Meet Our Amazing CAHR Staff
Terry Coonan, J. D., M.A., M.Div.
Terry Coonan graduated from the University of Notre Dame, subsequently working in Chile and Central America with torture victims and the families of the disappeared. After studying law on a human rights fellowship at the University of Cincinnati, he was selected for the Justice Department Honors Program, and served for several years advising U.S. judges on immigration and refugee law. He went on to litigate asylum and torture victim protection cases throughout the country.
He has also worked with the UN Sub Commission for Human Rights in Geneva and the UN High Commission for Refugees in Washington, D.C. Since its founding in 2000, he has served as the Executive Director of the Florida State University Center for the Advancement of Human Rights and is an Associate Professor in the FSU College of Criminology and Criminal Justice.
Professor Coonan teaches courses in Refugee & Asylum Law; Human Trafficking; and Human Rights & National Security (FSU Law School), International Human Rights and Film (FSU Film School) and International Human Rights Law (FSU College of Criminology and Criminal Justice). He continues to litigate pro bono asylum, domestic violence, and trafficking victim cases nationwide. He has also done leading work nationally on human trafficking, designing and delivering trainings for the U.S. Department of Justice, the Florida Office of the Attorney General, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Florida Highway Patrol, and the Florida Department of Health. Professor Coonan has also done extensive work training state judges throughout the country, serving as a lead instructor for the National Judicial College. In 2013, Professor Coonan was invited to the White House to advise the Obama Administration on best practices in combating human trafficking. He writes and publishes on topics ranging from human trafficking to immigration law and transitional justice.
Sumner B. Twiss, Ph. D.
Sumner B. Twiss is the Distinguished Professor of Human Rights, Ethics, and Religion at Florida State University, where he holds a joint appointment between the Department of Religion and the Center for the Advancement of Human Rights, and he is also Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies at Brown University, where he served on the faculty for thirty years and as department chair for twelve. He is the co-author or co-editor of ten books (as well as a contributor to them), and the author of over seventy published articles in the areas of comparative religious ethics, biomedical ethics, philosophy of religion, global ethics, intercultural human rights, and the comparative study of just war. He is former co-editor of the Journal of Religious Ethics (2001-2011) and the Annual of the Society of Christian Ethics (1995-2001), as well as former senior editor of the book series Advancing Human Rights (2003-2008). His most recent books are: Religion and Public Policy: Human Rights, Conflict, and Ethics (co-editor, with R. Petersen and M. Simion, and contributor; Cambridge University Press, 2015); Chinese Just War Ethics: Origin, Development, and Dissent (co-editor, with P.C. Lo, and co-author of three chapters; Routledge, U.K., 2015); and The Practices of Global Ethics: Historical Developments, Current Issues, and Future Prospects (co-author with F. Bird et al; Edinburgh University Press, 2016). His recent teaching and publication have focused on such topics as: Confucian moral and political thought; crimes against humanity and international criminal justice; the law and ethics of torture; religion, politics, and genocide; the history and ethics of humanitarian intervention.
Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte, J. D.
Talbot (“Sandy”) D’Alemberte, President Emeritus of The Florida State University, served as President from January 1994 to January 2003. In 1991-92 he served as President of the American Bar Association. From 1984 to 1989 D’Alemberte served as dean of the FSU College of Law.
Earlier, he represented Dade County in the Florida House of Representatives (1966 to 1972) where he chaired several legislative committees including the Judiciary Committee that drafted and passed a major judicial reform constitutional amendment in 1972. During his legislative service he was recognized as the Outstanding First Term member (1967) and, in his last term, named Most Outstanding Member of the House (1972).
After leaving the Florida Legislature, he chaired the Florida Constitution Revision Commission in 1977-1978 and the Florida Commission on Ethics in 1974-75.
During his years of practice, D’Alemberte concentrated on media and public law work and his cases included the proceedings that led to the first rule allowing open camera access to courtrooms, a petition that established mandatory reporting of pro bono activities for lawyers, representation of Post-Newsweek Stations during the historic FCC license challenges during the Nixon years, the first litigation involving the Copyright Act of 1976 and a number of libel trials and appeals,
He has also represented government, including service as Chief Counsel in impeachment proceedings against three justices of the Florida Supreme Court, the representation of the Florida House of Representatives in several constitutional cases, Chief Counsel for a United States Senate Banking Sub-committee investigating HUD and pro bono counsel in four death penalty cases.
