April 13, 2010


ALBANY-The Albany Law School Clinic and Justice Center has been honored with the New York State Bar Association's 2010 Angelo T. Cometa Award in recognition of its significant community outreach efforts and legal services in the areas of civil rights, health law, unemployment litigation, family violence prevention, and other areas. The award, sponsored by the Committee on Lawyer Referral Service, recognizes individuals or groups in New York that demonstrate an extraordinary commitment toward advancing the goals of the State Bar's Lawyer Referral and Information Service (LRIS) -- a program that helps coordinate a lawyer referral and information system, as well as provides the public with information about available legal services. Named after past Bar Association President Angelo T. Cometa, the award was presented on April 9th at the State Bar's House of Delegates Dinner.

"With compassion and dedication, the Albany Law School Clinic and Justice Center provides hundreds of New Yorkers with guidance and education on Medicaid benefits, execution of trusts and estates, the rights of the developmentally disabled and child custody issues for domestic violence survivors, all while providing law students with invaluable hands-on experience," said President Michael E. Getnick (Getnick Livingston Atkinson & Priore, LLP of Utica and of counsel to Getnick & Getnick of New York City). "I congratulate the clinic for winning this distinguished award, and thank them for the vital free legal assistance they provide."

The committee recognized the Albany Law School Clinic and Justice Center for its significant community outreach and the legal advice it provides through six in-house clinics: Civil Rights and Disability Law, Health Law, Securities Law, Unemployment Litigation, Low Income Taxpayer Law and Family Violence Litigation and its collaborative Family Violence Prosecution Clinic. The Clinic and Justice Center also boasts a field placement program that has secured internships for law students at more than 200 different government offices. In 2009, the clinic handled 621 different cases on behalf of 523 individuals.

Among its most significant programs was a day-long special education conference, "Beyond the Box, Exploring the Possibilities," for parents and other individuals concerned about the rights of individuals with developmental disabilities; helping clients with cancer challenge insurance company decisions to receive due treatment; and representing survivors of domestic violence in matters related to safety, financial support, and custody of children.

"Navigating the legal landscape can often be a daunting process for the public, but lawyer referral services, such as the Clinic and Justice Center, make a needed difference by helping our vulnerable citizens receive the legal services they deserve," said Committee Chair Rajpattie Persaud-Billette. "We are pleased to honor them for their excellence in increasing public awareness about legal resources to the disadvantaged."

The LRIS is a public service of the State Bar Association and assists members of the public in obtaining information about the availability of legal services and other agencies, increasing access to attorneys, and/or providing legal services to clients. The LRIS has helped connect New Yorkers with local bar referral services, legal aid societies, legal service programs and public interest law organizations.
Past winners of the Cometa Award include: the Capital District Women's Bar Association Legal Project, Inc.; Allen J. Charne of New York (New York City Bar); and past State Bar President Angelo T. Cometa of New York. Cometa chaired the Committee on Lawyer Referral Services during the first year of LRIS operation. As committee chair, he was instrumental in establishing the LRIS and increasing public access to attorneys. The award was created in 2007 in recognition of his extraordinary service efforts.

Founded in 1876, the 77,000-member New York State Bar Association is the official statewide organization of lawyers in New York and the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. The State Bar's programs and activities have continuously served the public and improved the justice system for more than 130 years.