Bay Ridge

Joseph Vasile installed as president of the Bay Ridge Lawyers Association

October 1, 2018 By Rob Abruzzese, Legal Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Joseph R. Vasile (left) was installed as the new president of the Bay Ridge Lawyers Association by Hon. Frank Seddio (right) during a ceremony in Dyker Heights. Eagle photos by Mario Belluomo

Joseph Vasile was installed as the newest president of the Bay Ridge Lawyers Association (BRLA) during an annual ceremony called “the passing of the gavel” at Mama Roa’s Restaurant in Dyker Heights on Wednesday, Sept. 26.

The gavel ceremony was borrowed from the London Inns of Court where all of the past presidents line up in front of the room and each offers words of encouragement or advice to the new president while passing a sterling silver gavel down the line.

“It started many years ago when our past president Harry G. English had gone on a trip to London with the ABA and visited several Inns of Court there,” said Lawrence DiGiovanna, who served as the master of ceremonies for the event in place of Ray Ferrier. “Harry came back and told us about this ceremony. The concept is that we’re going to pass the gavel and microphone to our past presidents and we go down the line until we get to the current president.”

Starting from DiGiovanna, to Sam Hagan and all the way down the line to the immediate past president Margaret Stanton, each of the past presidents took an opportunity to say something to Vasile.

“Joe you will find out that you have a lot of friends and this will make those friendships even stronger,” said Sam Hagan, who admitted to nearly losing the gavel when he was president. “This association has done so much for me in my professional and personal life.

“It is with great pleasure that I get to pass this gavel to one of my dear friends,” said Rosa Pannitto. “I can’t believe that we met over 25 years ago studying for the bar together. It’s a great honor to work with you and under you as president. You know we’re all here for you. Enjoy it.”

“Joe is way ahead already,” said Joann Monaco. “He’s already crossing the finish line. He’s got everything done. He’s done a phenomenal job. If anything, he’s too organized. Relax and have a little fun.

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After the past presidents all got an opportunity to say something about Vasile, Hon. Frank Seddio, who was one of Vasile’s first bosses after law school, was on hand to install Vasile as president. Justice Seddio also installed the new officers including Mary Ann Stathopoulos as vice president, WIlliam Gillen as recording secretary, Dominic Famulari as treasurer and Adam Kalish as corresponding secretary.

Before installing Vasile, though, Seddio talked about hiring him approximately 26 years to the month prior and shared some stories both beautiful and a little embarrassing.

“You should know that Joe used to be fat,” Seddio said. “You all know him as skinny Joe, but I knew him as fat Joe. We all decided one year that we would go on a diet from September to Christmas and Joe lost a lot of weight. Me too, as you can see. Actually, I lost the contest, but he not only won, but kept the weight off. Weight watchers and Progresso soup.”

Seddio then said that if he had a son, he would want him to be like Vasile. Vasile shared the thought and said that Seddio was like a father to him, and said that he would likely still be working with him if Seddio hadn’t become a judge.

After thanking Seddio, Vasile thanked the past presidents and everyone in attendance. He then discussed the organization and his plans for it in the upcoming year. Monaco didn’t exaggerate when he said that he already has everything planned, including a “Breakfast with Santa” program in December, a Judge’s Night party in January, pumpkin picking in October, a trip to Washington, D.C. and the winter seminar in Atlantic City.

“The first reason why I joined, honestly, [was] because I needed a place to get my CLE credits,” Vasile said of the BRLA, which he joined in 2009. “At the behest of some of my friends, Stephen Spinelli, Rosa Pannitto, they told me to join. Not only was it convenient to join, I realized that I should have joined earlier because they offered CLEs, but I discovered a unique organization that is truly respected and admired by so many people.

“The BRLA is headed by great lawyers and outstanding jurists eager to help, to give guidance and to offer friendship,” Vasile continued. “Some of my best friends come from this organization and that is the magic of the BRLA.”

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