52nd Year of Judicial Law Secretaries’ Association Celebrated at Battery Gardens Gala
NY State Supreme & Surrogate Courts Represented In Awards
Recently on a clear June night, with New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty nearby, the Association of Law Secretaries to Justices of the Supreme and Surrogates’ Courts in New York City held its Annual Awards and Installation Dinner. This critically important arm of the court system celebrated the 52nd Anniversary of the Association at The View at Battery Park in lower Manhattan.
President Nadine Johnson remarked that “it was our first in person event in almost three years and few thought that we would arrive at this benchmark with all the professional and personal challenges that occurred with so many.” President Nadine Johnson, the first from Staten Island to head the Association, was installed virtually in June 2020 and served for two years, leading the organization through the pandemic. She hosted the gala dinner as MC, welcomed and thanked the board members, dinner committee, Judges, members, legal and court staff, attorneys, counsel at Stroock, Stroock and Lavan, friends, family and all who contributed to the resounding success of the event attended by over 120 people.
During her term from 2020 to 2022 President Johnson launched the herculean effort to revamp and update the Association’s bylaws which finally carried to success by vote of its members in May. President Johnson also maintained efforts to obtain more attention to the needs of court attorneys from the Office of Court Administration especially in light of the issue with certification of judges that occurred in 2020. One of the member initiatives that were undertaken by President Johnson was establishing parking placards for members, which was much needed during the pandemic. Programs and CLEs were continued, albeit virtually, along with overseeing the Association’s website and newsletter and of course attending to individual concerns of members. All of these measures fostered increased membership, collegiality and interest in the Association. President Johnson enthusiastically noted that the annual dinner “is a wonderful time to bond with our colleagues from the five New York City counties and elsewhere, and to celebrate our collective achievements, in the legal profession, with joie di vivre”
President Johnson stated, “As a community of Principal Law Clerks from New York City Supreme and Surrogates Courts, the Association is focused on learning and promoting collegiality amongst its members and peers within the five boroughs and has a very high rate of member lawyers ascending to the bench.” The Association covers over 200 attorneys, who work for Supreme and Surrogate judges.
Association’s 52nd Anniversary
Association Counsel, Burt Lipshie, managing partner at Stroock, Stroock & Lavan provided remarks celebrating the start of the Association 52 years ago, having been founded by by Joseph
L. Forstadt, a retired partner at Stroock, Stroock & Lavan where he spent 45 years as a litigator, with a prominent record of public service for whom an award is named in his honor. Mr. Forstadt saw the need for attorneys working in the court system unrepresented by a union to have an association formed to guard their respective rights.
Judicial Honorees and Awardees
The Association honored esteemed members of the judiciary, Hon. Doris M. Gonzalez, Administrative Judge, for Civil Matters, Supreme Court, Bronx County, presented by board member, Scott Krompinger; Hon. Wayne Ozzi, Justice, Supreme Court, Richmond County, presented by board member, Barbara Grcevic; and Hon. George Silver, former Deputy Chief Judge for the Courts in New York City, presented by President Johnson all received the Association’s 2020 William Goodstein Memorial Award for Distinguished Service to the Court. The Goodstein award is named for the inaugural president of the Association.
In their remarks, all three judges extolled the importance, hard work and virtues of court attorneys as being essential counsel to judges and are the backbone of the judiciary. Judge Silver, who is also chair of the Mayor’s Judiciary Committee also encouraged members and attendees to apply for consideration to the family and criminal court bench.
Along with the three judicial honorees, there were two awardees for distinguished service to the Association: Cynthia Parache-Brito, Esq., former president of the Association from 2018 to 2020, who became an Administrative Law Judge in 2021 received the 2020 Faith O’Neal Memorial Award (named for a former president of the Association), presented in abstentia by board member, Xavier Carr and Lauren Boyle, former Project Manager at Stroock, Stroock & Lavan, LLP, was bestowed with the 2020 Joseph L. Forstadt Memorial Award, presented to her by Association counsel, Dina Kolker of Stroock, Stroock and Lavan.
The Association also honored its former board members who ascended to the bench in 2020 and 2021 by presenting them with judicial gavels. The following judges received a gavel: Hon. John R. Higgitt, App. Div. 1st Dept.; and Civil Court Judges: Hon. Claudia Lanzetta, Hon. Derefim
B. Neckles, Hon. Cassandra A. Johnson, Hon. Hasa A. Kingo and Hon. Inga O’Neale. The gavel awards were presented by board members Allison Ageyeva and Lauren Jones.
About the Annual Meeting/Incoming President from Queens
The annual dinner also serves as the Association’s annual meeting of the members and for election and installation of its newly nominated officers and directors for 2022 to 2024.
