President’s Message – 2017 Spring Edition
Dear Colleagues in Law:
I write this final post of my Presidential term with the utmost confidence that my successor President-Elect Allyn Crawford will continue to move our Bar Association forward in a positive manner and will successfully meet any and all challenges that may arise.
During my tenure, I have tried to emphasize the fact that we are a BAR Association and that we should highlight the attorneys, both individually and as a whole, at every opportunity that arises. In that regard, I would like to highlight several of our members who deserve our recognition.
Members of the Grievance Committee - Claire Cody Miller and Victor Carasaniti are the long-standing co-chairs of the committee of which Richard Corash serves as Chairman Emeritus. Along with the twelve other committee members, this group works tirelessly to fully investigate the truth of all alleged claims made against the attorneys of Richmond County. Their work is performed with the utmost discreetness and professionalism and all practitioners in our county owe them a debt of gratitude.
William J. Frew, Jr. – Bill’s recognition is overdue as he retired awhile ago from his long tenure as Chair of the Judiciary Committee. Under his stewardship, the reputation of this important committee was elevated throughout the City of New York as was the reputation of our association as a whole.
Harold J. Siegel – Harold was also an important member of and contributor to the Judiciary Committee for more years than I can personally remember. The association is grateful for all of the time that he volunteered to ensure that our county was served by the best judicial candidates.
Paul F. Scano – Paul served as Chair of the Lawyers Assistance Committee for a countless number of years, serving as the liaison for those among us who needed a helping hand. This is truly a calling and our Association was fortunate to have had such a steady and caring hand to reach out to.
Ronald Castorina, Jr. – Ron served this Association loyally as a Director and Chair of several committees. In April 2016, while serving his latest term, he was elected to the New York State Assembly in a special election. He is the first Director of the RCBA to be elected to public office. As his new position brings with it increased time constraints and responsibilities, Kathleen Garrigan has been appointed to complete his term. However, Ron remains a valued advisor to the Board, a respected ambassador for our Association and is recognized on our letterhead for his achievement.
As you can see, our Association is blessed to have individuals like those recognized above. By no means is this a closed list as the Association continues each day to be the recipient of wonderful work, contributions and advice by so many of our members. All on a volunteer basis and the majority without any public recognition. On behalf of the Association, I sincerely thank you all.
On February 27th, the Board hosted President Clare Gutenkast of the New York State Bar Association and her President-Elect Sharon Stern Gerstman. We were joined by our invited guests, our Past Presidents and our local judiciary. To have the State Bar President, a group of 75,000 members, take time out of her very busy schedule to visit our local bar association for a discussion is a direct result of the work of our Association representatives at the state bar level. They have raised our profile tremendously on a state wide level and our Association is better for it.
Our Night of Nostalgia was held on March 9th at the Staaten. For the first time, the event was opened up to the entire membership and it resulted in a large, and quite lively, turnout. Receiving “surprise” honors that night were Lannie Fastman, long time event organizer Joseph O’Shea and Past President James Dollard. I encourage all members to attend this truly enjoyable evening of laughs. And if you were unable to attend, I encourage you to go to our website to view one of the mini-videos created, directed and produced by Director Anthony Mascolo.
We have held two sessions to date as we make progress toward completion of the first photo member compilation since 2004. We have heard the concerns of some members who were unable to attend the first two and will do our best to accommodate those who haven’t been photographed to date with a more convenient time and place.
Thank you for the opportunity in allowing me to serve as your President this past year. It has been an honor to not only lead this membership, but simply to be associated with the Officers and Directors who have served with me. Their job performance, professionalism and proficiency made my job that much easier. In other words, they made me look good at every event and I’ll be forever grateful.
Law Office of Christopher Caputo, P.C.
1860 Clove Road
Staten Island, N.Y. 10304
Ph: (718) 420-0750
Fx: (718) 420-0780
***SAVE THE DATES*** -
GENERAL MEETING WITH ELECTIONS: TUESDAY MAY 2nd
ANNUAL DINNER WITH INSTALLATION: WEDNESDAY MAY 24th
President’s Message – 2016-17 Winter Edition
Dear Colleagues in Law:
As the old saying goes, time flies when you’re having fun. It is already six months into my term with only six more months left. And what a term it has been already. Since my last message, we have held several Association events which were, in a word, outstanding!
