promise of a fine education. But eventually she would personally extract her law degree from the President of the United States, become the first woman admitted to the bar of the U.S. Supreme Court, and become a leader in the woman suffrage movement in the late nineteenth century.

Belva Lockwood was born on October 24, 1830, in the Niagara County town of Royalton, New York, the second daughter, and second of five children, of farmers Lewis J. and Hannah Bennett. Belva was self-made: she invented herself as a middle-class professional woman. By the end of the 19th century, after she had successfully lobbied for legislation to open the U.S. Supreme Court bar to qualified women lawyers and twice run as the presidential candidate of the Equal Rights Party, she had become one of the most well-known women in America.

Leader In Equal Opportunity For Women

Belva Lockwood was a self-assured woman who exuded ego. She insisted on the right to prove herself, and she adopted bold positions in support of equal opportunity for women. At 22 she was widowed and left with a 3-year-old daughter. Refusing the traditional dependency of a widow, she separated from this child for nearly three years in order to attend college. Armed with her degree, she reclaimed her daughter and taught school in New York State before moving in 1866 to Washington, D.C. In the capital, she married Ezekiel Lockwood, an elderly war veteran with whom she had another daughter, a child who died before her second birthday. Belva Lockwood soon found herself the primary breadwinner as her husband’s health failed. She later wrote life’s hard lessons into her public talks, repeatedly urging men and women to support the schooling of girls so they would not be dependent on others. Occasionally, she went so far as to say that women should not be permitted to marry before they could support a family.

Law Degree Obtained – Despite Opposition 

Belva Lockwood rejected dependency, for herself and for other women, and did not hesitate to confront the male establishment that kept women from voting and from professional advancement. She began practicing law in Washington only after fending off the “growl” of the young men of the National University Law School, who declared they would not graduate with a woman, and wringing her law school degree from the hands of President Ulysses S. Grant, the institution’s ex officio head, in 1873.

First Women Admitted To Supreme Court Bar

Three years later, in 1876, when the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court refused to admit her to its bar, stating, “none but men are permitted to practice before [us] as attorneys and counselors,” she single-handedly lobbied Congress until that body passed “An Act to relieve certain legal disabilities of women,” an effort that a reporter described as having required “an unconscionable deal of lobbying.” Belva Lockwood agreed, writing later that to succeed, “nothing was too daring for me to attempt.” On March 3, 1879, on the motion of Washington attorney Albert G. Riddle, who had long been her champion, she became the first woman admitted to the Supreme Court bar, sworn in amidst “a bating of breath and craning of necks.” A year later, she argued Kaiser v. Stickney before the high court, the first woman lawyer to do so.

Run For Presidency

In 1884 Belva Lockwood turned heads again when she became the first woman to run a full-fledged campaign for the presidency of the United States. Her third-party candidacy startled the country and vexed other suffrage leaders, some of whom thought her a “Barnum.” She believed that her bid for the presidency would help women gain the right to vote and to be accepted into partisan politics. She could not vote, she told reporters, but nothing in the Constitution prevented men from voting for her. She outlined a 12-point platform, later refined and presented as 15 positions on a broad range of policy issues including foreign affairs, tariffs, equal political rights, civil service reform, judicial appointments, Native Americans, protection of public lands, temperance, pensions, and the federalization of family law.

Local newspapers and the national press loved the story of a lady candidate. Puck, a mass circulation weekly known for its satiric cartoons, put “Belva” on one of its covers along with Greenback Party candidate Ben Butler. Belva Lockwood financed her campaign by arranging to give paid speeches and even tried to arrange a debate with Grover Cleveland and James Blaine, the Democratic and Republican party candidates. She won fewer than 5,000 votes but was not discouraged. When she ran for the presidency for a second time in 1888, she told reporters, “Men always say, ‘Let’s see what you can do.’ If we always talk and never work we will not accomplish anything.” In an interview with a British journalist after the election, she argued that her second poor showing could be attributed to men who cling to “old ideas, developed in the days of chivalry” and rich, petted women. But she remained optimistic, saying, “After all, equality of rights and privileges is but simple justice.”

Stepping Stone To Greatness

Belva Lockwood had tremendous drive and the support of Ezekiel, her husband, who approved of her desire to rise in the world. She loved the fact that law was a man’s game and believed that it could be “a stepping stone to greatness.”

Belva Lockwood opened a small law office out of her home even before she was admitted to the D.C. bar. Initially, she worked alongside Ezekiel. 

Until 1875 the Lockwoods ran Belva’s practice out of their rooms at the Union League Hall in downtown Washington. Living there provided a convenient and inexpensive, if modest, home and office. The Union League was near the federal agencies where the Lockwoods filed their clients’ papers as well as the buildings that housed the District of Columbia courts. One of these was the local police court, whose sessions were convened at an old Unitarian church located at the corner of D and Sixth Streets, NW, three blocks from their rooms. Here people who otherwise knew Belva as an activist first took their measure of her as an apprentice attorney.

Police court proceedings provided the sleepy capital city with colorful diversion. In the early morning, people would gather at the old church building, waiting for the day’s session to begin. With a police force of 200 there were plenty of arrests—12,000 in 1873. Judge William B. Snell presided, hearing cases of drunkenness, stealing, swearing, and fighting. Although it was the last place to expect a proper middle-class woman, Lockwood had no qualms about entering Snell’s courtroom, perhaps because he welcomed her presence. While still in law school, in September of 1871, she had made her professional debut in front of him, when she won a reduction of sentence for an acquaintance who had been charged with drunkenness.

Solo Practitioner

Minor police cases, probate work, and pension claims provided sufficient business that in 1873 Lura McNall, Belva Lockwood’s surviving daughter, could advertise her mother’s apparent success in her Lockport Daily Journal news column: “The lady lawyer of Washington has quite an extensive practice, and a branch business and a lady partner in Baltimore.” Two months later Lura, well-schooled by her mother in public relations, wrote that this success “now seems beyond controversy as her office is daily and hourly filled with clients.” Against all odds, Belva Lockwood had established herself as a solo practitioner.

The District of Columbia Police Court at D
and Sixth Streets, NW. (Library of Congress)

The Lockwood law office drew a multiracial clientele of laborers, painters, maids, tradesmen, veterans, and owners of small real estate properties. The fact that Lockwood’s clients were largely working class undoubtedly helped in her success. As a woman, she would not have been able, in the words of a female colleague, to make “an extensive acquaintance among business men in an easy, off-hand way, as male attorneys make it in clubs and business and public places.” But if these male networks were denied to her, other channels existed, and she clearly used them to scout for clients. She represented people in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia and was always ready to travel longer distances. In August 1874 the Washington Evening Star reported that she had legal business in the Southwest: “Mrs. Lockwood, the lawyeress, leaves for Texas tomorrow, to be absent some forty days for the purpose of settling up the estate of the late Judge John C. Watrous, of that state, who died some two months ago in Baltimore. Judge Watrous was a large landed proprietor in southwestern Texas.”

A Full Practice

Belva Lockwood’s goal was a competitive Washington-based legal practice. Initially, after her September 1873 admission to the District bar, she accepted cases that brought her before the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia. Scholar Jeffrey Morris has described this court created by Congress as “an unusual hybrid” that was given most of the trial and appeals authority of other federal courts, while also hearing criminal and civil cases that elsewhere in America came before state and local courts. In her first year of licensed practice, she appeared nearly exclusively as plaintiff’s attorney in the law or the equity division of this court, a pattern that maintained itself to a lesser degree from 1874 to 1885.

Between 1873 and 1885 she was recorded as attorney in 100 equity court proceedings, while in the same period 75 law division listings carried her name. Half of her courtroom equity work involved divorce actions. As a woman attorney, she attracted female clients and represented wives as complainants against defendant-husbands. When she represented men in divorce actions, they were complainants, never defendants. After divorce actions, her most frequent equity work involved injunction proceedings, lunacy commitments, and actions requesting the partition of land. Much of her civil law work did not bring her to court and is not recorded in docket books. But like the other storefront lawyers of her day, in order to stay solvent, Lockwood worked up untold numbers of bills of sale, deeds, and wills.

