Pro Bono Barrister: Justice Schack backs Ragamuffin Parade

October 1, 2012 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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BRLA’s Gold Gavel tradition started with 1985 London Inn visit

The Bay Ridge Lawyers Association, the most influential neighborhood bar association in the city, held its traditional “Passing of the Gavel” ceremony Wednesday night as the group, led by President Pat Russo gathered for its first meeting of the season at a new venue: Hunter’s Steak and Ale House at 94th Street and Fourth Avenue.

For most of its 60 years, the BRLA has observed this tradition wherein a gold gavel is passed from the earliest elected president successively down the line of former presidents all the way to newly installed President Russo.

According to Judiciary Chair Ray Ferrier, a past president who presided over the collegial ceremony, the gavel passing started shortly after late President Harry G. English visited London for the ABA Convention. (So did I, Judge Martin Schneier and others–photos to follow soon in an upcoming PBB.)

Dr. English took our Brooklyn contingent to a meeting of one of the actually ancient Inns of Court where we witnessed a mock English trial in one of the most hallowed Inn halls in London. It was that night which inspired him to meet later back in the United States with Chief Justice Warren Berger with the goal of starting similar Inns in this country.

Along with the new leader, other BRLA officers inducted that night by Justice Vincent M. Del Giudice included Vice President Joann Monaco, Secretary Lisa M. Becker, Treasurer Grace Borrino and Corresponding Secretary Stephen Spinelli. Immediate Past President is Helen Z. Galette.

Receiving special honors was longstanding member Carl Tavolacci, a former president — 1971 to 1972 — who is observing his 100th birthday. A very articulate barrister, who was admitted to practice in 1936, Carl regaled the lawyers with a tale of representing a confused party who finally had to admit in open court that what he did was “just plain stupid!” It worked!

Members of the Board of Directors are Hon. Elizabeth Bonina, Stephen Chiaino, Thomas Tafuri, Joseph Vasile, William S. Gillen, Rosa Pannitto and Mary Ann Stathopoulos. Honorary director is Vincent E. Caccese – who served as president from 1973 to 1974.

The BRLA was the first in Kings County to implement a Continuing Legal Education Program under then-President John Bonina Jr. in partnership with an earlier president, Tom Tafuri. A number of its presidents have also served as presidents of the Brooklyn Bar Association, among them Larry DiGiovanna, Andrea Bonina and Rose Ann C. Branda.

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Kings Inn of Court to meet Oct.2

Kings Inns of Court Masters Steve Goolnick and Marc Longo will be headlining the CLE-accredited panel when the organization, led by President Marc Dittenhoefer, gathers at Brooklyn Bar Headquarters on Oct. 2 to probe “The Death of Privacy.”

The Inn session starts promptly at 6 p.m. at Brooklyn Bar Headquarters, 123 Remsen St. and, advised Inn Administrator Marie Lattanzi, dinner will follow at the Queen Restaurant on Court St. Reservations are in order, so members should contact her at [email protected].

Historical note: The Kings Inn was founded 12 years ago by Justice Marsha Steinhardt with then Justices Abraham Gerges, Gerard Rosenberg and former Justice Ed Rappaport.

According to “The Bencher,” this Inn, as well as others across the nation, received its impetus from the aforementioned 1985 ABA convention and visits of many American lawyers to English Inns. (A photo of the late Dr. Harry English meeting with Chief Justice Berger and others appeared in “The Bencher,” the official publication of the American Inns of Court, and PBB is trying to obtain that photo for presentation here in the near future.)

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Justice Kurtz seeks input on October 24 Civil Forum

When the next meeting of the Kings County Supreme Court Goldberg/Aronin Civil Forum gets underway, its chair – Justice Donald Scott Kurtz — is counting on starting out with questions submitted beforehand.

The Forum reviews all procedures in the courthouse ranging from calendar issues to changes in motion parts. It has been a valuable communications tool for jurists, barristers and court personnel since it was started by then Chief Administrative Judge Mike Pesce.

In his invitation to forum participants, Justice Kurtz noted that “If you have any matter that you wish to be placed on the agenda, please feel free to contact me.” His chambers’ phone is (347) 401-9047.

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Jurists, Barristers back Ragamuffin Parade cause

Many members of the Kings Legal Community have given their strong civic backing to the unique, colorful Ragamuffin parade tradition which got underway in Bay Ridge back in 1967 and, through the years, has now inspired a score or more copycat Ragamuffin Parades across the nation.

