2016 President's Pro Bono Service Awards

26th Anniversary of the President's Pro Bono Service Awards

2016

Honorees

First Judicial District

Stephen C. Lessard, Esq.
Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP
New York, NY

Nominator:
Frank Agostino
Agostino & Associates, P.C.
Hackensack, NJ

Stephen Lessard is a senior associate in the tax group at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, where his practice includes the taxation of financial products, debt and equity offerings, cross-border transactions and mergers and acquisitions. Prior to his legal career, he served in the U.S. Navy for 20 years.

In 2013, he helped found the New York County Lawyers’ Association (NYCLA) Veterans Discharge Upgrade Program, a joint effort with the Veteran Advocacy Project of the Urban Justice Center and Fordham Law School’s Feerick Center for Social Justice. It assists veterans seeking to upgrade a less-than honorable discharge characterization due to poor performance or misconduct brought on by undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury or military sexual trauma, in order to claim entitlement to veterans’ benefits. 

Lessard is also a member of the National LGBT Bar Association’s Military Working Group, where he has represented transgender veterans seeking to amend military documents to reflect name changes. This project resulted in the military revising its policies to allow transgender veterans’ names to be changed on their discharge certificates to match their gender identity. 

He also helped establish the NYCLA U.S. Tax Court Calendar Call Pro Bono Program, the first of its kind in New York State, which assists pro se taxpayers appearing before the U.S. Tax Court.  The program has become a model for similar initiatives across the nation. He also works with nonprofit organizations applying for a tax-exempt determination from the IRS.

Lessard has also volunteered at the Life Planning Clinic, founded by the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) and the LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York, which assists LGBT community members preparing health care proxies, living wills, wills and powers of attorney. He is a member of the advisory board to the NYLAG’s LGBT Law Project, which provides pro bono legal assistance on issues such as life planning, housing and immigration.

Third Judicial District

Denise M. Resta-Tobin, Esq.
Solo Practitioner
Clifton Park, NY 

Nominator:
Susan Pattenaude, Esq.
The Legal Project
Albany, NY

Denise M. Resta-Tobin of Ballston Lake (Tobin & Dunshee, LLP) specializes in the areas of family/matrimonial matters, personal injury, wills, traffic matters, landlord/tenant disputes and property litigation.  She dedicates time to providing pro bono legal services to victims of domestic violence in the Capitol Region.  

She is an active member of her community, serving on the board of The Sara Marie School in Clifton Park and as Secretary of the Italian American Bar Association.

Born in Brooklyn and raised on Long Island, she earned her law degree from Touro College. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English with teacher certification.

Fourth Judicial District

Charles R. Harding, Esq.
The Harding Law Firm
Niskayuna, NY

Nominator
Lillian Moy, Esq., Executive Director
The Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York
Albany, NY

Charles Harding is a principle in The Harding Law Firm in Schenectady, primarily engaged in civil litigation, including, divorce, personal injury and commercial litigation.

Harding served for many years as a judge for Albany Law School’s annual mock trial competition.  He has volunteered for the Schenectady County Bar Association’s Modest means program and, in 2015, became a member of New York State’s Attorney Emeritus Program. 

He has also volunteered to represent indigent clients of the Legal Aid Society of Northeast New York, accepting several contested divorce actions, requiring significant time and dedication.

He has also served on various committees for the Schenectady County Bar Association and is a former chair of its Judiciary Committee. Harding received his undergraduate degree from the State University of New York at Albany and his law degree from Union University. 

Fifth Judicial District

Michael Palczewski, Esq. 
New Hartford, NY

Nominator:
Paul J. Lupia, Esq., Executive Director
Legal Aid Society of Mid-New York, Inc.
Utica, NY

Michael Palczewski of New Hartford N.Y. volunteers for the Legal Aid Society in Utica on a weekly basis.  He advises clients who need advice on family law issues, and many his clients are distraught and have nowhere to turn, he said. “I see it as my responsibility to advise them and guide them to the best possible degree and result that I can achieve for them under the circumstances.”  In 2010, Palczewski retired from private practice, where he represented thousands of children and parents in family court matters. He spent three years in the Bronx Integrated Domestic Violence Court representing battered women. Prior, he was corporation counsel for the city of New York. 

Palczewski obtained degrees from Hunter College in New York City and Hofstra University School of Law.

