New York State Bar Association President Michael Getnick on Wednesday posed an interesting question to a packed room of 263 about-to-be-sworn attorneys and their friends and family: What might happen if every attorney in New York — all 150,000 or more — gave 50 or more hours annually in pro bono service?
New York State Bar Association members who give 50 hours or more of such service are specially designated as Empire State Counsel. About 1,400 NYSBA members in 2009 donated about 250,000 pro bono hours.
Getnick’s keynote address, delivered at the Hyatt Regency Rochester on Wednesday as part of the Bar Admission Ceremony of the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, urged the new attorneys to consider the ways in which they might contribute to the cause. He also urged them to mobilize behind another cause — achieving pay raises for members of the state judiciary.
Getnick said the independence of the Judiciary is at risk if the state’s judges are permitted to go for a 12th year without an increase in pay. He emphasized that the three branches of government, indeed, must be kept separate and distinct, and that the Legislature’s holding up judicial pay jeopardizes that independence.
Other ceremony speakers included Linda J. Kostin, coordinator for the Pro Bono Action Now Project for the Seventh Judicial District, and Pietra G. Lettieri, chairwoman of the Bar Association of Erie County’s Young Lawyers Committee.
Appellate Division, Fourth Department Presiding Justice Henry J. Scudder offered his congratulations to the newly sworn attorneys, but also asked their parents, mentors and colleagues to rise and be thanked for their efforts in helping the new attorneys achieve what they have thus far.
— Photos by Vasiliy Baziuk