The City Bar, through its Sex & Law, Domestic Violence, Civil Rights, LGBT Rights and Women in the Legal Profession Committees, filed an amicus brief in support of petitioners in Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, an abortion case currently pending before the United States Supreme Court.

The Court will be reviewing the constitutionality of two provisions of the Texas statute regulating abortions—the “ambulatory surgical center” requirement and the “admitting privileges” requirement—which, when fully implemented, will shut down over 75% of abortion clinics in Texas and effectively eliminate access to safe abortion services for thousands of women in the name of protecting women’s health. The District Court in Texas found the provisions unconstitutional; the Fifth Circuit reversed.

In its amicus brief, the City Bar argues that the Fifth Circuit abdicated its affirmative duty to review legislative findings when constitutional rights are at stake, thereby abandoning the essential role of the judiciary as a crucial “check” on legislative overreach. It further argues that the admitting privileges requirement is an improper delegation of legislative power to private hospitals and therefore offends due process. Because the challenged provisions drastically curtail—and, for many, eliminate—access to safe abortion care in Texas without advancing women’s health, they present a substantial obstacle to women’s access to abortion services and are unconstitutional.

Read the brief here: http://bit.ly/1OF5LNN

 

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It’s perhaps a tribute to the person Judith S. Kaye was that, like a lot of people today, we at the New York City Bar Association feel that we have lost one of our own: a close friend, colleague, mentor and inspiration. She was a familiar, regular and welcome presence in our 44th Street building before, during and after her service as Chief Judge. She volunteered to serve on dozens of our committees, including our Executive Committee, before she became a judge, always supporting the City Bar’s mission to improve justice, reform the law and advance ethics in the profession. In September 2001, when she was Chief Judge, she was here on 44th Street, walking the line and offering support as lawyers waited to volunteer to serve 9/11 victims and survivors. The City Bar awarded her Honorary Membership in 1995 and the Association Medal in 2008, both meant to recognize those who have made exceptional contributions to the honor and standing of the bar and the advancement of justice in the community. We are grateful for her accomplishments that will continue to bear fruit, in particular her leadership in reforming our court system and her creativity in finding new approaches so that New York’s justice system could be more accessible to the countless New Yorkers who rely on it.

Debra L. Raskin
President
New York City Bar Association

 

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The New York City Bar Association has evaluated candidates recommended by the New York State Commission on Judicial Nomination for appointment as Associate Judge of the New York Court of Appeals, to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Susan Phillips Read.  The Association uses a two-tiered rating system to rate the candidates: Well Qualified and Not Well Qualified.  The following are the City Bar’s ratings of the seven candidates:

  • Michael Garcia – Well Qualified
  • Judith Gische – Well Qualified
  • Caitlin Halligan – Well Qualified
  • Erin Peradotto – Well Qualified
  • Benjamin Rosenberg – Well Qualified
  • Rowan Wilson – Well Qualified
  • Stephen Younger – Well Qualified

The Association’s Executive Committee extensively reviewed the background and qualifications of the candidates. Representatives of the Association’s Executive, Judiciary and State Courts of Superior Jurisdiction Committees interviewed each candidate and, for all candidates, reviewed their writings, investigated their background, and interviewed judges and lawyers familiar with the candidates. The full Executive Committee then considered whether to rate each candidate “Well Qualified” or “Not Well Qualified” for the position of Associate Judge of the Court of Appeals after considering the candidate’s intellectual ability, knowledge of the law, integrity, impartiality, judicial demeanor and temperament.

This two-tiered rating was adopted by the Executive Committee in May 2014.  The criteria for each rating are as follows:

“Well Qualified”:  Consistent with the term “Well Qualified” as it is set forth in describing the Commission’s mandate in Judiciary Law Section 63(1) and in Article 6, Section 2 of the Constitution: candidates “who by their character, temperament, professional aptitude and experience are well qualified to hold such judicial office.”

“Not Well Qualified”:  Candidates who may be competent lawyers or judges but, in the judgment of the Executive Committee, do not meet the requisite standard for “Well Qualified” in one or more of the constitutional and statutory criteria of “character, temperament, professional aptitude and experience.”

