Vincent E. Doyle III, new president of the New York State Bar Association, wants to improve access to the justice system for everyone regardless of their ability to pay. He has even picked “Justice For All” as the theme of his one-year term, which began Wednesday when he was also toasted at an inaugural reception at Canisius College, his alma mater.
Two key areas Doyle, a partner in the Buffalo firm Connors & Vilardo LLP, plans to focus on are veterans and immigration. Although he was not directly involved in establishing the Buffalo Veterans Treatment Court, he knows a lot of the players and would like to bring what has become a national model to the rest of the state by creating a Special Committee on Military Veterans.
“I think the bar association’s role is to try to develop training programs and resources for lawyers who are willing to help this population and then make sure there is an adequate referral system in the state,” Doyle said.
He notes veterans have unique problems such as accessing benefits, battling unemployment and dealing with mental health and homelessness issues, often resulting from their military experiences. Doyle is also creating a Special Committee on Immigration Representation to help another group facing distinctive issues — related to their cultural differences, language barriers and possible deportation.
“What we’ve seen in the last few years is really an explosion in terms of immigration proceedings in which the respondents are either unrepresented or poorly represented,” Doyle said. “The stakes are so great for these people and whether they can stay in this country and pursue their dreams. We shouldn’t expect them to face these obstacles without representation. Many of these immigrants simply don’t know where to go to ask for legal advice and representation.”
On the criminal side, he is planning to have a study done on ways local providers of legal services on the county level can share resources.
“The issue there is that the burden of providing criminal representation for the indigent falls on the counties across the state,” Doyle said. “With the local budgets stretched so thin, the providers in many areas of the state are seriously overworked and under funded. We’re hoping to create networks of local sharing agreements.”
He said the study will be done by the existing Committee to Ensure Quality of Mandated Representation, chaired by Norman P. Effman, Wyoming County public defender.
The state bar will also monitor how the recent $170 million state budget cuts to the court system affect the ability of the courts to remain open and accessible to all New Yorkers. Doyle plans to aggressively advocate that the state government adequately finance the court system while looking at ways to reduce long-term costs and find efficiencies. One possibility includes consolidating the state’s 13 different trial courts.
Doyle, the 11th NYSBA president from the Buffalo area and the first one in 10 years, succeeds Stephen P. Younger of the New York City firm Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP.
“I just think Steve was a wonderful role model for me,” Doyle said. “He really stressed lawyers as mentors as one of his themes and he was a wonderful mentor to me to what a bar leader should be.”
Younger said it is important for the bar association to have leaders from Western New York, particularly given the economic situation in the area. He said the last Buffalo president, Paul Michael Hassett (2000-01), senior managing partner of the Buffalo firm Brown & Kelly LLP, was tremendous and a real mentor to Doyle, whom Younger called “the most prepared member of New York State Bar Association ever to be president.
“He has walked with me on every step of the journey I took as president,” Younger said. “He has a superb agenda for his presidential term and I very much look forward to watching him in action and being a fan of his which I already am.”
Doyle, a magna cum laude graduate of University at Buffalo Law School, has been an active member of the state bar for two decades, serving in many capacities on committees, task forces and the House of Delegates, which he chaired during the past year.
“In a statewide bar association, I think there’s a benefit to having the [different] points of view represented,” Doyle said. “Lawyers from Rochester and Buffalo and Syracuse and all points in between are very actively involved in the state bar. I think it’s good to bring that perspective to all of the issues that the association looks at.”
Picking up on one of Younger’s initiatives, creation of the Task Force on the Future of the Legal Profession, Doyle wants bar association activities to be as family friendly as possible, starting with the June 25 House of Delegates meeting in Cooperstown where he’ll officially be sworn in.
One of the first suggestions of his special Task Force on Family Friendly Issues was to include several family oriented events at the meeting including a children’s dinner, boat cruise, trolley rides, an orchard trip and a softball game.
Doyle and his wife Kerry plan to bring their three children: 9-year-old twins Aiden and Blaise and 6-year-old Isabella. Doyle said when he was a boy, it was a family tradition for his father — the late State Supreme Court Justice Vincent E. Doyle Jr. — to bring him to association events and he encourages others to create their own family traditions.
“We made great strides in shaping what the issues are for the future of our profession,” Younger said. “Our profession has been through a lot of turbulence over the last few years and I think we made a few position recommendations for change that can help all lawyers of our state. I look forward to assisting Vince and the whole office team as they implement some of the key recommendations this year. It’s been a wonderful run.”
In addition to his ongoing state bar activities, Doyle sits on the Advisory Committee on Criminal Law and Procedure, is a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers and a member of the New York State Judicial Screening Panel for the Fourth Judicial Department.
He is also a member of the Bar Association of Erie County and has served on its board of directors; and former president, Aid to Indigent Prisoner’s Society. His practice at Connors and Vilardo, where he is a trial and appellate attorney, includes commercial litigation, white collar investigations and legal ethics matters.