wo Florida law school students will receive the Criminal Law Section’s first Student Scholarship Awards during the Annual Florida Bar Convention this month.

The cash scholarships are awarded to incoming third-year law students who have shown dedication to and interest in the criminal justice system as trial and appellate practitioners. Nearly two dozen law students applied for the scholarships. The CLS Awards Committee selected five applicants to recommend to the section’s executive council for a vote.

Peter Chan

Peter Chan

Students Gina Calta of Nova Southeastern University and Peter Chan of the University of Florida were chosen for the scholarship awards, that will be presented on June 23 at the Signia by Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek. The reception is in the Jackson meeting room on the lower level, and the awards presentation starts at 7 p.m. All are welcome to attend.

Criminal Law Section Chair Jason B. Blank said his goal in creating the scholarships was to find a way for the section to have a long-lasting impact on the criminal court system.

“As chair, I thought this would be a great legacy item that would make a significant impact for many years to come,” said Blank, of Haber Blank in Ft. Lauderdale. “The section makes its mark in many areas supporting our criminal courts, fighting to get raises for assistant public defenders and assistant state attorneys, taking a strong stance relating to the continued use of remote technology in criminal hearings, and so much more. Supporting our young colleagues with scholarships is another way we can positively affect the future of the practice of criminal law.”

Calta graduated cum laude with distinction in 2019 from the University of Florida with a bachelor’s degree in criminology. She is on the dean’s list at Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad College of Law, where she also is president of the Criminal Law Society, vice president of teams on the NSU Trial Association, and was on the NSU team that was the national finalist in the Battle of the Experts Mock Trial Competition. Calta’s immediate career goal is to become an assistant state attorney, and as part of Nova’s intensive Criminal Justice Clinic Extern Placement Course, she is interning with the Broward State Attorney’s Office.

Nova Law Professor Mark Dobson nominated Gina for the student scholarship award.

“There are students who are ‘joiners’ and there are students who are leaders and ‘doers,’” said Dobson. “Gina Calta definitively is in the second group. She has taken every opportunity afforded her to learn and improve her trial skills and I believe she is an outstanding candidate for the Section’s Law Student Scholarship Award.”

Chan graduated summa cum laude in 2019 from Florida State University with a bachelor’s degree in Economics. He is the senior articles editor for the Florida Law Review and is a research assistant to UF Law Senior Legal Skills Professor Jennifer Zedalis, with whom he is co-writing a book on criminal defense practice and procedure. He is a former vice president of UF Law ACLU and a former president of the Asian Pacific American Law Student Association. Chan earned a Book Award in Florida Criminal Procedure. He has worked in the Sixth and Eighth Judicial Circuit Public Defenders’ offices and is a senior certified legal intern. He has also done an undergraduate internship in the 13th Circuit State Attorney’s Office.

Professor Zedalis nominated Peter for the student scholarship award.

“It is apparent to all of us who know [Peter] that he is motivated by nobler things,” said Zedalis. “He is driven by things we should all value most — the desire to help people, the challenge to make the criminal justice system more about justice and fairness, and a sincere interest in criminal law. I can easily think of several students, both current and former, who have the talent, the initiative, the skill, and the strong desire to serve the bar in the criminal law sector with standards that should make the rest of us humble. I nominated Peter for this award because he is, in my view, the most deserving of all — unmatched.”

Criminal Law Section to award inaugural student scholarships