The Tennis and Golf Outing (you’re welcome Judge Gigante) was held on October 6th at the Richmond County Country Club and once again proved to be a huge success. In what I believe was a record number of tennis players, 45 persons took to the courts on a day where the skies were sunny and temperature was in the 60’s. If you weren’t there to experience it first hand, check out SILive and see the photos that were published from that day. Not to be outdone, 72 golfers took to the manicured course to enjoy the beautiful day and the wonderful camaraderie. With over 130 people reconvening for dinner later that evening, it was truly a wonderful event. Many thanks go out to all of the men and women who served on the respective committees and who worked so hard to ensure our success.
On November 11th, we held a CLE at the Bellagio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. We had over 30 people attend the four credit seminar and over 55 people in total at our dinner later that evening held at Carmines Restaurant in Caesars Palace. I wish I could tell you more about the trip but you know that old saying………………….. I will say that our trip did receive some publicity as the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, a paper distributed for free in Supreme Court Kings County, did a feature story along with some photos. I encourage you all to check out the papers archives online to see it.
Our annual Holiday Party was held on December 14th at Above, located at the Hilton Garden Inn. Once again, through the hard work of our party committee, the generosity of our sponsors and, in particular, the leadership of our President-Elect Allyn Crawford, we proudly hosted approximately 350 people for an evening of dining, dancing, laughs and holiday cheer. Thank you to all of the Court employees who attended in allowing us show you a small measure of how grateful and appreciative we are for the work each of you do each day.
In upcoming news, under the suggestion of President-Elect Crawford, we have undertaken the task of creating a composite photo of the entire membership as well as our Judiciary. The last composite photo was done in 2004 and, if memory serves me correctly, it was only accomplished through the Herculean efforts of our Editor, Hon. Matthew Sciarrino, Jr., the then principal court attorney for Hon. Joseph J. Maltese at the Homeport Annex. This time around, we have hired a photographer and will be setting up a schedule with convenient locations for our members to be photographed. I look forward to completing this project and contributing to the legacy of our past membership photographic compilations.
Finally, it is now 2017 and you have probably received your dues notice. Our membership ranks continue to increase and I urge you all to not only renew but to also get involved. Let this year be the year that you decide to share your considerable talents with our membership. Our office is always open to those members who have something to contribute. And the RCBA Lawyer Referral Service is a wonderful way to allow us to help you. For only $25 a year, you will not only be helping serve the legal needs of the community but you will have access to a service that receives approximately 200 or more calls a year from prospective clients spanning all of the various legal concentrations. Don’t hesitate and sign up now when you remit your dues!
On behalf of myself, our Executive Director Elisa Lefkowitz and the Officers and Directors, I wish you all a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous 2017.
Law Office of Christopher Caputo, P.C.