On hand for the Ragamuffin Luncheon was Kings Supreme Court Justice Arthur Schack with wife Dilia; Acting Supreme Court Justice Matthew D’Emic with wife Rosemary; and  attorney Bob Howe (a leader of the Kings GOP), as well as many Conservative Party leaders including Kings County Chair Gerry Kassar and District Leader Fran Vella Marrone.

The parade, now under the leadership of President Colleen Golden – wife of GOP Sen. Marty Golden — and Arlene Keating, came off without a hitch down Third Avenue on Saturday awarding prizes to the thousand of so ragamuffins (kids dressed in their favorite costumes) and more than 10,000 spectators.

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Founder Scanlon promised parade ‘free of politics’

Ragamuffin was launched 46 years ago by the late neighborhood leader Cliff Scanlon with Fr. George McKenna of Our Lady of Angels Church. Co-founder Scanlon and his committee set up well-defined guidelines that have kept the parade free of politics and undue commercialism. (“It’s as close to a pure community event as you can get,” another charter member confided). He also reminded this writer of the parade year in the 1980s when Congressman Hugh Carey – then a candidate for governor – was asked politely but firmly to leave the line of march! )

Dilia Schack, a former Ragamuffin president (who also serves as a Democratic district leader in the 46th A.D.), was the speaker who noted that “Ragamuffin has spread across the United States. People who were kids in Bay Ridge and took part in Ragamuffin back in the ’60s and ’70s have taken the Ragamuffin spirit to their new hometowns and recreated it in many places for the benefit of their children!”  She spoke to more than 200 community leaders who attended the luncheon honoring Man of the Year John Abi Habib and Parade Grand Marshall Arlene Figaro.

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HeartShare’s Bill Guarinello keeps military ‘covenant’

“If you want to get something done, give the job to a busy guy (or woman)” goes the time-honored saying, which probably explains why one of Brooklyn’s top executives is also one of the borough’s most outstanding volunteers.

We refer, of course, to Bill Guarinello, who heads the large and very successful HeartShare Human Services, a non-profit care and learning organization that has aided over 25,000 New Yorkers.

Brooklyn Heartshare has thrived under Guarinello’s leadership the past several years. (He’s been with HeartShare for 40 years!) During that period, CEO Guarinello has done more than his share, employing his executive skills by directing a number of valuable volunteer endeavors. For example, he has provided a steady hand at the helm of Community Board 11, based in Bensonhurst.

Many such local boards spend a lot of time debating, studying esoteric issues and passing along to committees the thornier, more complex challenges. That’s not Guarinello’s style. “He gets stuff done,” said a source, “His ideas are sound and he respects the opinions of others without losing sight of his goals” An example of a vital volunteer project that has benefited from his skills is the Fort Hamilton Citizens Action Committee.

The FhCac was formed to recognize the special relationship between the community and the 160-year-old military installation that sits astride a scenic bluff overlooking The Narrows near the Verrazano Bridge.

Fort Hamilton, the last of its kind in New York City, was threatened with closure in the 1990s due to Pentagon cutbacks. (Occupying 180 acres of prime real estate, many developers had long argued that the space would be better utilized for high-rise condominiums.)

These threats from the Pentagon stirred a powerful outcry from local leaders in Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst.

Republican and Democratic officials such as former Congress members — from Susan Molinari to Vito Fossella – marched with hundreds of citizens to save Fort Hamilton.

Then, the 9/11 terror attacks reminded all – even the Pentagon —  of the importance of Fort Hamilton to the city and the East Coast. After that there, has been a laser-like focus on the preservation and strengthening of Fort Hamilton.

The Fort Hamilton Citizens Action Committee became the best possible vehicle for continually highlighting the vital role the fort plays here.
Citizen Guarinello, for years, has been its leader, helping to create a binding and visible covenant between residents and the military.

There is now place an actual written agreement that is renewed annually at the “Army Community Covenant Signing.”

Credit for this very needed relationship goes to Chair Guarinello, leading members such as Gene Brody and Tom Edwards and the entire FHCAC.

Lending strong bipartisan support have been R-C. Sen. Marty Golden, Dem. Assemblyman Peter Abbate, R-C. Cong. Michael Grimm, Dem.Assemblyman Alex Brook Krasny and Dem. Councilman Vinnie Gentile.

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PRO BONO BARRISTER is a weekly column dedicated to telling about the good that lawyers do. Send your comments or suggestions to this writer care of this newspaper or to [email protected].

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