The postbellum emphasis on gentility made the thought of women working in the criminal courts egregious, even loathsome. Society’s morally repugnant dramas played out in criminal court, a place off-bounds to ladies. Lockwood could have refused criminal cases. Yet, despite her religious rectitude and middle-class aspirations, criminal cases and criminal court argument were as acceptable to her as any other kind of legal work. It is not difficult to imagine this no-nonsense woman facing the judge in a room teeming with people, many of them down on their luck, charged with drunkenness or simple assault. Nor is it difficult to contemplate why the poor and the unfortunate had to accept representation by an inexperienced, woman lawyer. But Lockwood cut a sharp figure and was blessed with a quick mind and tongue. By 1875 she had begun to attract clients charged with more serious crimes, representation that brought her before the judges of the criminal division of the D.C. Supreme Court.

From 1875 to 1885 Belva represented at least 69 criminal defendants in this court. They were charged with virtually every category of crime from mail fraud and forgery to burglary and murder. She won “not guilty” decisions in 15 jury trials and submitted guilty pleas in 9. Thirty-one of her clients were judged guilty as charged, while five others were found to be guilty of a lesser charge. An entry of nolle prosequi (termination of the proceedings by the prosecutor) ended four cases. She won retrials for several others. She handled most of these cases on her own with only an occasional male co-counsel.

A House on Washington’s F Street

In 1875 the Lockwood family took rooms in a house at 512 10th Street, a block from the League Building and two doors down from the residence into which the mortally wounded Abraham Lincoln had been brought from Ford’s Theater. She conducted business in one or two of these rooms with Lura and Ezekiel nearby. Although increasingly frail, her husband continued to work as a notary public. His name and seal appear on many of the legal documents filed by his wife up through the month of his death in 1877.

Ezekiel died on April 25, in the midst of much legal business. The widow grieved but did not adopt deep mourning. Five days after his death, she was at her desk petitioning, by letter, for correction of an error in the assessment of a client’s taxes. Three months, later she purchased the house in which they had been living. The property at 619 F Street, NW, described by one visitor as “a very fine house,” cost slightly more than $13,000.

Lockwood bought the F Street house as a statement of now her solid middle-class professional status. Although it was not fancy, the 20-room house made an impression on visitors. In American Court Gossip, Mrs. E. N. Chapin told her readers that the lady lawyer’s brick home had nicely furnished parlours “with several good paintings to add their tribute to the lady’s taste.” Heavily mortgaged, it was undeniably a risky venture. But the purchase made good business sense. The building would be a home, a boarding house, an office, and a long-term investment. She would use the property as collateral on loans and business deals.

Belva’s daughter, Lura, and her niece, Clara Bennett, played important roles as Lockwood’s legal assistants. Lura’s life was tied tightly to that of her mother. She and her husband, Deforest Payson Ormes, lived at F Street, and she died there at age 44. Lura began clerking for Belva in 1873, one of several women and at least one man who, in the 1870s and 1880s, worked or studied with Belva for periods ranging from a few months to several years.

Sometimes Lockwood combined the business of law and the business of running a boarding house. In the summer of 1877, veteran James Kelly came to her law office hoping for help with a pension and a bounty claim. Kelly had been in the army since the 1850s, moving about the country. His wife was dead, and he had recently sent for his two daughters, who had been left in California in the care of Catholic nuns. The girls, Elizabeth and Rebecca, came east only to witness their father’s mental and physical collapse. By 1879 he required care in the Soldiers’ Home, and in February 1880 Kelly was “adjudged a lunatic.” A month later the court appointed Lockwood “committee of the estate” with power to collect and receive the pension money due him from the government. She was charged with the responsibility of furnishing him with necessities and of looking after his two daughters.

The Kelly daughters had come under Lockwood’s care even before her appointment as guardian, when James asked that she watch over and keep them from the streets. Rebecca arrived at F Street in January of 1880 and in court papers was described as 16. Lockwood disputed this fact, declaring that the two girls came to her wearing short dresses and “had not changed to maturity as women.” Lockwood later described Rebecca as “weak minded.” In exchange for room and board, her father’s account was charged six dollars a month, while the girl contributed occasional housework until 1883, when she went into service in Maine. Clara later testified that Rebecca never had regular tasks and could not be depended upon.

Rebecca’s older sister, Elizabeth, posed more of a problem. She, too, lived at F Street. Lockwood told a court that she was “too imbecile for self support.” She required constant supervision to keep her from vagrancy and importuning men. Neither of the girls won the hearts of anyone at the F Street home but its owner. Clara, adopted by her aunt and dependent upon her for a home, said with some exasperation that Belva would always bear with the girls, “defend and protect them because they had nowhere else to go, quite to the discomfort of other members of her family.” In fact, Clara reported, her aunt lost boarders who were not willing to put up with the girls’ bad conduct.

The children of Cherokee James Taylor proved easier when put in Lockwood’s care. Taylor, a lobbyist for the Eastern Band of Cherokee, first met the Lockwoods in 1875 at the 10th Street boarding house, where Mrs. Lockwood cultivated Taylor as a legal client. He gave her his personal legal business while they analyzed the more substantial problem of the Eastern Cherokee, who were negotiating for legal recognition and the right to file monetary, treaty-based claims with the United States Government.

Like James Kelly, Taylor realized that the lady lawyer could help with personal difficulties while taking care of his legal business. Also like Kelly, his trouble involved children who needed attention. Taylor made frequent trips to Washington and sometimes boarded at F Street. On one of these trips, he asked Lockwood to supervise two of his several children. She agreed, taking in John and Dora Taylor in the early 1880s, often for several months at a time. She charged the senior Taylor $15 a month for John, who took no meals, and $20 for the room and board of Dora. She looked after their schooling, bought their clothes, and when it was time for them to leave Washington, arranged for their travel to Indian Territory.

Lockwood’s bustling household was situated in the center of downtown Washington, a location that was neither quiet nor fashionable. But more important to Lockwood was the ease with which she could reach the local courts as well as the federal offices and chambers she visited as she expanded her claims, patent, and pensions practice. Until June 1879 the U.S. Court of Claims (the court in which individuals prosecute a claim against the government) occupied 12 rooms up the hill from her house, in the basement of the Capitol. In that year the court was relocated not far from her at 1509 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Belva Lockwood : f-street-scene.jpg
The 600 block of F Street, NW, was an active location for Washington’s legal community in the late 19th century. (Library of Congress)

Her F Street home put her across the street from the Patent Office, which also housed the Bureau of Indian Affairs, with which Lockwood did business. Perhaps most fortunate for the Lockwood law firm was the selection of a site barely one block from her home for the new Pension Building, completed in 1887.

The 600 block of F Street was, in fact, a hub of legal activity. Washington’s legal tradepaper, The Washington Law Reporter, operated out of rooms at 633 F Street, NW, and several attorneys had offices on that block. Like Lockwood, they were eager to be near the buildings housing federal departments as well as the District courthouse.

Lockwood Embraced Modern Technology

In 1881 Lockwood shocked Washingtonians, who thought that riding was immodest for women, by acquiring an adult’s tricycle. Lockwood was not immodest. She was a practical 51-year-old woman, a health enthusiast who was comfortable with modern technology and unafraid of publicity. With resolute determination, she took up the tricycle, making herself fair sport for columnists. She rode several miles daily, going to federal departments, the Capitol, and the courts. Cycles were “freedom machines.” The head of the Lockwood law firm bought hers after seeing that the male attorneys who used them were completing their work more quickly.

