The New York City Bar Association has hired Ann Rappleye to lead its Continuing Legal Education department.

Rappleye joins the City Bar following 20 years of experience as a law-firm and in-house attorney.  As counsel for Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, Rappleye handled numerous antitrust matters, civil and criminal investigations and general commercial litigation on behalf of clients in the fields of media, aviation and pharma. She then held various positions in the pharmaceutical industry, including Chief of Staff at Wyeth (now owned by Pfizer), as well as General Counsel, Chief Compliance Officer and Secretary at Shionogi Inc., the U.S. subsidiary of Osaka-based Shionogi & Co., Ltd.  She has a B.A. from Yale College and a J.D. from New York University School of Law.

“I am thrilled to be joining such a dynamic organization as the New York City Bar Association and am excited to have the opportunity to lead the City Bar Center for CLE,” said Rappleye. “With an experienced team supporting our efforts, we aim to continue to provide excellent quality CLE programs while transforming the CLE function at the City Bar Center to best serve the changing needs of our members and partners.”

“As an experienced CLE instructor, Ann knows what it takes to put together compelling programs,” said City Bar Executive Director Bret Parker. “As a working attorney, on both the firm and client sides, she knows first-hand what our customers are looking for in CLE offerings. Finally, she has the business experience managing large, cross-functional teams that we were looking for to take our CLE department to the next level.”

 

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The New York City Bar Association has announced the winners of the 2014 Henry L. Stimson Medal Awards, honoring outstanding Assistant U.S. attorneys from the Southern and Eastern Districts.

This year’s medal recipients are Gail Matthews (Civil Division) and Daniel Silver (Criminal Division) of the Eastern District, along with Benjamin H. Torrance (Civil Division) and Guruanjan Singh Sahni (Criminal Division) of the Southern District.

The honorees will receive their awards at the City Bar on June 3rd at 6 PM. Mark R. Hellerer serves as chair of the City Bar’s Stimson Medal Committee and will be the ceremony moderator. Hon. Paul A. Engelmayer, United States District Judge, SDNY, will provide keynote remarks, and the medals will be presented by Association President Debra L. Raskin.

The medal is awarded in honor of Henry L. Stimson, who served as U.S. attorney for the Southern District from 1906–1909 and as President of the Association from 1937–1939.

 

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The New York City Bar Association applauds the new Commissioner of New York City’s Human Resources Administration, Steven Banks, for proposing changes to HRA policies that will ease barriers to the receipt of public assistance by those New Yorkers most in need.

As observed by our City Bar Justice Center and members of our Social Welfare Law Committee, New Yorkers seek cash assistance to get through difficult times that are often caused by a change of circumstances such as unemployment, the onset of disabling health conditions, domestic violence, homelessness or the unmet need for child care. These individuals usually have two goals. In the short-term, they seek to obtain and maintain subsistence income. In the long-term, they seek a path to a more stable income, whether through education, employment or accessing other sources of public benefits, such as Social Security, for which they may qualify. Both goals involve the work and assistance of HRA, the social services agency responsible for administering benefits in New York City.

However, as we discuss in our report Policy Recommendations for New York City’s Next Mayor, it has become increasingly difficult for the poorest New Yorkers to access and maintain much-needed benefits. We urged HRA to exercise its discretion to remove administrative barriers by, for example, giving applicants the ability to communicate with HRA by phone, fax or mail and increasing transparency of attendance reporting policies. We applaud Commissioner Banks for taking up the call of the City Bar, and others who represent low-income New Yorkers, so that individuals in need can fairly access the benefits that will help them move out of crisis and toward a more stable life. These reforms include (1) allowing four years of college as an option to HRA clients who must fulfill mandated training and employment requirements; (2) disbanding the “Center 71” program that resulted in unnecessary case sanctions and avoidable fair hearings; (3) developing a pilot program that provides clients in employment programs with five excused absences for illness or family emergency prior to the implementation of a sanction; (4) expanding HRA’s online portal; and (5) developing a new client advocacy unit for clients, community members and elected officials, including an ADA coordinator, a language access coordinator and an LGBTQ services coordinator.

