The New York City Bar Association applauds New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman’s proposed reforms for consumer credit actions filed in New York State courts.  The reforms announced yesterday by the Chief Judge will go a long way toward improving access to justice for the tens of thousands of New Yorkers contending with debt collection actions. Over 100,000 debt cases are filed every year in New York State, many by third-party debt buyers with limited evidence. Defendants are primarily low-income, working poor, and otherwise indigent individuals, and 98% of them are without the benefit of counsel. Approximately half of all cases result in default judgments with devastating effects for consumers, creating barriers to employment, housing and access to affordable financial services and products. The reforms proposed by Chief Judge Lippman will help address the problem of “sewer service,” stem the nefarious practice of “robo-signed” affidavits in applications for default judgments and ensure that plaintiffs seeking default judgments submit legally required proof. The reforms will also expand user-friendly forms and innovative practices developed in New York City to the entire state to assist unrepresented litigants. Chief Judge Lippman’s comprehensive set of reforms will make New York State a leader in the nation in ensuring the fair administration of justice in cases that have had fundamental substantive and procedural deficiencies.

 

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The City Bar’s Legal Referral Service, together with the New York State Courts’ Access to Justice Community Outreach Program, has been offering free legal information fairs around New York City this week in observance of National Law Day. The first fair was yesterday at Brooklyn Borough Hall, followed by Queens Civil Court today. The annual events provide residents with the opportunity to learn about their legal rights, discover whether they have a legal issue, and when to consult with a lawyer. This year marks the 20th anniversary of City Bar participation.


The fairs continue in Manhattan tomorrow (New York County Civil Court, 111 Centre Street) and the Bronx on Friday (Bronx Supreme Court, 851 Grand Concourse), both 11 AM – 2 PM. Lawyers will be available to provide basic information and advice on such issues as landlord/tenant disputes, immigration, discrimination, starting a small business, estate planning, small claims court, and divorce and family law.

For more information on Law Week or National Law Day activities, please contact Amanda Busch at 212-626-7373 or email her here.

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The New York City Bar Association will present its 2014 Diversity & Inclusion Champion Awards at the 30th Anniversary Diversity and Inclusion Celebration Dinner on June 18th. The award recognizes the critical role individual attorneys have played in initiating and sustaining change within their organizations and the overall New York legal community. The award recipients embody the New York City Bar’s Statement of Diversity Principles, which defines diversity as an inclusive concept, encompassing race, color, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, religion, nationality, age, disability and marital and parental status.

The 2014 Diversity & Inclusion Champion Award winners are:

Michelle J. AndersonDean, CUNY School of Law
Michelle J. Anderson has been Dean of the City University of New York School of Law since 2006. Under her leadership, CUNY obtained the National Jurist ranking as the second most diverse law school in the nation for both faculty and student body diversity.  Approximately 44 percent of CUNY Law students are people of color.  Of those tenured and tenure-track faculty hired under Dean Anderson’s leadership, two-thirds are women, half are people of color, and one-third are LGBT. The school also earned Insight into Diversity’s “Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award.” In her first year as dean, Anderson worked with the school’s top leadership to conceptualize and launch CUNY Law’s Pipeline to Justice Program. In its first year, the Pipeline to Justice accounted for a 20 percent increase in students of color among the incoming class. The American Bar Association cited Dean Anderson’s article, “Legal Education Reform, Diversity, and Access to Justice,” in its amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in the affirmative action case Fisher v. University of Texas.
Dean Anderson graduated from Yale Law School, where she was Notes Editor on the Yale Law Journal.  She clerked on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit for Judge William Norris.

Joseph M. DraytonPartner, Cooley LLP
Joseph Drayton is a Partner in the New York office of Cooley LLP and is an experienced trial attorney who was named among the National Bar Association’s Nation’s Best Advocates: 40 Lawyers Under 40 in 2010. For 2012 and 2013, Mr. Drayton has been named to the IAM Patent1000 list, a recognition that honors the top patent practitioners in the world.  Mr. Drayton’s practice background includes a broad range of intellectual property and complex commercial matters. Mr. Drayton is a member of the New York City Bar’s Enhance Diversity in the Profession Committee, the Director of the National Bar Association, Region 2, which represents diverse bar associations in Connecticut, New York and Vermont, and the immediate past president of the Metropolitan Black Bar Association. Mr. Drayton also serves as a board member of the New York County Lawyers Association, a Division Director in the American Bar Association’s Section of Litigation and a board member of Practicing Attorneys for Law Students, Inc. Mr. Drayton holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Maryland, College Park and a Juris Doctor from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

Natalia Martín & Karla G. SanchezCo-founders, “Cafecitos Network”
Natalia Martín & Karla G. Sanchez created the “Cafecitos” Network in 2006 with the goal of bringing together Hispanic women attorneys in different fields and stages of their careers on a regular basis to share ideas, experiences, contacts, and resources; to promote the professional development of Latina lawyers; and to foster partnerships. The “Cafecitos” Network has since grown to more than 630 members.

