April 28, 2011
STATE BAR ASSOCIATION ANNOUNCES 2011
PRESIDENT’S PRO BONO SERVICE AWARD WINNERS
Annual awards honor lawyers, law firms and law
students who provided free legal services to the poor
ALBANY— A lawyer who helped 400 Iraqis find refuge from danger,
a retired accountant who became a lawyer to do only pro bono work, and a
young blind attorney who regularly represents tenants in Housing Court
are among the 20 winners of the New York State Bar Association’s
2011 President’s Pro Bono Service Awards.
The State Bar is to present the annual service awards at a Law Day
luncheon on May 2nd at the State Bar Center in Albany. State Bar
President Stephen P. Younger of New York (Patterson Belknap Webb &
Tyler LLP) and George Lowe of Syracuse, United States Magistrate Judge
for the Northern District of New York and co-chair of the
President’s Committee on Access to Justice, will preside at this
“As lawyers we have a duty and responsibility to better our
communities and help our neighbors. Particularly now when government
support for legal services has dropped and the need for legal services
has grown significantly, pro bono services are more essential than ever.
The recipients of our President’s Pro Bono Service Awards have
answered the call with genuine concern, dedication and
generosity,” said Younger. “The State Bar is thrilled to
recognize the work of this year’s honorees. I congratulate each of
them on a job well done.”
In addition to honoring attorneys representing 12 of New York’s
13 judicial districts, the awards are given to a young lawyer practicing
law for less than 10 years or under the age of 36, a senior lawyer, a
large law firm, a mid-size law firm, a small law firm, an
in-house/government counsel, a law student and a law school group.
The winners are:
1st Judicial District (Manhattan)
Through his firm’s Iraqi Human Rights Project, Eric
Blinderman of New York City (Proskauer Rose) leads a team of
more than 60 lawyers and staff to help Iraqis, whose lives are in
danger, find refuge in the United States. He has devoted nearly 2,400
hours to the project, including 570 hours in 2010. The project has
handled more than 160 cases involving more than 400 individuals.
2nd Judicial District (Kings County)
The youngest associate ever appointed to Kaye Scholer’s Pro Bono
Committee, Larissa Eustice of Brooklyn (Kaye Scholer)
served as co-chair of the firm’s Supplemental Security Income
(SSI) Disability Project. She helped train and supervise more than 40
junior and summer associates on 32 SSI cases, resulting in 27 favorable
decisions and hundreds of thousands in benefits dollars to clients. She
donated more than 600 hours to the project.
3rd Judicial District (Albany, Columbia, Greene, Rensselaer,
Schoharie, Sullivan, Ulster counties)
of Albany volunteers with the Legal Project, the Legal Aid Society of
Northeastern New York, and the Albany County Bar Association. He
represents domestic violence victims in family court, low-income
homeowners facing foreclosure, individuals who are in need of a will or
healthcare proxy, and bankruptcy filers. He has donated more than 250
hours to low-income residents of the Capital District.
4th Judicial District (Cinton, Essex, Franklin, Fulton,
Hamilton, Montgomery, St. Lawrence, Saratoga, Schenectady, Warren,
A solo practitioner with a young family, Bethany
Schumann-McGhee of Amsterdam came up with the idea of holding
pro se divorce clinics to help as many low-income people seeking divorce
handle cases on their own. She recently donated 20 hours to develop a
pro bono and modest means panel for the Montgomery County Bar
5th Judicial District (Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Oneida,
Onondaga, Oswego counties)
John Powers of Syracuse
(Hancock & Estabrook), a West Point graduate, helped implement a
Veteran’s Pro Bono Project and Legal Clinic, which has helped 55
veterans from 21 counties with their legal needs.
6th Judicial District (Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Cortland,
Delaware, Madison, Otsego, Schuyler, Tioga, Tompkins counties)
Even with a busy private practice, Kurt D. Schrader of
Binghamton (Pope & Schrader) has made pro bono service a priority.
He has provided pro bono divorce assistance to 40 diverse clients in the
last two years.
7th Judicial District (Cayuga, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario,
Seneca, Steuben, Wayne, Yates counties)
McFadden of Rochester (Harter Secrest & Emery) donated more
than 492 pro bono hours to five immigration cases in 2010. Three cases
involving “Special Immigrant Juvenile status” and permanent
residence for children who fled countries to escape abuse and neglect
from their parents. McFadden quickly secured permanent residence for
each child, resulting in continued foster care funding for each child
until age 21.
