Russ Bleemer and the Monday Night Law Program of the New York City Bar Association have been honored with the State Bar Association’s 2015 Angelo T. Cometa Award.
“The Monday Night Law Program has helped tens of thousands of low- to moderate-income New Yorkers the past 25 years,” said New York State Bar Association President Glenn Lau-Kee of New York City (Kee & Lau-Kee).
“Under Russ Bleemer’s guidance, the program has played an important role in trying to close the access-to-justice gap that leaves an estimated 80 percent of the civil legal service needs of low-income New Yorkers unmet,” said Lau-Kee, who presented the award to Bleemer at the Association’s House of Delegates dinner in Albany on March 27.
The award, sponsored by the State Bar's Committee on Lawyer Referral Service, recognizes individuals or groups in New York that demonstrate an extraordinary commitment toward advancing the goals of the Lawyer Referral and Information Service.
The Monday Night Law Program, created in 1990, offers free legal consultation to people whose income exceeds poverty guidelines, but are unable to afford private counsel. About 130 attorneys volunteer to staff the Monday-night clinics. Each year, the program helps nearly 1,000 New Yorkers.
“Russ and the Monday Night Law team help people help themselves,” said Damaris Solis Padilla, deputy director of the New York City Bar Association’s Legal Referral Service. “Russ does his best for our clients and demands the best from his volunteers.”
The award is named for Angelo T. Cometa, president of the State Bar between 1990 and 1991. During his presidency, he advocated for increased compensation for judges and adequate funding for the Interest on Lawyer Account Fund. He also led the Bar’s successful effort to oppose a proposed sales tax on legal services.
Under his leadership, the State Bar created its Lawyer Assistance Program, Pro Bono Department and what is now known as the Department of Law Practice Management, all in 1990. In 2007, he was honored with the inaugural Angelo T. Cometa Award, named to recognize his leadership of the Committee on Lawyer Referral Service. Cometa passed away in 2014.
The New York State Bar Association, with 74,000 members, is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. It was founded in 1876.
-30-Contact: Christina Couto
Senior Media Writerccouto@nysba.org