The New York City Bar Association will present its 2015 Diversity & Inclusion Champion Awards at the Diversity and Inclusion Celebration Dinner on June 11th. 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. This year marks a decade of recognizing Diversity and Inclusion Champions.

The 2015 Diversity & Inclusion Champion Award winners are:

Kathy Hirata ChinPartner, Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP
Kathy Hirata Chin is a partner at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP. She is a member of the litigation group specializing in healthcare and real estate issues. Ms. Chin graduated from Princeton University magna cum laude and Columbia Law School, where she was Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Trasnational Law. She served as Commissioner on the New York City Planning Commission from 1995-2001 and is currently a Commissioner on the New York City Commission to Combat Police Corruption, a position she has held since Mayor Michael Bloomberg appointed her in August 2003. She has served on Governor Mario Cuomo’s Judicial Screening Committee for the First Department, the Gender Bias Committee of the Second Circuit Task Force, former Chief Judge Judith Kaye’s Commission to Promote Public Confidence in Judicial Elections, and the Second Circuit Judicial Conference Planning and Program Committee. She currently serves on the Attorney Emeritus Advisory Council and the Commercial Division Advisory Council, appointed to both by Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, and on the Board of Directors of the Medicare Rights Center, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to helping older adults and people with disabilities access affordable health care. In December 2012 and again in December 2014, she was nominated for appointment to the New York State Court of Appeals by the New York State Commission on Judicial Nomination.

Hon. Fern Fisher – Deputy Chief Administrative Judge, New York City Courts and Director, New York State Courts Access to Justice Program
Justice Fisher’s career started in the Civil Court as a Legal Services attorney practicing in Manhattan Housing Court. She served as Deputy Director of Harlem Legal Services, Inc. and as an Assistant Attorney General of the New York State Department of Law. For four years, she provided pro bono legal services to Harlem-based community organizations as a project director of the National Conference of Black Lawyers. In 1989, she was appointed Judge of the Housing Part of the Civil Court, and later, in 1990, was elected to the Civil Court where she served as Deputy Supervising Judge. Judge Fisher was elected in 1993 to the Supreme Court of the State of New York. After serving in both the City and the Matrimonial Parts of Supreme Court, in December 1996 she was appointed Administrative Judge of the Civil Court where she served until March 2009 when she was appointed to her current position. Justice Fisher is a founding member of the Metropolitan Black Bar Association, a member and past Board member of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, and the New York County Lawyers Association. In 2006, Harvard Law School awarded her the Gary Bellow Public Service Award. In 2008, she was appointed to the American Bar Association Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services. Justice Fisher received her B.A. summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa in 1975 from Howard University and received her J.D. in 1978 from Harvard Law School.                  

Darryl Gibbs – Lead Director and Associate General Counsel, AXA Equitable Life Insurance Company
Darryl W. Gibbs is a Lead Director & Associate General Counsel at AXA Equitable Life Insurance Company, a financial services company. He leads the legal department’s internship and mentoring program and activities and he is a major strategic supporter and influencer of AXA’s overall diversity and inclusion efforts both inside and outside the legal department. Prior to AXA, Darryl worked at the New York law firm Proskauer Rose as an associate in the corporate department. He later worked as an Assistant General Counsel in the law department of Safe Horizon, Inc., the nation’s leading victims assistance agency. Darryl is a 2009 alumnus of the Executive Leadership Council – Strengthening the Pipeline Program and a member of Council of Urban Professionals (CUP). He is also a Board Member of several organizations, including The Ronald H. Brown Center for Civil Rights and Economic Development at St. John’s University School of Law, the Metropolitan Black Bar Association (New York City), and St. John’s University School of Law Alumni Association. Darryl is the recipient of the New York State Bar Association 2014 Diversity Trailblazer Award. He earned his undergraduate degree in marketing at the Brooklyn Campus of Long Island University and his law degree from St. John’s University School of Law