The Governor must appoint one of the candidates by no sooner than today, January 6th, and no later than January 22nd, and the State Senate must confirm or reject the Governor’s appointee no later than 30 days after receipt of that appointment. We urge the Governor and the Senate to act expeditiously and to meet these deadlines, particularly since the Senate is overdue in meeting its statutory obligation to act on the Governor’s appointment of Janet DiFiore as Chief Judge. At present, the Court has only five judges, which is the minimum required for a quorum. The legislative session resumes today and the DiFiore nomination should be taken up without further delay.

Note: To ensure the integrity of the ratings process, the City Bar cannot comment beyond what is provided herein.

 

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Do what “stirs your soul,” Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman recently advised a room full of new lawyers, and some seasoned ones, too. He was reflecting on his career in a talk at the New York City Bar Association just weeks before his mandatory retirement on December 31st due to age requirements (based on an outmoded rule established in 1869, but let’s not digress).

His advice sure worked for him, and how fortunate for the people of New York State that what stirred this man’s soul was…the science and art of court administration. Granted, it’s not the first thing most people might expect would ignite someone’s passion. But when the judge describes his epiphany in realizing that all those crowds streaming into the courthouse every day were made up of individuals, each with a unique story and reason for being there, you understand that a fixation on nuts and bolts could not be more important. The better the system operates, the more people who can receive justice and the more quickly they can receive it.

The judge “got religion” about this, as he puts it, by chance. He grew up on the Lower East Side with no delusions of grandeur beyond earning an honest living, graduated from Stuyvesant High School, NYU, and NYU Law, and, as he has said, “wandered into the courts” by applying for an open position as an entry-level attorney in the Law Department in Supreme Court in Manhattan.

He found he had a knack for court administration, then discovered his passion for it. When knack meets passion, good things happen and attention is paid. He was tapped to be a court administrator, then chief clerk at the NY Supreme Court. Chief Judge Judith Kaye then named him Chief Administrative Judge, and  Governor Paterson in 2009 appointed him Chief Judge.

Normally for someone to reach the summit of his profession requires a remarkable level of personal ambition. But what we seem to have here is a case of someone who reached the top step by step and for no other reason than that he was just so exceptionally good at his job. I can just imagine that at each level, when a job opened, the administrative judges and court staff looked around and said, “Who else? Who knows better than Jonathan what goes on in this place?”

A couple of months ago, I had the honor of testifying before the Chief Judge’s Task Force to Expand Access to Civil Legal Services, which the Chief Judge recently, and deftly, transformed into the Permanent Commission on Access to Justice. I thanked him (as well as Chief Administrative Judge Gail Prudenti and Task Force/Commission Chair Helaine Barnett) for their leadership in securing $85 million in the Judiciary Budget for civil legal services, and urged the Commission to stay the course toward the original goal of a $100 million increase in annual civil legal services funding.

The Chief Judge has sometimes been called an “activist” for his focus on civil legal services, as if access to counsel is an issue of ideology rather than of morality, ethics, and pragmatism. I think the Chief Judge would agree that when having a lawyer or not can determine success or failure in court, and when having representation on both sides makes the system run more efficiently, there’s nothing particularly activist about working to ensure that everyone receives equal justice. In the context of court administration, such advocacy is called doing your job, and it’s entirely of a piece with what the judge has been doing since he was in that entry-level position in the Law Department. And his commitment on these issues certainly resonates with the point he made the other day to the new lawyers, that the legal profession is about “values as well as torts and contracts.”

At the New York City Bar Association and the City Bar Justice Center, we are also grateful for the Chief Judge’s commitment to pro bono and the rules he has championed to increase the number of hours lawyers devote to it. Last spring, the Justice Center hosted two Pro Bono Scholars in the program the Chief Judge created to allow students to devote their last semester of law school to performing pro bono service for the poor through an approved externship program. It was gratifying to see how well creative programs like this can work, as our Scholars received training as they provided much-appreciated support to elderly and veteran callers needing legal assistance.

