Stern Gerstman, counsel to the Buffalo law firm Magavern Magavern Grimm,
assumes office today, June 1, as 120th president of the 72,000-member New York
State Bar Association.
who succeeds Claire P. Gutekunst of Yonkers, is the seventh woman and 12th
Buffalo attorney to head the 141-year-old Association. Michael Miller of New
York City (Law Firm of Michael Miller) is president-elect.
“My goal as
president is to get all our members involved in making the world, the
profession and the justice system better,” Gerstman said. “If you see a cause
you agree with, it's not enough to like it on Facebook, do something!”
that New York attorneys have a long history of volunteering their legal
services to assist the poor and other vulnerable individuals. Collectively, the
State Bar’s advocacy has helped bring about major legal reforms—notably, in
early April 2017, enactment of New York State laws to combat wrongful convictions,
raise the age of criminal responsibility to 18, seal criminal records in some
circumstances and improve the provision of indigent criminal defense.
Gerstman's leadership, the Association will examine what policies and laws have
contributed to a large prison population, which is disproportionately
minority—as well as the impact on lives of individuals and on the social fabric
of the nation.
to looking at sentencing and bail guidelines, hiring of private corporations to
operate the prisons and other issues, the Association will focus on what
Gerstman calls “prison prevention.” This requires evaluating the impact of
zero-tolerance policies in schools and the increased presence of uniformed
police officers in schools, she said.
pictures of kids escorted from school in handcuffs and taken directly to police
headquarters, sometimes for minor disciplinary problems. There has to be better
way to handle these kids,” she said. “Students who are suspended or expelled
are at higher risk of dropping out of school, committing crimes and ending up
in jail or prison later in life. As a nation, we need to put a brake on this
who spent the past year visiting many county bar associations across New York,
is committed to enhancing the ties between local bars and the New York State
Bar Association. “We don't look at local bars as competition. Instead, we
recognize that state and local bar associations provide different and
complementary services to members,” she said.
Personal and Professional Background
A longtime member of the
State Bar Association, Gerstman previously served as president-elect, treasurer
and vice-president for the Eighth Judicial District on the Executive Committee.
She is a member of the House of Delegates, Finance Committee, Dispute
Resolution Section, and Torts, Insurance and Compensation Law Section.
Gerstman is past chair
of the Committee on Civil Practice Law and Rules and the Special Committee on
Lawyer Advertising and Referral Service Regulation. She
also co-chaired the Task Force on E-Filing, the Special Committee on Lawyer
Advertising and the Special Committee on Strategic Planning. She is a Life
Fellow of The Bar Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the State Bar, and was a
board member from 2008 to 2016.
She is active in the
American Bar Association, where she has been a member of the House of Delegates
since 1990. She has served on its Board of Governors and the councils of two
sections and as a member of multiple committees.
Magavern Magavern Grimm in Buffalo, Gerstman concentrates her practice in
mediation and arbitration and appellate practice. She joined the firm in
December 2010. She previously spent nearly 30 years as a court attorney/referee
and principal law clerk with the New York Supreme Court in the Eighth Judicial
District. She taught New York Practice at the University at Buffalo Law School
for 30 years.
A native of Brooklyn,
Gerstman was raised in New Jersey. She graduated from Brown University with a
degree in philosophy. She later earned a J.D. from University of Pittsburgh
School of Law and a LL.M. from Yale Law School.
She and her
husband, Daniel Gerstman, live in Buffalo. Their son, Ari, and his wife,
Valerie Baron, and daughter reside in Washington, D. C.
will serve a one-year term as State Bar president. Also on June 1, Miller
becomes president-elect, Sherry Levin Wallach of Cross River takes office as
secretary and Scott Karson of Melville (Lamb & Barnosky) begins a second
term as treasurer. Miller will succeed Gerstman as president on June 1, 2018.
72,000-member New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar
association in the nation. It was
founded in 1876.
Contact: Lise Bang-Jensen
Director, Media Services