1860 Clove Road
Staten Island, N.Y. 10304
Ph: (718) 420-0750
Fx: (718) 420-0780
***SAVE THE DATE*** - ANNUAL DINNER: WEDNESDAY MAY 24th
Dear Colleagues in Law:
It is my distinct pleasure to serve as the 63rd President of the Richmond County Bar Association. I assume this leadership position with excitement and energy, ready to continue the proud tradition started by our Association’s first President Eugene L. Richards in 1909 and carried so capably forward by our immediate Past President Daniel C. Marotta. I am very happy to report that as we transition from our 107th year of existence into our 108th year, the state of the Association is extremely strong thanks in no small part to Past President Marotta’s able stewardship. We are on sound financial footing, we have solid numbers in membership which continue to grow and we are blessed with a talented Board of Directors and Executive Board. All of these individuals give generously of their time to ensure that the needs of the attorneys in Richmond Coun Our Continuing Legal Education (CLE) program, un-ersation
I am honored to serve as the 62nd president of the Richmond County Bar Association. In addition to the delayed opening of the new courthouse, we have many challenges that face our great organization. I pledge to serve as your advocate for the next year to take whatever steps that I can to protect lawyers, safeguard our members, and build upon the some 100 years of tradition
that we enjoy here at RCBA. I can assure you that I have no reservations whatsoever in asking hard questions and addressing difficult issues, whether they are in Albany, on Beaver Street or here in our backyard. We will continue to monitor proposed insurance regulation 208 and other coming changes in the real estate industry, always wary of how lawyers may be adversely affected, and what we can do to protect against imprudent incursions on our profession. We will also continue to monitor the implementation of the Uniform Bar Exam, and the New York online course portion. New York has long been the gold standard for attorney competency, and we have a responsibility to ensure that our profession is not cheapened in any way. The unauthorized practice of law has been rampant throughout this borough as well as throughout the City and State of New York. As a Bar Association, and as a profession, we need to step up and do more to protect lawyers and to protect the public. Board member Ron Castorina has agreed to accept the responsibility of this challenge, and will chair our Committee on the Unauthorized Practice of Law. Ron needs committee members who are in tune with this serious issue, and able to take action on our behalf. If you have reports of paralegals, process servers or others preparing legal documents, appearing in court or otherwise performing legal services, I beg you to contact Ron or myself immediately with any particulars that you can gather. We promise to act upon them swiftly and severely. I’ve also asked another board member, Orin Cohen, to revitalize our Membership Benefits Committee. Orin has agreed to do what he can to secure and solidify the panoply of benefits that you as members currently enjoy, and expand upon opportunities and partnerships with hotels, restaurants, car rentals, insurance and software producers that other bar associations enjoy. We also ask that if you or another attorney member are interested in participating, that you contact Orin or myself immediately. Our Annual Golf [and Tennis] Outing is scheduled for October 1, 2015at the RCCC. Please mark your calendars and plan to take the day to enjoy the surprises we have planned for this premier event. Also, I ask that you take a moment to visit the new and improved website at www.thercba.com which has a tremendous amount of resources attached to it as well as a listing of upcoming events. Being a lawyer is no easy calling, especially while we linger in a less than dynamic economic climate. Technology demands that we change how we run our offices and conduct our everyday business. This Bar Association will band together with others, to push to make sure that the integrity of our profession is preserved, respected and nurtured. In the interim, I hope you enjoy the summer months, and please do not hesitate to contact me with any issue that you may have, to talk, or to just offer to lend a hand.
Daniel C. Marotta, Esq.
G A B O R & M A R O T T A LLC l
1878 VICTORY BOULEVARD l STATEN ISLAND, NY 10314
12 WEST 21st STREET - 5th FLOOR l NEW YORK, NY 10010
TEL: (212) 349-1200
As I sit here writing my 4th and final President’s Message, I want to convey that it has truly been an honor and privilege to serve this Association as your 61st President.
On March 2nd, the Board of Directors, RCBA delegates to the New York State Bar Association, the Past Presidents of our Association and the Judiciary of Richmond County had the pleasure of dining with Glenn Lau-Kee, Esq., President of the NYSBA, which has become an annual event. This event gives our Association the opportunity to discuss important and pressing issues with the NYSBA President in an informal setting that affect our livelihoods as attorneys. At this year’s dinner, we were able to discuss the amendment to the mandatory pro bono reporting requirements, as well as the proposed adoption of the Uniform Bar Examination by NYS, which has been opposed by our Board of Directors. It was also suggested to Glenn Lau-Kee, Esq. that maybe he can push for an 18-b panel to handle consumer credit cases in the Civil Court, since a majority of the litigants in those cases appear Pro Se; an idea he took quite an interest in.
I wish to advise our Members of some upcoming dates and events:
Mid-April – as I write this message, I have been advised that the new Courthouse should be opening (hopefully) in mid-April;
May 7th – Law Day will be celebrated in Judge McMahon’s Courtroom, and this year’s theme is “Magna Carta: Symbol of Freedom Under Law?” All are encouraged to attend and participate;
May 7th – our Annual Dinner will be held at the Hilton Hotel. This year’s Honoree is the Honorable Joseph J. Maltese. The recipient of the Richard D. Lasher Meritorious Service Award will be Claire Cody Miller, Esq. Please come out and support our Honorees;
June 2nd – our Annual Meeting and Elections to be held at the Staaten. There are 5 positions open for the position of Director, as well as the office of Treasurer. As I stated in my 1st Message, our Association is only as powerful as the dedication and efforts of our members. As such, I encourage all of you to become involved and active in our Association. Not only will you find it to be rewarding, but you may develop friendships that will last a lifetime, as I have found.
