Florida Attorney Bernadette Restivo Argues On Behalf of Same-sex Couples’ Fundamental Rights

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Florida Attorney Bernadette Restivo
Professional Overview

According to an article featured in Daily Business Review, "Attorneys: Skip 3rd DCA And Let Florida Supreme Court Decide Gay Marriage Issue Once And For All," on Monday, July 28th, 2014, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit struck Virginia's same-sex marriage ban. Attorneys representing two Key West men who want to marry requested the Third District Court of Appeal to pass the case to Tallahassee without review. They anticipate the case heading to the Florida Supreme Court anyway, and they want to get there as soon as possible.

Bernadette Restivo, the managing partner of Restivo, Reilly & Vigil-Farinas, LLC, is one of the attorneys who plans on winning a favorable resolution for her clients. Her goal is to free clerks so they can start delivering marriage licenses to same-sex couples. In the Daily Business Review, Ms. Restivo stated, "Every day that goes by, my clients are irreparably harmed by the deprivation of their fundamental rights. Because the case will end up at the Florida Supreme Court, our argument is to take it there now."

I asked Ms. Restivo if she believes this case will have a favorable outcome for her clients? "Absolutely; I believe that we will prevail all the way to the Florida Supreme Court with this case. I also believe that the US Supreme Court will grant marriage equality across this country within the next year or two."

The Restivo firm worked with Equality Florida Institute to help persuade Monroe Circuit Judge Luis Garcia that the ban Florida voters approved of in 2008 infringes the constitutional guarantee of equal protection. What does this case mean to Ms. Restivo? "This case is a case law students dream about. As law students, we read constitutional law which is often inspiring. To have clients who will make history here in Florida and perhaps the country is the highlight of my career. We care very deeply about our clients and this case."

Does she have a case that stands out? "This case is the highlight of my career."

Since 2001, Ms. Restivo has been licensed to practice law in the State of Florida. She is also licensed to practice law in the State of Ohio and she has been admitted to practice law before the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.

Ms. Restivo served as the Senior Attorney for the Department of Children and Families in Monroe County, Florida, and was counsel for the Guardian ad Litem Program of Monroe County. Prior to moving to the Sunshine State, Ms. Restivo was in private practice in the State of Ohio.

Ms. Restivo is an active member of San Pedro Catholic Church in Tavernier, Florida, where she is a member of the choir. She is a board member for the Upper Keys Christmas Project and is performing in their upcoming production. Additionally, Ms. Restivo is a member of the Key Largo Chamber of Commerce, the Key Largo Rotary Club, the Upper Keys BPW, the Key West Chamber of Commerce, the Key West Business Guild, and the Ocean Reef Chamber of Commerce.

Ms. Restivo is a former chairman of the Lucas County, Ohio, Republican Party and the Lucas County, Ohio, Board of Elections. In 2004, she served as a member of the Republican National Committee Rules Committee and was a Bush Delegate to the 2004 Republican National Convention.

Ms. Restivo received her Bachelor's Degree in Government, Communications, and Economics from The American University in Washington, D.C. She also earned her Master's Degree in Public Administration as well as her Juris Doctorate from The University of Toledo, Ohio. Ms. Restivo is the mother of three adult children.
Bernadette Restivo
Ms. Restivo's Memories and Motivations

Did Ms. Restivo receive any awards, participate in any internship or have other experiences influential in her decision to go into the law? "I was an LBJ congressional intern on Capitol Hill during undergrad and I caught the fever for government."

Does she have a most memorable law school experience? "At my graduation, my dad was our commencement speaker. It was the 50th anniversary of his law school graduation from the same university."

How long has Ms. Restivo been an attorney? "14 years."

Why did she decide to become an attorney? "My father, Francis Restivo, was a judge and I grew up with the law being a daily topic in our home. I admired my dad immensely and wanted to follow in his footsteps."

What are Ms. Restivo's practice areas? "Family law, dependency, we have a large practice with BP oil spill litigation, and civil rights, including same-sex marriage equality."

What is she known for professionally? "I am good at handling high-profile cases and deal well with media and crisis in the media. I am also known as a strong advocate in child protection cases."

What does Ms. Restivo think about the field today? "I love practicing law in a small town. I love to get to know my clients and their families, and see them around town. I wish that legal services were not so expensive for individual clients and that there were more legal services available for those with financial challenges."

What are her strengths and weaknesses as an attorney? "I am often told that I am 'too nice' and 'too compassionate' to be a lawyer, which, I suppose can be a strength and a weakness."

Is there an area of the law that Ms. Restivo is most passionate about? "Child protection and civil rights advocacy."

Is there an area of practice that she would like to develop further into? "I will know it when the client walks in with an issue that we have not yet addressed."

If Ms. Restivo were not a lawyer, what would she most probably be doing? "Running for elected office."

Where does she see herself in five years' time? "Still practicing law in the Florida Keys. I love it."

What motivates Ms. Restivo to be an attorney every day? "I am motivated to make my clients happy and to take care of my children."

How does she want to be remembered? "As a woman who loved God, her children, her family and friends."

Pro Bono Work, Non-Profit Organizations, What's Impossible For Ms. Restivo To Give Up and Final Thoughts

Does Ms. Restivo handle pro bono work? "Currently we represent the lead plaintiffs in Florida's Marriage Equality case, which we are doing pro bono. It is the highlight of my professional career and we are devoting countless hours to challenge the same-sex marriage ban in Florida."

Is she involved with any non-profit organizations? "I am involved with Church-related activities and I sing in local community theater productions."

What would be impossible for Ms. Restivo to give up? "Breaking News Alerts; I am a news addict."

Is there anything else you care to share professionally or personally? "I have two dogs and love them very much. I am interested in veterinary nutrition and make them homemade dog food and treats."

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More Resources

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Click here to learn more about Mr. Sheppard's Supreme Court cases and the impact he continues to make.

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Click here to find out what Mr. Baez said about the Casey Anthony case during our exclusive interview.

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