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Catholic Lawyers Guild honors five during annual dinner

May 22, 2018 By Rob Abruzzese, Legal Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Catholic Lawyers Guild of Kings County honored five members of Brooklyn’s legal community, including Justice Wayne Saitta (second from right), during a ceremony on Thursday. Pictured from left: Gregory M. LaSpina, Gregory Cerchione, Hon. Wayne P. Saitta and President Dominic Famulari. Eagle photos by Mario Belluomo

The Catholic Lawyers Guild of Kings County honored five people including four judges during its annual dinner held at Gargiulo’s Restaurant in Coney Island on Thursday.

The guild stretches back to 1930s Brooklyn when a group of Catholic lawyers would meet regularly at St. Joseph’s College in Clinton Hill and then eventually St. Francis College.

Today, it holds a regular Red Mass each fall at the Cathedral Basilica of St. James, a regular Christmas event at Cafe Buon Gusto, a St. Patrick and St. Joseph event at Marco Polo and its annual dinner at Gargiulo’s. It also hosts other meetings for its more than 300 members throughout the year.

During the annual dinner it recognizes five that uphold the ideals of the organization. This year’s honorees included Hon. Reginald Boddie, Hon. Desmond Green, Hon. Wayne P. Saitta, Hon. Margarita Lopez Torres and Bartholomew M. Verdirame.

Past President Joseph Rosato presented Green with the Ecumenical Award and explained that the judge has been an exemplary public servant who is one of the most respected members of the bench.

“No one in life succeeds by themselves,” said Green, administrative judge of the Criminal and Civil terms in Staten Island. “There are always so many other factors and people involved.

I’m fortunate in being a part of the Brooklyn DA’s Office and the legal community in Brooklyn and Staten Island. If it wasn’t for the men and women who have given me advice, I would not have been able to succeed.”

Honoree Surrogate Margarita Lopez Torres (left) and Deanna Torres.

Gregory Cerchione introduced Boddie and presented him with the Hon. William T. Bellard Award. Cerchione recalled meeting Boddie inaugural Kings County Democratic County judicial screening. He remarked that throughout the years he’s always known Boddie for his commitment and being a “lawyer’s judge.”

“It’s very humbling to receive this award for something that I truly love doing,” said Boddie, a lifetime member of the guild who was elected to the NYS Supreme Court in 2017. “It’s also a pleasure to receive this award from such an esteemed organization whose work I truly admire. I happily share this award with all of the other justices of the Kings County Supreme Court, Civil Term because you work hard and make me look good. You rock.”

Gregory LaSpina gave Saitta the Distinguished Jurist Award, and referred to him as a scholar who graduated from Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and eventually NYU School of Law after receiving a pair of master’s degrees from Columbia and NYU.

“As the power of consolidated wealth increasingly impedes access to justice for ordinary people, I’d like to read you a quote from Pope Francis,” said Saitta. “He said, ‘Do we realize that something is wrong in a world where there are so many farmworkers without land, so many families without a home, so many laborers without rights, so many persons whose dignity is not respected?’”

Dominic Famulari, president of the Catholic Lawyers Guild, then gave the President’s Award to Hon. Margarita Lopez Torres, a judge in the Kings County Surrogate’s Court. Famulari explained that it’s the judge’s careful handling of such sensitive cases in that court as the reason for her being honored.

“The importance of the rule of law is a core principle of our society and I’m very concerned about people who are here, not documented and fear going into the courts,” Lopez Torres said. “They fear going to get things like orders of protection, they’re not resolving their criminal charges, they’re not going to Civil Court because they feel threatened to pursue their interests. Courts should be seen as sensitive places and they’re not.”

Finally, the event ended after Cerchione presented Bartholomew M. Verdirame with the St. Thomas More Award. He pointed out that nearly everyone in the room had met with Verdirame when he was executive director for the NYS Appellate Division, Second Department committee on character and fitness.

“When Dom told me I was the recipient of this award I was flabbergasted,” Verdirame said. “I was stunned and almost had tears in my eyes. To have this occur to you at this stage in my career, it’s possible that it’s the most important thing to ever happen to me in my professional life. It’s a great feeling.”

 From left: Hon. Nancy Sunshine, Carolyn Genovesi and Hemalee Patel.