On behalf of all of our members, I want to express our deepest thoughts, prayers and condolences to the family of Judge Robert Collini, who passed away at an early age in March. Judge Collini, a respected jurist and advocate, will be truly missed by all, including our Staten Island legal community and family.
Christopher J. Fitzpatrick, Esq.
Greetings!!! First, I would like to wish all of our members a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year in 2015.
In recent developments, we have been advised by Glenn Lau-Kee, Esq., President of the New York State Bar Association, that the Office of Court Administration issued a statement on December 18, 2014. Said statement reads, in pertinent part, as follows:
Today the Administrative Board of the Courts unanimously approved modifications to the mandatory pro bono reporting framework in New York, consistent with the recommendations of Chief Administrative Judge A. Gail Prudenti and NYS Bar Association President Glenn Lau-Kee that were an outgrowth of their recent discussions on the subject.
The earlier rule that had taken effect in May, 2013 required attorneys to report their pro bono hours and charitable donations to legal service organizations when completing their biennial registration forms.
However, the Administrative Board of the Courts adopted a resolution to amend the earlier rule as follows:
· Attorneys are still required to report their pro bono hours and charitable donations, but will do so on an anonymous basis;
· Such information will be made available to the public on an aggregate basis only;
· The Courts will broaden pro bono and public service categories on the reporting form;
· All reported pro bono information submitted prior to the resolution change will be designated as strictly confidential.
The above changes were recommended by the House of Delegates of the NYS Bar Association at its November, 2014 meeting.
The Board of Directors of the RCBA will be meeting with Glenn Lau-Kee, Esq. this coming February, and will have ample opportunity to discuss these changes in greater detail.
Lastly, as most of you already know, Justice Leonard P. Rienzi recently retired in December. On behalf of the RCBA, we would like to thank Judge Rienzi for his years of dedicated service to the Staten Island legal community. We wish him nothing but happiness in his retirement years.
Christopher J. Fitzpatrick, Esq.
The Annual summer meeting of the New York State Bar Association was held this past June in Cooperstown, New York. The hot topic before the Association’s legislative body, the House of Delegates, centered around the mandatory pro bono reporting requirements.
As previously reported to you, the courts have enacted Section 118.1(e)(14) of the Rules of the Chief Administrator of the Courts, which requires lawyers to state under oath in their biennial registration form the number of hours spent providing voluntary legal services to poor and underserved clients, as well as the amount of voluntary financial contributions made to organizations primarily or substantially engaged in providing legal services to the poor and underserved. This rule was enacted without any input or suggestions from the NYSBA, or any of the county bar associations for that matter.
At the June meeting, a prior resolution of the NYSBA Executive Committee was again brought before the House of Delegates for further debate, and a potential vote. Said resolution states, in relevant part, as follows: “that the Association reiterates and reaffirms its opposition to mandatory reporting of pro bono services and mandatory reporting of financial contributions to organizations engaged in providing legal services to the poor and underserved and shall continue to express its opposition to such mandatory reporting, and shall pursue such other and further actions as may be appropriate for the purpose of achieving the repeal of Rule 118.1(e)(14) of the Rules of the Chief Administrator.”
After further discussion and debate, the vote on the resolution was ultimately postponed until the November 1, 2014 meeting at the urging and request of NYSBA President Glenn Lau-Kee, who informed the delegates that he was engaged in on-going discussions and/or negotiations with Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman and Chief Administrative Judge A. Gail Prudenti, in an attempt to resolve the parties’ impasse on this very sensitive subject matter.
As previously stated, we, as lawyers, truly understand the serious unmet needs of the indigent, and give of ourselves voluntarily on a regular basis, in some form or another. However, our desire to provide volunteer services should not be subject to the pressures of mandatory reporting requirements.
I intend to keep you all informed of any further developments concerning this issue as I become privy to same.