D’Alemberte was very much involved in the early days of the modern dispute resolution movement, chairing the first ABA committee on the subject and he has served as a mediator, most notably in the water dispute between Alabama, Florida and Georgia. An award of the ABA Section of Dispute Resolution is named for D’Alemberte and another early leader of the dispute resolution movement.
He has been active in the organized bar. In addition to his service as President of the American Bar Association (1991-92), he has been President of the American Judicature Society (1982-84), Chair of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admission to the Bar (1982-83) and chair of several ABA committees including chair of the first election reform committee.
He was particularly active in the ABA effort to establish a program to provide assistance to those in emerging democracies following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Working with Homer Moyer and Mark Ellis, he created the ABA program called “CEELI” (the Central European and Eurasian Law Institute) that provided help in the development of constitutions, laws and institutional improvements in the Central and Eastern European region. This program has been expanded to involve all other regions of the world in a comprehensive Rule of Law program that is one of the ABA’s most important programs, and the largest pro bono project ever undertaken by the ABA.
He was a member of the Task Force on Detainee Treatment, sponsored by The Constitution Project. The Task Force report in 2013 provided a comprehensive report on the facts relating to the treatment of detainees and a number of recommendations.
Awards D’Alemberte has received include the ABA Medal in 2003, the 2001 Wickersham Award given by the Friends of the Law Library of Congress, the 1996 American Judicature Society’s Justice Award for his efforts to improve the administration of justice in the United States, the 1996 National Council of Jewish Women’s Hannah G. Soloman Award, the 1993 Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers “Perry Nichols” Award, the 1993 Florida Academy of Criminal Defense Lawyers Annual Criminal Justice Award, the 1990 Jurisprudence Award from the Anti-Defamation League of South Florida, the 1987 Florida Bar Foundation medal of Honor, the 1984 Florida Civil Liberties Union “Nelson Poynter” Award, and the ABA Section of Legal Education Robert J. Kutak Award and the ABA World Order Under Law Award.
He has been recognized for his work in open government, including the 1986 National Sigma Delta Chi First Amendment Award, a National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences “Emmy” in 1985 for his work in open government, particularly in the opening of court proceedings to electronic journalists and the 2011 award from the First Amendment Foundation.
In 2007, D’Alemberte received the Tobias Simon Pro Bono Award from the Supreme Court of Florida and was recognized by the ABA Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities with the Robert Drinan Award. In 2011, the foundation of Rotary International presented him with its Global Alumni Service to Humanity Award and, in 2012, he received the Richard Ervin Award from the Tallahassee Bar Association. The Innocence Project of Florida also instituted an award named for D’Alemberte and first awarded to the Holland & Knight law firm.
In 1976, in connection with the Bicentennial, he was recognized as one of the 76 outstanding Floridians and, in 2010, he was recognized by the Florida Secretary of State as a “Great Floridian.” He has been recognized with lifetime achievement awards by Leadership Tallahassee (2009) and Leadership Florida (2011).
In 2015, he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Florida Supreme Court Historical Society.
Born June 1, 1933, in Tallahassee, D’Alemberte was educated in public schools in Tallahassee and Chattahoochee, Florida. In 1955, he earned his Bachelor or Arts degree with honors in political science from the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, and also attended summer school at FSU and the University of Virginia. After service as a naval officer aboard a destroyer for three years, D’Alemberte studied on a Rotary Foundation fellowship at the London School of Economics and Political Science (1958-59).
In 1962, he received his J.D. with honors from the University of Florida where he was named to the Order of the Coif, served as president of the student bar association, was twice captain of the moot court team, served as articles editor of the University of Florida Bar Review and received the J. Hillis Miller Award as the outstanding law graduate. He has been inducted into Phi Beta Kappa and Florida Blue Key.
In 2017, Oxford University Press published his book, The Florida Constitution.
D’Alemberte has had long family connections with Florida State University. His grandfather attended the Seminary West of the Suwannee and his mother attended the Florida State College for Women, both predecessor institutions to the Florida State University. He attended Boy’s State and summer music camp as a high school student and returned to attend summer school in 1954.
He is the father of two grown children, Gabrielle D’Alemberte, a graduate of the University of Denver Law School, now a lawyer in Miami, and Joshua Talbot D’Alemberte, a graduate of the University of the South, a school teacher in Miami.
D’Alemberte is married to Patsy Palmer, former children’s policy coordinator for Governor Lawton Chiles. She has worked as a journalist, legislative aide, and as a White House staff member. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri in journalism, a master’s degree from Harvard Divinity School, a master’s degree in conflict resolution from Antioch University and a J.D. degree from the FSU College of Law (May 2007). She now practices with her husband in D’Alemberte & Palmer.
