In a letter to the Chairman of the New York City Planning Commission, the New York City Bar Association, while expressing its support for the concept of Mandatory Inclusionary Housing as a method for creating permanently affordable housing, raises concerns that certain aspects of an amendment pending before the Commission “are or may become problematic, particularly in light of the recent expiration of the 421-a property tax exemption (‘421-a’).”

Specifically, the City Bar “recommends that the CPC consider postponing the approval of the MIH text amendment and of individual rezonings involving MIH until there is clarification as to whether 421-a will be available and with what requirements (affordability requirements, construction wages, and other relevant requirements).” Under the City land use procedures governing text amendments such as MIH, the City Planning proposal is not subject to a statutory time clock for approval.

The letter, from the Association’s Committees on Housing & Urban Development, Land Use Planning & Zoning, and Cooperative & Condominium Law, outlines a number of additional suggestions for strengthening and clarifying the MIH proposal while reiterating the City Bar’s support for the CPC’s and the Administration’s goal of increasing affordable housing production through MIH. “As discussed in this letter, we believe that clarification of certain items, and revisions to the MIH text where appropriate, would increase the effectiveness and desirability of MIH, making MIH more successful in generating affordable housing and fostering economically diverse neighborhoods. Additionally, providing clear guidance as to MIH’s criteria and procedures will make MIH easier to implement and administer, thereby allowing the program to operate more efficiently,” states the letter.

The letter may be read here: http://bit.ly/1WML84b

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Following a disconcertingly warm December in which the temperature hit 72 degrees on Christmas Eve, and a summer called the hottest on record by multiple authorities, including NASA, it behooves us to reflect on what can be done, and what we can do as an Association, to address the effects of climate change.

Recognizing the realities of climate change and that modern civilization must be contributing to it, the international community has begun to take action. In 1992, leaders from nations around the world gathered at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro to adopt the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The 153 countries and delegations in Rio pledged to reverse the trend of increased greenhouse gas emissions and to assist developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to climate change. The UNFCCC became a binding international treaty in March 1994 and, as of December 2015, has 197 parties.

Despite good intentions, however, the treaty contains no binding emissions targets for individual countries and no mechanisms for enforcement. Since the 1992 Earth Summit, world leaders have tried to find common ground on climate change, but with mixed results. There was the Kyoto Protocol, adopted in 1997 and enacted in 2005. It was signed by President Bill Clinton but never submitted to the Senate for ratification and, therefore, remained non-binding. President George W. Bush famously withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol in a move that drew international condemnation. And there was the ill-fated 2009 Copenhagen Summit, which devolved into acrimony and yielded only a non-binding “accord” written by a handful of large countries.

But, at long last, it appears that the climate, so to speak, surrounding international talks has itself begun to change. In December 2015, the United Nations convened COP21, a climate conference held in Paris where, for almost two weeks, world leaders discussed the destructive effects of climate change and debated how best to address them. Whether fueled by the immediacy of recent weather-related catastrophes, President Obama’s renewed commitment to climate reform, French President Francois Hollande’s efforts not to repeat the mistakes of Copenhagen, the European migrant crisis, or some combination of these and other factors, COP21 succeeded where previous climate conferences failed. The result was a historic climate accord signed by 195 countries. The agreement includes commitments from nearly all of the signatories to undertake mitigation efforts with respect to greenhouse gas emissions, an agreement to convene every five years to assess and review these efforts, and regular and transparent reporting on every signatory country’s carbon emissions.

I’m pleased to report that the Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice was well represented in Paris by Environment Program Director Susan Kath, who attended as an NGO observer for the American Society of International Law, and Vance Center Committee member Rubén Kraiem, who was there as a member of the Panamanian delegation and the Coalition for Rainforest Nations. Kath also attended the inaugural Climate Law and Governance Day at the Sorbonne, an initiative to address how the international legal community can support implementation of the Paris Agreement.

To coincide with the opening day of COP21, the City Bar’s Legal Issues of Climate Adaptation Task Force published a report, “Climate Adaptation in Developing Countries: Planning and Financing for Cities, Farms and Internally Displaced Persons,” in which the Task Force argues that, in addition to mitigation schemes like carbon taxes and “cap-and-trade” programs, wide-ranging urban and rural adaptation plans must be adopted across the nation and internationally to cope with the inevitable effects of climate change. To pay for such adaptation measures in developing countries, the Task Force recommends a financial transaction microtax (FTM) on trades of financial instruments, with the proceeds earmarked for climate adaptation.

This is an idea with the potential to raise significant funds from an as-yet untapped source. The Task Force’s recommendation offers what may be an elegant solution to concerns raised at COP21 by developing nations willing to do their part with respect to climate adaptation initiatives but lacking the necessary funds to do so. Innovative proposals like this are ripe for discussion as the international community attempts to make good on the pledges made last month in Paris.