The Chief Judge has also worked tirelessly to try to raise the age of criminal responsibility in New York State to 18 from 16; to implement jury reform, problem-solving courts, and drug treatment programs; to modernize the local justice court system; to improve matrimonial litigation; to require mandatory continuing legal education for attorneys; to publish court records on the Internet; and to lead the courts’ response to 9/11.

The thread through this 43-year career of stellar work in the court system is focus and passion. “Being a lawyer is about helping people and serving others,” Chief Judge Lippman told the new lawyers. “Find something you love,” he said, and “work every day to make the ideal of equal justice a reality.”

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Karena Rahall, a law professor and former public defender, has been named Executive Director of the Court Square Law Project (CSLP), a unique, mission-driven, for-profit law firm formed by the New York City Bar Association and City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law to address the persistent justice gap in America and the employment difficulties affecting new lawyers.

“We believe Karena’s background is a perfect match for this leadership position,” said City Bar President Debra L. Raskin. “Her experience, as both an educator and a practicing lawyer, along with her track record of embracing new challenges and innovative solutions, bodes well for the success of Court Square.”

Rahall, currently a Visiting Assistant Professor at the Seattle University School of Law, has a wide-ranging background as a clinical educator, program director and litigator. As a criminal defense lawyer in state and federal courts in New York, she worked both as a public defender and as a solo practitioner. For nine years, she was a Senior Staff Attorney in the Criminal Defense Division of the Legal Aid Society. In 2003, she trained returning refugee attorneys in Afghanistan to represent clients under the new Afghan Constitution and evolving criminal codes.

“On behalf of CUNY Law, I am delighted to welcome Karena Rahall as the new executive director of the Court Square Law Project,” said CUNY Law Dean Michelle J. Anderson. “Karena’s legal work, demonstrated leadership, and experience serving communities in need will help the project to move forward in its mission to address the chronic justice gap.”

Karena Rahall said, “I am honored to join Court Square Law Project at its inception. This project holds great promise to create a model that can address the access to justice gap, while training new lawyers to create sustainable practices serving underserved communities in New York City. I am thrilled to be a part of those efforts.”

Beginning in early 2016, the program will train and deploy new lawyers to deliver legal services to persons of moderate means in areas of chronic underrepresentation at affordable rates. In turn, the lawyers will receive a stipend and the training, mentoring and experience they need to launch sustainable commercial practices serving persons of moderate means. The program will be structured, tracked and analyzed with the intention of developing a successful and scalable model that can be replicated in other parts of the country.

Ten new attorney fellows will be enrolled in each of the first four years of the five-year pilot program, with employment taking the form of a two-year fellowship residency. The program will be housed in Court Square, Long Island City, at CUNY School of Law, which will provide a special graduate law program for participants. Fellows will benefit from many CUNY Law resources, including fully-equipped office space, a law library, and IT and other support. The City Bar will provide the Court Square Law Project with guidance, seasoned attorneys to serve as mentors to the fellows and instructors, and assistance with practice development through various programs.

Nineteen “Founding Sponsor” law firms have each pledged $100,000 in start-up funding for the venture: Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP; Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP; Debevoise & Plimpton LLP; Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP; Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP; Kirkland & Ellis LLP; Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP; Latham & Watkins LLP; Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP; O’Melveny & Myers LLP; Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP; Proskauer Rose LLP; Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP; Shearman & Sterling LLP; Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP; Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP; Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz; Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, and Winston & Strawn LLP.

The Court Square Law Project had its genesis in the report of the City Bar’s Task Force on New Lawyers in a Changing Profession, Developing Legal Careers and Delivering Justice in the 21st Century (http://bit.ly/1a4Juo4).

Nationwide, fewer than four in ten moderate-income individuals faced with a serious legal issue relating to personal finance, housing, employment, or similar matters seek professional assistance, and almost one quarter do nothing. It is difficult to find legal counsel at an affordable price and there are competing priorities for limited resources. In New York City, 99 percent of tenants are unrepresented in eviction cases; 99 percent of consumers are unrepresented in hundreds of thousands of consumer credit cases filed each year; and 97 percent of parents are unrepresented in child support matters.