Staples of Her Washington D.C. Practice

Lockwood practiced law in the fashion of Washington men with small, street-level firms, her days a busy mix of clients, paperwork, and court appearances. A large number of her early civil cases consisted of the collection of debts from loans made, or money owed, for business transactions.

Clients suing for divorce were also a staple of her practice. In March of 1874, Lura wrote in her newspaper column that the divorce business was getting “very lively,” with Washington “likely to rival Chicago in this branch of the trade.” She was referring to the increased number of divorce petitions as well as a recent suspenseful case in which her mother outfoxed Frederick Folker, a postal employee, who was about to flee to California to avoid paying her client’s court-ordered alimony. Using a detective and application for a writ of exeat regno (“to restrain a person from leaving the kingdom”), Lockwood—described by Lura as “the lynx eyed attorney”—brought the court evidence of Folker’s refusal to pay and intended flight. The writ was issued and the ne’er-do-well ordered to give bonds for alimony and costs or go to jail.

As a woman, Lockwood always had to think about her image and used gentle forms of humor to soften the public’s view of her or to win a favor. When Lebbens Stockbridge brought a suit against her for $847 that he claimed to have placed in her hands as trustee, she reproached him in a 53-line rhyming poem that asked the court’s indulgence:

Oh! Cruel creditor thus to sue

For money charged as overdue,

And go into the Court and swear

To things as light as empty air;

And strive to get a judgment sum

Before the day of Judgment come;

You know I’d pay that little bill

Just as you fixed it in your Will . . .

She argued that Stockbridge had given her the money to hold for certain people “to whom she meant to leave it by will” but told the court that she would execute the trust.

Collaboration With Male Attorneys

Most of the time, she was more restrained. Male attorneys in Washington considered her a proper colleague and some shared casework. One of these collaborations, Kaiser v. Stickney, provided the opportunity for her first oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court, a quiet but historic appearance marking the first time that a woman member of the bar participated in the argument.

The court heard Kaiser on appeal from the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia on November 30 and December 1, 1880. Belva Lockwood was listed as counsel along with Mike L. Woods. The case involved the execution of a deed that bound local property for the payment of a debt. Belva Lockwood had been a lawyer for Caroline Kaiser, the appellant, since 1875. With some irony, she tried to use the much-criticized D.C. married women’s property laws to her client’s advantage by arguing that Kaiser, a married woman, could not legally be party to a contract that encumbered her own property. The strategy failed, and Kaiser was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which because of the District’s unique status, was the court that heard appeals from decisions of the D.C. Supreme Court.

Belva Lockwood: kaiser-v-stickney.jpg
Lockwood made history as the first woman to argue before the Supreme Court of the United States. (Records of the Supreme Court of the United States, RG 267)

First Woman Member Of The High Court Bar

Twenty-one months earlier, Belva Lockwood had become the first woman member of the high court bar. Now she stood with Woods, who began their presentation with the same argument made before the D.C. court. He and Justice William Strong fell into a heated discussion of the law. According to the Evening Star, which gave the story front-page coverage, Belva Lockwood rose at the conclusion of this exchange and asked to be heard. The justices agreed and she spoke for 20 minutes, giving her view of the case and, although she and Woods lost the appeal, making history.

“I have been now fourteen years before the bar, in an almost continuous practice, and my experience has been large, often serious, and many times amusing. I have never lacked plenty of good paying work; but, while I have supported my family well, I have not grown rich. In business I have been patient, painstaking, and indefatigable. There is no class of case that comes before the court that I have not ventured to try . . . either civil, equitable, or criminal; and my clients have been as largely men as women. There is a good opening at the bar for the class of women who have taste and tact for it.”


—Belva A. Lockwood, 1888

Retirement Was Not for Her

If the docket books are to be trusted, Belva eased out of courtroom work in the mid-1880s. She did not refuse civil and criminal trial work—several dramatic cases lay in her future—but either the money was not sufficient, or her increasingly long trips as a public lecturer, a second career that she cultivated after her first presidential campaign, made it difficult to attract clients. In the place of trial work, Lockwood expanded her pension and bounty claims business, with Lura and Clara handling much of the paperwork. Lockwood later wrote that the office handled 7,000 pension cases from the 1870s through the 1890s. This was a respectable number although small in comparison with pension claims baron George E. Lemon, who told members of Congress that, just in the 15 years after the Civil War, his law firm had processed 50,000 filings and appeals.

In her 70s and early 80s, Belva Lockwood balanced a career in law with tours on the lecture circuit and growing responsibilities as a member of the Universal Peace Union, a small pacifist organization. In 1906, in a multiparty case, she represented the Eastern Cherokee in their appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court. This time, unlike her appearance in Kaiser, she made a successful argument, and her clients shared in a multimillion dollar settlement. In 1912 she took on the last important case of her career, successfully representing Mrs. Mary E. Gage in lunacy proceedings, before a jury, that followed accusations Gage had threatened to kill prominent Washington banker Charles J. Bell.

A woman of great energy, at the age of 83 Belva Lockwood led a group of women on a tour of Europe. Until her final illness, she was marching on the streets of the capital in support of woman suffrage and international peace. She died in Washington, D.C., in 1917 at the age of 86. Three years before, she had told a reporter that a woman might one day occupy the White House: “It will be entirely on her own merits, however. No movement can place her there simply because she is a woman.”

Joe Zarzaur is a Board Certified Civil Trial Attorney whose firm is dedicated to promoting community safety since 2007. ZARZAUR LAW’S AREAS OF PRACTICE: Serious Personal Injury, Product Defect, Auto Accidents, Cycling Accidents, Motor Vehicle Accidents, Products Liability, Wrongful Death, Community Safety, Boat and Jet Ski Accidents, Slip and Fall Injuries, and more. Licensed in Alabama and Florida.

It is also important to consult with a Board Certified Trial lawyer who has the knowledge and experience to help you. We know accidents can be stressful and want to make the process as easy as possible for you. Call Zarzaur Law, P.A. today at (855) Hire-Joe for a free legal consultation or visit

Note on Sources

The docket books and case files used in this study of Belva Lockwood’s early legal career are part of the Records of District Courts of the United States, Record Group 21, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C. Norgren has surveyed the docket books of the district courts for the years when Lockwood practiced law (1872–1913) and will post the file numbers of all of Lockwood’s cases on a web site to be established at the time the biography is published. Archives staff member Robert Ellis provided valuable assistance and is much appreciated for his commitment and contributions to this project.

Women’s History Month: Arabella Mansfield – First Woman Lawyer In The United States

Courtesy of

Arabella Mansfield (1846-1911) became America’s first woman lawyer when she was admitted to the Iowa bar in 1869. She was allowed to take the bar exam and passed with high scores, despite a state law restricting applicants to white males over the age of 21. Mansfield also became one of the first female college professors and administrators in the United States.

Early Years

She was born Belle Aurelia Babb on May 23, 1846, on a family farm in Burlington, Iowa, the second child of Mary Moyer and Miles Babb. Her older brother Washington Irving Babb was Arabella’s lifelong friend. While she was still young, her father Miles Babb left for California and the Gold Rush. In 1852, he became superintendent of the Bay State Mining Company, but he died when a mine caved in on him the same year.

Mary Babb moved her children to Mount Pleasant, Iowa. Belle attended local schools and graduated from Howe’s Academy. In 1862 Belle enrolled at Iowa Wesleyan University in Mount Pleasant and began using the name, Arabella.

With many men leaving to fight in the Civil War, academic institutions were admitting more women students and teachers. Arabella graduated in 1866 as valedictorian (top-ranking student); her brother Washington was salutatorian (second highest) in the same class.

Arabella then taught political science, English, and history at Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa for a year, becoming one of the first female college professors. In 1868 she returned to Mount Pleasant and married her college sweetheart John Mansfield, a professor of natural history at Iowa Wesleyan College.

