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January/February 2014, Vol. 56, No. 1

Annual Meeting 2014 PREVIEW

Louis A. Craco to receive Gold Medal during Annual Meeting

Louis Craco


By Mark Mahoney
Long Island attorney Louis A. Craco—a longtime advocate for professionalism and reform in the legal profession—will be awarded the State Bar’s Gold Medal during the 2014 Annual Meeting in New York City.

The Gold Medal, the association’s highest honor, is presented to individuals in recognition of lifelong excellence in the legal profession and constructive contributions to civic and community matters.

State Bar President David M. Schraver of Rochester (Nixon Peabody LLP) will present the award to Craco during the President’s Dinner on February 1 at the Harvard Club. 

“Mr. Craco has long been a leader in promoting the highest standards of ethics and professionalism in the legal community,” Schraver said. “His work has brought about changes in the legal profession that have become a staple in how every attorney in New York State practices law. We are honored to recognize him with our association’s highest award.”

Notable statewide impact

A former president of the New York City Bar Association and chair of the New York State Judicial Institute on Professionalism in the Law, Craco is well known for chairing the Chief Judge’s Committee on the Profession and the Courts. The blue ribbon panel, appointed in 1993 by then-Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye, explored the scope of public dissatisfaction with the legal profession.

The committee, which became known as the “Craco Committee,” made several recommendations for reform that were adopted in principal by the Administrative Board of the Courts.

Among the committee’s recommendations were requiring continuing legal education for the New York Bar, expanding court rules to address frivolous conduct by attorneys, standardizing grievance committee practices around the state, adopting an aspirational Code of Civility, and requiring that a Statement of Client’s Rights be posted in every New York law office.

Out of that committee was formed the New York State Judicial Institute on Professionalism in the Law, an organization established in 1999 under the Unified Court System to promote scholarship and attention to ethics and professionalism issues, sponsor forums and promote public understanding of the role of lawyers in society. Craco was its first chair and is chair emeritus.

The State Bar is working with the institute on a convocation in May that will examine legal education and the legal profession.

In 1984, as president of the New York City Bar Association, Craco established the Volunteers of Legal Service (VOLS) of New York City. Last year, more than 800 lawyers volunteered 26,300 hours through the pro bono program, helping 3,700 people stop evictions, win government benefits, resolve immigration issues and start small businesses.

During a legal career spanning more than five decades, Craco worked as a litigation partner at Willkie Farr & Gallagher from 1964 until his retirement in 2003. He is of-counsel to Craco & Ellsworth LLP, a Huntington law firm of which his son, Paul V. Craco, is a partner.

He has been recognized with The Legal Aid Society’s Servant of Justice Award as a strong voice for the legal profession, and is a fellow to the American College of Trial Lawyers and the College of Commercial Arbitrators.

Craco received his LL.B. degree cum laude from New York University, where he served as notes editor of the NYU Law Review. He graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree from the College of Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Past winners of the State Bar’s Gold Medal include U.S. Supreme Court justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, William Brennan, Jr. and Sandra Day O’Connor; U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder; former New York state chief judges Judith S. Kaye and Sol Wachtler; former New York City prosecutor Robert Morgenthau, and last year’s winners, Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld, co-founders of The Innocence Project.

The presentation of the Gold Medal is the culmination of the Annual Meeting Week, which runs from January 27 through February 1. 

Mahoney is NYSBA’s associate director of media services.