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Honoring Lynn Terrelonge, the Brooklyn Bar Association’s First Black President

February 20, 2022 Robert Abruzzese, Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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When I was still just a journalist covering the local legal community, there was one story that I had always wanted to write, but that I had found some difficulty in doing — which was uncovering the facts of past Brooklyn Bar Association President Lynn Terrelonge.

Lynn was a historical figure in the BBA as its first Black president, but not many in the association knew her, and her presidency was short-lived.

After being installed as president of the association in June, she died in February 2002 and was eventually replaced as president by Hon. Nancy Sunshine. Because Lynn was sick and didn’t serve out her full term, the only real event people remember her from was the annual dinner.

“I remember that she looked especially beautiful that evening,” said County Commissioner Sunshine.

When trying to uncover her story years later it was difficult for me to find people who knew much about Lynn. From most accounts, she was very professional, quiet and kept a close circle of friends. Past president Dom Napoletano knew her well, but other than that even BBA regulars might not have known her except in passing.

Even trying to figure out how she got involved in the BBA was difficult. Typically, members who become presidents spend six years as an officer and are elevated by the outgoing president. For Lynn, it meant that the search for who appointed her began with Hon. Jeffrey Sunshine, the past president six years prior to her term.

Except a phone call into Justice Sunshine came up short as he didn’t select her, and wasn’t sure who had. A call into the presidents just before and after him also didn’t turn up much. How did Lynn even become an officer of the BBA? Nobody seemed to know.

After some digging through the archives, and a trip down to the basement of the BBA building, it turns out that Lynn Terrelonge likely was not an officer of the BBA for the typical six years. Instead, she likely replaced Hon. Anthony J. Cutrona, who was elected to become a judge in 1998.

Judge Cutrona would have been a second vice president at the time of his election. The president of the BBA that year was Ross Branca. Branca likely had Lynn replace Judge Curtrona and she came in not at the bottom of our officer ladder, but in the middle.

This story, unfortunately, cannot be verified because not only has Lynn left us, but so have Mr. Branca and Justice Cutrona. Unless we can find the minutes from the BBA board meetings back from 1998 to 1999, not an impossible task, but one that likely involves another trip to the basement, there might be no other way to verify this information.

There are quite a few who still remember Lynn as a colleague in the Brooklyn Bar Association. Our current President, Armena Gayle, the association’s second Black president, spoke extensively about Lynn during her induction speech and credited Lynn with getting her involved in the BBA herself.

The truth is that not enough is known about her, though, so the Brooklyn Bar Association has decided to keep her memory alive by naming an award after her.

Created by the BBA Diversity Committee, we have established the Lynn Terrelonge Bridge to Diversity Award that will be given out during a ceremony later this year. The BBA asks the legal community to help lift up the voices of our amazingly diverse collection of communities, and to nominate an individual or an organization working to bridge those communities to promote understanding, equity and peace.

Nomination forms are linked to on our website, but can also be obtained by emailing [email protected].

A Look at Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in NY’s Cannabis Industry

Natoya McGhie, past president of the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association.
Eagle file photo by Rob Abruzzese

The Brooklyn Bar Association is co-sponsoring a continuing legal education discussion on Tuesday, Feb. 22 at 6 p.m. titled, “Ensuring Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in New York’s Cannabis Industry.”

The event was organized by the Network of Bar Leaders, it offers one CLE credit in diversity and inclusion, and it is free for members and non-members to sign up.

Moderated by Natoya McGhie, the immediate past president of the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association, the CLE will focus on the social and economic equity provisions of the Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), and will address the efforts to promote racial, ethnic and gender diversity in the emerging industry.

The panelists include Cristina Buccola, Tanya Dwyer, Gia Morón and Peter Su.

Bay Ridge Lawyers Back in Action

After taking a brief hiatus from in-person events, the Bay Ridge Lawyers Association is meeting again at Mama Rao’s on Wednesday, Feb. 23 at 6 p.m.

William Gillen, president of the Bay Ridge Lawyers Association.
Eagle file photo by Rob Abruzzese

The BRLA began meeting in person again this past September after missing over a year of in-person events. Initially, the group came together to celebrate the installation of its new president, William Gillen. However, the meeting went so well that it continued to host in-person events and only stopped due to the Omicron variant outbreak in December.

This month’s meeting will feature Thomas Tafuri of Regal Title Agency, who will give a continuing legal education lecture on Remote Notarization in New York.

Remote notarization briefly went into effect during the height of the pandemic and it was very popular amongst most attorneys in the local legal community. However, it was implemented using temporary emergency powers by then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the law eventually expired.

Fortunately, a new law has already been signed and goes into effect this Spring enabling remote notarization once again. Tafuri, a past president of the BRLA, will go over what attorneys need to know once the new law is rolled out this June.

The Omicron variant also kept the Bay Ridge Lawyers Association from holding its annual winter seminar this month. Instead it was delayed and eventually rescheduled for Thursday, April 28 and Friday, April 29.

The annual winter seminar lets members relax and have fun together in Atlantic City, but it more practically helps them get continuing legal education credits. After a reception on Thursday night, there is a day-long seminar on Friday where members in attendance can get five of their required 24 CLE credits.

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 about 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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