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Brooklyn Bar Association honors past presidents for Women’s History Month

March 21, 2023 Robert Abruzzese
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BROOKLYN — The Brooklyn Bar Association celebrated Women’s History Month by inviting a group of its past female presidents to discuss their time as the leader of the association on Wednesday.

From left: Joy Thompson, chair of the BBA’s Diversity Committee, Danielle Noel, President Richard Klass, Natoya McGhie, Yvette Wills-Hinds, first vice president of the Caribbean American Lawyers Association and Elizabeth Grant.

The panel of past presidents that evening included Hon. Nancy Sunshine, the County Clerk and Commissioner of Jurors in Kings County, who was president from 2002-2003, RoseAnn Branda, executive partner at Abrams Fensterman, president from 2007-2008, Diana Szochet, 2008-2009, Andrea Bonina, 2010-2011 and Aimee Richter, 2017-2018.

The event was organized by Joy Thompson and Natoya McGhie. Both are trustees at the BBA and though they are not yet officers of the association, both have tremendous experience as Thompson previously served as president of the Women’s Bar Association for the State of New York, and McGhie as president of the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association.

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Natoya McGhie served as the moderator for the event.

“We’re so excited to have five of our past presidents here tonight to share the story of their journeys as president of this association,” McGhie said.

Hon. Nancy Sunshine was the first woman to serve as County Clerk and Commissioner of Jurors in Kings County. She made history again in 1998 when she was appointed as the first woman Chief Clerk of the Appellate Term for the 2nd, 9th, 10th and 11th Judicial Districts. Sunshine served as President in 2002-2003 and remains involved as a Director Foundation and member of the Trustees Council. She is also a past President of New York State Commissioner of Jurors and has received numerous legal awards.

RoseAnn C. Branda, an Executive Partner at Abrams Fensterman, served as President during 2007-2008 and is the current Co-Chair of the Family Law Section. Branda is also a past President of the Bay Ridge Lawyers Association and the Columbian Lawyers Association. She has been appointed to many bar associations and legal committees, including the Mayor’s Advisory Committee on the Judiciary, and has chaired the Committee on Attorney Professionalism for the NYS Bar Association and the Independent Judicial Election Qualification Commission for the 2nd and 13th Judicial Districts.

Grace Borrino, past president of the Bay Ridge Lawyers Association, and Danielle Noel.

“This was an organization that was all men until about 10 before I joined which is ridiculous,” Branda said. “So I’ve seen a change for the better, however, I think there is still a way to go. I never felt discriminated against as a woman throughout my career, but the older I get I’m more inclined to see differences. For example, I still hear men use the word hysterical when describing a woman, but I’ve never heard them use that word to describe a man.”

Diana Szochet has served in various capacities in the NYS courts for nearly 35 years, including as a Matrimonial Referee in the Supreme Court, Kings County. She was elected President of BBA in 2008 and was the managing editor of the Brooklyn Barrister from 1998-2018. Szochet continues to be involved in the BBA as a member of the President’s council and board of directors of the BBA Foundation.

“My installation as president was at the U.S. Supreme Court when Greg Cerchione was the outgoing president,” Szochet recalled. “It was my daughter’s 10th birthday. She had the privilege of meeting the Hon. Ruth Bader Ginsberg. The event struck her to such a degree that she wrote a paper about judge Ginsberg and sent it to her. It is something that she will never forget.”

From left: Cara Ruda, Erin Peake, and BBA Second Vice President Christina Golkin.

Andrea Bonina served as President during the 2010-2011 bar year and remains a Foundation Trustee. She is also a past President of the Bay Ridge Lawyers Association and a Delegate to the New York State Bar Association’s House of Delegates. Bonina is Vice President of the New York State Academy of Trial Lawyers and was appointed Chair of the Grievance Committee for the 2nd, 11th and 13th Judicial Districts in 2018, becoming the first woman to hold this position in more than thirty years.

“When I was president it was my opportunity to pick the honorees at the annual dinner and I chose three women, three very well qualified women, and I got so many outraged calls I got,” Bonina said. “One said, ‘Don’t you know that this is the Brooklyn Bar, not the Brooklyn Women’s Bar.’ I just said, ‘Last year all of the honorees were men and women came so I think it will be ok.’”

Aimee L. Richter, a named partner of Lee Anav Chung White Kim Ruger & Richter LLP, served as President during the 2017-2018 bar year. She remains active as co-chair of the Family Law Section, a member of the Judiciary Committee, and the Articles Editor of the Brooklyn Barrister. Richter is also a member of the New York State Bar Association’s Nominating Committee and has served as the AS 2nd District Vice-President and co-chair of the Bar Leadership Committee.

Women’s History Month is an annual observance held in March to celebrate the contributions and achievements of women throughout history. The month-long celebration traces its roots to the first International Women’s Day in 1911, which was established to advocate for women’s rights and promote gender equality.

In 1987, the United States Congress designated March as National Women’s History Month, and it has been recognized and celebrated annually ever since. Women’s History Month provides an opportunity to reflect on the role of women in history, honor the contributions of women to society, and raise awareness about issues affecting women’s lives today.

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