Taa Grays – Assistant General Counsel and Chief of Staff to the General Counsel, MetLife
Taa has served as the Chief of Staff to MetLife’s General Counsel since 2010, where she works closely with him and his leadership team to identify, document and communicate Legal Affairs’ initiatives. She also manages a team responsible for providing a wide-range of operational support for the Legal Affairs department. She is active in several committees at MetLife, including the Legal Affairs Diversity Committee. Taa started with MetLife in 2003 in the Litigation Section, where her practice handled various federal and state lawsuits and regulatory complaints stemming from MetLife’s US Business and Investment activities. She also coordinated and oversaw MetLife’s e-discovery responses to regulatory, pre-litigation and litigation matters as the eDiscovery Counsel and managed a cross-functional team that managed MetLife’s discovery obligations. Prior to MetLife, Taa was an Assistant District Attorney with the Bronx District Attorney’s Office in its Rackets Bureau for five and a half years. She is also very active in the legal community and holds leadership positions with several organizations, including president of the Metropolitan Black Bar Association. Taa received her A.B. from Harvard College and her J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center.

The 2015 Trailblazer award winner is:

Anna L. Brown Special Attorney/Director of Global Diversity & Inclusion, Shearman & Sterling LLP
As Special Attorney/Director of Global Diversity & Inclusion, Anna L. Brown is responsible for the development and implementation of the firm’s global diversity and inclusion initiative, and serves as the Executive Director of Shearman & Sterling’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee. Ms. Brown is a frequent lecturer and panelist on topics related to diversity and inclusion in the legal profession; including serving, for the past eight consecutive years, as the Program Co-Chair of the Practising Law Institute Annual Law Firm Diversity Symposium, and at the NALP Annual Conference, New York City Bar Association Diversity Conference, NALP Diversity Summit, Minority Corporate Counsel Association Creating Pathways to Diversity Conference, the American Conference Institute, ACLEA Annual Conference, Equal Justice Conference, Women In Law Empowerment Forum, New York Law Journal Diversity Roundtable, and ALI-ABA Professional Development Institute, among other speaking engagements. Ms. Brown is the co-author of “Diversity in Action: A Manual for Diversity Professionals in Law,” a new publication designed as a resource and educational tool for those performing diversity roles in law firms and corporate legal departments. She is a graduate cum laude of Howard University School of Law and is admitted to practice in New York and New Jersey.

Tickets to the Celebration Dinner may be purchased on the City Bar’s website. For further information please contact Clare Plunkett at (212) 382-6772 or


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The New York City Bar Legal Referral Service, together with the New York State Courts Access to Justice Program, will host a free legal information fair in observance of National Law Day, on May 1st from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Collect Pond Park (Leonard Street between Centre and Lafayette) in Manhattan.

Community leaders and representatives from the New York State Courts and social service organizations will be available to answer questions and provide information about their services. At the fair, residents will have the opportunity to:

  • Learn about their legal rights and how to be proactive in addressing legal issues they may confront
  • Pick up helpful brochures, forms, and other materials that discuss common legal topics
  • Get a free consultation with an experienced lawyer who can help answer questions
  • Discover whether they have a legal issue and find out whether they need a lawyer
  • Find out if they should seek help from a local, state, or federal agency and, if so, which one
  • Learn about other legal services providers that can handle their specific issue

Lawyers will be available to provide basic information and advice on such issues as landlord/tenant law, consumer law, estate planning/elder law, foreclosure, bankruptcy prevention, small claims court, divorce and family law, and more. For additional information, please call Julia Schnurr at 212-382-6789 or email her here.


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Alan Rothstein, the General Counsel of the New York City Bar Association, will retire in July after nearly 30 years of service, the City Bar announced today.

During his time at the City Bar, Rothstein has served as the primary source of advice and counsel to the association’s presidents and committees as they prepared reports, policy statements, amicus briefs and letters to public officials and heads of state on matters of policy and law reform.

“The modern history of the New York City Bar Association could not be written without prominent mention of Alan Rothstein’s contributions,” said City Bar President Debra L. Raskin. “He has been a guiding force in our work, particularly in the areas of civil liberties and government reform. And as anyone who has had the pleasure of working with him knows, he is just a wonderful human being whose presence will be greatly missed here.”

