25th Anniversary Celebration!

Commercial and Federal Litigation Section 25th Anniversary Celebration

Section Chairs From left to right: Cathi Baglin, Hon. P. Kevin Castel, John Nonna, Hon. Shira Scheindlin, Robert Haig, Vincent Syracuse, Mark Zauderer, Lauren Wachtler, Greg Arenson, Sharon Porcellio, Lesley Rosenthal, Paul Sarkozi, Jonathan Lupkin, and David Tennant.

By Helene R. Hechtkopf

On October 23, 2013, the Commercial and Federal Litigation Section celebrated its 25th anniversary with a cocktail reception in the penthouse of the Rose Building at Lincoln Center. There was a large turnout of both judges and practitioners. Judges from many courts attended, including the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, the New York State Court of Appeals, the First and Second Departments of the Appellate Division, and the S.D.N.Y and E.D.N.Y. 

The evening began with time for cocktails and schmoozing. Gregory Arenson, chair of the Commercial and Federal Litigation Section, began the evening’s presentation with warm thanks to the judges in the room for attending. He noted that the Section has promoted bench-bar relations and supports funding for both the federal and state judiciaries. Since the Section was founded in October 1988, it has had an impact on state and federal courts, said Mr. Arenson.

Mr. Arenson introduced Glenn Lau-Kee, president-elect of NYSBA, who congratulated the Section on its 25th anniversary. Mr. Lau-Kee commended the Commercial and Federal Litigation Section for promoting excellence in practice and providing extensive resources to its members for 25 years. He also praised the Section’s advocacy for appropriate
funding for the courts. 

Arguably the highlight of the evening followed—a short video presentation, in which each of the former chairs of the Section was interviewed about his or her reflections on the Section. Mr. Arenson concluded the video presentation with a note on the changes that have taken place in the past 25 years in the practice of law and expressed optimism that the Section will participate in the changes in the practice that come in the next 25 years as well.

Next, Chief Judge Robert Katzmann of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals spoke. Judge Katzmann, a former Stanley H. Fuld Award recipient (and twice a presenter), raised the Section for its record of achievement. In particular, he spoke about the Section’s extensive library of reports, of which the judiciary is a consumer. He noted, for example, the utility of the Section’s 2009 report on “Immigration Appeals in the 2d Circuit.” The Section’s reports not only put a spotlight on important problems, said Judge Katzmann, but point us toward solutions. Finally, he expressed his appreciation for the Section’s support of the federal judiciary.

Judge Katzmann was followed by Judge Judith Kaye, former Chief Judge of the New York State Court of Appeals. Judge Kaye’s remarks, which elicited much laughter from the crowd, began with a surreptitious welcome to the assembled members of the judiciary. Judge Kaye then went on to commend the Section’s role in preserving New York’s place as a world financial capital. She noted the development of the Commercial Division, which was a bench-bar collaboration from the start. As Judge Kaye described it, when the concept of the Commercial Division was first mentioned, the idea of a specialized judiciary focusing solely on business cases was not universally accepted. Nevertheless, she explained, the Section persevered, and the Commercial Division was created. Judge Kaye then presented a special t-shirt to Judge Katzmann decorated with the seals of both the Second Circuit and the New York State Court of Appeals, to show the courts’ close association.

Finally, Commercial and Federal Litigation founder Bob Haig spoke about the Section’s productivity and collegiality. For proof of the Section’s productivity, he said, all one must do is look at the portion of the Section’s website that contains the multitude of reports published by the Section. He spoke about the report regarding the elimination of exemptions from jury service for various professionals, including lawyers. At the time the report came out, these exemptions were entrenched, but the Section conducted an empirical survey to see if having lawyers on juries
would be problematic. After the rigorous survey concluded that lawyers on juries would not have a disproportionate influence and that lawyers would be willing to choose lawyers to serve on juries, ultimately the exemptions were eliminated.

25 Years Commemorative Video