Breaking The Barrier – Women In Law

Arabella Mansfield then studied law for two years in her brother’s law office in Mount Pleasant to prepare for the bar exam, which was the practice at the time. At the time, Iowa law limited admittance to the bar to white males over the age of twenty-one, but Mansfield was allowed to take the exam in 1869 and passed with high marks. Mansfield was admitted to the Iowa State Bar, opening the way for other women in the legal profession.

Shortly thereafter, Iowa changed its statute and became the first state in the Union to allow women to practice law, with the Court ruling that women should not be denied the right to practice law in Iowa based solely on their gender.

Career In Education

However, Mansfield never practiced law but spent her professional life teaching. She was a professor of English at Iowa Wesleyan College, from which she also received an M.A. degree 1870 and an LL.B. law degree in 1872. She continued to teach there until 1876.

Women’s Suffrage Movement

Arabella Mansfield sought equal opportunities for women in all aspects of U.S. society. She was active in the women’s suffrage movement, joined the executive committee of the National Woman Suffrage Association in fall 1869, and worked with Susan B. Anthony.

The following spring, she became president and chair of the first Iowa state-wide women’s suffrage convention. She was the group’s first secretary and campaigned for equal educational opportunities for women as well as voting rights.

In 1876 Mansfield and her husband moved to Greencastle, Indiana to join the faculty at DePauw University where they taught for the next eight years. After a two-year period devoted to caring for her husband, who had suffered a nervous breakdown and whom she ultimately had to place in an asylum, Mansfield resumed her career at DePauw in 1886, teaching at various times history, aesthetics, and music history.

First Female College Administrator

Mansfield became one of the first female college administrators in the United States, serving as Dean of the School of Art in 1893 and Dean of the School of Music in 1894. She also joined the National League of Women Lawyers in 1893, leading the way for others in the law profession.

Arabella Mansfield died on August 1, 1911 in Aurora, Illinois at age 65 – nine years before women obtained the right to vote.

Because of the courageous and intellectual strides of women like Arabella Mansfield, women today stand on a more level playing field. She was inducted into the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame in 1980. In 2002 the Iowa Organization of Women Attorneys established the Arabella Mansfield Award to recognize outstanding women lawyers in Iowa.

Joe Zarzaur is a Board Certified Civil Trial Attorney whose firm is dedicated to promoting community safety since 2007. ZARZAUR LAW’S AREAS OF PRACTICE: Serious Personal Injury, Product Defect, Auto Accidents, Cycling Accidents, Motor Vehicle Accidents, Products Liability, Wrongful Death, Community Safety, Boat and Jet Ski Accidents, Slip and Fall Injuries, and more. Licensed in Alabama and Florida.

It is also important to consult with a Board Certified Trial lawyer who has the knowledge and experience to help you. We know accidents can be stressful and want to make the process as easy as possible for you. Call Zarzaur Law, P.A. today at (855) Hire-Joe for a free legal consultation or visit

The First Female Lawyer
Wikipedia: Arabella Mansfield
Arabella Mansfield – A Commanding Presence

Black History Month Trailblazer: Teniadé Broughton

Teniadé BroughtonTeniadé Broughton is the council member for District 5 and a proud seventh-generation Pensacolian.

Teniadé is a graduate of Booker T. Washington High School, the University of West Florida, and Florida A&M University. Deeply active in the community, Teniadé is a seventh-generation Pensacolian and member of Allen Chapel AME Church, the president of the John Sunday Society, the chairperson of the Escambia County Equal Justice Initiative, and a member of the Gallery Night Pensacola Board, Pensacola Bicentennial Celebration Committee, Junior League of Pensacola, and JUST Pensacola.

Teniadé has one son who is currently serving on active duty in the United States Air Force.

During her election campaign, she expressed why she was running for City Council. “I am running for City Council because I love this city and I love my neighbors. District 5 is the heart of Pensacola and home to so many of the people who make our city so special. I’m running to make our neighborhoods stronger, to support and grow our small businesses, and to improve the quality of life for every single person in the district.” She was elected to the Pensacola City Council in 2020.

In December 2021, historian Teniadé Broughton hosted a black history tour known as “Highlights in Black.” The tour allowed each museum to illuminate different aspects of black history and culture within the African diaspora in order to educate people about the perils and triumphs of black people in Pensacola and throughout the country.

As one of our local historians on local African-American heritage and culture, she illustrated truths and spoke of important historical occurrences as she walked through downtown Pensacola on an epic, one-of-a-kind tour.

To this day, Teniadé continues to put in efforts to teach the community about the diversity of Pensacola’s history. She wants the community to learn how we have really survived some of the worst times in our history and how to keep a positive outlook on where we’re headed in the future.

Teniadé Broughton
City Council
Title: City Council Member District 5
Phone: 850-903-2051
Email Councilwoman Broughton

Joe Zarzaur is a Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer whose firm is dedicated to promoting community safety since 2007. ZARZAUR LAW’S AREAS OF PRACTICE: Serious Personal Injury, Product Defect, Auto Accidents, Cycling Accidents, Motor Vehicle Accidents, Products Liability, Wrongful Death, Community Safety, Boat and Jet Ski Accidents, Slip and Fall Injuries, and more. Licensed in Alabama and Florida.

We know accidents can be stressful and want to make the process as easy as possible for you. Call Zarzaur Law, P.A. today at (855) Hire-Joe for a free legal consultation or visit



Pensacola News Journal

‘Highlights in Black’ will spotlight 5 exhibits in Pensacola that illuminate Black history

“Highlights in Black” is a free night out that features 5 museums illuminating Black history, art, and culture within the African diaspora (731 kB)[…]g-the-walk-through-black-history-in-downtown-pensacola/

Pensacola Mom Collective

Seeing What Is in Front of Us: Continuing the Walk Through Black History in Downtown Pensacola

Get out there and see what is very much a part of the fabric of Pensacola.

Black History Month Trailblazer: Rosamond Johnson, Jr.

Rosamond Johnson Jr.Article By: Gulf Coast Veterans Council

A Young Pensacola Native Turned Hero, Rosamond Johnson Was The First Soldier From Escambia County, Florida To Die In The Korean War.

The story of Rosamond Johnson is compelling:  getting permission from his parents at age 15 so he could serve his country in the military; his heroic acts during the Korean War to save his fellow soldiers while under fire, and his ultimate sacrifice, giving his life for his country.  This is even more notable when you realize that this beach that is named after him was one of the few beaches at that time where he and his family and other African Americans could go.  

Rosamond actually comes from a long line of African Americans who served their country in time of war, not necessarily for the freedoms they were afforded back home, but for the promise of that freedom and those rights that our nation aspires to fulfill.

Many Are Not Aware That African Americans Have Participated In Every Single War Fought By Or Within The United States.

Revolutionary War

When the Minutemen gathered at Lexington and Concord in April 1775 for that “shot heard round the world,” African Americans were fighting alongside other Patriots.  At least 5,000 African Americans fought for our new nation during the Revolutionary War, and when the British finally surrendered to George Washington at Yorktown in 1781, about ¼ of the American Army was black.  The sites at Lexington, Concord, and Yorktown are now part of our National Park system.

War of 1812

The War of 1812 with the British brought the fight nearby at the Battle of New Orleans.  Andrew Jackson incorporated two battalions of Free Men of Color into the fray, and the overwhelming American victory began when the British Commanding General was shot – by one of these free black troops.  The site known as Chalmette Battlefield is now part of our National Park system.

Civil War

Many are familiar with the 54th Massachusetts regiment during the Civil War, made famous by the movie “Glory” with Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington.  But before the 54th Massachusetts, the very first black Union troops – known as Louisiana Native Guard – were raised after New Orleans fell to the Union in 1862.  The 2nd Regiment of the Louisiana Native Guard was stationed at Fort Massachusetts on Ship Island (now part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore) and they launched the first engagement by Black U.S. Army regulars during the Civil War against Confederate troops at Pascagoula, Mississippi in April 1863.

