10 Things You May Not Know About NYSBA President Scott M. Karson

By Christian Nolan

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In his fourth decade as an active member of the New York State Bar Association, Scott M. Karson has long been a familiar face at Annual Meeting, Cooperstown and other leadership events each year. He has chaired several NYSBA committees and most recently spent three years as treasurer of the Association before becoming president-elect in 2019 and president on June 1, 2020.

But how well do you really know NYSBA President Scott M. Karson? Find out below.

  1. Karson grew up in Great Neck, on the north shore of Long Island. His parents were devoted to progressive causes and brought him to Vietnam War and civil rights protests from a young age, including Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the 1963 March on Washington.
  2. Karson founded and played goal for the club ice hockey team at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, playing against other colleges around the metropolitan area, and often practicing between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. at the Commack Arena – home of the former minor league Long Island Ducks. A highlight was the opportunity to play at Madison Square Garden with NHL Hall of Famer Rod Gilbert in attendance. “I skated better than these guys when I was three years old,” Gilbert reportedly said. “That’s when I decided to become a lawyer and not a hockey player,” said Karson.
  3. His first vehicle was a small open sports car – the Austin Healey Sprite – that he bought for $600 but spent thousands more trying to fix after it inevitably would break down each week. A few years later as a senior at Stony Brook, he bought a more reliable Chevrolet Vega.
  4. Karson spent his final semester at Stony Brook as a student-teacher in high school social studies at East Hampton High School, but because teaching was a way to avoid the draft during the Vietnam War, job openings were scarce. Instead, Karson pursued a career in law “to help people and deliver justice where justice was being denied.”
  5. Karson met his wife, Joleen, while camp counselors in the Catskills and they attended the nearby Woodstock festival in 1969. He regrets paying for his tickets and vividly remembers Ritchie Havens’ opening set, as well as getting soaked in the rain that weekend.
  6. Karson earned his law degree cum laude from Syracuse University College of Law. Immediate Past President Hank Greenberg also attended Syracuse College of Law, making it the first time in NYSBA’s storied history that back-to-back presidents attended the College of Law.
  7. Karson and his wife Joleen adopted two children, a boy and a girl, from Colombia in South America – Jared Karson and Tobi Sevdalakis – who are now each raising families of their own, making Scott & Joleen proud grandparents of four.
  8. Karson and his wife love to travel and their eldest grandson Isaiah has joined them for some trips, including a memorable safari in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana. Karson also finds gardening therapeutic when needing to get away from the stresses of practicing law and leading the State Bar Association.
  9. Karson already has experience leading a bar association, as he is a past president of the Suffolk County Bar Association and has twice received its President’s Award, in 1996 and 2011, and its Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018.
  10. Karson is a partner at Lamb & Barnosky, LLP in Melville and has argued more than 125 appeals in the state and federal appellate courts.
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