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Brooklyn Bar Association honors legal community at 2019 annual awards meeting

Deputy Chief Administrative Judge George Silver among the nine honorees

May 10, 2019 Rob Abruzzese

The Brooklyn Bar Association held its annual awards meeting on Wednesday and honored nine members of the local legal community, including one of the city’s top judges, during a ceremony on Remsen Street.

“We’re having fun, we’re doing well and we’re representing the people of Brooklyn,” said David Chidekel, president of the bar association. “We’re keeping this wonderful tradition alive of excellence and a commitment to diversity, honesty and character.”

Hon. George J. Silver, deputy chief administrative judge for New York City, and attorney Frank Francis received the Freda S. Nisnewitz Award for Pro Bono Service, and Steve Cohn, the past president of the association, was given the Distinguished Service Award.

The other honorees included Maura Alliana and Dionne Aubourg, who were presented with the Hon. Nathan R. Sobel Award; James Blain, Grace Machuca and Hon. Lillian Wan, who received the Diversity Award; and Frances Ciorciari, who was given the Legal Staff Award.

Cohn was the first to receive his award, which President Chidekel joked was partially because Cohn hosts annual meetings at Junior’s Restaurant. Then Past President John Lonuzzi presented an award to Justice Silver, who joked that because he’s a citywide judge he can’t call Brooklyn home, then immediately called Brooklyn home.

“There is no better place to become a lawyer than Brooklyn, and to learn how to become a judge,” Justice Silver said. “The camaraderie here is unlike any other county. I’m so thrilled to get this award because I’m getting it from people whom I’ve known for so many years, my friends and my colleagues.”

With more than 100 attorneys and judges in the audience, a few honorees took an opportunity to issue a call to order. Frank Francis, regional president of the Hispanic National Bar Association, Region Two, New York, is also involved with the bar association’s Young Lawyers Committee. He called upon the lawyers in the room to encourage their younger employees to get involved with the bar association.

“If you are a partner or in the leadership of your law firms, identify one attorney, one associate, and encourage them to get involved,” Francis said. “I think a lot of associates, especially in this generation, we put our heads down, we do our work, and we’re not being told that we need to be involved with the bar associations. You are their employers; hint at them or tell them directly to get involved. We need to find the next generation of leaders.”

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Judge Wan made a similar plea, but it was instead a call to get members to encourage Asian-American attorneys to join the bar association, and to Asian-American lawyers themselves to join.

“When I look around this room, I can’t help but notice that there are really only a handful of Asian-American lawyers,” Justice Wan said. “I often feel that way when I’m at events. It’s something that I hope with the assistance of the Brooklyn Bar Association that we can change There are a lot of Asian-American lawyers out there. I think it’s important for them to be active in bar associations and politics. If you don’t show up, you don’t have your voice heard.”

The meeting was the final one for Chidekel as president which meant that many of the presenters and honorees took a moment to thank him for his years of service to the bar association. Joy Thompson, a vice president for the Women’s Bar Association for the State of New York, was one of those people.

“Over the years, I’ve learned that a commitment to diversity, a commitment to embracing our shared humanity, professionalism and talents despite our differences takes courage. David, I consider you one of the most courageous people I know.”

Next month, Frank Carone will be sworn in as president of the bar association and Anthony Vaughn Jr., will be added to the slate of officers as the incoming treasurer.

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