Vania Aguilar, M.S.
Ms. Aguilar is a program manager at CAHR, where she oversees the administrative work of the Center. She has been working with the Center since 2001. She conducts trainings on human trafficking for various groups in the community. In addition, she oversees the Center’s case management and service provision for human trafficking victims and victims of other crimes. She has developed curriculum for the Florida Department of Education and Florida Department of Children and Families and the Florida Department of Education on human trafficking. She was granted BIA Accreditation in 2013 and is assisting clients with their VAWA, DACA, Adjustment of Status, asylum, SIJS, TPS, U and T visa application submissions.
She has established direct connections with prosecutors, victim advocates and law enforcement officials throughout the state. She works very closely with them to secure the necessary documentation to apply for immigration relief for clients who are victims of crimes and to apply for any other forms of relief under the Victim’s Compensation Program.
She serves as a co-chair for the Big Bend Coalition Against Human Trafficking Social Service Committee. On behalf of the coalition, she has written co-eds, has participated on radio show interviews to discuss how Florida is affected by human trafficking, conducted presentations and outreach initiatives. In addition, she serves on the board of the Survive and Thrive Advocacy Center, a non-profit that assists victims and survivors of human trafficking in the second judicial circuit.
She received a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Multilingual/Multicultural Education from Florida State University. In addition to working for the CAHR, Ms. Aguilar has been teaching for Adult and Community Education (ACE) in Tallahassee since 2005 where she has taught evening classes to English learners from around the world. At this time, she is the lead teacher for the on-line English classes at ACE. She conducts classes for adult students in which she incorporates information about services and remedies for victims of various crimes including human trafficking.
Mark Schlakman, J. D.
Mark R. Schlakman, Esq., serves as senior program director for The Florida State University Center for the Advancement of Human Rights and as coordinator of its Human Rights & National Security in the 21st Century lecture series. He’s served as principal investigator for the Center’s Liberty in the Balance within the context of post-9/11 engagement involving Arab American, Muslim and Sikh communities, and its Rethinking Civil Rights Restoration in Florida and American Bar Association (ABA)/Florida Death Penalty Assessment Team Report projects.
He teaches multi-listed courses for graduate, honors and undergraduate students in Human Rights & National Security, National Security Transformation, Issues in Refugee Protection as well as a course entitled, All Human Rights Are Local – from Geneva to Tallahassee, which arises out of his engagement in Geneva amid International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights “ICCPR”-related proceedings before the United Nations Human Rights Committee involving the United States in March 2014, through International Affairs within the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy. Apart from these traditional courses, he teaches hybrid courses in foreign policy as well as executive clemency in Florida through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute “OLLI” at FSU for non-degree seeking students ages 50 and above periodically.
Mr. Schlakman also teaches Immigration and Refugee Law and Policy and various other courses at FSU’s College of Law from time to time.
He is a recent recipient of one of several Guardian of the Flame Awards that Burning Spear presented to several faculty from across the university, specifically in his case for Outstanding Service to the College of Social Sciences and The Florida State University.
Prior to joining FSU’s faculty in 2002, Mr. Schlakman held several senior positions in state and federal government, including assistant general counsel and then special counsel to Florida Governor Lawton Chiles; special advisor to Governor Jeb Bush during his initial several months in office; senior advisor to Governor “Buddy” MacKay amid the governor’s tenure as White House Special Envoy to the Americas during the final two years of the Clinton administration; and briefly as a special advisor to U.S. Senator Bob Graham during his tenure as chair of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence before returning to Florida.
During his tenure in Washington, D.C., Mr. Schlakman also served as a Foreign Affairs Officer for the U.S. Department of State where he received a Superior Honor Award in recognition for his service to the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs while assigned to the White House.
He subsequently served as an Alternate Representative for the U.S. Permanent Mission to the Organization of American States (OAS) and as a special assistant and interim foreign policy advisor to four-star Marine Corps. General Peter Pace, Commander, United States Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) at the outset of the George W. Bush administration prior to the general’s promotion to the role of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff..
Mr. Schlakman later served as a special advisor to five consecutive directors (United States Coast Guard Rear Admirals) of Joint Interagency Task Force “JIATF” South, which essentially is a national interagency task force that conducts intelligence driven counter-illicit trafficking operations from Naval Air Station Key West within the Joint Operating Areas of SOUTHCOM and the U.S. Pacific Command (in residence from late 2001 to April 2002 and then from Tallahassee through September 2009).
