Brooklyn Boro

Volunteer Lawyers Project honors Judge Stong, two Brooklyn attorneys

February 8, 2018 By Rob Abruzzese, Legal Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Brooklyn Bar Association’s Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP) recently honored three people including Hon. Elizabeth Stong during its annual Volunteer Recognition Event last Wednesday. Pictured are Hon. Elizabeth S. Stong (center) with Terri Letica (right) and Nick Letica (left), the people who helped to create the VLP in 1990. Eagle photos by Rob Abruzzese

In 2017, the Brooklyn Bar Association’s Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP) provided over 12,000 hours of free legal services, which is valued at over $3 million, and involved more than 7,000 cases helping 19,000 individuals and their families in legal matters.

In order for the VLP to provide so much free support to the people of Brooklyn and surrounding areas, the organization has had to rely heavily on support from its volunteer attorneys and staff. This is why its annual Volunteer Recognition Event, that was held last Wednesday at the TD Bank on Bergen Street in Park Slope, is the biggest event of the year.

“This is our way of saying thank you to our incredible volunteers and all that they do for our clients,” said Heidi Lee Henderson, executive director of the VLP. “We could not provide all of the free legal services to so many people without our volunteers, who are lawyers, paralegals, law students and others who give their compassion, time and expertise to our clients.”

Judge Elizabeth S. Stong, a judge in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of New York, and attorneys Tatyana Segal and Dustin Saldarriaga were the three honorees at this year’s Volunteer Recognition Event.

Judge Stong was presented with the Terri and Nick Letica Award, which is named after the husband-and-wife duo who started the VLP in 1990. When presenting her with the award, Terri Letica spoke about the lifelong commitment the judge has made towards pro bono work and her work within the community.

“About 10 years ago, to assist pro se litigants in bankruptcy court, Judge Stong started the pro bono ‘Lunch Bunch’ which brought together pro bono and public interest professionals to discuss access to justice in bankruptcy court,” Letica said. “Several times a year she holds the lunch, which often finds new and creative ways to improve the system.”

Segal, an attorney who was admitted to practice law in 2016, was presented with the Christopher Slattery Young Professional Award by James P. Slattery, the president of the VLP. The award was named after his son, a young attorney who died during 9/11.

“We created the Chris Slattery Young Attorneys Award. It is geared towards a young attorney who is admitted three years or less to the bar and has shown above and beyond the spirit of volunteerism, the desire to help others,” Slattery said.

In her acceptance speech, Segal talked about the impact 9/11 had on her as she watched the towers collapse from her office window. She also talked about the importance of powerful women in the legal community and cited Justices Genine Edwards and Robin Sheares among many other examples of modern-day positive examples for women.

Saldarriaga was given the Liz Padilla Excellence in Public Service Award by Padilla’s parents. Before introducing David and Kathy Padilla, Sidney Cherubin, director of legal services, talked about the impact Liz had on him and the VLP.

“She was always seeking opportunities to give back to the community, especially to those who need a helping hand,” Cherubin said of Liz Padilla. “This award goes to an attorney who has demonstrated a commitment to public service throughout their career. It seeks to recognize an attorney who is attuned to the changing legal climate and has gone above and beyond by responding to the most pressing legal needs of the community.”

The VLP also gave a special thanks to volunteer Mira Kolker.

“Mira has been volunteering with us for the past year. She comes in once a week and basically helps us in any way we demand of her,” said Sarah Burrows, pro bono manager.