Chief Judge Rowan Wilson Addresses New York State Bar Association Pro Bono Honorees on Law Day

By Jennifer Andrus

April 26, 2024

Chief Judge Rowan Wilson Addresses New York State Bar Association Pro Bono Honorees on Law Day


By Jennifer Andrus

Chief Judge Rowan Wilson delivers remarks at 2024 New York State Bar Association Law Day Ceremony at the Bar Center in Albany, N.Y. on May 1, 2024.

The New York State Bar Association honored lawyers who have made an exceptional commitment to serving the public good during the 33rd Annual President’s Pro Bono Service Awards on Law Day.

Attorneys who volunteer their time and expertise for a wide range of causes — including disability rights, consumer debt, landlord-tenant issues and domestic violence – were recognized at the ceremony.

We have a duty as lawyers to care for our neighbor and do the public good,” said New York State Bar Association President Richard Lewis. “It is fitting that each year on Law Day we come together to celebrate our colleagues who volunteer their time to help protect the freedoms shared by all Americans. The attorneys being recognized on Law Day help those who need them most – New Yorkers who lack the financial means to afford the essential guidance that only an attorney can provide.”

In his keynote speech, Chief Judge Rowan Wilson said the greatest reward for a lawyer is to help someone in need. He called the feeling euphoric. In all his time working for a large Wall Street firm, Wilson said, he remembers the clients he helped for free and called on the private bar to stand in the gap when it comes to offering pro bono services.

“I may have made more money in billable hours with some clients, but I am far richer for doing more pro bono work,” he said.

Here is a full list of this year’s President’s Pro Bono Award recipients:

First Judicial District (Manhattan)

Pam Wexler has spent a decade serving as a volunteer attorney in the Domestic Violence Law Unit of the New York Legal Assistance Group. She says the work with victims of intimate partner violence is the most meaningful of her life.

Second Judicial District (Brooklyn)

Allen Weintraub works in criminal and business law in New York City. In addition to his demanding practice, he volunteers with programs that help with refugee resettlement and representation of unaccompanied migrant children.

Third Judicial District (Albany, Columbia, Rensselaer, Greene, Schoharie, Sullivan and Ulster counties)

Dan Hurteau is the office managing partner for Nixon Peabody’s Albany office and a leader in complex commercial litigation. Even with a demanding practice, Hurteau makes pro bono work a priority with a passion for providing access to justice for New York’s rural residents. Recently, he teamed up with the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York to support transgender people who are legally changing their names.

Fourth Judicial District (Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Montgomery, St. Lawrence, Saratoga, Schenectady, Warren, Washington counties)

Morgan Ruthman practices in real estate and finance law, but he always makes time for pro bono work. Since moving to the Capital Region, Ruthman joined the Legal Aid Society’s Private Attorney Involvement Program where he helps clients with consumer debt and landlord-tenant issues.

Fifth Judicial District (Herkimer, Jefferson, Oneida, Onondaga, Oswego counties)

Mark Curley is a retired criminal defense attorney from Utica who took up pro bono work with the Volunteer Lawyers Project of CNY. Curley says he is inspired by the courage and determination of his immigrant clients and finds pro bono work rewarding.

Sixth Judicial District (Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Cortland, Delaware, Madison, Otsego, Schuyler, Tioga, Tompkins counties)

Karen McMullen is a trusts and estates and elder law attorney in the southern tier and loves giving back to her community. She is a chair of the Foundation of the Association for Vision Rehabilitation and Employment, helping community members who are disabled. McMullen is also involved in pro bono legal clinics and leads many legal education courses at the Broome County Bar Association.

Eighth Judicial District (Alleghany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Niagara, Orleans, Wyoming counties)

Robert Elardo devoted his 38-year career to the Erie County Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project, retiring recently as its executive director. In retirement, he is on the other side as a volunteer attorney taking on the most difficult cases, calling it tremendously fulfilling.

Ninth Judicial District (Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Westchester counties)

Susan Daly is a personal injury attorney who took on family law pro bono work with the Pace Women’s Justice Center. She offers guidance and referrals for the Legal Helpline and conducts intake interviews. She donated nearly 300 hours to the helpline last year.

Tenth Judicial District

Brooks W. Taylor is a mainstay with the Nassau Suffolk Law Services, Volunteer Lawyer Project. He has participated with the Attorney of the Day Program for many years and has negotiated settlements to forestall evictions so that tenants can find alternate housing and avoid paying large settlements.

Thirteenth Judicial District (Richmond County)

Edwina Frances Martin is a public interest lawyer and the commissioner, public administrator of Richmond County, where she is responsible for the administration of estates of those who do not have a will. She has been a passionate advocate for access to justice and is actively involved with Staten Island’s legal community. She coordinated the opening of Staten Island Legal Services in 2006 during her time at Legal Services NYC, which now helps over 7,000 Staten Islanders each year.

Senior Attorney

Ted Dziekonski has worked as a volunteer with the Center for Elder Law and Justice in Buffalo since January of 2019. He staffs the Center’s Free Legal Advice Helpline and has increased his volunteer work since the COVID pandemic by taking calls at home.

Law Student

Emilia Mosenson is a second-year law student at Albany Law School and works as a law clerk with the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York. Under attorney supervision, Mosenson provides representation to clients on landlord-tenant issues and works in the Legal Aid Family Law program.

Law School Group

Cornell Law School: In early 2023, Cornell Law School’s Department of Public Service and LawNY joined together for a Pro Bono Reentry Legal Assistance program. The program engaged more than 100 Cornell law students and undergraduates to work with attorneys on behalf of formerly incarcerated people. The group received an Engaged Opportunity Grant from Cornell’s Einhorn Center. In this project, Cornell students worked with pro bono attorneys and LawNY staff to learn how to review records of arrests and prosecutions, file for certificates of relief, and seal or expunge criminal records. They developed informational resources, conducted outreach with service providers and studied case outcomes.

Small Law Firm 

Murad and Murad is an upstate family-run firm with a reputation for outstanding work with the highest degree of competency and ethics. The firm and its leaders, George C. Murad and Frederick W. Murad, give countless hours of community and pro bono work.

Large Law Firm

White & Case is one of the largest providers of pro bono legal services in the world, giving over 100,000 hours of service each year.  The firm’s pro bono practice concentrates on three areas: providing access to justice, promoting good governance and the rule of law, and serving non-governmental organizations with a social or environmental mission. The firm supports efforts to fight human trafficking, child sexual exploitation, and genocide.

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