8th Judicial District (Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua,
Erie, Genesee, Niagara, Orleans, Wyoming counties)
Anton Sciortino of Buffalo (SUNY Buffalo) volunteered with the
Erie County Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project through its
Attorney of the Morning (AOM) Program 25 times. He represented 146
clients who were faced with losing their home in 2010. In 2011, he has
represented another 22 clients and is expected to serve as the AOM 11
more times before July 2011.
9th Judicial District
(Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Westchester counties)
Having recently returned to practicing law, Elizabeth
King of Bronxville has been an active volunteer with Legal
Services of the Hudson Valley. She has donated more than 100 hours to
uncontested divorces, unemployment insurance benefits cases, and
qualified domestic relations orders.
10th Judicial District (Nassau, Suffolk counties)
After retiring from an accounting career, Leah Belfort
of Hempstead became a lawyer devoted exclusively to pro bono work. She
has devoted more than 5000 hours since joining the Volunteer Lawyers
Project in 1998. She provided 496 hours to 82 cases in 2010.
11th Judicial District (Queens County)
Since 2008, Ned Kassman of Jackson Heights has provided
75 hours of pro bono service to 70 low-income Queens residents facing
consumer debt issues.
13th Judicial District (Staten Island)
McGinn of Staten Island (Sargente & McGinn) helped launch
the Staten Island Civil Legal Advice and Resources Office that provides
free assistance to unrepresented low- and middle-income
debtor-defendants in Civil Court debt collection cases. More than 99
percent of debtor-defendants do not have counsel.
A blind attorney, Angela C. Winfield of Syracuse
(Hiscock & Barclay) volunteers with the Onondaga County Bar
Association’s Eviction Defense Clinic in Syracuse Housing Court.
She appeared in Housing Court representing tenants monthly.
Since retiring from the Madison County bench in 2001, Hugh C.
Humphreys of Utica has been the Legal Aid Society of Mid-New
York’s (LASMNY) most active volunteer, providing 4,000 hours of
service over a ten-year period. He staffed LASMNY’s Utica Pro Se
Divorce Clinics helping more than 120 people get a divorce. He also has
been co-chair of the Sixth Judicial District’s Pro Bono Action Now
Committee since 2007. Under his leadership, the committee has recruited
nearly 230 attorneys, conducted six legal education seminars, and hosted
nine clinics where 359 individuals received pro bono services.
Led by Presiding Justice Henry J. Scudder, The New York State
Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Fourth Department in
Rochester developed and implemented the state’s first and only pro
bono volunteer services policy for appellate court attorneys and staff.
The policy encourages appellate court attorneys to donate at least 20
hours of pro bono service annually. Thus far, court attorneys have
helped 106 low-income residents in the greater Rochester area.
Maria Martinez, a student at
St. John’s University School of Law, co-chaired the St.
John’s Street Law en Espanol Community Outreach Program. The
program provides Spanish-language “Know Your Rights”
workshops for Latino parishes, public library branches, and
community-based organizations in Queens County.
The Brooklyn Law School’s Civil Legal Advice and Resource
Office Student Action Group (CLARO SAG) educates the Brooklyn
community about consumer debt. In June 2010, the student interns handled
95 cases, dismissing a total of $391,080 of consumer debt.
Small Law Firm
The New York City firm Lanser Kubitschek Schaffer
served as lead counsel in the consolidated Supreme Court cases of
Camreta v. Greene, 09-1454 and Alford V. Greene, 09-1478, which involve
children's and families' rights in child protection investigations. The
firm logged more than 1,600 hours on the case and paid for printing,
copying, and other costs.
Mid-Size Law Firm
In 2010, the Buffalo law firm Phillips Lytle LLP and
its 174 attorneys collectively donated 3,300 hours in pro bono services
to low-income and disadvantaged families, and various non-profit
organizations, totaling more than $833,000 in legal services. Cases
involved immigrants held at the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility in
Batavia, prisoners’ rights, and tax matters.
Large Law Firm
Over the last three years, the New York City firm Davis Polk
Wardwell LLP has donated nearly 200,000 hours to pro bono work.
Due to its efforts, a man on death row obtained a new trial, individuals
fleeing persecution gained asylum in the U.S., domestic violence victims
escaped their batterers, and various non-profit organizations received
tax and intellectual property assistance.
The 77,000-member New York State Bar Association is the largest
voluntary state bar association in the nation. It was founded in