Buffalo Soldiers – The First Park Rangers

Following the Civil War, Congress created six black regiments that became known as “Buffalo Soldiers,” a nickname given them by the Plains Indians.  When the first national parks were created in the west, there was no agency, no National Park Service, to protect and manage them.  Approximately 500 Buffalo Soldiers from the 9th Cavalry Regiment were assigned to Yosemite National Park and Sequoia National Park – basically serving as the first park rangers, fighting forest fires, evicting poachers, and timber thieves, and building the first roads and trails.  Charles Young, the third African American to graduate from West Point, served as the acting military superintendent of Sequoia National Park – and is considered by many to be the first African American superintendent of a national park.  Just last year his home in Ohio was designated as one of our newest National Park Areas – the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument.  

The Tuskegee Airmen

The famed Tuskegee Airmen were the first African American military aviators in the U.S. armed forces.  Following WWI, it took over 20 years of advocacy by African Americans who wanted to enlist and train as military aviators.  When they were finally allowed to train and get their wings during WWII, the Tuskegee Airmen served with distinction, setting a record for destroying five enemy aircraft in under four minutes, and shooting down three German jets in a single day.  Today the Tuskegee Airmen training site is also part of our National Park System.

Gulf Islands National Seashore is named after Pensacola’s own hero, Rosamond Johnson.

Annual Rosamond Beach Day Ceremony

Rosamond Beach DayThe Perdido Key Chamber of Commerce, through the Military Appreciation Council, in partnership with the Gulf Islands National Seashore, is proud to announce its annual Rosamond Johnson Beach Day. The ceremony will take place Saturday, May 7, 2022 at 10 am at Johnson Beach, which is part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore.

Joe Zarzaur is a Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer whose firm is dedicated to promoting community safety since 2007. ZARZAUR LAW’S AREAS OF PRACTICE: Serious Personal Injury, Product Defect, Auto Accidents, Cycling Accidents, Motor Vehicle Accidents, Products Liability, Wrongful Death, Community Safety, Boat and Jet Ski Accidents, Slip and Fall Injuries, and more. Licensed in Alabama and Florida.

We know accidents can be stressful and want to make the process as easy as possible for you. Call Zarzaur Law, P.A. today at (855) Hire-Joe for a free legal consultation or visit




Black History Month Trailblazer: Brian Wyer, Gulf Coast Minority Chamber of Commerce President and CEO

Brian Wyer - Chamber of Commerce President and CEO

What Do You Plan To Do As President And CEO Of The GCMCC?

I started with the Gulf Coast African American Chamber of Commerce as Executive Director in August 2017. During my first year with the chamber, it was determined that we needed to re-brand.

On October 1st, 2018, we officially opened the new Gulf Coast Minority Chamber of Commerce.

I have been the President/CEO of the chamber for the past 3 years. My current goals are to re-introduce the chamber to our community through “Getting Back to the Basics.”

Who Are You And Why Do You Do What You Do?

I was born and raised in Pensacola, FL. I went to Catholic High School and then graduated from UWF with a Management Information Systems degree in 1991. I then spent 22 years working in IT management in Tampa. I returned to Pensacola in 2013 and switched my career to non-profit leadership with the goal of having a positive impact on our community. I have been happily married to my beautiful wife, Harriett, for 28 years and have three children: Steven, Brianna, and Kendra.

As a leader, I am motivated to help create economic equality within our community. The basic premise is that ALL people should be treated fairly. As I network with various groups, I have gained additional insight into areas where improvements are needed. Economic equality has a massive impact on areas such as education, health, politics, and crime.

My involvement in Achieve Escambia, the Equality Project Alliance, the Mental Health Task Force, and the Baptist Community Advisory Council has allowed me the opportunity to meet a wide variety of leaders across numerous sectors of our environment. My goals have been to listen, understand, and gather various viewpoints. Once the information is obtained, I can present it to the community. The requests to share this knowledge are my motivation to educate our community on disparities and brainstorm areas where we can dedicate resources. My motivation is to have a positive impact on society by serving as a role model and leading others to challenge injustices. 

What Is Your Passion And Vision For The Growth And Development Of Minority Entrepreneurship In Our Community?

My passion for the growth and development of minority entrepreneurship stems from the concept of creating more generational wealth. Numerous studies have determined that the best way to elevate our society is for our current generation to become more successful, which in turn will make life better for the next generation.

As new businesses are created and grow, they will:

1. Increase the number of employees.

2. Use passive income to purchase more services or goods.

3. Invest more in savings or stocks.

4. Provide more opportunities to the rest of our community. This will result in families investing more resources in their children through better education and skills. It will allow the parents to leave more resources to the next generation and bypass many of the challenges that their previous generation has encountered.

What Is Your Historical Influence?

From a historical perspective, I am influenced by the actions of Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. King was killed the same year that I was born, and segregation ended only four short years before my birth. Significant strides have been made since these events took place, but improvements are still needed. MLK Jr. influenced me with his handling of inequality through peaceful actions. In the face of violence, injustice, and personal threats, he remained steadfast in addressing the challenges of ending inequalities.

Brian Wyer
Gulf Coast Minority Chamber of Commerce
321 N De Villiers Street
Suite 104
Pensacola, Fl 32501
(office) 850-438-3993

Joe Zarzaur is a Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer whose firm is dedicated to promoting community safety since 2007. ZARZAUR LAW’S AREAS OF PRACTICE: Serious Personal Injury, Product Defect, Auto Accidents, Cycling Accidents, Motor Vehicle Accidents, Products Liability, Wrongful Death, Community Safety, Boat and Jet Ski Accidents, Slip and Fall Injuries, and more. Licensed in Alabama and Florida.

We know accidents can be stressful and want to make the process as easy as possible for you. Call Zarzaur Law, P.A. today at (855) Hire-Joe for a free legal consultation or visit

An all go, no quit interview on podcast with Joe Zarzaur.

Joe Zarzaur, Zarzaur Law – Multi-Channel Marketing, Candid Conversations, and Healthy Employees

Chris Dreyer / July 09,2020 / The Rankings Podcast
Joe Zarzaur is the founder of Zarzaur Law, a personal injury firm based in Pensacola, Florida. Joe is a Board Certified Civil Trial lawyer, a distinction that only 1% of Florida lawyers can claim. Throughout his career in the courtroom, Joe has won record jury verdicts for injury cases in both Escambia and Santa Rosa counties. In addition to his Board Certification, Joe has also been awarded an AV rating and a 10 out of 10 on

What’s in This Episode:
– Who is Joe Zarzaur
– What motivated Joe to start Zarzaur Law
– How big wins impact the growth of your practice
– What Joe’s biggest career mistake taught him about candid conversations and when to have them
– How to market a personal injury firm to get both mass volume and quality cases
– Why you should prioritize your employees’ physical health

Listen to the full podcast HERE! >

This transcript was created using an automated transcription service and may contain errors.

Episode 24:
Welcome to The Rankings Podcast where we feature top founders, entrepreneurs, and elite personal injury lawyers and share their inspiring stories. Now let’s get started with the show.

Chris Dreyer
Chris Dreyer here CEO and Founder of where we help elite personal injury lawyers dominate first page rankings. You’re listening to the rankings podcast where I feature top business owners, entrepreneurs and elite personal injury lawyers. Speaking of elite personal injury lawyers, I have Joe Zarzaur on the show today. Joe is the founder of Zarzaur Law, a personal injury firm based in Pensacola, Florida. He is a Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer, a distinction that only 1% of Florida Attorneys can claim. His career in the courtroom has seen him win record jury verdicts for injury cases in both Escambia and Santa Rosa counties. In addition to his board certification. Joe is also AV rated a Super Lawyer, a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum. Joe, welcome to the show.

Joe Zarzaur
Hey, thanks for having me, Chris. Appreciate it.

Chris Dreyer
This is awesome. Yeah. Great. Great to have you. Let’s jump right in. So, you know, how did you get started? Where did the idea come from to create Zarzaur Law?