 

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On May 20th, 2014, following the annual meeting of the New York City Bar Association, Debra L. Raskin became the Association’s 66th President. Since 1988, Raskin has been a partner at Vladeck, Waldman, Elias & Engelhard, P.C., which specializes in representing employees in labor and employment law matters. Prior to that, she was a New York State Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Rights Bureau. After receiving her law degree from Yale, she worked at the Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago for four years and clerked for Hon. Lee P. Gagliardi of the United States District Court, SDNY. At the City Bar, Raskin has been Chair of the Executive Committee and of the Labor and Employment Law Committee.

When and why did you join the New York City Bar Association, and what were those first years like for you?
The short answer is I joined the City Bar to work on issues that I cared about. It was the early 90s, and I was surprised one day to get a call from someone recruiting me for the Civil Rights Committee. It was a fantastic committee, led by Sidney Rosdeitcher. There was a huge range of issues, including as I recall some involving Handschu—the case concerning what police can do in connection with demonstrations. I was awed by the breadth of experience of the people on the committee and the amount of work they put into the written products. And then I became head of the Labor and Employment Committee, which is my bread and butter area. That position offered me a unique opportunity to take the long view in my field.

You’ve also been Chair of the Executive Committee, so you know the City Bar well, but do you have any fresh impressions coming in as President?
I’ve really enjoyed meeting with the committee chairs, because the range of what this place does is extraordinary, including in some areas of the law I barely knew existed. The charm of the committees is they bring together people with often very different points of view, different agendas. The mandate to leave your clients at the door and think on a different level just gets your brain working. To give one example, members of the Patents Committee are thinking about logical requirements in the law so that inventors can be more productive but that would not discourage companies from investing R&D money. The committee works to resolve the tensions between those goals. On the Civil Rights Committee, you had less of that kind of disagreement because there was more of a uniformity of views. In contrast, on the Labor and Employment Committee, it’s a balancing act of doing something positive with various constituencies who I won’t say are natural enemies but who tend to be on the opposite sides of issues. From that conflict and divergence of interests, the committee works to produce something that’s socially useful. And I think that’s a challenge that a lot of committees have. The goal, I think, is a fair process where the wheels of justice don’t grind quite so slowly, a goal that benefits all of us.

What do you foresee as your priorities as President over the next two years, and how do you think your background and experience might inspire your tenure?
I’ll certainly be focused on those issues we put under the heading of Access to Justice. Chief Judge Lippman has forced us to confront the question of pro bono, to think about it and how we as a profession should be handling it, and exactly what our obligations are as a profession, as lawyers, to the larger community. But beyond the question of hours and reporting and the like (which are important but are really more about us as lawyers than about the clients who require our services), what do we do about the fact that many areas where there’s a pro bono need are areas requiring specialization? As a former legal services lawyer, I have a view that those are areas of substantive knowledge as much as antitrust or defamation or anything else. So how do you take a corporate lawyer and parachute him or her into a welfare hearing or an unemployment hearing? The City Bar Justice Center has a great model for accomplishing that, as does Monday Night Law in a different way. Then there are the legal needs of moderate income people, as well highlighted by my predecessor, Carey Dunne, in the Task Force on New Lawyers he launched. There are some intriguing ideas for pilot programs that came out of the Task Force that we hope to bring to fruition. In sum, the City Bar can be an excellent lab for exploring different ways to increase access to justice.

For our members, and our profession, I’m interested in the “Big Tent” aspect of the Association. We do lots of high-profile initiatives supported by our big-firm members, but there’s also been an increased focus here recently on developing programs designed specifically for in-house counsel, which I think is great. One of the things I’ve learned, in particular from being on the Executive Committee, is how much the City Bar does for small firm lawyers and solos, and also for plaintiff side counsel, who may have very different interests from large firms that typically represent corporations. Through CLE and the Small Law Firm Center and the relevant committees, the City Bar provides an amazing array of services. And coming from a small firm and, many millions of years ago, from civil legal services work when I was in Chicago, I do want the City Bar to develop programs to help attorneys no matter what kind of practice they’re in, to help them be more professional and operate better on limited resources.

