REMARKS OF CAROL SIGMOND
INCOMING PRESIDENT, NEW YORK COUNTY LAWYERS’ ASSOCIATION
AT CELEBRATE PRO BONO AWARD CEREMONY
Home of Law
14 Vesey Street
New York, New York
October 23, 2014
On behalf of the New York County Lawyers’ Association, as its President-Elect, I would like to welcome you to the Home of Law. Tonight as we honor dedicated volunteers for their pro bono service, we reflect on the importance of volunteering and why volunteers are more critical today than ever before. As the law and legal process have become embedded in American culture in the name of anti-fraud concerns and other regulatory interests, access to benefits and asserting rights has become difficult for those without lawyers. In the absence of a societal commitment to providing counsel to those who need it in administrative and other types of civil proceedings, particularly with the government, lawyers have been volunteering their time to fill the need. These volunteers are all acting out of a sense of decency and selflessness to help those in need. That is what lawyers do, we do what we believe is right. And because we want do a quality job, we provide mentors and training to our volunteers, without them, these programs would not be possible. NYCLA has been providing pro bono opportunities to its members for more than 20 years, helping connect members to volunteer opportunities and fuel this commitment.
With the support of dedicated volunteer attorneys, mentors and trainers, NYCLA’s pro bono projects provided assistance to approximately 1,700 individuals this past year. We are proud of the outstanding work done by all the attorneys volunteering in our pro bono projects. We realize our success would not be possible without them and we extend our gratitude. We are confident that with your continued support NYCLA will change even more lives in the years to come.
Tonight we honor 10 NYCLA members who have gone above and beyond to make the difference in the lives of New Yorkers. These volunteers served the public through six programs developed by NYCLA to provide free legal services to those in need.
We honor Aaron J. Feinstein and Timothy J. DeCicco. Aaron and Timothy have been volunteering with the Legal Counseling Project for several years providing advice, support and comfort to hundreds of clients. This program gives the public the opportunity to meet one-on-one with an attorney to discuss their legal problems and explore options and solutions. And it provides counseling to individuals in the areas of family, employment and landlord/tenant law.
Timothy is a graduate of St. John’s University School of Law. Focusing mainly in the area of Family Law, he started his own practice in 2011. Besides volunteering at NYCLA, he also volunteers at the Uncontested Divorce Clinic and Family Court in Queens.
Aaron is currently the Deputy Director of Labor Relations at the New York City Department of Environmental Protection. In that capacity he advises Agency management concerning its obligations under the various collective bargaining agreements that apply to DEP employees and under the New York City Collective Bargaining Law.
We honor Cynthia Watkins and Halle M. Jones for their volunteer efforts with Manhattan CLARO Project. This program addresses the needs of unrepresented debtors who are being sued by their creditors, by providing pro se litigants the opportunity to meet with an attorney to discuss their case and obtain limited legal advice on how to best represent themselves. Cynthia is a solo practitioner in Manhattan, specializing primarily in matrimonial law and real estate. She was formerly Of Counsel at Flemming Zulack Williamson Zauderer for many years, practicing commercial litigation, real estate and matrimonial matters. Halle has been volunteering with Manhattan CLARO since 2012.
We honor Olivia Cuggy for Project Restore. Project Restore provides pro bono representation to individuals who have been denied security guard licenses by the Department of State and who are challenging the denial. Olivia is an attorney with the New York City Commission on Human Rights.
We honor Regina Y. Won and Jake Spilman, Jr. for the NYCLA program, the State Central Registry Project. The State Central Registry Project provides counsel and representation to individuals who seek to amend, seal or expunge indicated reports from the New York State Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment.
Two law firms, Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler and White and Case played a significant role in the success of the project and we acknowledge and thank them for their interest and contributions to the program and NYCLA.
Regina is an associate in Patterson Belknap’s Litigation department and a former Law Clerk to the Honorable Ann Claire Williams of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Jake is currently an associate at White & Case and works primarily on IP transactions, sourcing and privacy-related matters.
We honor Peter A. Lowey for the NYCLA Tax Court Project. This project provides legal assistance to those unrepresented pro se petitioners at calendar call in both small tax cases and regular tax cases. Peter is a nationally-recognized tax controversy practitioner and Member of Caplin & Drysdale. Before joining the firm, Peter handled U.S. federal and state controversies for two of the world’s largest corporations, Exxon Mobil Corporation and Royal Dutch Shell, with worldwide management responsibilities for Shell’s tax litigation matters.
Finally but not least, we honor Ben Rossen and Joshua F. Naylor for their work on one of our newest programs—the Veterans Discharge Upgrade Project. The Veteran Discharge Upgrade project provides legal assistance to qualified veterans seeking to upgrade the characterization of their military discharge.
We acknowledge and thank Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe and Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler who, jointly, have been a driving force behind this NYCLA pilot project.
Ben is a Litigation associate at Patterson Belknap with experience in all aspects of complex commercial litigation. He represents and assists clients in a broad variety of matters in state and federal courts, including antitrust, securities, consumer class actions, false advertising, white collar and food and drug law. He is a former Law Clerk to the Honorable Carol Bagley Amon of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
Joshua is an associate in the Employment Group at Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe. Before coming to Orrick, Josh spent 18 months in Afghanistan as in-house counsel for a U.S. Intelligence Community contractor. He lived with, and worked alongside, members of the U.S. military, seeing up close the challenges they face and the sacrifices they make.