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Turning 150: The Brooklyn Bar Association looks good for its age

January 17, 2022 Robert Abruzzese, Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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This is a historic year for the Brooklyn Bar Association because it turns 150 this June and, despite the fact that we’re now entering year three of the COVID pandemic, it has reason to celebrate.

The association is kicking off its year-long celebration with a flag-raising ceremony on Feb. 2 at 1 p.m. The event will give us an opportunity to mark the occasion and unveil our new logo.

Helping us celebrate will be a pair of past presidents and Kings County Supreme Court justices, Hon. Miriam Cyrulnik and Hon. Jeffrey Sunshine. Justices Cyrulnik and Sunshine will each touch on the association, its history and how it has helped to shape their careers.

The association will also be joined on that day by Letitia James, the attorney general of New York State and a proud Brooklyn resident. James is not a member of the BBA, but as the state’s top attorney, she was our first choice to be the keynote speaker to kick off the celebration.

Following this kickoff event, the BBA is hard at work organizing a series of events that it will announce during the flag-raising ceremony.

Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Miriam Cyrulnik.
Eagle file photo by Rob Abruzzese

One event that is ready to be announced is our 150th Anniversary Dinner, which is going to take place on Tuesday, June 7, 2022 at El Caribe in Mill Basin. This will be our first major “dinner” event since our annual dinner that took place back in December 2019. At that time, honored Congressmember Hakeem Jeffries, Hon. Desmond Green, Hon. David Vaughan, and Lisa Schreibersdorf, the executive director of the Brooklyn Defender Services.

Not having a dinner in 2020 or 2021 was devastating for the association as well as for the Brooklyn Bar Association Foundation, the charitable arm of the BBA, which counts on raising money from those events. We had hoped to have one this past year, but even after delaying it until March, many of our leaders still felt nervous.

Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Jeffrey Sunshine
Eagle file photo by Rob Abruzzese

This event will be different than in years past. First of all, for the last 50 years, the dinner has been consistently held in December. It will also be the first time in recent memory that it will not be held at the New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge.

Instead, a June date and the location at El Caribe will allow us to hold part of the event outdoors. It’s also a big-enough venue that we can limit the number of attendees and be able to socially distance as much as possible. While there is still a chance that we may be forced, due to our unknown COVID future, to cancel or postpone this event, we feel confident at this time that this venue will allow us to finally hold our dinner again and do it safely.

Guiding us this year in creation of events has been a journal from the BBA’s 100th anniversary back in 1972.

On May 24 that year, the Association had a big event at the Brooklyn Museum that featured Hon. Robert A. Morse, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District, who read a message on behalf of President Richard Nixon. It also featured speeches by then-Mayor John Lindsay and then-Gov. Nelson Rockefeller.

The annual award recipient that year was Hon. Nathan R. Sobel, who is now the namesake of the Nathan R. Sobel American Inns of Court, a bar association that operates here in Brooklyn.

The Hon. Theodore Jones Memorial Golf Outing has also been moved, back to the spring, when it was traditionally held, and it will take place on May 2 this year. It will once again be held at Colonia Country Club in New Jersey, which was Judge Jones’ favorite place to golf. That event was canceled due to COVID in 2020, but was successfully held this past October after some delays.

If You Need a Mentor, Now Is a Great Time

In my last column, I spoke about the BBA’s Mentorship Committee, which is having a free interest party for attorneys interested in mentoring or being mentored on Thursday, Jan. 27 at 6 p.m.

That event has been getting a lot of interest, particularly since the BBA is offering any attorneys with less than 5 years’ experience free membership if they take part in the Mentorship Program.

The Women’s Bar Association for the State of New York’s Diversity Committee is hosting a program called, “The Power of Mentorship” on Friday, Jan. 28 at 6 p.m. That program will talk about studies that show the role mentorship plays in the legal field, particularly when it comes to career progression of diverse talent, improved performance and realizing potential.

It will be moderated by Raquel Miranda, co-chair of the WBASNY Diversity Committee, and will feature speakers including Hon. Joanne Quinones; acting Supreme Court Justice and Franklin H. Williams commissioner; Natoya McGhie; the immediate past president of the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association; Kim P. Berg and Jasmine I. Valle.

COVID Interruptions

One of the first bar associations to return to having in-person events was the Bay Ridge Lawyers Association. It installed President William Gillen during a ceremony at Mama Rao’s in Dyker Heights this past September, and the turnout was so good that the group continued to meet every month for Continuing Legal Education.

However, even the Bay Ridge Lawyers have been slowed down by the Omicron variant and it canceled its meeting that was scheduled for this month. The group still plans to meet again on Wednesday, Feb. 23 where Paul Bugoni from Stewart Title Insurance Company is expected to present a CLE.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program

The BBA and the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association are co-sponsoring a free program that is available for all attorneys on the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program on Wednesday, Jan. 19 at 6 p.m. That event will feature Prof. Stephen Brown, assistant dean for enrollment at Fordham University.

The federal program helps government employees have part of their student loans forgiven if they make 120 qualified payments over a 10-year span. Dean Brown will go over the qualifications and the 2021 amendments that were designed to expand the pool of qualified applicants.

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 for 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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