Mamaroneck lawyer to be honored

The Legal Services of the Hudson Valley will honor attorney Jon A. Dorf at the 2012 Equal Access to Justice Dinner on Wednesday, May 23. The ceremony starts at 6 p.m. at the VIP Country Club in New Rochelle.

Dorf (pictured, right) is the Founder and Managing Partner of Dorf & Nelson LLP in Rye.

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman will be the guest speaker at the fundraising dinner.

Legal Services of the Hudson Valley handles urgent matters such as domestic violence, foreclosures, predatory lending, children’s advocacy and access to food and medical benefits for poor and newly unemployed New Yorkers in Westchester and surrounding counties.

For tickets and information, go to www.LSHV.org or call 914-355-4806.

Photo courtesy of LSHV

White Plains lawyer to testify at hearing on Family Court challenges

Mary Grace Ferone, a managing attorney at the Legal Services of the Hudson Valley in White Plains, will be among the speakers this Thursday at a New York State Bar Association hearing about how New York’s Family Court system impacts children and families.

The hearings, held around the state, were convened to address the rising workloads in the family courts during the past decade, particularly child custody, visitation and child support cases.

“The growing burden placed on our Family Court system is having a direct impact on our most vulnerable population — our children,” said State Bar President Vincent E. Doyle III. “With these hearings, we are collecting information from a variety of experts that we hope will lead to improved conditions for children and the courts.”

The latest hearing will take place at the Nassau County Bar Association in Mineola. The task force previously held hearings in Albany and New York City. The final hearing is scheduled for March 29 in Buffalo.

Among those expected to testify on Thursday are family court judges and others affiliated with the courts, local bar associations, legal service groups and organizations that serve children, families and battered women.

The 35-member Task Force on Family Court, created in 2010, will issue a preliminary report in June and a final report in November. That report will be presented to the state chief administrative judge and others for consideration.

According to the state Office of Court Administration, family courts handled 720,850 court filings in 2010, compared to 683,390 in 2001. In New York City, the caseload was 246,266 in 2010, up from 226,544 in 2001. Despite rising caseloads — including a record 742,365 statewide in 2009 — only four new Family Court judgeships have been created statewide since 1999 and none in New York City since 1991.

Non-profit law firm gets $65K grant, new finance director

Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, the White Plains-based agency that offers free legal advice in civil cases to low-income residents, now has an extra $65,000 to help unemployed people who are struggling.

The Westchester Community Foundation recently gave the agency a $65,000 grant to pay an attorney to handle public benefits cases and related housing matters from the White Plains office. According to the agency, the lawyer will help clients get or keep unemployment insurance and healthcare benefits, as well as other income and benefits, so they can stay in their homes and care for their family.

“We are so grateful for their shared commitment to our mission of improving the lives of the underserved in Westchester,” LSHV Executive Director Barbara Finkelstein said in a statement. “Together our two organizations are making positive and real changes in the lives of county residents. The current economic downturn makes our work more important than ever.”

Making sure the money is used properly will be Carol Ann Malinowski’s job. She has been named LSHV’s new director of finance and administration and will oversee the agency’s $8.5 million budget, as well as its 67-member staff.

Malinowski has more than 20 years of finance, strategic planning, and management experience with non-profit and corporate organizations, according to LSHV. She has been a senior financial advisor to McQuilling Services in Garden City, N.Y.; vice president of finance and investment manager for Northern Navigation International in Stamford, Conn. and vice president of finance services for the Girl Scouts. She also has worked for The Breast Treatment Task Force of NYC and the Cancer Support Community of Branford, Connecticut.

LSHV gets longtime Rocklander as new board member

A partner in a White Plains law firm who lived in Rockland County for nearly 40 years is the newest member of the Legal Services of the Hudson Valley’s board of directors.

Phillip C. Landrigan, (left) of McCarthy Fingar has worked as a pro bono attorney with LSHV, which represents low-income clients in civil cases such as mortgage foreclosures, evictions, domestic violence, healthcare, disability and public benefits.

