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Brooklyn Law School Italian American Student Association students honor Chief Judge DiFiore

December 9, 2016 By Rob Abruzzese, Legal Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Chief Judge Janet DiFiore (center) was honored at Brooklyn Law School by the Italian American Law Students Association last week. Also pictured are BLS Dean Nicholas Allard and his wife Marla Allard. Photos courtesy of Brooklyn Law School
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The Italian American Law Students Association (IALSA) at Brooklyn Law School (BLS) hosted its 2016 holiday gala in Downtown Brooklyn last Friday where it honored Janet DiFiore, chief judge of the Court of Appeals and New York state, as well as seven other top Italian-American jurists.

“We saw the Columbian Lawyers honoring Chief Judge DiFiore on the cover of the Brooklyn Eagle and I immediately took a picture of the cover, sent it to my executive board and said that this was the person who we needed to honor,” said Joseph Caldarera, president of the IALSA. “It took us four or five weeks to get the right connections, but we were so thrilled when she told us that she would come.”

In addition to the chief judge, IALSA also honored seven other Italian-American attorneys, including Hon. Barbara I. Panepinto, Staten Island Assemblymember Ron Castorina Jr., Hon. Catherine M. DiDomenico, Deputy Clerk of the Appellate Division Second Department Maria Fasulo, Appellate Justice. Angela M. Mazzarelli, Chief Clerk of the 13th Division Michael Pulizotto and Elena T. Sanfilippo, a BLS grad from 1936.

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“Bravo to members of our IALSA, led by its President Joseph Caldarera and an outstanding executive board,” said BLS Dean Nicholas Allard. “[The IALSA] exemplifies in outstanding fashion how our students excel both inside and outside the classroom and contribute to the profession and our community even before they graduate. Their pride in their heritage is inspiring to us all.”

Caldarera spoke at the event about how many Italians came to America with very little belongings and zero political power, but many of them and their kin were able to achieve great things through hard work. After Dean Allard introduced the chief judge, she spoke about her own path, her own ancestors and how they never would have imagined that she would rise to chief judge.

“She’s an incredibly remarkable woman,” Caldarera said. “When she took the podium, she said that her parents would have never have imagined that she would be chief judge. I think that she and Italian-Americans show that anything is possible in this country if you are willing to work for it.”

As impressive as meeting the chief judge was, everyone was equally impressed to meet 102-year-old alumni Elena T. Sanfilippo.

“I think she got the biggest applause,” Caldarera said of Sanfilippo. “She graduated from law school before World War II. It was inspirational to see her with all of these young law school students who were congratulating her, welcoming her home. I don’t think she thought that at 102 she would be coming back to her alma mater.”

Of the other six honorees — Caldarera said that he and the executive board wanted a diverse group of Italian-American attorneys who were at the top of their fields.

“We started with a list of about 45 names of people who we really wanted to honor and we were extremely happy to have settled on this group,” Caldarera said. “It’s a diverse group who have all given back to the legal profession and who have made great contributions as Italian-Americans.”

ABOVE from left: Larry Gallina, Giancarlo Vecchiarelli, Vice President Michael Conte, Jenna Canciglia, Andrea Smithson, Francesca Adamo, Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, Gabriella Conte, Valerie Casali, President Joe Caldarera, Salvatore Daniele, Christina Dellaporte and Dean Nicholas Allard. 

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