Leadership is an area I’m very interested in. We want to enhance the opportunities for our members to take on leadership positions within the Association. This will help people not just to advance within the City Bar but also can provide training and networking experience that lawyers need for their “day jobs.” I think one of the things lawyers often miss by not being in a large firm is a clear path to leadership, so I’d like to give some thought to how the City Bar can provide the skills and the structure for solos and small-firm lawyers who want to advance as leaders in the profession.

Finally, the New York City Bar Association has been a steady presence through an extraordinary amount of societal change since its founding in 1870. Any thoughts on the City Bar’s relevance moving forward in a fast-changing world?
As long as society has lawyers, there’s going to be a need for lawyers to be educated, a need for lawyers to contribute to the community. When people ask me what we do here, I tell them, well, among other things, we train thousands of lawyers to deal with 911, or with the legal needs resulting from Hurricane Sandy. If not us, who would do it? The need for public service, for training lawyers so that they’re better equipped, for educating the general public or educating governmental entities, is not going away. And, you know, justice is an elusive goal, so we need to work hard at keeping it front and center. Making the world a better place is really what we’re about.

 

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Two years ago, when I began my tenure as president of New York City Bar Association, I said that trying to describe the Association reminds me of the parable of the blind men and the elephant, in which you know only that part of the organization with which you come into contact. For lawyers it may be committee service, or pro bono work with the City Bar Justice Center or the Vance Center, or social events and networking. For the public, it may be access to legal services or a public-interest speaker or panel. We truly have something for everyone.

But I said then, and I believe even more now, that the City Bar is more than the sum of its parts—that what really defines the organization, now and when it was founded 144 years ago, is its unique voice and its role as the conscience of the profession. As long as we keep focused on using our bully pulpit to address the most important legal policy issues of the day, we’ll be fulfilling our mission and keeping the City Bar alive and relevant. I would submit that, through the work of our members and staff these past two years, we have done just that.

There are a few things I would mention, starting with our Task Force on New Lawyers in a Changing Profession. As most of you know, I announced the formation of this blue-ribbon group when I took office: 35 leaders of the New York bar, including law school deans, managing partners, general counsel, two district attorneys, New York City’s Corporation Counsel, and legal services and other leaders. The idea was to study the malaise that’s afflicted the legal profession since the financial crisis, especially our new lawyers, and what our law schools, bar associations and other legal institutions should be doing about it. A year later we issued a comprehensive report, and we’re now in the process of putting together pilot projects based on the report’s recommendations. It was a big job, but a great group, and as usual the City Bar rose to the challenge.

Another effort I’m proud of is our role in educating New York City’s mayoral candidates about the most important legal issues facing the city. In September 2012, more than a year in advance of our mayoral election, we sent word to all our committees that we wanted to put together a comprehensive review, on every conceivable subject, of our most pressing policy priorities. The goal was not just to educate the eventual new mayor, but to make all the candidates aware of our issues so they could be addressed in their public debates. We did this over the fall and winter of 2012, and in the spring of 2013 we released an 80-page report, reflecting input from over two dozen committees, on everything from stop and frisk, to homeless policies, to animal rights and beyond. We made it public and sent it to all the candidates at the time, and followed it up by hosting a candidates’ forum here in May, to a full house. After the election, we made sure our recommendations were in the hands of Mayor-elect di Blasio’s transition team, and since then we’ve been breaking the report into pieces and directing them to the new appointees in charge of the subject matter areas with which we are concerned.

We’ve also stayed in the forefront on the issue of access to justice and the courts. When Chief Judge Lippman announced the new 50 hour pro bono rule for law students, and his rule on mandatory reporting of pro bono contributions, and recently his third year law school pro bono scholars initiative, we applauded these measures as creative steps to inspire students and attorneys to meet their professional obligation to serve the community.