“I have been incredibly lucky to work in an organization of such high integrity that is so focused on serving the legal profession and, to me more significantly, the public interest,” Rothstein said. “I will miss the terrific staff and the many, many volunteers who completely dispel the notion that lawyers do not give back to their community.”

Rothstein’s responsibilities will be handled by a combination of current staff and new hires. Maria Cilenti, currently the City Bar’s Director of Legislative Affairs, will become Senior Policy Counsel, overseeing all of the City Bar’s policy work through its committees. Ann Rappleye, currently Director of CLE, will add the role of Program Director, overseeing the hundreds of CLE and non-CLE programs produced by the City Bar’s committees each year. Martha Harris will expand her responsibility as Director of Career Development and Committee Engagement, becoming the point person for committee governance issues and overseeing the process of committee appointments. Thomas Halter, currently Chief Financial Officer, will assume an expanded role as Chief Administrative Officer, with primary responsibility for the sound financial and technical operations of the City Bar.


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One of my goals during my presidency of the New York City Bar Association is to ensure and strengthen its “big tent” diversity, which means diversity not just in demographic terms but with respect to our members’ practices. If our committees and program panels are effective, one big reason is that they are made up of a true cross-section of the legal community. We recently adjusted our dues structure to encourage more lawyers doing different types of legal work to join our association.

I think the in-house perspective has never been more critical to the success of a bar association. The 2013 report by our Task Force on New Lawyers in a Changing Profession found that one of the important changes the legal profession is undergoing is a shift of resources in-house. A 2012 survey showed that over 80% of companies planned to maintain or increase their legal staff who in many cases “will do work that associates used to do.” And as more companies are realizing that they can hire talented attorneys to work exclusively and cost-effectively for them as employees, more attorneys are deciding to trade rainmaking expectations for an exciting and varied role at a single client where there is a guarantee of new matters every day.

We recognize that in-house lawyers have not been as large a cohort of our membership as we would like. We need to change the perception of the value that in-house counsel receive for being part of this Association. That’s why in-house counsel is one of the categories we lowered dues for, and why, last year, I asked City Bar Vice President Nancy Louden (Senior Vice President and Deputy General Counsel at Estee Lauder) to lead an effort to increase our focus on in-house counsel. It’s also auspicious that Bret Parker, our Executive Director, was previously Vice President and Associate General Counsel at Elizabeth Arden. Ms. Arden’s loss was our gain, not only for Bret’s management skills but for his comprehensive understanding of and connections in the world of in-house legal practice.

Today we’re providing a greater number of programs targeted to inside counsel, and we’re seeing more in-house lawyers get involved in committee work and pro bono. IBM, which was honored earlier this month with the annual City Bar Justice Award for its commitment to pro bono and access to justice, is a great example. While in-house counsel generally used to partner with their law firm counterparts on pro bono, we’re seeing more and more in-house lawyers at companies like IBM take on pro bono cases themselves.

The City Bar has launched an annual in-house counsel reception, which last year included a free ethics CLE featuring New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman as one of the speakers. Throughout the year we have roundtables and other programs geared specifically toward General Counsels and other in-house staff.

It is also important to have in-house lawyers actively participate in our committees.  Committee work is the heart of the Association, and that’s where our legal and public policy positions are established. It is essential that in-house counsel be at the table, and that their perspectives are reflected in shaping those policies, which are then articulated on a local, national, and international level.

On the CLE front, people wonder why in-house counsel would want to come to the City Bar for CLE when the firms are tripping over themselves to provide it for free. The firms do provide great educational opportunities, but here at the City Bar our programs are intended for a broad audience and are presented with expert speakers with diverse viewpoints. Participate in a networking break during one of the City Bar’s CLE programs and you might find yourself chatting with attorneys from multiple firms, judges, prosecutors, and other government officials, as well as your counterparts at companies all around the city.  And, we are providing an increasing number of CLE courses for free to members.

