On March 27th, the Committee on Diversity Pipeline Initiatives sponsored its fourth Best Practices Forum, "Raising the Bar (Exam): Strategies for Increasing the Minority Law Student Bar Exam Pass Rate." Panelists, from left: Pamela Edwards, Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Diversity in the Legal Profession, CUNY School of Law; Mike Sims, President, BARBRI; Alicia Lowery Rosenbaum, Attorney, US Education, Microsoft Corporation; Paula Brown Donaldson, Executive Director, Practicing Attorneys for Law Students, Inc. (PALS). The event was co-sponsored by the City Bar's Council on the Profession, Committee on Minorities in the Profession, Committee on Law Student Perspectives, and PALS.
On March 21st, Linda Chatman Thomsen (right), Partner at Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP and former Division of Enforcement Director at the SEC, delivered the Enforcement Seminar, as part of the 2014 Securities and Finance Law Seminar Series. The series provides diverse students from New York City area law and business schools with informational sessions with leading experts in the areas of securities and finance law. The series is a collaborative effort between the City Bar and the Alliance for Securities and Financial Educators (ASAFE). Pictured with her, above, is ASAFE President Nancy Burnett. More information about the series is available here.
Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE)
The Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE), created by Chapter 399 of the Laws of 2011, is the body that administers and interprets the laws governing the ethics of New York public officials in both the Legislative and Executive Branches. In a joint report, the Committee on Government Ethics and Common Cause/New York, provided a review and evaluation of JCOPE, assessing its effectiveness and its scope of authority. The report concludes that JCOPE thus far has fallen short in meeting its mission of acting vigorously to restore public confidence in government. The report includes a number of recommendations for improvements, many of which can be implemented by JCOPE without further legislation and at little or no cost.
Construction or Alteration of Multiple Dwellings
The Land Use, Planning and Zoning Committee expressed support for A.9159/S.3584, which would authorize the New York City Commissioner of Buildings to vary or modify any provision or requirement of the Multiple Dwelling Law where strict compliance results in practical difficulty or unnecessary hardship, as long as the spirit and intent of the law are maintained and public safety is preserved. The report notes that the benefits of the legislation, such as encouraging investment, discouraging deferred maintenance and improving the quality of lower-income housing by allowing older buildings to be renovated with greater flexibility, greatly outweigh any possible concerns expressed by opponents of the legislation.
Renunciation of Property Interest
The Committee on Trusts, Estates and Surrogate's Courts offered a memorandum in support of a proposed amendment to §2-1.11(D)(5) of the New York State Estates, Powers and Trusts Law. That section requires a decedent's personal representative to obtain prior court authorization to renounce any interest in property to which the decedent became entitled but did not receive prior to his death. Court approval is required even in the most common situation, in which spouses have reciprocal wills with identical beneficiaries who take upon the death of the surviving spouse. Where both spouses die within nine months of each other, disclaimer is often used to minimize the duplication of administration expenses in both estates. The amendment, by removing the requirement of court approval, will reduce expense for the estates and, importantly, reduce delays in implementing the disclaimer, which is ineffective if made more than nine months after death.
Guide to Reporting Suspected Animal Cruelty or Neglect
The Committee on Animal Law compiled a Guide that provides the appropriate agencies, along with phone numbers, to contact in New York State in order to report suspected animal cruelty or neglect.
Killer Whale "Lolita"
In response to a request for comments, the Committee on Animal Law expressed support for the proposal that would include the killer whale "Lolita" as a protected member of the endangered Southern Resident killer whale Distinct Population Segment under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (the Act). The Committee urged that the language of the Act be amended by removing the exclusion of captive members of the population. The exclusion of captive members of a population, the letter noted, impacts endangered and threatened specimens, and, as such, an interpretation allowing for separate legal status creates a loophole in the law that is inconsistent with the intent of the law and its implementation in other cases.
Social Security Benefits to Legalizing Immigrants
In a letter to Congress, the Committee on Immigration and Nationality Law expressed opposition to Section 2107(d) of S.744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, as it would impose a new penalty on those seeking to legalize their status in the U.S., denying Social Security credit for previously unauthorized work. Under Section 2107(d), these workers would never receive credit for unauthorized work completed between 2004 and 2014, and this would apply to those who obtain the newly-created registered provisional immigrant status under S. 744, as well as those who overstayed a visa but legalize through other avenues. In addition to violating basic notions of fairness by denying benefits to those who worked and paid into the system, Section 2107(d) will likely dissuade immigrants from legalizing, further drive immigrants into poverty which shifts social costs onto states and cities, and negate positive economic benefits of comprehensive immigration reform.
Office for Diversity & Inclusion 30th Anniversary Celebration Dinner
The City Bar's Office for Diversity and Inclusion is pleased to announce the 30th Anniversary Diversity and Inclusion Celebration Dinner, to be held at the Association on June 18th at 6 PM. This dinner will recognize the 2014 Diversity and Inclusion Champion Award winners and celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Association's Statement of Diversity Principles, while highlighting key benchmarks in the City Bar's long history of supporting diversity in the legal profession.
More information about the dinner, and related events, is available here.
New York Law Journal, March 27, 2014
First Department Names Botein Award Winners
"The Appellate Division, First Department will recognize five members of the Unified Court System with the Bernard Botein Awards for outstanding contributions to the administration of justice. The employees are Jane Schreiber, director of the Office of the Attorneys for Children, Appellate Division, First Department; Andrew T. Williams, court officer, Manhattan Supreme Court, Matrimonial Part 31; Tracy Pardo, chief clerk, Bronx Supreme Court, Civil Term; George Cafasso, chief clerk, New York City Family Court; and Justin Barry, chief clerk, Criminal Court of New York City. The awards will be presented on March 31 at 5 p.m. at the New York City Bar Association."