Remarks of NYCLA President Vincent T. Chang at the NYCLA Annual Gala Honoring Newly Elected and Appointed State and Federal Judges, March 14, 2023

Remarks of NYCLA President Vincent T. Chang at the NYCLA Annual Gala Honoring Newly Elected and Appointed State and Federal Judges – March 14, 2023


Well, it’s great to have an annual gala again, our first since 2019, three long years ago.   And let’s give a round of applause to Bob and Sophia and our NYCLA staff for putting together this majestic event in this majestic space. Well, since our last gala in 2019, we’ve survived a cataclysmic public health crisis. Since 2019, we’ve seen war in Ukraine.

And since 2019 we now have to fight the scourge of Chat GPT, Chat GPT, which our detractors say will make lawyers like us obsolete.

For better or worse, I did not use Chat GPT in putting together this speech.

Mostly because I don’t know how to use it.

Well, we’ve survived a global health crisis.  And as they say in my ancestral homeland – that would be the great state of Iowa, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.   And I’m pleased to say that NYCLA is stronger than before.

Since 2019, we secured new space at 111 Broadway with new technology and a new website to meet the demands of a legal industry that is turning increasingly virtual.

Since 2019, we ramped up our pro bono capabilities to their strongest level in recent memory.

And since 2019, we took positions on many issues.

We were the only bar association in New York to file an Amicus Brief in the Bruen case in the Supreme Court on firearms and the Second Amendment.  Thanks to Jackie Wolf who is here today and the Manatt Phelps firm for their work on our behalf to help fight gun violence.

We also thank Cravath, also in the room today, which authored a supreme court amicus brief on behalf of NYCLA and others in the landmark Moore v. Harper voting rights case.

And last year we and other organizations sued and obtained injunctive relief to force the state of New York to increase the pay scale for 18b attorneys who provide assigned counsel legal services to the indigent.

We thank Kramer Levin and Michael Dell, here tonight, for their outstanding pro bono work on behalf of NYCLA and the 18b attorneys.  Thank you for your efforts to support access to justice for the indigent.

And the last time assigned counsel received a pay increase was 20 long years ago, also when NYCLA filed suit with Davis Polk, also here tonight, so ably handling that case.

Well, NYCLA has long been the bar association home of many judges including Charles Evans Hughes and Benjamin Cardozo.

And NYCLA has over the years fought long and hard for our judges.

We fought for years to achieve higher judicial pay — and higher judicial budgets.

We fought to defend judges who were unfairly attacked in the media.

We’ve unveiled a Special Masters Program to provide Special Masters to our courts.

And we have a new program to provide legal service for indigent litigants in the First Department.

And this year, we along with our friends in the Puerto Rican and Asian Bar Associations of New York – and AABANY is here tonight — stepped in to defend Second Department Presiding Justice Hector LaSalle, the Governor’s nominee for Chief Judge, against the unfair attacks and the unconstitutional process which was unfolding in Albany.   We at NYCLA urged a full senate vote and one was finally granted as required, required, by the State Constitution.

Although his nomination for Chief Judge is over, we salute Chief Judge LaSalle for his courage in the face of the unfair attacks that were waged on him and the attacks on the very process mandated by our Constitution.

So let me close by thanking my Officers and Board of Directors who are the most dedicated and talented group imaginable.  They’ve led NYCLA through a period when the very relevance, the very existence of bar associations has been questioned.   Detractors say that young people would rather be home wearing pajama pants on Zoom, maintaining vigilance against runaway talking cat filters, instead of meeting judges and attorneys in a grand setting like this.  Ladies and gentlemen, the energy in this room, the fellowship and goodwill in this room, prove that the detractors of events like this are wrong.

Thank you for joining us tonight!