‘Coach Benny’ Fights Injustice

‘Coach Benny’ Fights Injustice

It’s soccer day for massive brothers massive sisters of houston, and benny agosto jr., a associate at houston’s oldest plaintiff’s firm, is spending 4 hours teaching basics and overseeing fits concurrently. When the games are over, agosto leads the youngsters to the cease of the primary field, speaking as he goes. “i got here from puerto rico to this faculty again in the ’80s to play football,” he says, gesturing to the campus of houston baptist university, which he attended on scholarship. “i used to be the goalie.” as agosto takes a role within the center of the intention, one of the university’s gamers, who has been assisting run the scrimmages, takes the ball about 12 toes in front. “who has greater strain in a penalty kick situation: the goalie or the kicker?” agosto asks the youngsters. Searching at all of the space between the 2 posts and the quick distance the ball has to journey, they shout out, “the goalie!” agosto shakes his head. “the kicker has the advantage, so anybody expects a goal.” because the college volunteer strategies the ball, coach benny makes the slightest head gesture to the proper, then dives to the left. It’s a fierce line-power kick that caroms off agosto’s forearm and bounces away from the intention. “the goalie is the underdog,” agosto says, picking himself up, because the youngsters applaud. “don’t be counted out the underdog.” a private injury attorney with abraham, watkins, nichols, sorrels, agosto & friend, agosto has made his call in houston—and nationally—as an suggest for the ones who've nobody else standing up for them. Many don’t speak english and some are within the usa with out essential papers; it’s agosto’s venture to ensure their fundamental human rights. He leapt to prominence with a january 2011 victory in republic waste services, ltd. V. Martinez, while the 1st district court docket of appeals affirmed a tribulation courtroom ruling. Agosto, 50, had argued effectively that the unlawful reputation of immigrants became irrelevant to the case and, therefore, inadmissible in courtroom. Elida martinez—whose common-regulation husband, oscar gomez, was killed while he was run over by way of a rubbish truck at paintings—sued, along with their daughter and gomez’s father. A jury awarded agosto’s clients $1. 4 million, however gomez’s employer appealed the decision, claiming that because he changed into an undocumented worker who had falsified paintings papers to get the process, he might in all likelihood were deported. Consequently, the agency argued, his earning projections need to be based totally on the $1,000 a yr he might have earned in el salvador, not the $33,000 a yr he made with republic. The appeals court docket discovered republic’s deportation scenario speculative and ruled in favor of agosto’s customers, saying “the probative fee of gomez’s immigration repute became a ways outweighed by its prejudicial effect.” when you consider that immigration is any such political warm button, this felony victory for undocumented people made headline information in numerous texas newspapers and hoisted agosto as a latino champion. “if you look at my career, there are parts,” says agosto. “there’s before martinez and after martinez.” agosto became voted president of the hispanic countrywide bar affiliation for the 2011 to 2012 term and become commemorated, all through a houston texans recreation at a offered-out reliant stadium, as the nfl hispanic background leadership award winner. The partitions of his excessive-ceilinged workplace in downtown houston endure various network provider honors, together with presidential awards from the houston bar, jumbled together with photographs of favored baseball players from puerto rico: roberto clemente, jose cruz, orlando cepeda and more—plus memorabilia from his beloved houston dynamo soccer crew. Another landmark case, harris county v. Eluid hinojosa, become additionally affirmed by the first district court docket of appeals and modified texas law. Agosto represented, on a seasoned bono foundation, an off-duty police sergeant injured in a motorbike twist of fate at the manner to a call. Before the court’s decision, off-responsibility officials had been now not eligible for employees’ compensation. The choose ruled in any other case, that means agosto’s disabled customer certified for $1 million in scientific insurance and blessings. “benny is a hardworking, self-made american achievement story,” says former texas ideally suited court justice dale wainwright, who first encountered agosto in a court while a district judge in 2001. “he’s sincere and can relate to human beings of all social fame, which permits him to talk his point to a jury very successfully.” agosto didn’t reflect onconsideration on turning into a attorney till he was 28. His graduate degree from the college of houston turned into in microbiology. “i taught excessive college biology and that i coached division i soccer,” he says. “i used to be ecstatic. I was prepared to try this the relaxation of my life.” an experience with private damage, fittingly, set agosto on his prison path. A gymnast at houston baptist university suffered a paralyzing neck damage, and the school, going through important legal responsibility problems, reassessed its sports departments. The