Sixth Judicial District
James G. Cushman, Esq.
Law Office of James G. Cushman
Norwich, NY

Nominator:
Arlene Sanders, Esq., Managing Attorney
Pro Bono Unit
Legal Aid Society of Mid-NY
Binghamton, NY

James Cushman maintains a general practice in Norwich, N.Y., where he concentrates his practice in consumer bankruptcy, family law, real estate and estate planning, among other areas. Admitted to practice in New York since 1975, Cushman has spent his entire legal career serving the rural communities in Chenango and surrounding counties.  

He serves on the board of the American Legion, post 189, the Town of Plymouth Cemetery Board of Trustees, and is a member and past president of the Chenango County Bar Association.  He also is a part-time city court judge in Chenango and surrounding counties, and is the town attorney for the Town of Columbus, Chenango County. 

Cushman has been involved with LASMNY’s Private Attorney Involvement Program for more than 15 years, pro bono bankruptcy assistance. 

Seventh Judicial District  

Andrew L. Martin, Esq.
Solo Practitioner
Fairport, NY

Nominator:
Sheila A. Gaddis, Esq.
Executive Director
Volunteer Legal Services Project of Monroe County
Rochester, NY  

Andrew Martin, previously a litigation attorney in California for 15 years, moved to New York eight years ago intending to return to an active practice. After his wife passed away in 2013, he decided to resume his career as an attorney and, in the process of becoming licensed in New York, discovered that he loved working with the Volunteer Legal Services Project.  

“I have been representing as many VLSP clients as I am able in their unemployment insurance benefit hearings,” Martin said. “It is fun and rewarding work, and helping VLSP clients helps me enormously. I was deeply honored to be nominated and am very thankful to VLSP for giving me the opportunity to volunteer on their behalf.”

Eighth Judicial District  
Raymond N. McCabe, Esq.
Barclay Damon
Buffalo, NY

Nominator:
Robert M. Elardo, Esq.
Executive Director and CEO
Erie County Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project, Inc.
Buffalo, NY  

Raymond McCabe of Buffalo (Barclay Damon) focuses his practice on employee benefit law (ERISA), not-for-profit corporation law and federal, state and international taxation.

He has volunteered to incorporate and obtain IRS recognition of tax-exempt status for several Western New York charitable organizations, including a sports-themed youth development organization, a charity that raises funds for cancer treatment and research, an inner-city non-denominational church, rural youth enrichment center, developer of a memorial skate park and an inner-city health clinic. He also helped resolve a conflict among directors of a charity, facilitating a corporate reorganization that resulted in dividing the charity into three separate entities.

He also uses his experience as an ERISA attorney volunteering to help divorcing individuals obtain the marital share of their former spouses’ retirement or pension funds. McCabe assisted in the drafting of a brief that the trial court relied on in refusing to enforce an alleged waiver of spousal rights in a pension obtained by duress and threat of physical harm. 

Ninth Judicial District  

Wendy Marie Weathers, Esq.
Cabanillas & Associates, P.C.
White Plains, NY

Nominator:
 Sherri Rozansky, Esq.
Legal Services of the Hudson Valley
White Plains, NY

Wendy Marie Weathers of White Plains (Cabanillas & Associates, P.C.) volunteers for Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, preparing and filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy petitions and attending 341 Hearings, resulting in Chapter 7 discharges. She also provides bankruptcy training for pro bono clients at Legal Services of the Hudson Valley.
Weathers concentrates her practice in the areas of bankruptcy and foreclosure defense litigation, working to empower litigation teams to develop legal strategies in foreclosure defenses in New York.
Weathers, a member of the State Bar’s House of Delegates, earned degrees from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and City University of New York Law School at Queens College.

Tenth Judicial District  
S. Robert Kroll
Nassau Suffolk Law Services Volunteer Lawyers Project
Hempstead, NY 

Nominators:
Roberta Scoll, Esq.
Nassau Suffolk Law Services
Hempstead, NY

S. Robert Kroll of Merrick, a former partner at Medowar & Kroll, Esqs., is a member of the Nassau-Suffolk Law Services Committee, providing counsel to pro se litigants in the Nassau County District Court Landlord-Tenant Part 1.

He is also a volunteer mediate for landlord-tenant cases in Nassau County District Court. As mediator, Kroll uses his experience to recommend reasonable settlements, keeping in mind the rights and needs of both parties.

