President Sheila S. Boston’s 2022 Bar of Hope Committee Awards

President Sheila S. Boston

Bar of Hope Presidential Awards

At the City Bar’s Annual Meeting on May 17, outgoing President Sheila S. Boston announced the winners of the 2022 Bar of Hope Committee Awards for outstanding work by City Bar committees. Following are the three honorees and the five Honorable Mentions, along with President Boston’s remarks:

Judiciary Committee

Chaired by Tracee Davis, the Judiciary Committee consists of an ethnically diverse membership of attorneys whose professional affiliations range from solo and large firm practices to academic and governmental agencies. The Committee is one of the hardest working at the City Bar, as they seek to ensure that candidates meet appropriate standards of professional competence and integrity and that candidates are qualified for the office sought. This past year, the Judiciary Committee reviewed over 150 candidates, including assisting the City Bar Board with its review of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination to the US Supreme Court. 

Mass Incarceration Task Force

Since issuing its comprehensive report offering multiple recommendations for a “pathway out of mass incarceration” last year, the Mass Incarceration Task Force – chaired by Sarah Berger and Jullian Harris-Calvin – has authored or signed on to 12 reports, focusing on topics such as addressing the humanitarian crisis at Rikers Island; offering reform recommendations to the new Mayor, Governor and Manhattan District Attorney; and opposing rollbacks to critical criminal justice reforms that were proposed in the budget. The Task Force recently hosted a panel discussion that explored what ending mass incarceration in New York could look like and how that conversation is not in tension with community safety. The program featured District Attorney Alvin Bragg, Senator Zellnor Myrie and Fordham Law School Professor John Pfaff. The Task Force, which includes liaisons from all of the criminal committees and works very closely with the Criminal Justice Operations Committee (Tess Cohen, Chair) and Corrections and Community Reentry Committee (Greg Morrill, Chair), has been a consistent and powerful force for change since it was created in 2015.

Mindfulness and Well-Being in Law Committee

As you know, one of my six pillars is mental health and well-being.  Lisa Podemski, Chair of the Mindfulness and Well-Being in Law Committee, is a powerhouse. Along with her amazing committee they have led the charge on lawyer self-care and renewal, offering weekly Yoga sessions and mindfulness breaks at a time when it was so desperately needed; offering programs in observance of Well-Being Week in Law and Mental Health Awareness Month (which is this month); hosting a monthly book club exploring books relating to mindfulness; authoring a Wellness Tool Kit, which is on the City Bar website, with resources to support our well-being; and working closely with the Lawyer Assistance Program and Executive Director Eileen Travis, to host programs on achievement addiction, substance use, sex addiction and more. 

Bar of Hope Presidential Award Honorable Mentions (5)

Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee

Our Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee (Phil Goldstein, Chair) plays an integral role in the City Bar, leading and pitching in on all issues pertaining to ADR, whether arbitration, mediation, negotiations, or use of neutrals. They participated in drafting several comment letters pertaining to the use of ADR in state courts, particularly as a beneficial tool during the pandemic, and they do all they can to promote a better understanding of, and legal careers in, ADR. Just by way of example, they have upcoming programs on adding mediation to your legal practice and understanding restorative justice. The ADR Committee works closely with the City Bar’s Legal Referral Service and has posted resources for the public that help introduce potential users of conflict resolution to ADR options. And, near and dear to my heart and very much in keeping with my DEI pillar, the Committee worked with the State Bar and many affinity bar groups to create what is a first in NY – an online Directory of Diverse Neutrals. This directory was created as a means to increase the visibility and selection of ADR professionals from historically underrepresented communities, and I know it took countless hours to complete, and I am so grateful.

Election Law Committee

What a year to be an election lawyer! Seems like every day we read something in the paper that pertains to this area of law, and it’s usually not good. Despite their incredibly demanding day jobs, the members of our Election Law Committee, so ably led by Katharine Loving, also managed to find time to contribute their expertise and passion to the City Bar. They worked with our Rule of Law Task Force (Steve Kass, Chair) to complete a comprehensive report, The Consent of the Governed, detailing threats to voting rights in this country and calling on all lawyers to get involved and respond, including by signing our Voting Rights Pledge (please sign if you haven’t already – it’s on our website home page!). The Committee also came together with lawyers from Texas to put on an election reform program, and they helped me complete a statement which I delivered to the ABA in support of Resolution 800 to protect and preserve the right to vote. And, they worked with our Government Ethics & State Affairs Committee (Ed Murray, Chair) to support a call for greater campaign finance oversight in NY – something we know we need just by reading the paper every day.

Environmental Law Committee

Like voting rights, the issue of climate change is in the news nearly every day, and it’s not good.  Our Environmental Law Committee (chaired by Margaret Barry and Bethany Davis Noll) is doing its part to engage lawyers in this vital issue, and I very much appreciate that they always do so through an environmental justice lens, prioritizing impacted communities. On a global level, the Committee has supported a United Nations General Assembly Resolution Recognizing the Right to a Healthy Environment. And they “act local” too – urging the City to improve claims processes for communities suffering from sewer damage and to do more to support composting, and supporting an amendment to the state constitution which added a right to clean water, clean air, and a healthful environment. In addition, their programming has been so instrumental and truly meets the moment we are in: I was honored to open one of their panel discussions, part of the committee’s Building Power in the Environmental Movement Series.  The series brought together a spectacular array of experts to discuss DEI issues in environmental law, BIPOC attorneys to discuss their careers in this area, and the importance of the equity provisions in NY’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. You can watch these programs via our website and I urge you to do so.

United Nations Committee

The UN Committee (chaired by Clayton Cheney and Catherine Van Kempan) has had an incredibly busy year, and they have been up to the task. I was so honored to be asked to speak at their Third Annual International Law Conference on the Status of Women, which was an incredible undertaking for the committee. Three panels of amazing and dedicated and powerful women from around the world came together – virtually – to discuss legal and policy issues confronting women. The conference drove home how the barriers and sometimes grave atrocities facing women – including women judges, such as those in Afghanistan – are global problems calling for global solutions. Most recently, and working collaboratively with other committees such as International Human Rights (Ramya Kudekallu, Chair), Council on International Affairs (Mark Meyer, Chair), and Foreign and Comparative Law (Richard Langan, Chair), the UN Committee issued several statements condemning the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine, and calling for an international response, both in terms of humanitarian assistance and accountability measures.

White Collar Crime Committee

The White Collar Crime Committee chaired by Marshall Miller has created one of the premier annual events at the City Bar, the White Collar Crime Institute. It is one of the biggest and most successful events of the year, attracting influential keynote speakers, leaders of the profession and a large number of generous sponsors. This year’s 10th Annual White Collar Crime Institute, was just last month in person at the City Bar and was a resounding success. Over 150 people attended the program with almost that many attending the Women in White Collar Crime Reception which is held the evening before to celebrate and encourage diversity in the practice area. And there’s more: the committee dedicated countless hours to drafting a proposal to amend and modernize Rule 17 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure (shout out to the Federal Courts Committee, chaired by Harry Sandick, for all of their collaborative efforts on that report).