Seventeen recipients, including attorneys, law firms and students, were recognized with 2017 President’s Pro Bono Service Awards by New York State Bar Association President Claire P. Gutekunst on May 1 at the Bar Center in Albany. President-elect Sharon Stern Gerstman joined her at the ceremony.
“The legal profession’s proud tradition of pro bono work is a way to generously give back to the communities we serve,” said Gutekunst. “These awards highlight the countless hours that busy lawyers across the state selflessly donated, which had a profound impact on the less fortunate.”
New York State Court of Appeals Associate Justice Jenny Rivera delivered the key note address on the importance of pro bono service.
In addition to honoring individual attorneys representing 10 of New York’s 13 judicial districts, awards were presented to a lawyer under age 36 or practicing less than 10 years, a senior lawyer, law school group, a law student, in-house counsel, mid-sized law firm and large firm. The recipients include:
1st Judicial District (Manhattan)
Adam Hunt is a senior litigation associate at Morrison & Foerster. With co-counsel at the New York Civil Liberties Union and attorneys at his firm, Hunt spent 450 hours to achieve a landmark settlement to reform solitary confinement in state prisons.
2nd Judicial District (Brooklyn)
Victor Piacente is a solo practitioner in Yonkers. In 2011, Piacente started a 501(c)(3) corporation, Street Bishops of New York, dedicated to providing free legal services to women and children involved in family law cases.
3rd Judicial District (Albany, Columbia, Greene, Rensselaer, Schoharie, Sullivan, Ulster counties)
Byrgen Finkelman, a solo practitioner in Slingerlands, helps transgender individuals navigate name and gender corrections on identity documents. She has filed more than 125 petitions in 27 New York counties.
5th Judicial District (Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Oneida, Onondaga, Oswego counties)
Todd Long is an assistant corporation counsel for the city of Syracuse and volunteer with the Onondaga County Volunteer Lawyer’s Project, assisting with the Homeless Advocacy and Prevention Program.
6th Judicial District (Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Cortland, Delaware, Madison, Otsego, Schuyler, Tioga, Tompkins counties)
Eugene Peckham, a retired Broome county surrogate and acting Supreme Court justice, is a partner at Levene, Gouldin & Thompson in Vestal. Since 2014, Peckham has logged more than 150 pro bono hours for the Legal Aid Society of Mid-New York, counseling clients at the Broome County Senior Legal Clinic.
7th Judicial District (Cayuga, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Seneca, Steuben, Wayne, Yates counties)
Paul B. Watkins of Rochester is a solo practitioner focusing on family and matrimonial law. Watkins does pro bono work at the Volunteer Legal Services Program, representing clients in divorce and family law cases.
8th Judicial District (Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Niagara, Orleans, Wyoming counties)
Lawlor F. Quinlan III, a partner at Connors in Buffalo, provided over 250 hours of pro bono representation during the past two years to indigent refugees seeking relief in immigration courts.
9th Judicial District (Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Westchester counties)
Robert Nahoum, principal attorney at the Law Offices of Robert J. Nahoum in Nyack, volunteers for Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, representing low-income consumers in debt collection cases.
10th Judicial District (Nassau, Suffolk counties)
Henry M. Mascia, a civil litigator and immigration attorney at Rivkin Radler in Uniondale, obtained asylum for a teenage girl who fled to the U.S. to escape persecution from a gang in El Salvador.
11th Judicial District (Queens County)
Thomas Wojtaszek is a solo practitioner with a general practice in Brooklyn, who has done pro bono work for the Queens County Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project since 2014.
Barbara Weiner is an attorney emeritus in the Public Benefits and Immigration Units at Empire Justice Center’s Albany office and at The Legal Project in Albany, representing domestic violence victims and others.
Paul Q. Andrews practices law at Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer in New York City. In 2016 he performed 250 hours of pro bono work and is co-chair of the firm’s Transgender Name Change Project.
Lauren Henry is a third-year law student at Syracuse University College of Law. During the past two summers, she interned at Legal Assistance of Western New York, helping veterans and others.
Law School Group
The Immigration Advocacy Project at Fordham Law School organized four volunteer service trips since the spring of 2016 to the South Texas Family Residential Center, an immigration detention facility.
Large Law Firm
Fried Frank Harris, Shriver & Jacobson’s pro bono program provides representation to people of limited means, worthy public interest and entrepreneurial organizations, and civil rights causes.
Mid-Sized Law Firm
Lawyers from Barclay Damon in Buffalo handled 156 pro bono cases in 2016 for the Erie County Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project.
NBCUniversal Media’s Legal Department comprises approximately 340 attorneys worldwide. In the past year, 65 lawyers in its New York office worked with various organizations to help underserved populations.
For photos of award recipients, contact Christian Nolan at [email protected] To read more about the Presidents’ Pro Bono Service Awards, go to www.nysba.org/PBawards.
The 72,000-member New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. It was founded in 1876.
Contact: Christian Nolan