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March/1/2014

President's Message

Hon. Peter G. Crummey

(From the March 2014 Newsletter)   Download March 14 Pres1.doc


“New York, New York, I want to wake up in that city that never sleeps, and find I’m king of the hill, top of the list..”
 John Kander and Fred Ebb-1977   

     Congratulations to our very own David Miranda, Former President of our Albany County Bar Association in 2009, who was recently elected as President-Elect of the New York State Bar Association at its Annual Meeting in New York City.  All of us who were present representing our County Bar were pleased and proud of our State Bar’s choice of David.  We are fortunate to have such a great line of communication with State Bar governance and David has certainly distinguished our County Bar.  We extend our congratulations and best wishes to David, our king of the hill, top of the list.

 The Annual Meeting of the New York State Bar Association also included plenty of comment concerning the current Biennial Attorney Registration form which asks attorneys to list the number of their pro bono hours and list the amounts of money donated to legal service agencies for the underserved or poor.   Based on the tenor of the House of Delegates Meeting on January 31, 2014, the delegates generally oppose the notion of required reporting of such activities on a registration form.  As I pointed out in last month’s message, attorneys generously give of themselves to the enhancement of their communities in countless ways.  Requiring attorneys to count the hours in certain settings and money donated to certain groups has not been well received and the State Bar is actively developing strategies to confront such regulatory action on our profession.

 Maybe government would better use its time than requiring the reporting of charitable work and donations on an attorney registration form when so many significant needs in our community remain unmet.  Take for instance, the fact that government’s current policy of responding to mental health challenges and addictions has rendered our criminal justice system the default service provider.  This trend is wrongheaded.  The courtroom where I preside, which, as of 2013, had the 25th busiest criminal court docket of fingerprintable offenses of all Courts in our State, is routinely presented with defendants with mental health challenges and addictions.  It appears that government policy waits until criminal conduct before addressing mental health challenges and addictions.  All too often, then, the County Correctional Facility is the place available for response.  Was our penal system designed to house mental health challenges and addictions?  I guess it is now.  It is so prevalent that our Albany County Correctional Facility added a new mental health wing to its campus a couple of years ago.  Can government do a better job of addressing mental health and addiction than being forced to create larger penal colonies? 

 Addiction spans a variety of chemicals and dependencies.  Heroin addiction is certainly in the news and in the Courts.  Does pop music need to glamorize heroin use?   

John Lennon told us in 1968 on The White Album, that, “Happiness is a Warm Gun” and the recent Grammy Award winner, Lorde, entitles her album, Pure Heroine.  I get the play on words but why are we playing on those words?  In the wake of so many casualties, even the recent death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, how many hours is to be reported to government as to addiction’s toll on our court system, our correctional system and on our society?  Government should prioritize its requirements for reporting hours.


(From the February 2014 Newsletter)

“You say goodbye and I say hello”, Paul McCartney/The Beatles 1967

For the past year, our Association has been led by Michael Hutter, a legendary Professor of Law at our Albany Law School and an Appellate Practitioner of distinction.  Following Mike as President reminds me of Thomas Jefferson’s quote from 1785 when he appeared in France to follow Benjamin Franklin as our Ambassador.   Jefferson went to pay his respects to the French Foreign Minister.  “You replace Monsieur Franklin?” asked the Minister.  “I succeed him” was Jefferson’s reply.  “No one can replace him”.  I feel the same about following Michael Hutter.  On behalf of our Association, I thank Mike for lending his expertise and his imprimatur to our Association and I wish him continued success in his future endeavors.    

Since 1900, our Association has been promoting the practice of law and its need for collegiality amongst lawyers and with the greater community.  Our Association has established and fostered countless programs that not only provide benefit to our membership but also support charitable and pro bono services by its members for our community at large.  Our Family Court Help Desk, soon to become the Family Court Help Center, through a broader partnership with our Court system and Albany Law School, together with our Pro Se Divorce Program and Law Day Run, now in its 20th  year, which raises needed resources for victims of domestic violence, represent mere examples of the Association at work for the greater good.

Our Lawyers Referral Service constantly connects citizens in need of counsel with our membership to solve life’s problems.  In 2013, our Association received 4,211 calls to our Lawyer Referral Service.  Our members have been endeavoring to serve as facilitators, as opposed to complicators, for 114 years. 

Our membership also certainly benefits directly from Association programs including scores of CLEs spanning a variety of relevant topics and countless Bench and Bar gatherings which have become some of the only venues for attorneys to gather collectively as the practice of law becomes weighted on submissions as opposed to collective personal appearances such as our former Special Terms.

I find that our members donate their education and expertise to the greater community every day, often outside of the Courtroom, and such service is integral to our community at large.  We need to look no further than our local not-for-profit boards, school boards, religious councils and classrooms which all are served by the pro bono dedication of our membership.  It is important to publicly recognize the integral role attorneys play in a civilization and the pro bono work attorneys do every day in and outside of society’s courtrooms.  The depth of an attorney’s contribution in our society is not to be measured merely by work in a courtroom.  If there is a demand on attorneys to annually report their pro bono service, we need to recognize the  totality of significant community volunteer service provided by attorneys.  I am keenly aware of the needs of our courtrooms as I preside currently in one of the busiest courts in our State.  I believe that the best courtroom is an empty courtroom and we do need attorneys to help accomplish that goal.  We also need attorneys in most facets of our community.  An attorney’s commitment in community volunteer capacities must also be recognized in any accounting of an attorney’s pro bono life. 

The need for lawyers in maintaining and enhancing our greater community is obvious; however, our profession is not currently without a variety of challenges, not the least of which is providing opportunity to recently graduated, unemployed attorneys.  Our law schools are facing a dramatic drop in applications as job opportunities have decreased and education costs often increase.  A debt load for a recent graduate can exceed $150,000 for three years of law school tuition, books, room and board.  To meet this challenge, Albany Law School in working diligently and proactively to insure our profession’s time honored legacy in our community by implementing a variety of dynamic programs including the Residency Associate Program for 2013 graduates.  The program allows legal employers the opportunity to hire not yet employed, newly admitted lawyers in a manner characteristic of a fellowship.  For more details, see page of our newsletter.  Obviously, gainfully employed lawyers create access to new members for our Association and enlarge opportunities for the enhancement of our community.   
 
Your Association is blessed with a dynamic Board of Directors and staff.  I wish to welcome our new Executive Director, Stacey Whiteley, who previously served our New York State Bar Association.  Please feel free to contact me if you have any comments or wish to become more active in the Association’s Committees or governance.  I hope to see you at the 114th Annual Court of Appeals Dinner on February 12, 2014.

(From the January 2014 Newsletter)
(From the December 2013 Newsletter)
(From the November 2013 Newsletter)
(From the October 2013 Newsletter)
(From the September 2013 Newsletter)






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April 2014 NEWSLETTER


Albany County Bar Association
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