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Brooklyn Bar Association members pack Marriott to honor leading figures in Kings legal community

Chuck Otey's Pro Bono Barrister

December 16, 2014 By Charles F. Otey, Esq. Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Rebecca Woodland. Eagle file photo by Mario Belluomo
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One of the year’s biggest events, the annual dinner of the Brooklyn Bar Association (BBA) Foundation featured lawyers, judges and honored guests at the fashionable Brooklyn Marriott Ballroom this past Monday, Dec. 8.

President Rebecca Woodland and President-Elect Arthur Aidala welcomed a distinguished panel of honorees and other guests when the dinner got underway at 7 p.m., following a 90-minute cocktail party.

Perhaps echoing the in-control style of his grandfather — the unforgettable Madison Square Garden referee Artie Aidala, whose name was a household word in the 1940s and ’50s, when professional boxing was in its heyday — the president-elect emphasized from the outset that he would go to any legitimate ends to secure order and quiet so that every word of the distinguished speakers would be conveyed to each and every one of the 968 persons in attendance.

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During the 75 minutes full of speeches — some, such as the witty delivery of Supreme Court Justice George Silver, eliciting roads of laughter from the assemblage — only one table of barristers (you know who you are!) started to make a little noise, but they were stared into silence by those at adjoining tables.

“Not since the days of the late Jim Mangano [powerful court clerk and Democratic leader], or Justice Anthony Cutrona [he was the guiding force of the Columbian Lawyers Association of Brooklyn], have I seen a house of lawyers and politicians so quiet and under control,” said a veteran wag at our table.

Among the 2014 Annual Award recipients were: Hon. Jenny Rivera, associate judge of the New York State Court of Appeals; Hon. Randall T. Eng, presiding justice, Appellate Division, Second Department; Hon. George Silver, New York County Supreme Court; and Past President Andrea Bonina, whose stellar service as BBA head took place during the 2010-2011 term.

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President Woodland Singled Out Leading Legal Luminaries

President Rebecca Woodland was articulate, gracious and charming in her presentation, wherein she recognized many of the legal stars in attendance. (Justice Eng covered a lot of territory in this regard with his staff and others and did it in fine style!)

We know that Eagle Legal Editor Charisma L. Troiano will have stories and photos galore from this unique event, but we have to add credit to the other BBA officers, who include First Vice President Frank Seddio (the most relaxed Kings County Democratic leader in recent memory), Second Vice President Aimee Richter, Secretary David Chidekel (known for his illustrative courtroom skits at the Kings Inn of Court, of which he now serves as president), Treasurer Hon. Frank Carone and the irreplaceable Avery Eli Okin, whose tenure at 123 Remsen St. parallels the superb growth of the BBA over the past 20 years.

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Most Often Asked Question: How Is Justice Levine Doing?

For many years, then-Kings County Justice Joseph Levine aided this writer and others at the Eagle by providing excellent photos (we didn’t call them “images” then) covering the courts, as well as the Respect For the Law Alliance trips to Cuba, the Cayman Islands, Portugal and more.

Since he was also the preeminent medical malpractice trial justice in the city during his term, he remains a popular figure at these events, even though he hasn’t attended one since his retirement four years ago.

Though now retired and living in Long Boat Key, Fla. (where he’ll be visited by retired Justice Gerard Rosenberg and Harriet in January), he is still the topic of conversation at  Brooklyn bar events, at which this writer is regularly asked, “How’s Justice Levine?” My usual answer: “He’s fine; he and fiancée Mary Zuckerbraun have a delightful place (and a fabulous dog named Bosco) and they love it in Western Florida.”

For the record (and because he’s a regular PBB reader) I’ll list just a few of those inquiring about him at the BBA dinner: Administrative Justice Lawrence Knipel, Justice Donald Scott Kurtz, Justice Arthur Schack, retired Judge Joe Slavin, Appellate Division Justice Reinaldo Rivera, Appellate Term Justice Michael Pesce, Justice Mark Partnow, Justice Bruce Balter, Justice Rosenberg, of course (he’s renting a place in Long Boat Key, actually), Brooklyn’s leading volunteer lawyer Steve Cohn (who once served as then-Judge Levine’s law secretary) with son Warren, former Justice Edward Rappaport, all the Boninas — Beth, Andrea and John — Eagle Publisher Dozier Hasty, Tom Moore and Judy Livingston (the noted med-mal trial team), Steve Harkavy, John Lonuzzi, Marc Held, Mario Belluomo (the court officer) and Greg Cerchione.

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Bay Ridge Lawyers Association Set for Dec. 16 Holiday Party

Lending their traditional support to the evening were members of the Bay Ridge Lawyers Association (BRLA), led by President Lisa Becker. The BRLA is the largest and most successful neighborhood bar association in the city. In addition, the organization was the first in Brooklyn to apply for and qualify for CLE accreditation, thanks to the leadership of John Bonina Jr. and Tom Tafuri.

Among those BRLA members enjoying the BBA gala were Lawrence DiGiovanna (a past BBA president), Steve Chiaino, Frank Strafaci, Hon. Danny Lodato (former Supreme Court justice), Bart Verdirame, Rose Ann C. Branda, Mark Caruso, Grace Borrino, Bob Howe, Sam Hagan, Rosa Pannitto, Frank Lamonica, Aileen Fox (with husband Ed), Dominic Famulari, Helen Galette, Anthony Lamberti, Susan Ianelli and Margherita Racanelli.

Serving as “dean” of the Bay Ridge delegation, as usual, at the Brooklyn Marriott was Ray Ferrier, a past president who has served as chair of the Judiciary Committee for more than 20 years. As such, he reminded all of the upcoming BRLA Holiday Judiciary Night, set for the evening of Dec. 16 at the Bay Ridge Manor on 76th Street in Bay Ridge.

Party Chair Andrea Caruso advises that all those attending should bring an unwrapped toy to aid the BRLA’s “Toys for Tots” effort to benefit the children of the enlisted personnel at the Fort Hamilton Army Base.



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