He served as a special advisor/consultant to the director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security toward the end of the George W. Bush administration after comprehensive reform legislation failed to gain traction on Capitol Hill until the outset of the Obama administration while residing in Tallahassee. He also is regarded as a subject matter expert on various aspects of intergovernmental & interagency maritime mass migration contingency planning.
Given his wide ranging subject matter expertise, he was invited to travel to Kabul in 2011 to convene informally with senior Afghan officials and several other global subject matter experts in anticipation of the release of a United Nations report on increasing incidence of torture in Afghan detention facilities.
Mr. Schlakman is a lawyer and eligible to practice law in Florida. He is a past and the longest serving board chair of The Innocence Project of Florida, a not-for-profit organization that advocates for the exoneration of wrongfully convicted individuals based largely upon DNA evidence; as well as a past board chair of the Florida Association for Volunteer Action in the Caribbean and the Americas (FAVACA), a not-for-profit organization also known as the Florida International Volunteer Corps., which was launched under then-Governor Bob Graham during the early ’80s after the Mariel boatlift. It facilitates demand-driven social and economic development and fosters sustainable trade relationships in the region through volunteer service, guided by humanitarian interests and concepts of shared prosperity, for which Jimmy Buffet’s Singing for Change Foundation is a strategic partner. Mr. Schlakman is a frequent contributor to Florida and national newspapers, online publications and a frequent guest on a range of broadcast and cable programming.
He received his B.A. from the University of Miami in Coral Gables, FL, graduating magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Kappa Phi; and his J.D. from the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C., where he served as president of the Student Bar Association and received recognition from the ABA for leading the most effective SBA in the nation that year. He received the Dean’s Certificate at graduation. Following law school, he completed Harvard University’s Kennedy School post-graduate Program for Senior Executives in State and Local Government in Cambridge, MA.
Robin Thompson, J. D., M.A.
Robin Hassler Thompson is the Senior Program Director for the Center’s Victims of Human Trafficking Project. An attorney by training, she has over two decades of experience in public policy work and has focused this work on issues related to violence against women and human trafficking. She has served as the Executive Director of the Florida Governor’s Task Force on Domestic & Sexual Violence, and consults with a wide range of clients including universities and state and national public policy and human rights advocacy groups and governmental entities at the local, state and national levels.
On the topic of human trafficking, Robin directs The Survive and Thrive Advocacy Center (STAC), a non-profit agency she helped to found in the Big Bend area of Florida to assist survivors of human trafficking. She has lectured extensively on the topic of trafficking and written for both national and international publications. She regularly trains healthcare and justice system professionals and social services providers on domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking. She graduated from Florida State University College of Law in Tallahassee, Florida in 1984 and received her M.A. from FSU that same year. She is a lawyer and member in good standing of the Florida Bar.
Daniela Donoso was born in Quito, Ecuador and grew up in Miami, FL. She graduated FSU in the Spring of 2016 receiving a B.S. in International Affairs and Interdisciplinary Social Science with a concentration in Social Entrepreneurship. Daniela is passionate about social justice and immigration issues. She was the president of Advocates for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (AIRR) and served as service chair of the International Justice Mission’s (IJM) chapter on campus. Daniela also worked as a peer mentor for exchange students through the Center for Global Engagement and was awarded the 2015 Global Citizen Award. Since the fall of her junior year, she has had the privilege of working at The Center for the Advancement of Human Rights, assisting in its mission of advocacy to the community. She began law school at FSU in the Fall of 2017 to continue pursuing her passion in human rights.
Sophie Luchin was born in France and her family immigrated to Miami when she was seven years old. She obtained a dual bachelor’s degree in Social Sciences and Political Science from the University of Central Florida and minored in Sociology and Diplomacy with a certificate in Women’s Studies. During her undergraduate studies, she was a paralegal for an immigration firm specializing in artist and entertainment visas. Additionally, Sophie was vice-president of a community service organization (Omega Phi Alpha) through which she had the opportunity to volunteer in various areas, including migrant rights. Furthermore, she volunteered at Hope Community Center, assisting with DACA and naturalization processes, and Harbor House, providing legal help for domestic abuse victims.
Sophie began volunteering at the Center of Advancement of Human Rights the fall semester of her first year of law school. That spring, she attended the Spring Break Alternative program, during which she spent five days assisting migrant farm workers with legal issues. During the summer, she was an intern at Legal Aid’s immigration unit in Broward County, where she worked on Asylum and TPS cases.
In the future, Sophie hopes she can have a positive impact on the lives of people living in vulnerable communities and become a better advocate for their cause. She hopes she can learn by interacting with community members and gain awareness of the legal obstacles they face.