REMARKS OF LEWIS TESSER PRESIDENT, NEW YORK COUNTY LAWYERS’ ASSOCIATION AT LUNCHEON HONORING FEDERAL COURTS IN NEW YORK CITY
New York Law School
November 3, 2014
Thank you Dean Crowell, Vince, Carolyn, and Judge McKay. I am honored to say a few words about the New York County Lawyers’ Association and to introduce Judge Reena Raggi.
NYCLA is THE open and inclusive bar, founded in 1908 as the first major bar association in the country to admit all attorneys as members without regard to their background. NYCLA’s founding principle was to be opposed to “selective membership” of any kind. It has been written that the term “civil rights,” as understood in recent decades, was invented at the Association. NYCLA’s President George Z. Medalie, who also had been US Attorney for the SDNY and was soon to be elected to the New York Court of Appeals, created the Committee on Civil Rights in 1938, a body that played an important role in shaping anti-discrimination legislation in New York.
In the 1940s, NYCLA’s President William Dean Embree, noting that an African American NYCLA member, Judge James S. Watson’s application for admission in the ABA had not been acted on for many years, coordinated a successful effort to reform the ABA’s offensive policy. Thurgood Marshall used our library when he arrived in New York, reportedly calling it the only place he felt comfortable doing research.
Over the years, NYCLA’s leadership has striven to be true to our DNA.
NYCLA has spearheaded efforts regarding access to justice, relieving congestion on court dockets, unifying the civil and criminal court system, promoting just compensation and merit selection for judges, improving the quality of defense afforded to indigent defendants, and the quality of treatment of children in the justice system. Many of our leaders in this regard are here today, including Past Presidents Barbara Moses, Stewart Aaron, Bob Haig, Jim Kobak, Roz Fink, Steve Hoffman, and Michael Miller. I would also like to welcome former NYSBA President Steve Younger.
We are living in an era of political polarization–the difficulty of problem solving from the poles is that solutions are looked at as mutually exclusive. This year we will hold a conference, in collaboration with the Bar of Washington, DC, to emphasize the role of the rule of law as a stabilizing force—looking at how the law balances such problems as our needs of privacy and security—that we all have both needs can get lost in the heat of the debate.
I am a former Assistant US Attorney from the Eastern District who served under Dave Trager–it is my special honor to introduce Judge Reena Raggi, who was an assistant from 1979 to 1986, including assignments as Chief of the Narcotics Division and Chief of the Special Prosecutions Division. Honors at Wellsley, honors at Harvard Law School, law clerk to Judge Thomas E. Fairchild of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, in private practice at Cahill Gordon and Windels, Marx, Acting United States Attorney, District Court Judge, Judge on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals.
One would think that someone with such a resume would be flawless, but I must say something—about your handwriting—none of us here can read it. None of us can read your handwriting without admiring both the handwriting and what you use it to convey.