In a statement, Landrigan said he has been impressed by the quality and specialized skills of LSHV staff and attorneys.

“As a trial lawyer for over 25 years, I have seen the injustices of a system in which outcomes are often the result of the parties’ ability to pay,” he said. “I look forward to working with the Board to increase the public’s awareness of the Legal Services of the Hudson Valley’s mission and to assure its dedicated staff has the resources to make the ideal of ‘justice for all’ a reality.”

Landrigan was born in Morristown, N.J., and lived in Rockland County before moving to Warwick, in Orange County, with his wife, Suzanne, and their five children. He has an undergraduate degree in economics from NYU’s College of Business and Public Administration, now the Stern School of Business, and a law degree from the University of Southern California. He joined McCarthy Fingar in 2006 and concentrates on business dispute resolution and litigation.

He is a past President of Big Brothers/Big Sister of Rockland and a current member of the President’s Council of St. Thomas Aquinas College in Sparkill.

Fundraiser to help disabled, abused kids

The Legal Services of the Hudson Valley is inviting the public to a cocktail reception Thursday evening to raise money for at-risk kids.

The fundraiser will help to “provide free legal support to low-income disabled children, child victims of domestic violence, and children whose families are facing homelessness due to unlawful foreclosures.”

The event will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Mamaroneck Beach and Yacht Club, where LSHV will honor James R. Marsh, a White Plains-based attorney who founded the Children’s Law Center in Washington D.C. and is a nationally-recognized children’s advocate.

All proceeds will benefit the Legal Services of the Hudson Valley Children’s Advocacy Fund. To reserve a $150 ticket for the event, or to contribute to the fund, call 914-949-1305, ext. 119. For more information, go to www.lshv.org.

Irvington woman joins state task force on poverty law

We’re back after a brief break with more news from local courts and the legal community in the Lower Hudson Valley ….

Barbara Finkelstein, head of the White Plains-based group Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, will join a statewide task force to expand legal services to low-income New Yorkers in civil cases such as foreclosures, food stamps, unemployment benefits, orders of protection, child support and other civil cases. Finkelstein, an Irvington resident, has been spearheading such efforts for the past 15 years in Westchester and six other counties north of New York City.

According to a news release, Finkelstein will work with judges, law firm partners, union officials, heads of legal services groups and managers of corporate legal departments to raise money for struggling New Yorkers so they can get legal assistance at a time when the demand for such help is on the rise and government funding is dropping.

For more information, go to www.lshv.org.

Family Justice Center opens in White Plains

Starting today, victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking in Westchester County will have a centralized place to get legal advice, counseling, shelter, child care and other services — all for free.

The county’s Office for Women opened its highly-touted Family Justice Center this afternoon in the “low-rise” building in the Westchester County Courthouse. With a $1 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women, the justice center replaces the intake unit in Family Court with a “one-stop shop” for victims’ needs. By merging such services under one roof, victims no longer will have to bounce from agency to agency repeating their story of abuse.

The family justice center will have victim advocates — including those who are bilingual — who specialize in stalking, elder abuse, disabled victims and immigration. The Pace Women’s Justice Center, Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, Empire Justice Center, My Sisters’ Place, Hope’s Door, Victims Assistance Services and the Department of Social Services will have staff on-site, along with volunteers from the Interfaith Caring Community of Greenburgh.

District Attorney Janet DiFiore said putting these services under one roof — a concept she has championed since 2006 — will make it easier for victims afraid to report abuse. She said the center will help prosecutors “protect victims and give them the support, services and guidance necessary to assist them in the criminal justice process.”

The center will be open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Victims will be seen by appointment only and should call 914-995-3100 to make an appointment.  Eventually the center will take walk-ins. Retired Ossining town police chief Kenneth Donato is the center’s director.

Photo: Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, left, and U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Family Justice Center. Photo courtesy of the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office.