Joe Zarzaur
You know, I think everybody that works for a company thinks fantasizes or think about having their own business, right, at some point in time. And sometimes it’s a fleeting fantasy. Sometimes you’re better off not having your own company, right. But I think there are personalities that are better on their own kind of kind of thing. I just, I had that kind of personality where I was like, Okay, I was, I think I was a decent obedient employee as a lawyer. But at the same time, I’m opinionated. Right, and I think I have a i don’t know i Have a guess. Unlike a lot of lawyers, I like business stuff. So I think a lot of lawyers and doctors and other professionals, accountants, they like their craft. And then the business is sort of second. I like my craft. Okay, don’t get me wrong, I love it, right. But I like being a businessman, to an entrepreneur, an advertiser, a marketer. So I enjoy that aspect of this too. And I think what, what gave me the idea of thinking this is the right move for me was wanting to make all the decisions for the business and not be questioned about it, not have to go through layers of other people. I wanted to make this decision this way. And why don’t we mark it this way? I don’t have to ask somebody permission to do that. I wanted to just do it. So I think that’s really what made the decision for me.

Chris Dreyer
Yeah, and I think that’s great. So you want to drive, you wanted to be innovative and explore unique opportunities that you probably saw weren’t being applied to the firm you’re at previously, and you wanted a little bit more control. So what were those early days to the firm? Like, how are you? How are you hustling to get those clients in the early days?

Joe Zarzaur
A while they’re scary, right? You’re scared to death. You’re, you know, you look back at bills that used to make you like cringe. And you’re thinking, Oh, my gosh, I wish I had that kind of American Express business bill now, right? Like, I was, like, worried about $3,000 a month on my American Express business card. So But yeah, I remember being scared to death. I remember thinking to myself, how am I going to make it? I think it helped me when I went out on my own that I didn’t have a I wasn’t married at the time. I didn’t have a child at the time, and so it was less than Scary. I didn’t have a ton of student loan debt at the time I had retired most of that I didn’t have a lot of other debt. So I think that is that makes it a lot easier for people when they go out on their own to not have personal debt and personal concerns or as many as a lot of people have, right? So it makes the decision and basically makes the risk a lot less, you’re not just risking, you’re only risking you, right? You’re not risking people at home that are counting on you. Creditors that are counting on you to pay your bills. If you have a bunch of debt already, you know, it made it a lot easier for me to branch out and just go

Chris Dreyer
so it would be fair to say Dave Ramsey would be would be really it’s kind of the Dave Ramsey approach. He didn’t carry a lot of debt. You got to make moves and make your cash work for him.

Joe Zarzaur
I don’t know that I agree with everything Dave Ramsey says

Chris Dreyer
but I don’t think we all do

Joe Zarzaur
but The whole debt thing I think the less debt you have in general in the world, the more free you are to make decisions.

Chris Dreyer
Absolutely. I 100% agree. So, you know, taking it to the next level, you started acquiring cases you started building your brand. Is there a big turning point, maybe a case of settled or a marketing initiative that you did that really took it to the next level?

Joe Zarzaur
Absolutely. In this business, in the trial lawyer business, you really don’t know for sure you’re good at this until you get a big you can settle thousand cases right? And you can settle them for millions and millions of dollars. But until a jury after hearing you present your case, gives your client millions and millions and millions of dollars. I don’t know that you know that you’ve made it in this profession until that happens. And until that happens over and over. You may think it’s an anomaly, right? So that is what gave me confirmation until that time. Even though I loved what I did, and even though I felt like I did it better than average, I didn’t have that validation that a jury had awarded my clients, millions and millions of dollars. And until that happened, I didn’t feel like I had validation. So I would constantly be thinking, we know that I like doing this and I feel like I can make some money. And I feel like I’m really good. And I feel like I’m better than average. But maybe I should do something else like sports, marketing or sports agency or do this, do that. And until you really get that verdict that says, No, no, no, dude. You only you know, point 2% of lawyers in this business, get this kind of number verdict, you are doing what you’re supposed to do. Right. So that’s that gay validation? Word.

Chris Dreyer
Yeah, absolutely. validation and confidence. I’m sure there’s just a ton of confidence and momentum that build from that. And then you can, I guess, leverage that that giant case result for marketing, you know, marketing and referral potentials. So, like, do you know very few successful, successful business owners get to where they are without making some mistakes? Are there any mistakes that come to mind that you learn from daily?

Joe Zarzaur
Professional mistake maker actually. I just try to make less mistakes and then then don’t and then also try to fix them when I do right. mistake was. Oh, my god, there’s so many. Let’s just take maybe the biggest mistakes I’ve made is joining up with firms along the way without making sure I had an ironclad understanding On and writing about how we’re going to split fees. So if you want prosecutions with firms, and everybody’s buddies and whatever, everybody’s happy in this business, you know, it’s very, everything’s contingency related, right? So nobody gets paid until the case is over. Everybody’s working towards the same goal. Nobody realizes there’s money until there’s money. And what happens is, we all are working towards that recovery. And then when it happens, everybody’s like, well, everybody’s got an inflated impression of what they did to get the money, right, including me. So when the money’s there is not the time to try to figure out how much you should get and how much you should get whether this is a fair deal or not. Right. So if I learned anything from the biggest mistake I made, the ones that has cost me the most is that when I have co counsel in cases that I feel like or not not pulling their weight, so to speak. And I feel like I’m giving more to the mix than they are, then I need to immediately address that before the recovery happens so that when and if the recovery does happen, there’s not this big fight over.

Chris Dreyer
So candid conversations right when you see him

Joe Zarzaur
hard conversations to have, but they’re a lot harder to have when the money sitting in a trust account, and we’re all fighting Oh, you know what I mean?

Chris Dreyer
That makes sense. And that’s something I haven’t heard before but I totally understand and that’s something just now that you’ve experienced that pain now you can you know, you’ve learned from that situation I’m sure that you’re you’re establishing those boundaries, those situations now in the future.

Joe Zarzaur
I’m a little militant about it now, like, I’ll overdo it too much like, first phone call with somebody to refer in a case i’m very diligent about making sure everything’s clear in an email as soon as we get off the phone, here’s what we decided, right, here are the percentages. Here’s what we decided, put it in writing, done, right. And then if something changes, immediately address it, as uncomfortable as it may be. I may say, Listen, you know, I’m starting to take a lot more depositions than I thought, I think we should revisit these numbers.

Chris Dreyer
That makes sense. And I would say that probably even that experience kind of relates to those hiring situations where instead of pushing stuff off, you’re probably addressing those situations more early. It’s kind of a similar type of thing

Joe Zarzaur
about staffing is by far I think the number one challenge of any business owner is getting good staff, keeping them and weeding out the ones that are aren’t going to ever make it. A lot of businesses I think hire people and they’re mediocre. But mediocrity is it doesn’t ever push anybody to make any big decisions, you know, one way or the other. They don’t pissed you off enough to get fired. They don’t impress you enough to give them big bonuses, so they just sort of wallow around and mediocrity for years. Meanwhile, there’s a candidate out there, that could be taking that position to a whole nother level, right? And you’re not doing that. And I know that grass is greener on the other side kind of thing. But I’m a firm believer in that in the professional setting. Maybe it doesn’t work and in personal relationships, always looking for maybe a bigger, brighter, shiny or object. But I do feel like there if you if you don’t want your staff to be mediocre. You don’t want your brand to be mediocre. Everybody in your facility needs to be doing their best to be better than every day. And if they’re not,

Chris Dreyer
I totally agree and the longer someone’s with your company, the harder it is to have those conversations so just address in early two makes it even easier from a personal feeling. type of situation. So let’s talk about the good. What’s a proud moment that really stands out for you?

