Criminal Bar Association brings criminal justice community together at annual dinner
More than 300 members of the Brooklyn criminal justice community got together for the annual Kings County Criminal Bar Association dinner at Giando on the Water in Williamsburg on Saturday.
The black-tie optional event is jokingly referred to as the Academy Awards for criminal justice practitioners in Brooklyn, but it does inspire some of the top attorneys, judges, court employees, prosecutors and Legal Aid attorneys to don their fanciest outfits in a celebration of each other.
At this year’s event Justice Joseph E. Gubbay was given the Gustin L. Reichbach Judicial Recognition Award, Denise Perez got the Non-Judicial Court Employee Award, David Z. Klestzick got the Robert N. Kaye Memorial Award and Gregory S. Watts got the Person of the Year Award.
“Based on the anticipated length of this program, the waiters have been instructed to take breakfast orders,” joked past president Hon. Barry Kamins, who gave welcoming remarks as he does every year.
Current President Christopher Wright, who was installed as leader of the group in January, also presented a plaque to Michael Cibella, the immediate past president.
Wright also recognized three retiring judges — Hon. Martin P. Murphy, Hon. Michael Gary and Hon. William Miller.
“Judge Murphy, who first started as a Legal Aid attorney and became a judge in 1997; Judge Michael Gary, who started as a district attorney and was appointed by Mayor Koch in 1987, and Judge William Miller,” Wright said, “have all been great judges who have been great for Brooklyn. Thank you to all three of those wonderful judges for everything they’ve done.”
Before he introduced the award-winners, Wright took an opportunity to praise recent criminal justice reforms passed by the New York state legislature. He also pointed out that many of those same reforms had already been implemented in Brooklyn by District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, who was in attendance flanked by his top advisors including Maritza Mejia-Ming, Joe Alexis and Miss Gregory.
“We’re lucky here in Brooklyn that the rest of the state has finally followed our lead with open file discovery,” Wright said. “They’re taking a much more generous and thoughtful look at non-violent crime. Frankly, that has been the protocol here in Kings County for my 20 years as a practitioner. We have the distinct honor of having Eric Gonzalez who has implemented those policies that the New York state legislature has finally done.”
Judge Gubbay helped to establish the Misdemeanor Treatment Court in Brooklyn and also presided over the first Brooklyn Adolescent Diversion Program. He currently sits on the Brooklyn Treatment Court which became a national model after it was established in 1996 for providing alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenders and veterans.
Perez works in the Criminal Court as the deputy chief clerk in the arraignments part and has served as the night court coordinator for the past two years.
“Denise handles her difficult and demanding job with grace, wit and aplomb,” Wright said. “It explains the universal respect and affection she has from all who work at the Criminal Court.”
Klestzic, who has worked at the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office for 23 years, is the deputy chief of the trial division. In this duty, he oversees the five bureaus from the trial division including the Hate Crimes Bureau, the Grand Jury Bureau and the Early Case Assessment Bureau. He is also in charge of training newly hired ADAs and NYPD officers.
Watts, an immigrant from Guyana, grew up in Bedford-Stuyvesant and started his career working in juvenile centers. He went on to Antioch School of Law where he interned with the Government Accountability Project, representing whistleblowers who exposed corruption, before he opened his private practice in Brooklyn.
“Gregory has dedicated his legal career to the zealous defense of the accused with uncompromised and forthright passion,” Wright said. “Gregory is a truly remarkable and gifted trial attorney who routinely persuades juries across our city to say those most elusive of words, ‘not guilty.’”
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