Kroll is also a volunteer for the Veteran’s Law Clinic at Hofstra Law School, where he meets with veterans and provides general advice as to what needs to be done to resolve the situation. In addition, he is a member of a panel of attorneys available to the Nassau County District Court serving as a volunteer arbitrator in small claims cases, serving when called upon by the court.

Kroll currently serves on the MTA Inspector General Management Advisory Board (without compensation). He was appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo.  He obtained degrees from Hofstra College and Brooklyn Law School.

Eleventh Judicial District   

Daniel A. Costigan
Law Offices of Daniel A. Costigan, P.C.
Douglaston, NY

Nominator:
Mark Weliky
Queens Volunteer Lawyers Project, Inc.
Jamaica, NY

Daniel A. Costigan of Fresh Meadows (Daniel A. Costigan, P.C.) devotes significant time to pro bono cases through the Queens Volunteer Lawyers Project and has represented multiple low-income and indigent clients. The majority of his cases in this area are in domestic relations matters, child support and child support enforcement.

Prior to establishing his solo-practice law firm in 2012, which focuses on general practice, family law and advising and representing small business clients, Costigan managed investment portfolios for private clients and held multiple positions in the banking industry.

He earned degrees from the University of Virginia and the University of Virginia School of Law. He received a master’s degree in Business Administration from Columbia University, Graduate School of Business, which he attended on a full scholarship after spending two years as a staff attorney in the Law Department of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Young Lawyer  

Osvaldo Garcia
Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP
New York, NY

Nominator: 

Annie Mohan
Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP
New York, NY

Osvaldo Garcia of New York City, an associate at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP is the founder and director of the Cadwalader Black and Latino Association Immigration Clinic, which has become a successful and crucial source of assistance for both attorneys and pro bono clients.

The Immigration Clinic serves as an internal support network meant to increase attorney awareness, knowledge and engagement of immigration matters mainly through regular support meetings that tap into the vast knowledge and expertise accrued by Cadwalader attorneys who have handled immigration cases. 

Garcia obtained his degrees from Florida International University and Cornell Law School, where he was a part of the Dreamer Pro Bono Project, a program assisting undocumented migrants in New York’s Finger Lakes region. Garcia also worked on a pro bono basis for Tompkins-Tioga Neighborhood Legal Services, where he assisted indigent clients.

Senior Lawyer  

Frederick Stephen Marty
Marcellus, NY
Nominator: 

Sally Curran, Esq.
Volunteer Lawyers Project of Onondaga County
Syracuse, NY

Frederick Stephen Marty, who retired from Hiscock Law Firm (now Barclay Damon) in 2012, volunteers for programs sponsored by the Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP) in Central New York, including Talk to a Lawyer, Rescue Mission, Onondaga County Surrogate’s Court, the Upstate and Crouse Hospitals and Landlord Tenant.

He created VLP’s Estate Planning Program, which offers legal advice and document preparation and recruited other attorneys to operate the program. 

Marty has been a member of many volunteer and charitable boards, including the boards of directors of The Bar Foundation and the Onondaga County Bar Association. 

He is currently president and, for more than 25 years, was a trustee of the Frank and Frances Revoir Foundation, which awards grants to local non-for-profit institutions and organizations. He has also been involved with the Syracuse Home Association in Baldwinsville, serving on its boards for more than 25 years and is president of McHarrie Towne, its senior residential community.  

Since 1970, Marty has been a member of committees and governing boards of Park Central Presbyterian Church. He represented the Cayuga Syracuse Presbytery, the local judicatory of the Presbyterian denomination and was moderator of the Presbytery, its highest lay position.  

Marty, a former chair of the State Bar’s Trust and Estates Law Section, graduated from Hamilton College and Syracuse University College of Law.

Law Student  

Persaud Jessica Persaud
Albany Law School
Albany, NY

Nominator:
Samantha Howell, Esq.
Prisoners Legal Services of New York
Albany, NY

Jessica Persaud, a third-year law student at Albany Law School scheduled to graduate in May 2016, is a teaching assistant for the Domestic Violence Prosecution Hybrid Clinic and project director of the Prisoners’ Rights pro bono project, where she has completed more than 100 hours of pro bono service.

has completed five internships the past three years. She volunteered for the Prisoners’ Rights Project during her first year of law school, which led to her first internship at Prisoners’ Legal Services, where she assisted in the representation of indigent prisoners facing due process violations and other issues.