Joe Zarzaur
Ah, well, of course, opening your own office is a big deal, right? Getting those verdicts or big or big deal. I think being recognized as a Board Certified civil trial specialist by the Florida Bar is a big deal because you don’t get that it didn’t come along easy. There’s like 90,000 lawyers in Florida, and 1% of those have the certification. And I think that was a big deal. being recognized in the community as someone that cares about the community with awards, that, that, that applaud their the the amount of work we do in the community, helping people is important to us, also. You know, I think I’ve gotten a lot of employees that have worked out, and that ended up going elsewhere. bigger and brighter things have written some really have kept him over the years really nice notes that said to me, You helped me grow into a better worker, human, blah, blah, blah, I think those things that matter. And then, of course, clients that are thankful about their cases. And that’s a weekly thing, when they, it makes me like, a calf to catch my breath every time that happens, because when I read these things, I forget and like, God, you know, I am having an impact on people’s lives, right in a positive way. And of course, I’m not out here saving lives, you know, with my hands, but at the same time, I’m making lives a little bit better that have been pretty much destroyed, right or messed up pretty bad. So those things mean a lot.

Chris Dreyer
Yeah, that’s incredible. And just you get to feel they’re having Happiness and just make an impact like what you said on their lives. These people you know, they have these serious injuries and you can you can help their family they’re even they’re the next generation in some situations. Joe neck. Next let’s talk about what it takes to build a successful law firm. What marketing initiatives should growth minded lawyers invest in?

Joe Zarzaur
Personal Injury Lawyers is what I can really speak to. And I can tell you this, that I don’t think that you can just invest in one medium, you have to be sort of like a shotgun approach. You’ve gotta if you’re going to be on TV, you almost have to be in billboards. If you’re going to be in billboards, you got to be in Google AdWords or some other internet search thing, right? I think everybody wants to use their phone to contact everybody, including lawyers. And if you’re not accessible on your phone, your phone, right. They may know who you are, they may know your name. They may remember your name, but when they go through a traumatic Event they’re going to forget for a second, right? And what they need to do is to be reminded who you are again. And the best way to do that, fortunately, or unfortunately, is SEO and Google AdWords, because they’re going to search Google, they’re going to do some kind of search. And ideally, you want them to see your ad on Google and say, Oh, that’s the TV ad I saw yesterday, or that’s the billboard I saw yesterday, the more you can put the seed in their head. So when they go to look after an event, because it’s almost like they have amnesia when the event happens, and then they personal injury lawyer, and I Oh, wait, that. Why don’t I think of that guy. That’s the guy that I see all the time in the billboard that’s the guy see on television. They use Google as a way of looking it up. Right. And I hate to say it, but Google controls a lot of that business and unless your website is like top notch Which is a daily deal, like daily you have to update the content make sure you’re the algorithm is, is the same hadn’t changed, whatever, tweak it here and there, you can’t guarantee SEO is going to be at the top every time so you got to do something else to make sure you’re at the top. That’s why Google AdWords i think is you know, they’ve got a they’ve got a sort of a monopoly going in a way

Chris Dreyer
Yeah, I 100% agree. You know, so you’ve got your top of the funnel whether you call that in the note, you know, no is no like trust or awareness, engagement in consideration wherever you talk about your TV billboards, that awareness, but then that’s that’s the brand equity place. So then, when someone does type it in Google, you got to be able to show up for them to be able to convert.

Joe Zarzaur
Now, I do think this, I do think that there is a way to get a mass volume of cases which I just described, and there’s also a way to get quality cases with people that are going to take time to hire a lawyer, they’re not going to just put a Google search in and and say our guy’s name, they’re going to want to say, well, let’s compare his credentials to her credentials. And let’s see who’s actually better suited for our case. I want to have, frankly, I’d rather have three quality cases than 30. My neck hurt cases, right? So not only are those going to provide the internal satisfaction for the firm and for the client and for me for actually helping somebody that you’re in really bad situation and helping the community by making a wrong Right, right. But it’s more valuable. Right three is is what would take 40 neck my neck hurt cases right. So And I’m not making fun of our little of people’s neck because neck injuries are bad things. But what I am saying is non herniated disc cases did cases where you can’t show something in an objective film. But the person has soft tissue injuries for certain injuries, but perhaps those cases are just not as valuable as a neck surgery case. Right? Right. You got to be doing both you got to be you got to be appealing to the to the folks who may not research you very much, because there are good cases there too. But you also have to be making sure that people that are going to be smart about the process, that you’re providing them the content they need to make intelligent decisions, and so that you appear and sound as different as your

Chris Dreyer
I 100%. Agree I, you know, the multi channel approach is, first of all, how you’re getting your name out there, but It also complements each other TV in, and billboards compliment the SEO because then you capture those clicks. And then the other thing, you know, the higher your brand perception and expertise raises, the more likely you are to get those great cases through a referral to just in another different avenue, not only from directly from the consumer, so I 100% agree and i i think the multi channel approach is what you have to do nowadays to capture attention,

Joe Zarzaur
right? I can’t agree more.

Chris Dreyer
So next let’s shift to let’s shift to kind of like a personal development. What’s one book that comes to mind that you’d recommend?

Joe Zarzaur
That’s a tough question. I try to read a lot of current events. Non like nonfiction. for business purposes, Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike. I thought That was a great book. I read it about a year ago, but it sticks out from a business standpoint as one that I enjoyed a lot. Richard Haass just wrote a book called The World. It’s brand new, just started it a couple nights ago, but it seems like it’s a really, he basically calls an introduction to the world. And it’s almost like everybody is coming through school should be required to read it, because it basically introduces you to every part of the world and what their interests are, right? And how they’re different than ours, and how we can use that knowledge of everybody’s differences to get along better, and to understand why people do things, right. So I think that would be those two books or stick out for purposes of this conversation?

Chris Dreyer
Yeah, I’m gonna have to read The World you said and then Shoe Dog. I did read Shoe Dog and it was kind of nice because it exposed the good and the bad kind of Nike’s journey. So it was nice to see them like at a human level. What about mentors or influences? Or is there a specific mentor that comes to mind that helped you develop your expertise?

Joe Zarzaur
I don’t know that I have any one particular person, but there are lawyers in Florida that are older than me, that are sort of, you know, through my trade groups, the Florida Justice Association, we get together two or three times a year and you just sort of, you put your arm somebody you’re like, that dude’s got it, got to figure it out, right? Or that lady’s got to figure it out. And so I’ve quietly watched people that, you know, I don’t really care to name and I don’t know that they would care, to name them, but, and I’ve admired them from afar and thought to myself, maybe I can build my practice to be with theirs. That’s right. And this is the level of respect they command from their peers is so impressive, that you know, it means more than any verdict actually, you know, the idea that your peers Think that much of you is really success, right? If you in any particular industry, if your peers respect your abilities to do that job, you’ve really succeeded, right? Regardless of how much money you have, or how many boats and cars and planes you have, if you’ve gotten their respect, you’ve done something because there’s a ton of people that make money in this business that have no respect. I mean, I was really, there’s a lot of people that advertise and they get a lot of volume cases who I wouldn’t hire to handle a speeding ticket, literally a speeding ticket, right? Like they have no clue what they’re doing, right. But they’re great marketers and they’re great business. But that doesn’t mean anything when it comes to this trade. Going to trial or so.

Chris Dreyer
Yeah, and when you when you when you congregate with those people that are successful, it’s kind of you you kind of immerse yourself you get ideas that maybe you know It leads to innovation and I’ve seen that myself and our digital agency masterminds work with a dozen different digital marketing company and I’m like, well, that’s that’s a great idea the to implement that. Joe, what one final question. Is there anything you wanted to talk about? We haven’t discussed.