If you’re an in-house attorney, now is the perfect time to get involved, as we’re adding members to committees, planning programs, and developing activities for the fall.  And if you’re not an in-house counsel, now is the perfect time to get involved and meet all of these interesting in-house counsel attending City Bar events. Wherever you practice, we look forward to working with you and trust that you will find a lot that is both useful and fun at the City Bar.

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


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The New York City Bar Association is now accepting nominations for the Twenty-sixth Annual Legal Services Awards. The award is designed to recognize the efforts of lawyers and non-lawyers who have directly provided free legal services to indigent clients on a full-time basis for an extended period of time. Nominees should have provided these legal services for at least five years.


Letters of nomination should fully identify the nominee and describe his or her outstanding legal services efforts. Please address nomination letters to the Legal Services Awards Committee, Executive Director’s Office, New York City Bar Association, 42 West 44th Street, New York, NY 10036; fax (212) 398-6634. Nomination forms are also available here. The letter or form can also be emailed to Margot Isaacs at the Association. For more information, email Margot Isaacs or call her at (212) 382-6624.


The deadline for nominations is Friday, April 24, 2015. The Association will honor the winners at a reception later this spring.






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The New York City Bar Association, through its LGBT Rights Committee and its Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice, along with Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, Human Rights Watch and several international partners, submitted an amicus brief to the United States Supreme Court in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges on marriage equality for same-sex couples.

The brief reviews the situations in five countries—the Netherlands, Canada, South Africa, Argentina, and New Zealand—on different continents that have introduced marriage equality, and asks the Court to look to them for guidance as it hears arguments on the issue in the States.

The international partners are: Canadian Civil Liberties Association; The National Council for Civil Liberties (“Liberty”), UK; Legal Resources Centre, South Africa; Center for Legal and Social Studies, Argentina; and La Federación Argentina de Lesbianas, Gays, Bisexuales y Trans, Argentina.

Weil attorneys Richard Levine and Robert Vlasis III were counsel for the amici curiae, and Marie-Claude Jean-Baptiste and Suzanne Knijnenburg were the Vance Center’s attorneys on the matter.

The brief may be read here:


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While commending Governor Cuomo’s effort to address the critical issue of the public’s support for the criminal justice system in the wake of the Eric Garner grand jury determination, the New York City Bar Association believes the proposed reforms in the Criminal Justice Reform Act of 2015 (A.3011/S.2011) require further study in order to be effective, and specifically opposes the proposal for an “independent monitor.”

Under the proposal, a Governor-appointed independent monitor would be responsible for reviewing grand jury investigations into cases involving the police-related death of an unarmed civilian. The independent monitor would have the power to refer cases to the Governor for the purpose of appointing a special prosecutor when it was found that the district attorney inappropriately declined to prosecute or the grand jury presentation did not conform to the law.

In a report prepared with the input of six committees, the City Bar critiques this proposed process as “an after-the-fact solution that is too cumbersome and distant from the time of the grand jury presentation to be of real value.” Since the independent monitor would take into consideration both the witnesses and evidence chosen by the prosecutor to present to the grand jury as well as the prosecutor’s report, it is “likely that the independent monitor’s report will be little more than a justification for the actions taken by the prosecutor,” the report states. “This is particularly so because the independent monitor can recommend a special prosecutor only where ‘substantial error’ creates a ‘reasonable probability’ of an indictment such that the presumption of regularity afforded to such proceedings can no longer apply, or if the independent monitor uncovers newly discovered evidence ‘of such magnitude that there exists a reasonable probability that had such evidence been presented’ an indictment would have resulted.”

Furthermore, according to the report, “A two-step process such as that contemplated by Section 1 also creates concerns about the due process rights of police defendants because they would be subject to a system of review separate and apart from every other defendant.”

While the City Bar’s committees did not have a consensus as to whether a special prosecutor is necessarily the best way to proceed in cases where unarmed civilians are killed in encounters with police, there was agreement that further study of the possibility is warranted because it may provide an important reform without overhauling the entire grand jury system.

