Liza E. Smoker, Esq.
Managing Director, The John J. Brunetti Human Trafficking Academy
View Liza Smoker's Biography
Liza E. Smoker, Esq., is Managing Director of The John J. Brunetti Human Trafficking Academy. She graduated from Florida State University with degrees in Multinational Business and Real Estate, where she returned to receive her law degree. She was formally educated on human trafficking at St. Thomas University School of Law’s LL.M./J.S.D. Program in Intercultural Human Rights. She serves as LL.M. Editor-in-Chief of the Intercultural Human Rights Law Review, which ranks 6th in the world for academic impact.
Prior to joining the Academy, Ms. Smoker spent ten years in the private practice of law where she became the first woman partner in her firm’s 90-year history. She served as president of the Broward County Bar Association Young Lawyers Section, which was recognized as Affiliate of the Year by the Florida Bar YLD largely due to her leadership.
Ms. Smoker also served in the public sector. She worked in the Executive Office of the Governor of Florida, prosecuted crimes as a CLI in the State Attorney’s Office, and served as a White House Legal Intern in the Office of the Counsel to the President of the United States.
In 2017, Ms. Smoker spearheaded more than twenty events focused on the harmful effects of pornography and its link to commercial sexual exploitation as one of the prevalent forms of human trafficking. She led a grassroots campaign in support of Florida House Resolution 157 on the issue that passed in 2018 with bipartisan support.
Ms. Smoker is a Women’s History Month Honoree of the Broward County Commission on the Status of Women, recipient of the Paul May Professionalism in Practice Award from the Broward County Bar Association, recipient of the Nehemiah Award from Live the Life, an AV Preeminent rated attorney for the highest level of legal ability and ethical standards, and a national semi-finalist and regional champion in trial advocacy competitions by the American Bar Association.
View Karla Garcia's Biography
Karla Garcia joined our team in May 2016 as Executive Assistant. Ms. Garcia assists the director in coordinating and maintaining the overall implementation of the Human Trafficking Academy in all its components. Ms. Garcia earned a B.A. in Management and a M.A. in Communication Arts from St. Thomas University. She is an experienced administrative professional with a demonstrated history of working in the higher education industry and supporting upper-level management.
Marina Rakopyan, LL.M. IHR
J.S.D. Candidate, LL.M./J.S.D. Program in Intercultural Human Rights
View Marina Rakopyan's Biography
Originally, from Armenia, Marina Rakopyan received her B.A. in Translation Studies at Yerevan State University. During her studies, Ms. Rakopyan interned at the Ministry of Diaspora of Armenia and also volunteered with Armenian National Olympic Committee as General Interpreter for World Youth Boxing Championship.
She then went on to pursue her M.A. in Human Rights from Yerevan State University and Tbilisi State University, where she was one of only ten students to receive a fully funded scholarship from the European Union. During this time, Ms. Rakopyan worked closely with ‘Save the Children’ and ‘Sustainable Family,’ non-profit organizations dedicated to promoting the foster care system in Armenia and helping children in orphanages. She also interned at the Office of the State Minister of Georgia on European and Euro-Atlantic Integration.
In 2016, Ms. Rakopyan earned her LL.M. in Intercultural Human Rights at St. Thomas University School of Law, and became the Executive Editor of the Intercultural Human Rights Law Review. Since graduating, Ms. Rakopyan has worked at Americans for Immigrant Justice as a Program Coordinator for the Children’s Legal Program. Currently, she is a J.S.D. candidate in the Doctoral Program in Intercultural Human Rights at St. Thomas University School of Law. Her doctoral dissertation titled, “Rehoming of Adopted Children: Second Chance or Human Trafficking,” explores the dark side of international and national adoption, and the development of the new practice known as ‘rehoming’, which is creating a high risk of exposing adopted children to human trafficking.