soccer software become one of the cuts. Agosto changed into devastated. His ideal situation, balancing jobs as excessive college teacher and college football coach, became knocked off course. Randy sorrels, a former football teammate who is now a partner at abraham watkins, counseled agosto supply law faculty a shot. “benny is amazing-analytical and element-oriented, plus he without a doubt cares approximately humans,” says sorrels. “that aggregate makes for a first-rate legal professional.” despite the fact that agosto says he wasn’t originally positive the legal lifestyles changed into for him, he accompanied sorrels’ advice. “my wondering was that, if i were given a regulation diploma, it might further my teaching credentials, like a ph. D.” however agosto became hooked from his first mock trial. “i discovered that i’m really excellent at communicating my factor,” agosto says. The hostile nature of trials added out his aggressive instincts. He had observed his calling. The football-coach-grew to become-legal professional determined he had every other useful asset even as clerking at abraham watkins in 1991: agosto speaks spanish fluently, that means the firm not wanted translators. After he joined the company as a legal professional, agosto won a agreement for a patron in an vehicle accident case. “he asked me if i took on wrongful-death cases,” agosto remembers. The person’s sister-in-regulation, who couldn’t communicate a phrase of english, had been left with 4 children to raise after her husband became killed in an commercial accident. Agosto won the case—and a $four. Seventy five million agreement for the circle of relatives. Whilst the country’s hispanic populace is almost forty percent, best 8 percentage of legal professionals are hispanic. “it may be a cultural aspect,” agosto says. “as a latino, i will speak from my very own perception [that] … latinos are encouraged to be strong and quiet: don’t stand out.” in 2006, agosto based the mexican-american bar association of texas foundation, which gives scholarships to hispanic regulation students in the houston area. Agosto says he and his spouse, nichole, have a “yours, mine and ours own family.” each had sons from a preceding marriage. In 2002, they introduced a daughter. “victoria has continually kept a magazine, and sooner or later she announced, ‘i want to write a ebook,’” agosto says. “so we labored on one together.” the children’s book, victoria is going to court, uses the civil rights era as an example of the way legal professionals have helped right the wrongs of society. “when my youngsters had been younger and asked me what i do, i stated, ‘i combat injustice,’” agosto says. He recognizes, with an air of disappointment, that non-public harm legal professionals from time to time get a awful rap. “i’m now not a superhero, believe me. But i paintings difficult because there are those who want my assist.” “i’ve seen this attitude, while a employee is improperly injured or killed at the process, of just ‘get me some other mexican,’” agosto says. “you could’t treat human beings that manner. Making a living is tremendous. This is america. However when you’re earning money on the hazard of the workers, all of us have to have a trouble with that.” agosto’s father, the senior benny agosto, also worked difficult, imparting for his own family of five youngsters (benny jr. Inside the middle). A local of puerto rico, the senior benny changed into a sharpshooter for the u. S. Military, then settled his own family in new york metropolis, wherein benny jr. Became born, after the korean battle. “neither of my parents went in addition than the 6th grade,” agosto says, “however my father continually instructed us that a amazing education became the manner to grow to be a hit in lifestyles.” even as working as a costume rings-maker within the bronx, his father advanced his talents and installation his own factory. When benny became 6, his circle of relatives lower back to puerto rico, in which his father moved the manufacturing unit. Now his antique bosses have become his customers. “my dad labored seven days per week. He’d open the doorways at 7 a. M., then lock up for the night.” the agosto kids went to non-public school in san juan, in which agosto excelled in baseball. He performed on puerto rico’s 1976 global championship group within the sandy koufax league (ages thirteen to 14). But whilst he went to highschool, wesleyan academy turned into a powerhouse in soccer, now not baseball. Agosto determined a manner onto the college team as a goalie, which didn’t require the ball-dealing with skills his teammates were perfecting while he was learning to hit a curve ball. Even though he’d in no way played goalie earlier than, he have become so properly that he were given a scholarship provide and moved to houston. On that soccer subject at houston baptist, agosto is telling the youngsters from massive brothers large sisters that life receives better with an schooling. And that on occasion the stuff you don’t plan for are the matters that assist you're making a distinction. “all i ever wanted to do was play soccer and be a educate,” he tells his target market, “however from time to time existence throws you a curve.” “why did i end up a lawyer?” he asks the youngsters. Nicely-primed, they solution, “to fight injustice!”