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Justice Sunshine meets with the BBA to discuss matrimonial cases

December 10, 2021 Rob Abruzzese
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One of the toughest parts of the pandemic for attorneys is not knowing what is going on in the court they practice in. It creates havoc, slows down the process, and causes problems for their clients, who can often be left in the dark asking many questions.

The Brooklyn Bar Association has tried to help this by hosting regular virtual sitdowns with various judges in the borough. These sitdowns give the judges an opportunity to explain the latest updates about what’s going on in their court, how processes have been changed by COVID, and how they might be changed in the future. 

In recent months, members have gotten an opportunity to sit down with judges including Hon. Lawrence Knipel, Hon. Ellen Spodek, Hon. Cheryl Gonzales and Hon. Reginald Boddie among others. On Thursday it was Justice Jeffrey Sunshine’s turn as he spoke with approximately 85 Brooklyn Bar Association members on Thursday afternoon.

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Justice Sunshine, who is the Statewide Coordinating Judge for Matrimonial Cases for New York State, gave an update on the court where he spoke about filing electronically, a new law that was passed, another that he expects to be passed soon, and how attorneys can prepare themselves. Afterward, he took questions from the crowd with the help of moderators RoseAnn Branda and Aimee Richter, two past presidents of the Brooklyn Bar Association, and co-chairs of its Family Law Section.

Attorney RoseAnn Branda, a past president of the Brooklyn Bar Association. Eagle photo by Rob Abruzzese

These events do not qualify for continuing legal education credit. Instead they are meant to be informal so that people can get updates on the latest of what’s happening in the respective courts. It doesn’t always happen that everyone comes away with the exact answer they were hoping for, but many times it has helped attorneys to know that they are on the same page as their colleagues, and it helps the judges to know common issues that attorneys are seeing.

The next virtual sitdown at the Brooklyn Bar Association will be with Hon. Nancy Sunshine, the Kings County clerk and the commissioner of jurors; and Hon. Charles Small, the clerk of the Kings County Supreme Court, Civil Term. The pair will give updates on their offices and take questions from the members during a sitdown on January 13 at 1 p.m. on Zoom. The event is free, but is limited to only Brooklyn Bar Association members.

Implicit Bias in Jury Selection

Implicit bias has been a popular continuing legal education topic since the NY State CLE board created the diversity, inclusion, and elimination of bias credit and required a certain amount of them every two years. 

Last Tuesday, Xavier Donaldson gave a CLE presentation that incorporated the topic of implicit bias within jury selection and in particular how it impacts Batson and peremptory challenges.

Attorney Aimee Richter, a past president of the Brooklyn Bar Association. Eagle photo by Rob Abruzzese

“What is implicit bias?” Donaldson asked. “It’s mental shortcuts, or quick judgements, automatic conclusions, fast ways to process information, broad generalizations and stereotypes. Those are basic definitions for what implicit bias is. It really is your brain taking a mental shortcut to get to a particular conclusion. These are the stereotypes and perceptions that are way deep down inside of us. A lot of people think that they don’t have them, but when you really think about it, most of us do.”

A peremptory challenge is made by an attorney during jury selection to eliminate a potential juror. However, a Batson challenge is made by one attorney to stop the use of another attorney’s peremptory challenge if they felt that attorney is only doing it based on the sex, race, ethnicity or religion of the juror.

“Examining implicit bias is important because we act on them, we literally make decisions based on our implicit biases,” Donaldson said. “Because we’re lawyers and judges and because our decisions affect others, we need to address and talk about our implicit biases.”

Upcoming CLE

Did you know that attorneys who work for the government can have part of their student loans excused after 10 years of repaying them? It is a part of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness plan, and the BBA will host a seminar on the ins and outs of this plan so that attorneys can make the most of it. 

The event will be held on Jan. 19 at 6 p.m. with Stephen Brown, the assistant dean for enrollment at Fordham University Law School.

Appellate Justice (ret.) Robert Spolzino, now a partner at Abrams Fensterman. Eagle photo by Rob Abruzzese

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, operated by our federal government, permits borrowers with qualifying student loans and who work in qualifying not-for-profit and government jobs, to request forgiveness of their loan after 10 years of such service.  Brown will review the qualifications and the 2021 amendment designed to expand the pool of qualifying borrowers.

The BBA will also host a CLE on matrimonial appeals with Justice Robert Spolzino on Feb. 8 at 6 p.m. Co-chairs of the Family Law Section, Branda and Richter, will be organizing this lecture that will examine matrimonial appeals over the last few years and will discuss recent trends they’re seeing. 

The BBA’s brand-new Constitutional Law Committee is going to host its first CLE next year on abortion. Taking place early in February, the committee is planning to examine the issues that the Supreme Court is taking into account as it hears cases that could have huge implications for the landmark case Roe v. Wade, that legalized abortions in the United States when it was decided in 1973.

Save the Date

The Brooklyn Bar Association celebrates its 150th Anniversary in 2022, and to kick off a year of events, it will host a flag-raising ceremony on Jan. 12 at 1 p.m. 

Justice Miriam Cyrulnik, a past president of the Brooklyn Bar Association. Eagle photo by Rob Abruzzese

The event will take place outside of the building at 123 Remsen St. and will the unveiling of our new logo as we raise the flag. There will also be reflections on our history by past presidents Justice Jeffrey Sunshine and Justice Miriam Cyrulnik. After a brief ceremony, there will be a reception inside the building.

Robert Abruzzese is the former Legal Editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle and the current Director of Member Services at the Brooklyn Bar Association. Now as a legal columnist for the Eagle, Abruzzese writes the BBA and the local legal community. For information about joining the Brooklyn Bar Association, you can reach him via email at [email protected].


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