Joe Zarzaur
I think it’s important for people to be physically healthy. Yep. One of the big things here at the firm is we do the firm does a required yoga session every week. I pay for their Y memberships. I encourage people and was just like right across the street from us a brand new sparkling, beautiful YMCA. And I encourage people to take an extra pay for them to take an extra long lunch if they’re working out. So I don’t the women want to take a shower afterwards they get an I give him an hour and a half instead of an hour. You know, ah, personally have to work out every day or I don’t feel like I’m ready to work. And I feel like the healthier people are physically, the more productive they’re going to be, the happier they’re going to be, the more mentally healthy they’re going to be. It’s just the better they can be with their family, the better they’re going to be with themselves. I mean, it’s just, it’s a priority. And I feel like businesses that don’t put that as a priority for their staff are making huge miscalculations because you work them to death, right? And then you reward them with like, beer, wine and food, and you’re not paying attention to promoting their health and well being. They’re just gonna crash and burn like you are at some point, right? Now, of course, I’m not saying I’m going to live forever, but, you know, I want to be living until I drop, right. And so, it may be a sudden drop, but it ain’t gonna be Any one of those long, extended sickness kind of drops, you get my drift.

Chris Dreyer
I think that’s a great piece of advice. And I know that my wife if she’s listening, this episode is going to push me more on it. Yeah, so I 100% agree and I applaud you for that. I think that’s tremendous. That’s a way better benefit than uh, you know, munities other types of benefits you can be provided as a business owner Besides this, the standard health, health insurance and all those types of things. Guys, we’ve been talking to Joe, elite personal lawyer at Zarzaur Law. Joe, where can we learn more about you?

Joe Zarzaur
As if you want to read my website or read about me, And one of the first big verdicts I got. I saw a lawyer out at a retail store and he said, Man, you beat that lawyer and that lawyer worked for Johnson and Johnson. And that lawyer hates your guts. I was like, What are you talking about? And that lawyer had been litigating against him for 10 years and then went to trial. And the most he had offered was like $200,000. And the verdict was like 9.3 million or something. And in the course, the guy was pissed off. He had all these Ivy League, you know, crew in the courtroom, and he was talking down to everybody, including the jury, the whole trial, you know, using words, nobody understood how to look up. And at the end of the case, he was telling people that he hated me. Like, he hates me for the verdict, right. And so I took that statement, and I made it into an advertising campaign. And so I put that all around town and do like what the heck What is that? And you go to the website and he explains that whole story about why this lawyer hates me because I beat he’s, you know, he and his client to oblivion in bed. And, and so in any event, is also a way to get my story.

Chris Dreyer
That’s great. We’ll share that our audience and I’m gonna have to check that out right after this. Hey, Joe. It’s been awesome having you on the show. Thanks so much.

Joe Zarzaur
I enjoyed Chris. Y’all Take care. Thanks for having me. Thank you.

Joe Zarzaur is a Board Certified Civil Trial Attorney whose firm is dedicated to promoting community safety since 2007. OUR AREAS OF PRACTICE: Serious Personal Injury, Product Defect, Auto Accidents, Cycling Accidents, Motor Vehicle Accidents, Products Liability, Wrongful Death, Community Safety, Boat and Jet Ski Accidents, Slip and Fall Injuries, and more. Licensed in Alabama and Florida.

If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident, it is important to consult with a Board Certified Trial lawyer who has the knowledge and experience to help you. We know accidents can be stressful and want to make the process as easy as possible for you. Call Zarzaur Law, P.A. today at (855) Hire-Joe for a free legal consultation or visit

Social Media Instructions for Injured People

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Most of us today carry cell phones in our pockets with more processing power than the computers aboard the Apollo moon missions. Frequent news reports illustrate the dangers of thoughtless use of smartphones and social media. It has ensnared politicians and celebrities, sometimes crashing promising careers. This technology has created similar hazards for both plaintiffs and defendants in litigation who are careless about online social media privacy. While we are quick to look for the other side’s vulnerabilities, we must also play defense in protecting our clients from their own electronic blunders.

Many people today, especially younger ones, think nothing of sharing details of personal lives with the world through social networking sites. For this very reason, insurance companies, investigators, and defense lawyers may seek to compel access to social media accounts, computers, cell phones, and hard drives. Careless use of social media can be a kind of self-surveillance, a gift to the other side.

Information from such sources may be used to embarrass or discredit you when you are hurt. It may be used to falsely suggest that the your are exaggerating or that something else caused the injury. Even innocent joking between friends on social media might convince judges and juries that a plaintiff has been dishonest.

Here are ten precautions to avoid self-inflicted wounds through use of social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.

Archive the content of current accounts.

Destruction of potential evidence may create bigger problems than the information itself. Therefore, it is important to preserve the current content of any social media accounts. Most social media sites include directions for archiving. We designate a staff person to help clients archive correctly.

Deactivate or discontinue using social media accounts.

If you are going to be the plaintiff in a personal injury case, consider deactivating your Facebook profile and other social media accounts.  If you are not willing to completely deactivate an account you should—after archiving content —remove any information related to your injury or activities and avoid future posts.

Turn on the highest privacy setting.

If you won’t discontinue use of social media, adjust privacy settings to the highest levels. This means making sure that only actual friends can see the information, rather than friends of friends or the general public. A useful tool is Facebook’s “View As” feature, which allows users to view their profile as it appears to someone else, whether a stranger or a Facebook friend. This might help you see exactly what is visible to the general public, something that isn’t always apparent from privacy settings. Be aware that Facebook publicly publishes “Interests,” even if accounts are otherwise private.

Beware of “friends.”

If social media use continues, it is important to edit “friend lists” so that only certain friends can see photo albums and status updates. Remove any “friends” you do not know well or at all, and accept only friend requests from people you know and trust.

Become invisible.

You can remove yourself from Facebook search results by selecting “only friends” under the “search visibility” option in their profile settings. You can also remove your Facebook page from Google by unchecking the box for “Public Search Listing” in your Internet privacy settings. Make comparable changes to privacy settings in all other social media accounts.

Take down photos.

After archiving current content,  remove and un-tag all photos of yourself that are not simple head shots.

Be cautious.

Assume that anything you write on your social media accounts—including status updates, messages, and wall postings—will at some point be seen by defense lawyers, judges, and juries. Think about how such things might be perceived when viewed out of context.

Preserve all computers, tablets, or cell phones.

If you lose or destroy an electronic communications device, opposing counsel could try to make it look like deliberate destruction of evidence. It is better to fight a battle over access to your devices than have a judge instruct a jury that it may assume the contents of the discarded or destroyed device would have been unfavorable to you.

Don’t send messages or information about the case.

Do not send emails, text messages, or “private” social media messages about your claim, health, or activities to anyone except your lawyers. Careless emails and electronic messages can destroy a case.

Don’t post on websites or web chat groups.

While you may find useful information in online support groups, you don’t own the information you post online. Such information you post is highly searchable. You should not enter any information on dating or insurance websites, post on message boards, participate in or comment on social media “private” groups or blogs, or use chat rooms.

This post is adapted from an article published in the January 2016 issue of Trial magazine by Ken Shigley, a double board certified trial lawyer in Atlanta, Georgia. He has served as president of the State Bar of Georgia, chair of the largest practice area section of the American Association for Justice (Motor Vehicle Collision, Highway & Premises Liability Section), and chair of the Institute for Continuing Legal Education in Georgia board of trustees. He is lead author of Georgia Law of Torts: Trial Preparation & Practice (2010-2016) and a chapter author of the 2016 edition of Handling Motor Vehicle Accident Cases, both published by Thomson Reuters.  He can be reached at

Pensacola Personal Injury Lawyer, Joe Zarzaur, founder of Zarzaur Law has created this blog in an effort to educate the many citizens and visitors of Pensacola, Florida about their legal rights. Joe Zarzaur knows the ins and outs of Florida law, and offers friendly-quality legal help whether you have experienced an auto accident/car wreck, have been a victim of medical malpractice or are in need of a personal injury lawyer.

11 E Romana Street

Pensacola, FL 32502

Telephone: 850-444-9299


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