September 16, 2016: New York State Bar Association Announces Denison Ray Civil and Phil Dailey Award Winners

For their dedication in helping low-income New Yorkers gain access to quality legal services, three attorneys and a nonprofit organization have been honored with the Denison Ray Civil Awards, given by the Committee on Legal Aid of the New York State Bar Association. Also, the late Phil Dailey was honored with an award named for him, which recognizes a non-attorney who is a champion of civil legal services and pro bono work.

“The State Bar is proud to honor this year’s Denison Ray Civil and Phil Dailey award recipients for their extraordinary advocacy on behalf of our state’s most vulnerable citizens,” said State Bar President Claire P. Gutekunst of Yonkers. “They have done a remarkable job upholding the traditions of the legal profession and making a difference in the lives of those in need of legal services.” 

The awards were presented September 15 during the 2016 Legal Assistance Partnership Conference. 

Denison Ray Civil Awards
Josh Cotter, Civil Legal Services Individual Attorney Award. Cotter, of Syracuse, a staff attorney for Legal Services of Central New York, was honored for his representation of clients wrongly held in solitary confinement for excessive amounts of time. He also represented a deaf inmate over the lack of sign language interpreters at the Justice Center jail in Onondaga County and has assisted with housing issues.

David Kagle, Civil Legal Services Individual Attorney Award. Kagle, of Bath, N.Y., a staff attorney for Legal Assistance of Western New York (LawNY), was recognized for his commitment to high-quality representation of low-income clients facing homelessness and other hardships from problems with their housing.

Karen Nicolson, Civil Legal Services Program Director Award. Nicolson, CEO of Legal Services for the Elderly, Disabled or Disadvantaged of W.N.Y., Inc. in Buffalo, was recognized for nearly doubling the number of her organization’s staff, quadrupling the number of clients served and expanding its scope of services into five western New York counties during the past 16 years. She also spearheaded new projects, including an elder abuse prevention unit and the Western New York Coalition Pooled Trusts. 

Community Service Society of New York (Next Door Project), Nonprofit Organization Award
Community Service Society of New York (Next Door Project) was honored for helping hundreds of New Yorkers to understand and correct mistakes in their criminal records and for its advocacy and litigation on helping those who have experienced employment and occupational licensing discrimination.

The Denison Ray Civil Awards were named for the late Denison Ray, the former executive director of the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York. He died in 1994.

Phil Dailey Award

An award was established in honor of the late Phil Dailey, who was a paralegal at LawNY in Geneva, N.Y. The award, posthumously given to Dailey during the conference, was created to recognize the vital services of a non-attorney who demonstrates an excellence and dedication in service to legal service organizations in fulfilling their mission to provide all New Yorkers with equal access to justice.  

LawNY’s veterans hotline was Dailey’s “brainchild,” which was initially intended to provide legal information and referral to veterans and their families in a five-county area surrounding Geneva. However, word quickly spread through the veteran community and calls began coming in from all over New York state and beyond.

Dailey’s daughters accepted the award on their father’s behalf.

The 74,000-member New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. It was founded in 1876. 


Contact: Christina Couto
State Bar News Editor