Natalia Martín is the Director of Diversity at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP. From September 2005 through August 2007, she served as the Firm’s Director of Legal Personnel and Professional Development. Previously, she was an Associate Dean at Yale Law School, where she worked from 1991 to 2005.  Ms. Martín was an Associate at Simpson Thacher’s Corporate Department from 1987 to 1991. She received her undergraduate degree from Harvard University in 1982 and her Juris Doctor degree from Yale Law School in 1985.
In 2004, Ms. Martín received the Connecticut Hispanic Bar Association’s Achievement Award, which honors Latinos who have shown outstanding achievement in the field of law and commitment to the Latino community. In March 2007, she received the Flor de Maga Award  from the Puerto Rican Bar Association’s Women’s Committee in recognition of her efforts as co-founder of Cafecitos Network. In June 2010, she received the “Latina Trailblazer” Award from LatinoJustice/PRLDEF. Ms. Martín is a member of the New York City Bar’s Committee to Enhance Diversity in the Profession and served on the New York State Bar Association’s Diversity Committee from 2009 to 2011.

Karla G. Sanchez is the Executive Deputy Attorney General for Economic Justice for the New York State Attorney General’s Office. Previously, she was a litigation partner and the first Hispanic partner at Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP, where she was Chair of their Diversity Committee and Chair of the Patterson Attorneys of Color. Prior to joining Patterson Belknap, Ms. Sanchez served as Law Clerk to the Honorable Deborah A. Batts, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.  She received her J.D. from Fordham University School of Law cum laude and Order of the Coif, where she was the President of the Latin American Law Students Association. Ms. Sanchez has been recognized as one of Crain’s New York Business’s 40 Under Forty and Hispanic Business’s 100 Influentials. She is a member of the Policy Committee of the Departmental Disciplinary Committee of the First Department, New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division as well as a member of the Executive Committee of the New York City Bar Association. She was the former Vice Chair of the Board for LatinoJustice: PRLDEF, former Advisory Member for Legal Outreach and former Board of Advisor Member of the Fordham Minority Mentorship Program. Ms. Sanchez co-founded the Hispanic Lawyers Society of New York.

Tickets to the Celebration Dinner may be purchased on the City Bar’s website: www.nycbar.org/diversitycelebration

For further information please contact Clare Plunkett at (212) 382-6772 or email her here.

 

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In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, the New York City Bar Association urges the U.S. government to call upon the United Nations to “perform its obligations” under the 1946 Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the UN and provide an appropriate mode for settling claims that UN personnel are responsible for the cholera epidemic in Haiti.

“There is evidence pointing to United Nations peacekeepers or personnel being the most likely source of the cholera epidemic in Haiti,” states the letter. It has been alleged that more than 8,000 people have died and hundreds of thousands more have been infected as a result of the epidemic.

The letter, signed by City Bar President Carey R. Dunne, disputes the UN’s contention that the claims would necessarily include a “review of political and policy matters” and that accordingly the claims are “not receivable” pursuant to section 29 of the 1946 Convention.

The United States has been a party to the 1946 Convention since 1970, and while technically the UN cannot be a party to that Convention, it sets out UN rights and obligations and was approved by the General Assembly in 1946. The UN stated to the International Court of Justice in 1949 that it considers itself to be a party to the 1946 Convention and the Court’s advisory opinion in 1949 on “Reparation for injuries suffered in the service of the United Nations” confirmed that the 1946 Convention “creates rights and duties between each of the signatories and the Organization.”

While section 2 of the 1946 Convention provides that the UN shall be immune from interference by executive, administrative, judicial or legislative action, “section 29 provides that the UN ‘shall make provisions for appropriate modes of settlement of disputes arising out of contracts and other disputes of a private law character’ to which the UN is a party,” the letter states. “Thus, for claims of a private law character, section 2 does not provide an absolute shield against claims. “The alleged tortious behavior described in the claims,” according to the letter, is not related to “the official functions of the peacekeeping mission nor to how those functions are being performed.” The position taken by the UN “runs the risk of encouraging governments or courts around the world to lift the UN’s immunity, which is not in the interest of either the UN or the United States.”

