Steeped in history and tradition, Columbian Lawyers Association installs new regime
‘A dream come true,’ attorney Bruno Codispoti says upon ascending to the presidency
By Trevor Stokes
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
MILL BASIN — The Columbian Lawyers Association of Brooklyn ushered in its new president Friday at its annual installation dinner dance at El Caribe in Mill Basin, Brooklyn, and honored its outgoing president.
Founded in 1955, the Columbian Lawyers Association (CLA), named after the famed explorer, originally encompassed lawyers, jurists and legal students within the Italian-American community. As immigrants assimilated, so did the group, to include the larger legal community and to become a fraternal and business organization with over 350 members currently in the Brooklyn chapter.
In 2011, the Columbian Lawyers Association of Brooklyn hosted eight continuing legal education seminars, including a five-credits course in Atlantic City, according to Dominic J. Famulari, a lawyer at the Law Offices of John D. Famulari in Bay Ridge and outgoing CLA president.
“We have great participation by the past presidents of the organization, and we’ve attracted a lot of new members,” said Famulari, who has been a member since 1997 and is a third-generation Italian-American. “To have all the events that we have takes a lot of hard work and diligence.”
Events also include helping organize the Red Mass in October at The Cathedral Basilica of St. James in Downtown Brooklyn, the Columbus Day Parade, Judges’ Night in December to honor Italian-Americans on the bench and the dinner dance in June.
“We drew record attendance at all these events,” Famulari said. “Not because of me, because of the organization in charge.”
Hon. Frank J. Pino, the former presiding justice of the Appellate Term, founded the Brooklyn chapter in 1966. Kings County Supreme Court Justice Anthony J. Cutrona has been there from the very start. Hon. Cutrona is the CLA’s voluntary executive director and has become a cornerstone of the association.
“He is the heart and soul of the organization,” outgoing president Famulari said of Cutrona.
The Brooklyn chapter originally met in Justice Pino’s chambers before moving the meetings to classrooms at the old St. John’s University law school in Downtown Brooklyn.
What started with around 40 members has grown to include around 350 members, according to Cutrona.
“We’re doing something right, it’s working beautifully and I hope to keep it that way. It’s the place to be.” Cutrona said. “I will continue to do it as long as I can stand.”
Monthly meetings typically attract a dozen judges, at least 15 past presidents and about a half-dozen students to one of Brooklyn’s largest bar associations.
In 2009, the association voted to open up membership to include anyone admitted to the New York State Bar who remains in good standing, so long as they appreciate and support the culture, tradition and heritage of Italian ancestry, according to Bruno F. Codispoti, a first-generation Italian-American who was installed as CLA president on Friday.
“When the need arises for me to support our organization and prevent the discrimination against those of Italian descent or ancestry and to prevent discrimination of all nationalities, ethnicities, races and creed, I will be there and I will be ready,” Codispoti said.
Codispoti’s father was a barber who cut the hair of lawyers and judges for decades, working on Court Street and at the Allegria Salon inside the Marriott hotel on Adams Street.
“I have been thinking about a night like tonight ever since I was a little boy sweeping the hairs off the floor of my father’s barbershop,” Codispoti told the estimated 350 audience members Friday. “It is an absolute dream come true to be president of this organization.”