Provisions of the proposal which allow a DA to create a grand jury report or issue a public letter also raise some concerns as drafted: “For instance, the legislation suggests that the DA’s explanatory letter explain ‘the basis of the grand jury’s decision to dismiss the indictment.’ This does not accurately reflect the grand jury process: grand juries determine whether there is probable cause to charge a person with a crime by indictment; grand juries do not possess the authority to dismiss indictments. More significantly, as the law currently stands, neither prosecutors nor anyone else has the right or the authority to learn why grand jurors or a grand jury declined to vote to indict, making this part of the proposed legislation impractical. Additionally, by calling these DA reports ‘grand jury reports,’ the possibility of public misunderstanding may be enhanced, since such reports would come not from the grand jurors themselves but from the very DA whose motives will be at issue and therefore still subject to public skepticism.”

In addition, creating any carve-out in the grand jury process for police officers is a significant public
policy change worth deeper consideration, because, according to the report, “While some would argue that issuing a grand jury report in these cases would assist the public in understanding the evidence (or lack thereof), others are concerned that this kind of legislation would ultimately prejudice police defendants, who deserve the same treatment and due process protections as other defendants.”

The report can be read here:


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The New York City Bar Association supports raising the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18, as proposed in the 2015-2016 New York State Executive Budget.

The Proposal is based on a report produced by the Commission—comprised of law enforcement, advocates and service providers—appointed by Governor Cuomo to make recommendations on how New York could raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction and make other reforms to improve youth outcomes while increasing community safety.

A City Bar report collaborated on by eight committees notes, “The Commission Report and the Proposal represent a comprehensive approach to reforming the youth justice system. The recommendations came from a thorough study of best practices in New York and across the nation, including the lessons learned from jurisdictions that have successfully raised the age in recent years. The City Bar applauds the work of the Commission and supports the Proposal. We urge its passage this session.”

The Proposal would raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction to 18 years old, consistent with national norms. Family Court would have original jurisdiction over most youth who were arrested; using current numbers, this would shift approximately 86% of the 16- and 17-year-olds cases to Family Court. However, Criminal Court would retain jurisdiction over youth charged with serious-offense crimes and offense charged under the Vehicle and Traffic Law. Youths retained in adult court would also have additional protections and receive age-appropriate treatment.

The City Bar has previously expressed support for raising the age of criminal responsibility.

Citing research supporting the view that adolescent brains do not develop full decision-making capacity until into the mid-20’s, the report notes, “we grounded our support in the following overarching concepts: that raising the age will reduce recidivism; that adult jails are dangerous for youth; that alternatives to incarceration are a more effective and cost-efficient way to reduce youth recidivism than detention and incarceration; that youth charged as adults face an array of collateral consequences that prevent them from moving forward with their lives; and that raising the age will help to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in our criminal justice system.”

The Proposal also would create a new Youth Part in the superior court of every county to hear the cases of 16- and 17-year-olds who remain in Criminal Court. Youth Part judges would receive specialized training in adolescent development and research-based recidivism prevention, and would have expanded discretion to remove cases to Family Court, or retain cases in the Youth Part but apply all of the provisions and protections of the Family Court Act. The Department of Probation will conduct a risk and needs assessment of all youth who are not detained, and provide referrals to appropriate evidence-based services.

The Proposal would also ensure that no youth under the age of 18 are detained in adult jails, regardless of whether they are in Family or Criminal Court. Additionally, consistent with research showing that when low-risk youth are more deeply involved in the justice system they are more likely to reoffend, the legislation contains several provisions to increase diversion from courts and from detention and placement.

As a first step toward incorporating this understanding into the justice system, notes the report, the Proposal expands the eligibility for a youthful offender adjudication—which replaces convictions and makes the court records confidential—to youth under age 21. The Proposal also provides that the court records for all youth who are eligible for a youthful offender adjudication (except those charged with sex offenses) will be confidential while the case is pending and that the proceedings can be held confidentially upon request. The State has also committed to bearing the costs associated with raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction.

As the report concludes, “the City Bar believes the reasons for raising the age for the crimes identified in the Proposal are equally applicable to all crimes. We hope that after the Proposal is fully implemented and demonstrating success, the Legislature will see fit to amend the law so that it includes all crimes.”

The report may be read here:


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