She participated in the Domestic Violence Prosecution Hybrid Clinic, where she was placed in the field at the Albany County District Attorney's office in city court, observing proceedings, drafting discovery motions, and representing the people on the record for arraignments.  She also interned for the federal public defender’s office of the Northern District of New York, researching evidentiary and sentencing issues, such as Eighth Amendment claims against cruel and unusual punishment and drafted legal memoranda analyzing defenses.

Persaud was an intern at Empire Justice Center, where she worked on a kinship foster care diversion case, researching and drafting memoranda regarding the deprivation of due process. She then interned for the Empire Justice Center, where she assisted with the low-income people obtain public benefits.  She also volunteered for the New York Civil Liberties Union, where she lobbied against proposed legislation that could potentially interfere with individuals’ civil liberties.

Law School Group  

Disaster Relief Clinic
Touro Law Center
Central Islip, NY

Nominator:

Patti Desrochers
Touro Law Center
Central Islip, NY

Touro Law Center’s Disaster Relief Clinic, which was developed in the wake of Superstorm Sandy as a referral hotline, has evolved into a full-service legal clinic addressing the changing needs of Sandy survivors since the storm. 

The Clinic assists clients with legal issues and disputes, including flood insurance or homeowner insurance underpayments or denials of coverage; contractors who misappropriated funds or incorrectly performed contracted services; FEMA recoupments of Individuals and Households Program benefits; assistance with the NY Rising Program and NY Rising recoupments; working with policymakers to reform the flood insurance program to reduce the need for ongoing legal assistance or representation; access to justice issues ; and undue burdens that insurance underpayments, denials or coverage place onto the state through its NY Rising Program and ongoing needs for social services; and assistance with the FEMA Sandy Claims Review Process.

In 2015, attorneys provided 150 hours of assistance during Sandy recovery walk-in clinics; 50 hours of time educating the media; 100 hours at client’s homes who are disabled or elderly; and 1,097 hours of full- or limited-scope representation; and, in total, the group spoke with more than 4,000 Superstorm Sandy survivors.

Large Law Firm  

Large Law Firm
DLA Piper LLP (US)
New York, NY 

Nominator: 

Elizabeth M. Guggenheimer
Lawyers Alliance with Legal Aid, NYLPI
New York, NY

DLA Piper (US) attorneys—who number more than 4,000 in 30 countries—spend time each year providing free legal services to individuals and organizations who cannot otherwise access legal services.
In 2015, the firm contributed more than 131,000 hours in North America and 221,000 hours globally to pro bono and community engagement work.

While DLA Piper attorneys work on a variety of pro bono matters and are encouraged to pursue issues about which they feel passionate, the firm created pro bono programs that focus on addressing the needs of veterans (Serving Those Who Serve Our Country); working to combat hunger (Feeding the Hungry in Our Global Neighborhood); assisting survivors of intimate partner violence (Advocates Against Intimate Partner Violence); and juvenile justice (Second Chances for Juveniles).

In 2005, the firm founded New Perimeter, a nonprofit organization established to provide long-term pro bono legal assistance in under-served regions around the world to support access to justice, social and economic development, and sound legal institutions.

Through New Perimeter, DLA Piper lawyers provide assistance to charitable organizations, government and academic institutions on projects designed to strengthen a country’s legal system. They also work to improve the skills of its judges, lawyers and law students; encourage economic growth; promote access to justice and the rule of law; and strengthen women’s rights. 

Small/Mid-Sized Law Firm  

Phillips Lytle LLP (US)
New York, NY

Nominator:
Robert M. Elardo, CEO
Erie County Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project, Inc.
Buffalo, NY

Pro bono work has been a priority for Phillips Lytle throughout its history. With eight offices (six in New York state), more than 180 Phillips Lytle attorneys provide legal services to the poor, disadvantaged and those in need. The firm’s work includes civil and criminal matters, and non-litigation legal assistance, ranging from matters that broadly impact communities to representation of those in need in high-volume court settings to complex individual case representations. 

In 2015, Phillips Lytle attorneys in the Buffalo office devoted more than 3,300  hours of pro bono work through the Erie County Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project (Attorney of the Morning Program and Say Yes to Education Buffalo); for not-for profit organizations; representation of pro se prisoner plaintiffs in the U.S. District Court of Western New York; and for indigent civil appellant and petitioners before the Second Circuit.