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THE ORLANDO SENTINEL
Devoted To Good Defense
Dedicado a la buena defensa
by Susan Jacobson
May 7, 2000
Copyright © 2000 THE ORLANDO SENTINEL. All Rights Reserved.
Called to court. After watching lawyers at work and visiting their offices, attorney Ricardo Pesquera was hooked on the profession. "I'm in love with my work," the president of the Hispanic Bar Association of Central Florida says. "We are liberty's last champion. We are the professionals that safeguard the rights of everybody."
Llamado a los tribunales. Después de ver a los abogados en acción y de visitar sus oficinas, Ricardo Pesquera se enamoró de la profesión. "Me encanta mi trabajo. Somos los últimos campeones de la libertad y la justicia."
For Ricardo Pesquera, being an attorney is not just a profession. It's a passion.
"I'm in love with my work," the president of the Hispanic Bar Association of Central Florida says. "We are liberty's last champion. We are the professionals that safeguard the rights of everybody."
Pesquera, 44, hopes the group, which is rebuilding, can make a difference in the lives of the growing number of Hispanics in the Orlando area.
Among its goals: Offer free legal seminars for the Hispanic community; encourage the hiring of more Hispanic public defenders, prosecutors and lawyers; and improve the quality of interpreters in court, particularly in Orange County.
A past president and current board member of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Central Florida, Pesquera speaks with energy and passion as he ticks off the accomplishments he hopes to achieve. He displays the same qualities in court, where he has had several recent successes. In December, he was one of the lawyers who helped free five Cuban exiles charged with conspiring to murder Cuban President Fidel Castro. A jury in Puerto Rico decided the government had not proved its case.
Closer to home, Pesquera's dynamic style helped win an acquittal recently for Luis Montalvo, an Osceola County man charged with first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse in the highly publicized beating death of his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter.
That same enthusiasm was evident during his tenure as chamber president. Pesquera met with corporate executives, wrote letters to law-enforcement officials and pushed mentoring for Hispanic students.
If Pesquera had followed his original dream, he would be analyzing clients, not defending them.
Born and raised in San Juan, Pesquera earned a bachelor's degree from Tulane University, where he majored in psychology with minors in French and Italian. He had planned to become a clinical psychologist. Then he met some lawyers, watched them in trial and visited their offices.
Soon, he was hooked. Pesquera spent his first year of law school at Boston College, later transferring to Interamerican University School of Law in Puerto Rico.
Pesquera credits his late father, an oral surgeon, with instilling in him a strong work ethic and an appreciation for the value of education.
"He was everything to me: friend, father, mentor, adviser."
After graduating from law school, Pesquera became a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney's Office in San Juan. He transferred to the Orlando office in February 1989, two years after his father moved here. Ironically, it was as a prosecutor that he developed a dedication to the criminal-defense work that has become his mainstay.
"As a prosecutor, I learned firsthand of the many wrong things law-enforcement does," he explains.
Pesquera is an open critic of Orange-Osceola State Attorney Lawson Lamar's office, which he says is too quick to charge defendants without thoroughly investigating -- particularly in sexual-abuse cases.
"Once you combine politics with justice, you don't have justice anymore," Pesquera says.
People sometimes ask Pesquera how he can defend clients accused of heinous offenses.
"Everybody is entitled to a defense," he responds. "No matter how horrendous a crime may be, you're entitled to a defense. If you're a true defense attorney, you don't draw the line."
Pesquera practices out of an Orlando office with his wife, Janet, who also is an attorney. They do criminal defense work exclusively, mainly in Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties. Pesquera has another office in Puerto Rico, where he does mostly federal criminal defense work.
"I love being a trial lawyer, getting in front of a jury and arguing your case and being an advocate for your client," he says. "I get a kick out of that."
When he's not at work, Pesquera heads for his boat in St. Petersburg. Raised near the beach, he likes to fish, water ski and scuba dive.