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MCBA President’s Message: Gratitude for help keeping MCBA strong amid pandemic

Jill Paperno

Jill Paperno

This is my last column, and I have been thinking a lot about being president of an organization during a pandemic. While I certainly did not enjoy many of the usual social benefits of the presidency — meeting, greeting, big dinners, smaller events and so many of the social aspects of membership for which we join MCBA — I was incredibly fortunate to experience this presidency with the support and assistance of so many who did so much. Although we were not in the same room, the genuine connections and time spent together, even if on Zoom, still left me overwhelmed by the generosity and effort of our Bar leaders and staff. And we forged ahead, creating new and different ways of doing business as we stretched our creative wings. In this column, I want to recognize and thank everyone who helped me and MCBA maintain its vibrancy during the pandemic and move forward despite the immense challenges.

The staff of the Monroe County Bar Association — Kathy Fico, Susan Hearn, Danielle Matijas, Liz Novak, and Debbie Ryan, and Executive Director Kevin Ryan, managed to coordinate CLEs, generate supportive programming, check on members’ welfare, secure a new organizational management system which will improve our website and its functionality, and most amazingly, move the offices from the Telesca Center to our new home on East Avenue. I have more than once suggested to Kevin that he must have felt quite accomplished to have crossed, “Moving during a pandemic,” off his bucket list. This was all done while facing financial challenges and staff reductions last year. For their hard work and unflinchingly steering us through uncharted territory, the Board and I are so very grateful. And to recognize them, the staff will be receiving the extraordinarily well-earned MCBA President’s Award this year.

The President’s Award for Professionalism will be awarded to Milo Primeaux, for his leadership in our community. I am especially appreciative for his support of our initiatives to obtain training for the Board on anti-Racism, and for Calvin Eaton of 540WMain for leading that training.

Our treasurer, Ken Gordon, always had the big picture in mind, steering finance meetings and guiding budget and financial decisions even when they might have been difficult ones. We owe so much to his efforts.

Our secretary, Lori O’Brien, is one of the unsung heroes of the Board — the details and accuracy of the information she preserved enabled us to move forward knowing what we had done thus far. It was a busy year, and Lori helped us keep up the pace.

The Board this year was fully involved — ensuring thoughtful analysis of each issue, creating committees and focusing on enhancing the MCBA. The Board took on some of the most difficult issues, paying great attention to our own flaws and a desire to improve our Bar Association with an unwavering look at our history and how to imbue MCBA with a foundation of anti-racism. With such involvement it’s hard to believe we did it all while socially distanced. I am so grateful for the work of Board members Siddharth Bahl, Nicole Black, Gregory A. Franklin, Julia A. Garver, Meredith M.B. Lamb, Langston D. McFadden, Elizabeth Nicolas, the Hon. J. Scott Odorisi, Maggie R. Robb, Scott P. Rogoff, Jennifer M. Schauerman, Laura W. Smalley, Fernando Santiago, David M. Tang (who also became the first chair of our new Membership Committee), and the Hon. Elizabeth A. Wolford.

Of course, my education on how to lead the MCBA really began when I became president-elect and had the opportunity to observe Carolyn Nussbaum navigate the challenges facing the Bar Association even before the pandemic, and then continue to make the hard decisions and face matters head-on once we had shut down. I am so thankful to have had her guidance and support. One thing I certainly learned this year as we lived more isolated lives was that I needed the full support and assistance of our Bar leaders, and Carolyn remained a steady source of guidance through the year.

And as part of the team with which I was so fortunate to work, and without rating, saving some of the best for last, I want to thank Brad Kammholz, the president-elect, who was with me every step of the way, always offering to take on more tasks than the already-numerous ones he assumed, sharing advice, and offering both friendship and support. Once Langston McFadden was selected as president-elect for Brad’s term, he too became part of this wonderful team. I am so grateful to them for everything they have done.

Our membership stepped up in extraordinary ways this year, navigating remote CLE presentations and meetings to ensure our success. I want to thank each person who gave time their time and energy to present a CLE and each person who led a section or committee, as well as those who participated.

Our sections and committees managed to find a way of humming along, continuing to keep our organization vibrant and in tune with the needs of our members during this unique period. I want to extend my deep gratitude to each section and committee chair listed below, and the members who supported each section and committee:

Academy of Law — Hon. Richard Dollinger (Dean)

Awards — Brian Zorn

Bankruptcy — Mike Krueger

Bench-Bar — Hon. Scott Odorisi and Mark Moretti

Business Law Section — Sean Jensen

Commission on Access to Justice — Kristin Johnson

Commission to Advance & Support Women in the Law — Jill Cicero

Commission on Anti-Racism

Conflict Defender Advisory/ACP — Jeffrey Wicks

Criminal Justice Section — Tim Donaher

Disability Benefits & Workers Compensation — Ryan McDonald

Diversity — Stephanie Woodward and Adrian Neil

Education Law — Jonathan Falk and Alison Moyer

Elder Law — Anna Anderson and Jeff Niaznanski

Environmental Law — Dwight Kanyuck and Jon Tantillo

Ethics — Amy Kendall

Family & Matrimonial Law Section — Meredith Lamb

Fee Arbitration — Sandy Fazili

Finance — Ken Gordon

Health & Well-Being Programming — Kim Duguay

Judiciary — Ed Hourihan

Labor & Employment — Pam Reynolds and Scott Rogoff

Lawyers Coalition for Racial and Social Justice — Duwaine Bascoe and Hon. Karen Morris

Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers  — Terry Emmens

LGBTQ People & the Law — Lisa Pantuso and Milo Primeaux

Litigation Section — Hon. Debra Martin and John Wells

Membership — David Tang

Memorial — Maggie Robb and Scott Rogoff

Municipal Attorneys — Daniel Brennan

Nominating — Carolyn Nussbaum

Professional Performance — David Ross

Real Estate Section — Kelly McIntosh

Senior Attorneys — Bruce Lawrence

Sitting Judge Evaluation — Jim Grossman

Solo & Small Practice — Danielle Wild and Derek Wild

Tax Section — Anthony Sandonato

Technology & Law Practice — Aleks Nikolic

Trusts & Estates Section — Kelly Gusmano

Veterans — Tim Chapman

Young Lawyers Section — Kat Kramarchyk

This list reflects so many of the leaders in our legal community. If you see a committee or section you may have an interest in, please reach out to them, Kevin, Brad or me.

As we move forward into the next phase, and begin in the coming months to reconnect, celebrate events in person, meet at our new offices and hold in-person CLEs, we will do so while incorporating what we have learned this past year. And we will have no better leader for such a time than Brad Kammholz, the president-elect, who is focused on reuniting us as we reunite our legal community. I hope you feel the excitement I do about being back together and join us.

Thank you all for everything you have done.

Jill Paperno is president of the Monroe County Bar Association. She is First Assistant Public Defender at the Monroe County Public Defender’s Office.