Supplementing the report, the City Bar will also host a program called “Opportunities to Raise Public Awareness about Climate Change and the Need for Action.” The program, scheduled for March 31st, will include panel discussions and working sessions with legal scholars, experts, and various New York City metropolitan organizations focusing on ways to increase awareness, scale up New York’s response to climate change, and align communications on the need for urgent action.

Real and lasting efforts to reduce or reverse the effects of modern civilization on the Earth’s climate will require ingenuity in multiple areas—scientific, social, political, and legal. I’m proud of our Legal Issues of Climate Adaptation Task Force’s efforts to come up with new ideas to further the dialogue on this issue. Great thanks to Stephen L. Kass, chair of the Task Force, and Michael G. Mahoney, chair of the Environmental Law Committee, for their leadership. I urge all of our members to read the report, attend the program, and do what they can to educate and advocate for action on climate change.

Debra L. Raskin is President of the New York City Bar Association

 

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Many of us involved with the City Bar’s Lawyer Assistance Program (LAP) and Lawyer Assistance Committee had the great honor of knowing Judge Judith S. Kaye as an advocate, supporter and friend.

I first met then-Chief Judge Kaye in Cooperstown in May of 1999 at a Lawyers Retreat, where she participated in a program sponsored by the New York State Bar LAP.

That evening, many of the retreat participants planned to attend an AA meeting, and the Judge asked if she could sit in. It was a turning point for her, and the beginning of her unwavering commitment to the Lawyer Assistance Program’s mission. Listening to two dozen or so lawyers and judges share their personal struggles with alcoholism and drug abuse helped to change what Judge Kaye would call her “benign indifference to the determination to convene a high-level Judicial Branch Commission” charged with developing a comprehensive and statewide plan to address the acute and complex problems stemming from alcohol and substance dependency in the profession.

In September of that year, the Commission on Alcohol and Substance Abuse in the Legal Profession was established; and on January 22, 2001, the Commission presented an Action Plan to Judge Kaye at a convocation held at the City Bar. The primary recommendation of the Plan was the creation of a Lawyer Assistance Trust, “for the purpose of funding lawyer assistance programs…while preserving and invigorating their proven records of effectiveness.” The Trust was established that same year with funding provided through the New York State Office of Court Administration. Michael A. Cooper, who established LAP when he was president of the City Bar and was Chair of the Trust’s Board, recalls, “I have never served on a board of any kind that was as committed to its work as the Board of the New York State Lawyer Assistance Trust. Many of the Board members were attorneys and judges themselves in recovery.”

Since Judge Kaye’s passing, I’ve heard from so many people who were close to her, and to our program, who wanted to share their memories, gratitude, and praise, including past Lap Committee chairs and Board Trustees William Hammond, Avrom Robin, and Gary Reing.

Gary captured Judge Kaye’s character perfectly in describing how she “showed us her humility by not accepting any awards for her work until she retired. When she graced us with her presence at a dinner in her honor, she exhibited grace, dignity, and true appreciation for the work we do.”

Eileen Travis is Director of the Lawyer Assistance Program at the City Bar


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As part of his 2016 policy agenda released yesterday alongside his State of the State address, Governor Cuomo called for the creation of an expert, non-partisan constitutional convention preparatory commission.

“The City Bar applauds the Governor’s recognition of the importance of investing in a commission to examine ways to improve the convention process and, should the voters vote ‘yes’ in November 2017, to prepare properly for a convention,” said City Bar President Debra Raskin. “We urge that the commission members be appointed and start work as soon as possible.”

In October, the City Bar announced the creation of its Task Force on the New York State Constitutional Convention. As a similar task force did twenty years ago, the City Bar’s Task Force will examine whether a convention should be held, a question that will be put to the voters in November 2017. As part of its work, the Task Force will review the laws and procedures that govern the calling of a constitutional convention and issue findings for the benefit of the public and the Governor’s commission.

 

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The New York City Bar Association has endorsed a proposal put forth by the ABA’s Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar to allow law students to receive academic credit for participating in an internship, whether or not the students receive compensation.

The American Bar Association has set January 22nd as the deadline for comments and January 29th for a hearing on the matter.

In a letter signed by President Debra L. Raskin, the City Bar endorses the Council’s proposal to eliminate Interpretation 305-2 of the ABA Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools, which prohibits law students who work in internships for pay from receiving academic credit.

“The Council has correctly recognized that internships, or what it refers to as ‘field placements,’ with law firms or other private employers such as banks, whether or not the student is compensated, offer ‘substantial lawyering experience’ to law students, as simulation courses and law clinics also do,” states the City Bar’s letter. “There is no reason why the ABA rules governing academic credit for these different lawyering experiences should not be substantially the same, as the Council now proposes. We commend the Council for recognizing that whether the student participating in the internship is paid or not is irrelevant; in both situations the student has the opportunity to gain a valuable first hand lawyering experience.”

The City Bar’s letter, along with two previous letters on the topic, may be read here: http://bit.ly/1SOMkDX

 

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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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