Christopher J. Fitzpatrick
It is truly an honor and privilege to have become the next President of the Richmond County Bar Association.
I have been practicing law for 19+ years, and of those years, I have served this Association, either as a Director or Officer, for the past eleven years. I am now entering my 12th year as your President.
I am a member of the law firm of Jacobi, Sieghardt, Bousanti, Piazza & Fitzpatrick, P.C., having started in the firm as an associate in June, 1999. My now partners taught me that our Association is only as powerful as the dedication and efforts of its members, as well as the value of this Association to our role as practicing attorneys.
As President of this Association, I have some big shoes to fill, not only in following our immediate Past President, Thomas Hall, but the Past Presidents that came directly out of my law firm; namely, Sidney Jacobi and Clelia D’Alessandro, the founders of my firm, Judge Pasquale BiFulco, Mordecai J. Jacobi, George A. Sieghardt, Mark Piazza, and Grace Mattei, who became President after she had left the firm to open her own practice, but who worked for the firm of “Jacobi, Sieghardt” as an associate for a number of years.
For those of you that don’t know, the Mission Statement of our Association reads as follows: “The Richmond County Bar Association is dedicated to advancing its members’ professional development, promoting the highest standards of excellence in the practice of law and facilitating access to legal services for the Richmond County community.” It is an Association that was founded by attorneys for promoting the interests and development of attorneys. As such, I am here to work for you, our members. As President, I have no intention of reinventing the proverbial wheel, but instead simply want to keep our Association pointed in the right direction.
My goals for the coming year are simple. First, I will continue to work closely with the NYSBA in opposing the mandatory reporting requirements being imposed by the Office of Court Administration, requiring attorneys to report pro bono services and financial contributions to organizations engaged in providing legal services to the poor and underserved. Instead, I believe it is necessary to explore other alternatives and options. As lawyers, we understand the serious unmet needs of the indigent, and we give of ourselves voluntarily on a regular basis. However, our desire to give volunteer services should not be subject to the pressures of coercive reporting requirements.
Second, I will continue to look to expand the efforts of our Volunteer Lawyers Project, that is spearheaded by our very own Sheila McGinn. This Project assists qualified homeowners in defending foreclosure actions, and helps many of these individuals procure loan modifications, enabling them to remain in their homes.
Third, I will seek to involve all of our members, both young and old, in our various committees, activities and Bar functions. I want all of our members involved, and I want everyone in our Association to have a voice.
Next, I look forward to working with the Judiciary to ensure a smooth transition into the new Richmond County Courthouse, which is slated to open sometime in September. As with every new venture or beginning, there are always growing pains and kinks that need to be ironed out. At that time, if you, our members, have any comments or concerns, I want to hear them, so that we can properly address them with the Judiciary.
Finally, with the assistance of the other Officers, as well as our capable Board of Directors, we are ready to tackle any new issues that are expected to arise in the coming year.
I would like to thank Thomas Hall, our immediate Past President, for his hard work and dedication this past year. You are a true professional in every sense of the word, and you always had the best interests of our members in mind during your Presidency.
Finally, I look forward to working for you, our members, and look forward to working with the Judiciary to accomplish all of our intended goals.
I find it hard to believe that this is already my fourth President’s message that I have written for the RCBA Journal. This means that my time as President is speeding by quickly and will be over before I know it. It continues to be an interesting and fun ride!
Our Board has been busy with a number of activities. As we have done over the past few years, in January the Richmond County Bar Association sponsored a reception with the President of the New York State Bar Association, David Schraver and the President Elect, Glenn Lau-Kee. We have found these annual receptions to be quite beneficial on the State Bar level as it gives our Board, and our Delegates to the State Bar, greater visibility and access to key decision makers in the State Bar when addressing issues of concern to our members. This year we were also honored to have in attendance the President of the American Bar Association, James Silkenat. Having an ABA President at an RCBA function was truly a “first”. I am quite grateful that Jim Silkenat took the time from his busy schedule to meet with us.
