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MCBA President’s Message: Why your local bar associations matter

Jon P. Getz

Jon P. Getz

Recently, I had the opportunity to meet with local bar leaders and Chief Administrative Judge Craig Doran to discuss a number of issues involving our profession and our community. This frank and productive meeting gave us the opportunity to share ideas about how we can help better our profession and our justice system. One point pondered was that we need to communicate as to why local bar associations matter. This article provides some of those “whys.”

Local bar associations are tapped into the local community while being in a position to understand national trends. The Monroe County Bar Association also taps into the resources of local leaders, including the judiciary.

The Monroe County Bar Association appreciates the work of the local judiciary in making our profession better. The local bench provides guidance and quality opportunities to members of the MCBA. For instance, with the guidance of Justice Frazee, the MCBA Litigation Section is sponsoring a free “behind the scenes conversation” with Supreme Court Justice Daniel Doyle. The opportunity to meet with Justice Doyle — open only to MCBA members — will give members the chance to understand the process and, more importantly, the people on the bench. I am grateful for the judges offering their expertise and time to our members. Such informal talks allow us to better understand how the system works in practice as well as in theory.

The MCBA also continues to work hard on providing high-quality CLEs. Some examples of how the MCBA matters from an educational perspective include those same outstanding judges and practitioners offering their expertise.

Acting Supreme Court Justice Richard Dollinger, a frequent contributor to the bar, will provide an entertaining and extremely useful program on “Mastering of Hearsay in Monroe County.” This “Jeopardy-style” CLE will provide a quality opportunity to understand this important evidentiary topic, while entertaining participants at the same time.

On Oct.15, Supreme Court Justice Matthew Rosenbaum along with Mark Berman of Ganfer & Shore LLP (in New York City) will present a technology in the Commercial Division program that I suggest will provide critical information that applies to not only that division but also every area of litigation and our practices.

The Evidence Institute series also highlights how the bench works with the bar association in providing quality opportunities. Justices Ark, Doran, Martin, Minarik and Odorisi, as well as Justice Taylor, are all participants in this outstanding series. Chief Judge Frank P. Geraci of the U.S. District Court will take time out of his schedule to present at Part V of the Evidence Institute.

The association is truly grateful for the time that these judges take out of their schedules to make us better attorneys. It is not unusual, however, for our judiciary to do this. Recently, the Hon. Michael Kaplan and the Hon. Carl Bucki were panelists at the annual Western New York bankruptcy conference in Batavia. The Hon. Stephen Lindley, who has been a frequent past speaker, will present at Nuts and Bolts of Attorney Discipline on Oct. 24. The Hon. Dan Majchrzak provided an excellent matrimonial evidence and procedure CLE in June, and the Hon. Nancy Smith spoke at the popular CLE on the success of women in the legal profession. It also goes without saying that we are also thankful for Magistrate Marian Payson’s work as the immediate past dean of the Academy of Law. The Academy of Law helps guide current continuing legal education opportunities. This list exemplifies all of the outstanding work done by the bench, and it only provides some taste of all of the work done by your bar association.

In addition, our local bar associations are able to provide opportunities to take national social policy and legal issues and distill them down to our local level. The association, through open discussions and forums, allow for significant community discourse. I suggest these programs cannot be done without bar membership and leadership.

One example: On Aug. 28, the Greater Rochester Association for Women Attorneys, the Rochester Black Bar Association, and the MCBA sponsored a free showing of the award-winning documentary “13th.” The community was involved, and attendance was excellent. Following the movie, there was a panel discussion moderated and headed by local bar and community leaders. The panelists answered questions from community members in this open forum. Many local community leaders attended as well. The forum provided an opportunity to discuss the important social policy issues surrounding the themes of the movie. I suggest that such opportunities offer great value to bar members.

On Sept. 26, the Monroe County Bar Association will offer a forum on gun violence. This important topic will be moderated by past Monroe County Bar president Michael Wolford. The panelists include Willie J. Lightfoot, Rochester City Counsel and founder of Cut the Violence Initiative, Dr. James Maxwell, a neurosurgeon and Republican candidate for New York’s 25th congressional district, Joseph Morelle, New York State Assemblyman and Democratic candidate for the New York’s 25th congressional district, and Dr. Robert L. Weismann, a psychiatrist at the University of Rochester School of Medicine. The question and answer panel includes Paul Ciminelli, counsel to Monroe County Sheriff Todd Baxter, Shawn Lehman, a staff reporter at the Democrat and Chronicle and Mayor Lovely A. Warren. I believe that we will see a frank and honest discussion of the many issues surrounding gun violence in our community.

These programs, forums and CLEs are just a few examples as to why the Monroe County Bar Association matters. Such forums and programs will continue so that we may have open and candid discussions about issues affecting our profession and community. I expect to continue this discussion as to “why” local bar associations matter in my next article. That article will explore the more personal level of why the Monroe County Bar Association matters and how your membership counts. Until then, I hope to see you all soon.

Jon P. Getz is president of the Monroe County Bar Association and is the partner of Vahey Muldoon Reston Getz LLP. He can be reached at jgetz@vaheygetz.com.

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