Brooklyn Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project honors two attorneys during annual gala
The Brooklyn Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project held its annual gala at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on Tuesday, May 22, where it honored a pair of attorneys for their support of the pro bono community.
“We’re here tonight because we believe that everyone deserves equal access to the legal system,” said Heidi Lee Henderson, executive director of the project. “Brooklyn has the highest low-income population in the state with one out in four residents living in poverty. That’s one out of three of our children and half of our elderly living in poverty.
“At VLP, we help to close the justice gap by recruiting, training and mentoring volunteer attorneys ensuring that Brooklynites have equal access to justice and have a voice in the justice system,” Henderson continued.
The two honorees were Jeffrey B. Gewirtz, executive vice president and chief legal and compliance officer for Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment; and Jonathan Stoler, partner and global co-practice group leader for the labor and employment practice at Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP.
Four others were presented with the VLP’s Champion of Justice Award including Jenna E. Browning, of Paul Hastings LLP; Jason A. Georges, of Hogan Lovells US LLP; Daryl Leon, of Proskauer Rose LLP; and Lindsay Colvin Stone, of Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP.
Before the honorees were introduced, members of the VLP shared the story Margarita Berner, a woman in a custody and child support battle who turned to the VLP in her time of need. Attorney Joanne Reece explained that she helped to negotiate with Berner’s son’s father to reach a settlement on child support.
“My son’s father has never been around, but at least I wanted my son to have financial support,” Berner said. “I’m so grateful to the VLP for giving my son the justice he deserves.”
Gala Co-chairman Richard L. Brand introduced Jeffrey Gewirtz and called him one of the most experienced and well respected sports attorneys in the country. He explained that it is Gewirtz’s commitment to his charitable endeavors and his work with law school students as the reason for the honor.
“Nearly one in four residents in Brooklyn live in poverty, including 33 percent of families with young children,” Gewirtz said in his speech. “Five of the 10 poorest census tracts in the city are in Brooklyn. Brownsville has the highest concentration of public housing in the entire country.
It is much of this population, of well over half a million residents, where the services provided by VLP are so critical.”
Stephen Goulet, another gala co-chair, then introduced Stoler. Goulet spoke about how Stoler helped him in the early days of working together, but remarked that he was much more impressed with his work with New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, political asylum seekers and other not-for-profit organizations.
“The VLP prepares and provides its staff and volunteer attorneys with the tools and the training that help with real-world legal issues that clients face every day,” Stoler said. “This group does extraordinary work for ordinary problems that anyone in this room could possibly face — a divorce, a child custody issue, a personal bankruptcy, credit card debt, a mortgage foreclosure and even estate planning. Real-world issues facing real people right here in our neighborhoods.”
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