Also in January, Judge McMahon held her annual outreach program in which local high school students experience, first hand, the devastating effects that drunk driving and substance abuse have on both the criminals and the innocent victims. Among other things, the students got to sit in on arraignments before Judge Rienzi where they saw how substance abuse irrevocably destroys numerous lives.
We are busy working on our Law Day celebration which will take place on May 1st in Judge McMahon’s Courtroom. This year’s theme is “American Democracy and the Rule of Law: Why Every Vote Counts.” All are welcome and encouraged to participate.
We are also busy planning our Annual Dinner, which will be held on May 8th at the Staten Island Hilton. This year’s Honoree is the Hon. Barbara I. Panepinto. We will also be recognizing Pete Sipp with the Richard D. Lasher Meritorious Service Award.
Finally, this is also the time of year when the RCBA is planning its annual meeting where we have elections for Officers and Directors. I strongly encourage all interested and qualified attorneys to run for office. This is YOUR Bar Association - I urge you all to be active and make a positive impact on the practice of law in our community. If you are not ready to run for an elected position, join a committee, volunteer to help out at an event or find another way to get involved. I think that you will find that when you get involved in the Bar Association, you get much more out of it than you put into it.
The New Year is upon us and I hope that 2014 is a happy, healthy and fulfilling year for each and every one of our members. One thing I would like to see in the New Year is for the mandatory pro bono reporting requirements to be eliminated in their entirety. As most of you are probably aware (although I have, at times, been surprised to find out how many are not), as part of the biennial attorney registration, you must now report two things regarding your pro bono activities to OCA: (a) the number of voluntary unpaid pro bono hours you have performed and (b) the dollar amount of voluntary financial contributions you made to organizations primarily or substantially engaged in the provision of legal services to the underserved and to the poor.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not against lawyers voluntarily performing pro bono work or donating money to organizations that provide legal services. In fact, lawyers have a long and honorable tradition of doing such things voluntarily. Indeed our Rules of Professional Conduct contain an aspirational goal of providing pro bono legal services to the needy. However, the mandatory pro bono reporting requirements are just wrong on a number of levels.
First, there is no denying that the mandatory reporting requirements are coercive. Once the hours and financial contributions are reported on the biennial registration form, they become available for the public and the media to obtain and publicize or use as they see fit. This certainly makes “voluntary” pro bono not so voluntary any more. Will attorneys seeking political office or judgeships feel compelled to perform more pro bono hours and make more financial donations to legal service organizations so that they will look like “better” candidates? If so, haven’t we, to some degree, crossed the line from “voluntary” to “mandatory”?
Second, in my view, the reporting of financial contributions is an invasion of privacy and certainly none of OCA’s business. Whether an attorney chooses to contribute to his or her church, synagogue, law school, college or a charitable organization the provides legal services is, quite frankly, nobody’s business. Moreover if an attorney cannot make such contributions in a particular year because of personal reasons (e.g having a sick child, three kids in college or just not making enough money to get by) why should this "failure" to make charitable contributions be reported to OCA and potentially published to the world? How does the amount of financial contributions have any bearing on an attorney’s fitness or competence to practice law?
Third, this focus on reporting pro bono activities ignores and therefore minimizes the numerous other things that lawyers do without compensation that benefit society and the administration of justice. For example, many lawyers donate their time to serve on boards of charitable organizations, perform bar association activities, act as arbitrators in small claims court and engage in many similar charitable and civic activities which do not qualify as pro bono.
Finally, one has to wonder why these new rules were passed without any notice to any organized bar, including the New York State Bar Association, and therefore there was no opportunity to comment on the rules before they were imposed on attorneys.
Turning to another topic, the end of 2013 also marked the retirement of the Hon John A. Fusco from a long and distinguished career on the Bench. He will be sorely missed. After many years as a private practitioner, he has ably served Staten Island in many positions including as member of the City Council, Surrogate and Supreme Court Justice. His tireless work ethic, professional demeanor and desire to simply do what is right and just in all cases that have come before him provide a great example for all of us. He leaves some big shoes to fill. I wish him many happy and healthy years in his “retirement.” However, not surprisingly, Judge Fusco will continue to serve the citizens of Staten Island in his new position as Counsel to the Boro President. The judicial system’s loss will certainly be the Boro President’s gain.