The letter can be read here: http://bit.ly/1njUi9s

 

 

 

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Last June, I wrote about the New York City Bar Association’s extensive policy recommendations for New York City’s mayoral candidates leading up to the election in November. Based on the collaborative effort of over two dozen City Bar committees, we issued a 95-page report from the perspectives of lawyers who work daily on issues vital to the City’s welfare.  In that June column, I stated my aspirations for this report: “We hope it will inform the public dialogue as the campaign continues between now and November.”

Now that we are nearing the one-year anniversary of our report’s release, I would like to update you on our continuing efforts. We have worked well beyond November in order to ensure that the new administration has our recommendations in hand as it forms the agenda and begins setting policies for the City. In the weeks and months since the election, our Legislative Affairs Department, with the help of our New York City Affairs Committee, has worked to identify the members of Mayor de Blasio’s transition team and administration, facilitate introductions and start to build relationships between our committees and the administration, and convey our recommendations to the right people. In other words, we are working hard to make sure that the City Bar’s voice is heard as the new City government takes shape.

To that end, our “Policy Recommendations for New York City’s Next Mayor” report has been sent to every citywide elected official, the City Council Speaker and all members of the Council, appointed Deputy Mayors, and many of the newly appointed commissioners and directors of City agencies. In recognition of the sheer number of advocacy documents these individuals receive upon taking office, we have worked hard to relay our recommendations in as targeted and tailored a manner as possible. Our goal is to ensure that the newly elected and appointed officials know that we have a point of view on a wide variety of issues pertaining to City governance, on topics ranging from access to justice, public safety and civil liberties to social welfare, consumer protection, emergency preparedness, election law and animal law issues.

In addition, several committees have issued supplemental transition memos to the Mayor, either reinforcing previously stated positions or offering new recommendations for consideration. To date we’ve issued transition memos from our committees on AIDS; Animal Law; Civil Rights; Domestic Violence; Education and the Law; Land Use, Planning and Zoning; and Sex and Law.  Some of the new topics addressed in those memos include the use of public school buildings for religious worship services (the subject of a recent Second Circuit decision regarding which the City Bar submitted an amicus brief), suggestions for improving Community Benefit Agreements in land use projects, and the providing of affordable housing protection and increased rental assistance levels for people living with HIV/AIDS. More reports are expected in the coming weeks.

Committees are also reaching out to newly appointed agency officials to request meetings. In February, we hosted a breakfast featuring Public Advocate Letitia James, providing a forum for members to hear directly from the Public Advocate about her policy agenda and ask questions. We intend to host similar events with other administration officials as well. In other instances, committees have invited officials to attend joint committee meetings and, in doing so, they are facilitating the type of informal, relevant and informative dialogue that our members find so useful.

Our efforts to effect policy changes at the City level are ongoing and something we will continue to build on over the year. We have created a webpage dedicated to our New York City policy recommendations, which we will be updating as new reports are issued. Our committees continue to work diligently to identify, articulate and address the pressing issues facing the City, and we look forward to working with the new administration in the coming years.

Carey R. Dunne is President of the New York City Bar Association

 

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On April 3rd, the City Bar presented its Association Medal for “exceptional contributions to the honor and standing of the bar in this community” to Hon. Leonard B. Sand, United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York. To read Judge Sidney H. Stein’s remarks honoring Judge Sand, click here.

From left: Hon. Sidney H. Stein, United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York and Chair of the City Bar’s Honors Committee; Hon. Leonard B. Sand; Carey R. Dunne, City Bar President; and Hon. Robert A. Katzmann, Chief Judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

 

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The New York City Bar Association has issued a new guide entitled “Judicial Selection Methods in the State of New York: A Guide to Understanding and Getting Involved in the Selection Process.” The guide is designed to inform the public of the different ways judges are selected, and ways the public can participate in the process.

Prepared by the City Bar’s Council on Judicial Administration, this guide gives a brief summary of the different methods for selecting judges for each state and federal court in New York, with a focus on New York City, including whether they are elected or appointed and term lengths.