We’ve also consistently testified before hearings of the Chief Judge’s Task Force to Expand Access to Civil Legal Services in New York, and we were a big proponent of the proposed constitutional amendment to relax the mandatory retirement rules for our Supreme Court and Court of Appeals judges—a controversial topic that we didn’t shy away from, even though at the end of the day it was voted down by the electorate. It was still the right thing to do.

Over the past two years, our committees issued over 400 reports and presented 540 programs, in addition to the 300 CLE programs presented at the City Bar. Of those 400 reports (all of which, per our policy, were reviewed by the president), 141 addressed city and state legislation. And during that time, 26 bills supported by the City Bar were enacted into law. Two of the bills were drafted by our committees.

In addition to this focus on state legislation, our Government Ethics Committee issued a report this spring examining New York’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE), which oversees the regulation of ethics and lobbying. The report concluded that JCOPE must do much more not only to enforce ethics laws but to create a different ethical climate in Albany. (These are issues that would sound very familiar to the City Bar’s founders, whose idea in 1870, of course, was to come together to stand up to the ethics abuses of Tammany Hall.)

On the federal legislative level, our Immigration Law Committee has been active in the Congressional efforts to achieve immigration reform. The Committee is focused on establishing the right to counsel for individuals facing deportation, and has also drafted language and commented on many proposed amendments in both the Senate and the House. As we all know, we have quite a ways to go in this effort.

Finally, we’ve filed 18 amicus briefs in the past two years, on the local, national and international level. We successfully pursued a series of cases in the New York Court of Appeals regarding criminal law and procedure. We filed six briefs with the Supreme Court on topics including patent law, surveillance, extra-territorial jurisdiction, affirmative action and housing discrimination. Through the Vance Center, we filed briefs with the Inter-American Court or Inter-American Commission on Human Rights concerning free speech in Venezuela and libel and defamation claims in Ecuador, and with the Colombian Constitutional Court regarding LGBT rights in Colombia.

Suffice it to say that our voice remains strong, our message is still relevant, and we remain true to our mission to take a stand for the rule of law and to address the most important legal issues of the day. As we look to the future, and to new leadership, I’m pleased at the inspired choice of Debra Raskin to succeed me as president of the Association. She is a true leader of the profession, with a deep understanding of the organization from her long tenure here, including as vice president and chair of our Executive Committee. I couldn’t be happier to turn the helm over to her.

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

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Venezuela’s May 2007 refusal to renew the broadcast license of Radio Caracas Television, or RCTV, violated Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights and is “a violation of settled inter-American principles of freedom of speech and the rule of law,” the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the New York City Bar Association said in an amicus brief filed today before the Costa Rica-based Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

The case, Marcel Granier and others vs. The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, is the first brought before the Inter-American system that directly involves a state’s decision not to renew the license of a free-to-air television station, which, in the case of RCTV, operated in Venezuela since 1953 and had an editorial stance that was critical of the administration of the late President Hugo Chávez. The hearings are set to start on May 28 in Costa Rica.

“Undisputed statements by high-ranking Venezuelan government officials make clear that the administration of the late President Hugo Chávez was not prepared to tolerate the views and ideas aired by RCTV,” the brief states, making this a “textbook example of retaliatory content-based censorship, which has long been recognized as a particularly pernicious form of restriction on speech.”

The brief was submitted for the New York City Bar Association by the Committee on Communications & Media Law and the Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice, and was prepared by the New York-based law firm Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, whose lawyers include litigation partner Jeremy Feigelson and Thomas H. Norgaard, a Venezuela and U.S.-trained lawyer focused on international law matters.

The brief concludes, “Freedom of speech in Venezuela suffered a vital blow in violation of Article 13 of the Convention when Venezuela, with a view to censor RCTV’s editorial stance, refused to renew its concession. The ability of individuals and the press to openly debate, discuss and criticize government policy is a fundamental component of any democratic society, and largely depends on the ability of the media to convey diverse strands of thought. Venezuela’s actions have diminished that ability.”

The full brief can be downloaded at the following links:

http://bit.ly/1mijhs0 (English)

http://bit.ly/1uVaIr8 (Spanish)

 

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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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