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BAEC marks Law Day

James R. Silkenat

James R. Silkenat

James R. Silkenat, president of the American Bar Association, delivered the keynote address at the Bar Association of Erie County’s annual Law Day luncheon Tuesday at the Hyatt Regency Buffalo.

The bar association presented its annual awards to members of the community who have distinguished themselves in support of the justice system.

• The 2014 Liberty Bell Award, the highest award bestowed, was given to Gary Janas, a teacher at Orchard Park High School since 1999. He has served as a mock trial advisor for the New York State Mock Trial Program since 2001, advising more than 250 students over the years.

• The Special Service Award went to Dilma Rosales, recently retired paralegal coordinator for the Volunteer Lawyers Project’s Landlord/Tenant Unit.

• The Police Officer Award went to Detective Brian G. Ross of the Buffalo Police Department Homicide Squad.

• The Justice Award went to Noreen Flynn, expedited matrimonial social worker.

• The Media Award went to Jeffrey A. Spencer, court attorney referee who writes a monthly column for the bar association.

• The Rev. A. Joseph Bissonette Pro Bono Award, named in memory of Bissonette’s commitment to social justice, was presented to attorney James DeMarco III, a partner at Bengart & DeMarco, for his pro bono service through the Volunteer Lawyers Project Inc.

The national 2014 Law Day theme is “American Democracy and the Rule of Law: Why Every Vote Matters.” As the 50th anniversaries of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 approach, the theme focuses on the importance of the right to vote and the challenges we still face in ensuring that all Americans have this opportunity.

Local students who submitted the top designs in the bar association’s annual poster contest (based on the national theme) also received awards and a team of students from Clarence High School, who won the annual mock trial tournament for the third consecutive year, was recognized.