Alla Allison Ageyeva, Queens County representative was installed as incoming President. Ageyeva is the Principal Law Clerk to the Hon. Darrell L. Gavrin, Justice of the Supreme Court, Queens County, who conducted the installation. Ageyeva thanked Justice Gavrin for her encouragement and support. The officers installed were Kevin Morrisey, first vice president; Eva-Marie Cusack, second vice president; Steven Helfont, treasurer; Lauren Jones assistant treasurer; Scott Krompinger, secretary and Toshia McKnight, assistant secretary.
“I am truly honored to have been nominated to serve this esteemed Association,” Ageyeva humbly said as her family, friends and colleagues proudly cheered. Ageyeva acknowledged the challenges of being a law secretary, stating “One of my goals is to promote more face-to-face and in-person access to one another”.
In handing over the baton, effective late July, the incoming and outgoing president were effusive in their praise of each other having known one another during their 15 year association as colleagues working in the court system. After the July meeting there will be a summer hiatus until September.
Returning and incoming board members representing the five counties are: Elba Melendez- Loughman, Alice Tam Tien, Devin Robinson, Xavier Carr, Justin Dorman, Alana Gardner, Allison Greenfield, Jasmine I. Valle, Tiffany Malcolm, Amira Ammar, Nadine Johnson, Mary Kavanaugh, Barbara Grcevic, Peter Lane, and Yael Wilkofsky
About the Awardees
Justice Gonzalez, an exemplary jurist, for over 16 years, was appointed by Judge Larry Marks in 2016 as Administrative Judge of Supreme Court Bronx County Civil Matters handling an array of civil matters in the Special Trial Part, and the Foreclosure Part. She started her legal career in the insurance industry where very few Hispanic female attorneys were employed and through the ranks to become a senior trial attorney, trying high profile cases. She started her career on the bench as an elected Civil Court Judge in Bronx County in 2006. Justice Gonzalez is a member of many organizations, including the Puerto Rican Bar Association and the Cervantes Society. In addition, she is also an Adjunct Professor at Monroe College School of Criminal and Social Justice.
Justice Ozzi, a seasoned distinguished jurist, currently a Justice of the Supreme Court in Richmond County, began working in the courts as a Law Assistant to the Hon. John R Cannizzaro in Brooklyn Civil Court in 1981 after working for a brief time as an Assistant District Attorney in Suffolk County and in private practice. In 2010 Justice Ozzi was nominated to the Court of Claims by Governor David Paterson and subsequently by Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2017. He served as President of the Court Attorneys Association of the City of New York from 1997 through 1999 and participated in several of its collective bargaining negotiating teams. In Richmond Supreme, Justice Ozzi presides over both Civil and Criminal matters, with 44 published opinions.
Justice Silver, a legendary distinguished jurist who helped usher the courts through the pandemic as Deputy Chief Administrative Judge of the Courts in NYC, left the bench in October 2021 to start “SilverStar Mediation & Arbitration LLC”. With over 15 years experience on the bench including four (4) years as DCAJ (having been appointed in 2017 by Chief Judge Janet DiFiore), Justice Silver is widely respected by the judiciary and litigators. He began his career as a private practitioner and in 2004 was elevated to the bench through the electorate process as a Civil Court judge, subsequently in 2012, Justice Silver was elected to the New York State Supreme Court. He presided in multiple counties and presided over the citywide Mediation Part called J-Med in addition to his other assignments including the Medical Malpractice Early Settlement Part an IAS Part handling general matters and running the operations of all the trial courts in NYC.
Among the attendees were Hon. Betty Weinberg Ellerin (Ret.), the first woman to serve as the Presiding Justice of the Appellate Division, First Department; Hon. Deborah A. Kaplan, Deputy Chief Administrative Judge of the New York City Courts; Hon. Edwina Mendelson, Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for Justice Initiatives; Hon. Lawrence Knipel, Administrative Judge, Kings County; Hon. Desmond Green, Administrative Judge, Richmond County; Hon. Adam Silvera, Administrative Judge, New York County; Hon. Ellen Biben, Administrative Judge, New York County; Hon. Barbara Kapnick, App. Div 1st Department and President of the Supreme Court Judges Assoc. of the State of New York; Hon. Martin Shulman, App Div 1st Dept; Hon. Ralph Porzio, Supreme Court, Richmond County and President of the Supreme Court Judges Assoc. of the City of New York; Eric Allen, President of the Court Reporters’ Union, and VP Kelly Swasey; and Jeanette Mercedes, President of the Court Attorneys Assoc. of the City of NY.
The dinner committee was co-chaired by Lauren Jones, Scott Krompinger and Alice Tam Tien and board members serving on that committee were Amira Ammar, Alla Allison Ageyeva, Xavier Carr, Allison Greenfield, Steven Helfont, Tiffany Malcolm, Toshia McKnight.
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