Judges, lawyers honored at Black History Month reception

The Westchester Black Bar Association will honor the lead attorney in the historic Brown v. Board of Education case tonight at Yvonne’s House of Soul Restaurant in Mount Vernon.

Robert L. Carter, (pictured, right) who died January 3 at 94 years old, was lead counsel in the historic desegregation case and a leader in the campaign against Jim Crow Laws across the country. He later became senior  judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Others being honored at the reception will be Chief Administrative Judge Ann Pfau; Seymour W. James, Jr., a top attorney at the Legal Aid Society in New York City and the incoming president of the New York State Bar Association; attorney Theodore M. Shaw, the former president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund; attorney Barry A. Cozier, a former associate appellate judge; Deputy Chief Administrative Judge Fern A. Fisher, a former deputy director of Harlem Legal Services; and attorney Theodore V. Wells,  who the National Law Journal named as one of “The Decade’s Most Influential Lawyers” in 2010.

Tickets for tonight’s reception are available at http://wbbablackhistory.eventbrite.com

Bar Associations demand action in overcrowded family courts

In July, I wrote a story about overcrowding and other problems in the family courts in Yonkers and New Rochelle. A state report criticized the buildings as “among the worst in the state” for family courts and cited insufficient space, lack of parking, security problems and accessibility violations among the problems.

County and court officials at the time said they would address the situation. Four months later, nothing has changed.

Today, the Westchester County Bar Association issued a joint statement with other legal groups calling for action to fix the “severe disrepair”‘ in those facilities. Here is the full, unedited statement:

“Local Bar Associations representing the majority of practicing lawyers in Westchester have come together to call attention to the deplorable conditions that exist in the Family Court facilities in Yonkers (and New Rochelle) and call for appropriate action to correct these conditions.”

“Donald Sandford, President of the WCBA, describes the current state of the facility:  ‘There is insufficient space for the most basic needs, conference space for litigants and their attorneys, storage space for court files, work space for court personnel, etc.  These problems have now been exacerbated by the fact that persons having business before the court are denied access because the facilities are so grossly overcrowded.'”

“The Law Guardian Association, the New Rochelle Bar Association,  the Yonkers Bar Association, the Westchester Black Bar Association,  the Westchester Women’s Bar Association join with the Westchester County Bar Association in calling for action. As leaders of the legal community, the combined organizations believe that it is their duty to speak out against the disgraceful conditions in order to assist those seeking access to justice. They agree that activism on the part of local bar associations is the best way to call attentions to the problem and bring about a solution to the conditions in the satellite family courts.”

It’s Pro Bono Day!

Today is Pro Bono Day in Westchester County, a day where lawyers are encouraged to waive their fees and fight for impoverished clients. In recognition of the American Bar Association’s first ever National Pro Bono Week, Pace University Law School in White Plains is hosting a day’s worth of programs and activities for attorneys who want to take on the challenge of pro bono work.

Later tonight, state Supreme Court Justice Francis A. Nicolai will be among those to receive the “Partners In Justice Award” during a reception starting at 5:30 p.m. Nicolai, the presiding judge of the Appellate Term for the Ninth and Tenth Judicial Districts, will be honored alongside attorneys Barbara Lerman, Julie Cvek, Robert Byrne, Dawn Arnold and the law firm of McCarthy Fingar LLP in the Omni Room of the Judicial Institute.

Sponsors include Pace Law School Center for Career Development, Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, The Westchester County Pro Bono Committee, Westchester County Bar Association, Westchester Women’s Bar Association, Westchester Black Bar Association, Brandeis Bar Association, Columbian Bar Association, and bar associations in White Plains, New Rochelle and Yonkers.