The guide also discusses the variety of opportunities to participate in the process, including voicing an opinion to the appointing authority (the mayor or governor, for example), running for election as a delegate to a judicial convention, or becoming a member of a screening panel. “Diverse participation is good for the process of selecting judges. Greater participation by individuals brings transparency to the process and promotes public confidence in our courts,” the guide states.

The guide concludes, “New York deserves a judiciary of the highest quality and independence, as well as a judiciary that reflects the broad array of views and experiences of our City’s and State’s diverse population. Active, well-informed citizen participation in the judicial selection process can help achieve these goals. We encourage all lawyers and others to take advantage of the opportunities for involvement that are described in this guide.”

The guide can be read here: bit.ly/1iYXrKX

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One of the fastest-growing segments of the New York City Bar Association’s membership is solo and small-firm practitioners. This fact tracks one of the findings in our report on “New Lawyers in a Changing Profession,” which is that the number of new lawyers practicing in very small firms or as solo practitioners has doubled since 2007.

For some, we know, this is not by choice but by economic necessity, as many of the larger firms are downsizing. This is where organizations like the City Bar can step in to provide the training for new lawyers that large firms have traditionally provided. The City Bar New Lawyer Institute is being set up to provide such training.

At the same time, many lawyers are solo or in small firms by choice, and it’s a choice every bit as valid as working in a large firm. As long as there have been lawyers, lawyers have hung out shingles.

The City Bar’s Small Law Firm Center is in the shingle business, so to speak. In fact, its latest resource for solos and small operations is a “virtual shingle.” Through the Virtual Law Firm Program, City Bar members can get a midtown Manhattan address, with mail drop, use of conference rooms in our landmark building, and more.

Serving the needs of solo and small-firm practitioners, who do not have the infrastructure of the larger law firms and institutional employers, is a key function of the Association. On the business and professional development front, the City Bar’s Small Law Firm Committee oversees monthly luncheons and networking groups that help solo and small-firm practitioners develop their skills, market their practices, and generate referrals, and the Committee and Small Law Firm Center present other programming with a similar focus. For example, this spring we are presenting a three-part series that will provide hands-on assistance in setting up a blog, an e-newsletter and a social media presence. Participants will be able to bring their laptops and leave with a finished product. Throughout the year, there are dozens more law practice management programs, and each November a Small Law Firm Symposium, a full day of workshops on how to start and effectively run one’s own law firm, with extensive networking opportunities and an exhibit hall of vendors that cater to the needs of solo and small firm owners. For lawyers in firms with fewer than 10 lawyers, there are additional discounts, over and above the discounts City Bar members already receive, on over 150 CLE programs each year.

City Bar members have access to an abundance of other benefits of special interest to solos and small-firm lawyers. These include free access to our renowned library, which contains the largest collection of U.S. and New York State appellate court briefs anywhere. Also available free are Westlaw, Lexis/Nexis databases and, for firms of fewer than 25 lawyers, HeinOnline, which includes extensive collections of law reviews, government documents and historic legal materials.  Free legal research, free conference rooms and the Virtual Law Firm program provide quite a cost-effective start-up model for newly born solo and small firm practices.

Perhaps the greatest resource our Small Law Firm Center offers is human: Alla Roytberg, the Center’s Director. City Bar members are entitled to a free practice management/brainstorming session with Alla, and additional consultations can be scheduled for a discounted fee of $50 per session. As someone who has run her own practice for years, Alla advises from experience.

Another great resource that can be hard to find for solos and small-firm lawyers wrapped up in their practices is other lawyers. In particular, every lawyer should have the opportunity to find a mentor. The Small Law Firm Center, in conjunction with the City Bar’s Legal Referral Service, whose panels consist mostly of seasoned solo and small firm practitioners, offers a form of mentoring matchmaking service. There are various scenarios available, from advice on practice-related questions for a reduced fee, to co-counseling on cases with shared workloads and fees. A new “Mentoring Circles” program, which brings solo and small firm practitioners in different practice areas together to network and brainstorm monthly in a small group setting, has been very popular with members who see it as an opportunity to network, share knowledge, exchange referrals and manage caseloads. Look for announcements of additional spots opening up in the mentoring circles this summer.

Last but certainly not least, solo and small firm practitioners, like all City Bar members, can benefit from participation in the Association’s 150 committees and seek pro bono opportunities through the City Bar Justice Center and the Vance Center for International Justice.

For more information about all of these programs, plus additional benefits and deals for solos and small-firm lawyers, please visit www.nycbar.org and click on Small Law Firm Center.

Carey R. Dunne is President of the New York City Bar Association

 

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