Visit the website at www.courtsquarelaw.org.

Read the Task Force’s report here: http://bit.ly/1a4Juo4

 

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The City Bar Fund, the New York City Bar Association’s charitable sister organization that undertakes public service, education, policy advocacy and research activities, has named Lauren Sampson Vice President, Development and External Relations. Sampson will lead fundraising and outreach efforts for the City Bar Fund.

Sampson brings to the City Bar Fund over a decade of development and donor-relations experience, most recently as Director of Annual Giving and Donor Relations at Cardozo School of Law, where she created and implemented strategic and tactical plans for raising funds for unrestricted and restricted support for the law school. Prior to that, Sampson held fundraising positions at Stevens Institute of Technology, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, and Baruch College.

She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from Fashion Institute of Technology at the State University of New York.

The City Bar Fund includes four programs: The City Bar Justice Center, which provides and expands access to justice for low-income and disadvantaged New Yorkers citywide by leveraging the pro bono expertise and time of the New York City legal community; the Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice, which provides pro bono legal support to human rights and environmental organizations in Latin America, Africa, and elsewhere in the world; the Office for Diversity and Inclusion, which works with New York City legal employers to foster more diverse and inclusive work environments; and the Lawyer Assistance Program, a free, confidential service, available to attorneys, judges, law students and their family members in New York City who are struggling with alcohol or drug abuse, depression, anxiety, stress, as well as other addictions and mental health issues.

Contributions to the City Bar Fund are tax-deductible to the extent provided by law and are reportable contributions under New York State’s biennial pro bono reporting requirement for attorneys. More information on the City Bar Fund is available here: http://www.nycbar.org/donate

 

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In a report by its Task Force on Climate Adaptation released today, the New York City Bar Association warns that despite the commitments made at the COP21 meeting in Paris to reduce (or ‘mitigate’) greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, climate change “will make portions of major cities (and in some cases entire cities) uninhabitable and agricultural areas unproductive, undermining fundamental rights and the rule of law for tens (perhaps hundreds) of millions of people and creating explosive conditions that threaten social stability and democracy in many regions of the world.”

To avoid these consequences, according to the report, meaningful climate-related adaptation must be seen as an urgent priority. “Effective urban and rural adaptation will require comprehensive science-based planning, active community participation, expanded infrastructure, reformed title registration, improved judicial institutions and large amounts of financial assistance from the international community,” states the report.

The report cites as the most promising source of financial assistance “an international financial transaction microtax (FTM), which could provide significant funds on the sustained basis necessary to permit eligible local, regional and national governments to plan and implement the multi-year projects required in cities, on farms and among IDPs in their countries. While this proposal may prove controversial, we believe it essential to permit developing countries to have the ability to adapt successfully to a changing world that threatens not only the global environment but also a social order based on law and fundamental human rights.”

The Task Force on Climate Adaptation includes members of the City Bar’s Council on International Affairs, International Human Rights Committee and Environmental Law Committee, as well as other experts, practitioners and legal scholars.

The report can be read here: http://bit.ly/1Q8uQRx

 

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The New York City Bar Association has sent a letter to U.S. Senators Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid, the Senate’s Majority Leader and Minority Leader respectively, opposing recent congressional proposals to halt or delay U.S. resettlement of refugees from Iraq or Syria.

The letter, signed by City Bar President Debra L. Raskin, states:

By effectively shutting down the process of screening and admitting refugees from these countries, bills such as the American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act (H.R. 4038), which was recently passed in the House of Representatives, would deny lifesaving humanitarian protection to families fleeing horrific violence in Syria and Iraq. Moreover, these proposals would cause the United States to abandon its commitment to non-discrimination principles and its longstanding role as a leader in international refugee protection, encouraging countries around the world to follow suit. By denying protection to those fleeing persecution by terrorist and violent extremist groups and by the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, these proposals would tarnish the image of the United States throughout the world and harm national security. We urge Congress to reject these proposals, and instead to support an increase in refugee admissions.

The letter can be read here.

 

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