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Joy Thompson becomes 38th president of statewide Women’s Bar Association

June 9, 2020 Rob Abruzzese
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The Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York held an installation for its newest president, Brooklyn attorney Joy Thompson, during a ceremony that drew in more than 200 members via Zoom on May 30.

The officers who were installed included Dawn Reid-Green, the president-elect; Melissa Nickson, Deborah Rosenthal and Marea Wachsman as vice presidents; Dawn Lott, corresponding secretary; Madison Porzio, recording secretary; and Simone Freeman as treasurer.

The event was initially scheduled to be held this month in Watkins Glen, but it had to take place virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Attorney Jawan Finley said that as the second Black president of WBASNY, Joy Thompson has some big shoes to fill following Hon. Andrea Phoenix.

“As we join together this evening to celebrate the 40th installation of officers, and witness the swearing in of our new president, I hope that each of you and your families are safe and well,” said Carrie Anne Cavallo, the immediate past president of the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association. “We were hoping to celebrate this event together in person in the Finger Lakes. However, we remain WBASNY strong and are faithful to the mission.”

While the online event could not be as posh as the scheduled Upstate conference, the ceremony drew a crowd of some of the most important judges and lawyers from across the state.

Hon. Miriam Cyrulnik, Hon. Betsy Barros, Hon. Jane Tully, Hon. Claudia Daniels-DePeyster, Hon. Nancy Bannon, Hon. Lourdes Ventura, Hon. Deborah Kaplan, Hon. Robin Sheares, Hon. Jill Epstein, Hon. Betty Williams, Hon. Marguerite Grays, Hon. Ruth Shillingford, Hon. Matthew Cooper, Hon. Jenny Rivera, Hon. Ellen Spodek, Hon. Ellen Edwards, Hon. Llinet Rosado, Hon. Derefim Neckles and Hon. Joanne Quinones were among the judicial attendees.

Hon. Jenny Rivera, justice of the NYS Court of Appeals, held a moment of silence for those lost during the coronavirus pandemic, talked about the protests going on across the country and challenged members of the Bar Association to get involved.

The entire event lasted a little over an hour, with Judge Joanne Quinones introducing the keynote speaker Hon. Jenny Rivera, from the New York State Court of Appeals, and later Thompson herself. Judge Quinones also performed the Oath of Office for Thompson and the new officers.

Justice Rivera started her keynote speech by talking about joining WBASNY and its importance in her career. She then held a brief moment of silence for people who lost their lives during the coronavirus pandemic. She ended her speech by issuing a call to action to WBASNY members.

“I know that you have been vocal on the issue of domestic violence increasing during shelter in place and the fact that women-owned businesses have closed and will not come back again,” Justice Rivera said. “Nationwide, there are protests over George Floyd and the police officer’s actions in that case. Protests by people who feel very hurt, protests against violence, attempts at peaceful protests and protests where violence has occurred. Lives have been lost and may continue to be lost as protests continue.

Hon. Joanne Quinones introduced the speakers and performed the Oath of Office for Joy Thompson and the new officers.

“The time has come for all of us to think, both in our respective communities and the community of WBASNY, what are we to do?” Justice Rivera asked. “What does this moment in history call us to do? WBASNY has been asking that question every year for 40 years. I know this new leadership will think hard about what we need to do because in addition to the pandemic, we are in a moment of change where people are hurting and trying to find ways to express themselves.”

When introducing Thompson, Judge Quinones talked about meeting her 12 years ago on a MetroNorth train while both were on the way Upstate to a conference and how the two became fast friends. One of the things Quinones said that she likes best about Thompson is her ability to inspire people with her speeches and use of acronyms.

Judge Quinones then explained that Thompson has an acronym for getting through the COVID-19 pandemic — BREATHE, or breathe, rest, eat well, ask for help, take breaks, humor and exercise. She then recalled a time that Thompson spoke to a group of teenage girls at a program sponsored by the National Association of Women Judges.

More than 200 WBASNY members attended the virtual installation of Joy Thompson as president.

“She whipped up FIERCE overnight,” Judge Quinones said. “She walked in and said, my advice to you ladies is to be FIERCE. Focused, idealistic, eager to learn, ready, considerate, excuses — don’t make them.”

Judge Quinones then shared an acronym that she herself came up with for the installation to describe Thompson — MADAM PRESIDENT, or multitasker, artful communicator, diplomatic, ambitious, mover and shaker … positive, resourceful, energetic, supportive, inviting, diligent, enthusiastic, nimble witted, tireless and tenacious.

After Thompson was officially sworn in as president, she shared her theme for her presidency, “40 and Faithful to the Mission,” and outlined her goals for the year.

The 2020-2021 officers of WBASNY were also sworn in on May 30. Pictured clockwise from top left: Joy Thompson, Dawn Reid-Green, Melissa Nickson, Marea Wachsman, Madison Porzio, Dawn Lott, Simone Freeman and Deborah Rosenthal.

“I propose that we as WBASNY can maintain our forward momentum by preserving our legacy and leveraging our strength,” Thompson said.

Thompson is a former journalist who currently works as an assistant general counsel at the NYC Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings and who previously served as the deputy commissioner of the public administrator in Manhattan. She explained that as a journalist, she learned about the importance of firsthand voices, and then announced her major program for the upcoming year — the POLL program, another acronym.

“I am introducing an initiative called, ‘preserving our living legacy’ or our POLL Project,” Thompson said. “A poll will be distributed to each chapter president every year, and it will give them the opportunity to record and highlight the achievements of her individual term. It will help us better understand our story, who we are, and where we came from. Then we will use that story as a guide to propel us forward into the 21st century and beyond.”

Natoya McGhie will be installed as the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association president during a ceremony on June 16.

The event ended with a brief speech by Jawan Finley, who pointed out that Thompson is only the second Black president in WBASNY’s history, Justice Andrea Phoenix from Nassau County being the first, and said that being second can often be tougher than being first.

“Justice Rivera was the second Hispanic to sit on the Court of Appeals,” Finley said. “Joy Thompson is the second African-American to serve as the president of WBASNY. Joy, you stand on some huge shoulders. Justice Phoenix is a fine example of a president, of a leader.

The second person has to meet all of the challenges of the first and surpass them, but I know you will do just that. I know you will answer Justice Rivera’s call to action.”

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