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

By Jennifer Andrus

April 27, 2023

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


By Jennifer Andrus

pro bono award 2023 winners

The New York State Bar Association honored lawyers who have made an exceptional commitment to serving the public good during the 32nd Annual President’s Pro Bono Service Awards on Law Day.

The mood was festive as leaders from the bench and the bar, along with New York State Attorney General Letitia James gathered at the Elk Street Bar Center following the Law Day event at the Court of Appeals.   The event recognizes attorneys who volunteer their time and expertise for a wide range of causes — including LGBTQ+ rights, fair housing, family law and immigrant rights.

“It is fitting that each year on Law Day, we present the President’s Pro Bono Service Awards to honor the attorneys, law students, law firms and justice programs that have provided extraordinary pro bono service,” said New York State Bar Association President Sherry Levin Wallach. “We come together to celebrate our profession and its service to others while renewing our commitment to provide representation to all.”

rowan wilson

One of the highlights of the awards ceremony was a keynote address by Judge Rowan Wilson, who the state Senate confirmed as New York’s new chief judge in April. He praised the awardees for their work in public service and reminded those gathered of a lawyer’s duty to seek justice and to spread the good works to their communities.

michael freer UK mininster

Michael Freer, a British Under Secretary of State for the Ministry of Justice, attended along with a delegation from the UK. Minister Freer lauded the cooperation between the legal communities in the UK and U.S. on issues ranging from human rights to  access to justice, and the use of technology to bridge the gap in access to justice. He closed by saying “together we can be stronger than we are apart.”

“We are honored to host a visit from Minister Michael Freer at our bar center,” Levin Wallach said. “It is a historical moment because it is the first time that an international delegation of bar leaders has joined us for this event.”

You can see the full event video here

2023 President’s Pro Bono Award recipients:

First Judicial District (Manhattan)

Andrew Kissner is a New York City attorney whose practice focuses on business insolvency. He has an active pro bono practice helping tenants when their landlords are in Chapter 11 bankruptcy and has represented ICE detainees in asylum proceedings.

Second Judicial District (Brooklyn)

Annette Saviet worked as a principal appellate attorney for the Appellate Term, Second Department, retiring in 2021. Before that, she worked as a staff attorney for eight years at The Legal Aid Society of Rockland County, where she continues to volunteer in her retirement.

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

Jonathan P. Whalen is a corporate attorney in Albany focusing on commercial transactions and real estate. Whalen provides pro bono legal advice to Capital Region clients under the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York’s Private Attorney Involvement program.

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

Martin S. Finn is an attorney and certified public accountant and founder of the firm Lavelle & Finn in Schenectady. Finn advises clients on estate, financial, tax and business issues. He is recognized for his volunteer work with Siena College and community service in the field of professional education in Schenectady County.

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

Jennifer Powell, of Fabius, recently retired following a 30-year career in legal public service in the NYS Mental Hygiene Legal Service and Department of Environmental Conservation. In addition to her service to New York State, Powell served as an officer in the Navy’s Judge Advocate General Corps, stationed at Naval Submarine Base Groton, Connecticut.

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

Katherine A. Fitzgerald is a member of Hinman, Howard & Kattell in Binghamton practicing in matrimonial and environmental law. Fitzgerald is recognized for her volunteer work at the State University of New York at Binghamton and the Rose Land Conservancy Board.

Seventh Judicial District (Cayuga, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Seneca, Steuben, Wayne, Yates counties)

Carolyn Nussbaum of Rochester is a partner in Nixon Peabody’s Complex Commercial Disputes group. She is an experienced litigator in consumer and class action matters. She is a volunteer on the Commercial Division Advisory Council and the Pandemic Practices Working Group of the Commission to Reimagine the Future of New York’s Courts.

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

Ivan O. Kline is an experienced federal and state court litigator specializing in securities fraud, business contracts and insurance disputes. In addition to his practice, Kline counsels individuals and corporations on employment and contractual matters.

Tenth Judicial District (Nassau and Suffolk counties)

Jeannie M. Henry is the principal of the Law Offices of Jeannie M. Henry, in Ronkonkoma, focusing on education, matrimonial and family law.  Since opening her practice, Henry has dedicated hundreds of hours helping people with family law matters as part of the Nassau/Suffolk Law Services Pro Bono Project.

Eleventh Judicial District (Queens County)

Stephen David Fink has a diverse practice with an emphasis on family law in the New York City metro area. He is honored for his 45 years of service to the bar.

Young Attorney

Kristen Woll of Westchester left a career in finance to raise her two young sons as a full-time at-home parent. After many years of community volunteering, she entered law school and interned at the Pace Women’s Justice Center in White Plains. Following her graduation in 2020, Woll continued volunteering at the justice center’s walk-in clinic, helping abuse survivors navigate the legal system.

Senior Attorney

Eileen Katz of Buffalo made her mark in private practice and then committed more than 30 years of service in family law working for the Neighborhood Legal Services. Katz has been involved in the gay rights movement for fifty years, while also volunteering weekly at the Center for Elder Law and the Justice Senior Legal Advice Helpline.

Law Student

Felicia Gaon is enrolled in the Flextime program at Touro University’s Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center. Her work focuses on advocating for access to free and appropriate education for students with disabilities. This year, she gained valuable experience working in Touro’s Education and Youth Justice Clinic and the Special Education Unit at the New York Legal Assistance Group.

Law School Group – Albany Law School OUTLaw Group

Albany Law students formed OUTLaw to serve the needs of the school’s LGBTQIA+ community. OUTLaw’s mission is to educate the Albany Law community on issues relating to the queer community, as well as to provide a safe atmosphere for LGBTQ individuals, and their allies. This year OUTLaw is recognized for working with the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York to help transgender individuals change their names.

In House Counsel

Arthur J. Siegel

Art Siegel of Albany has practiced law in the state and federal courts for the past 35 years and recently retired from private practice as general counsel to Bond, Schoeneck & King. Siegel has devoted countless hours to the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York in many leadership roles including his current role as the organization’s volunteer general counsel.

Small Law firm 

Serotte Law

Attorneys at Serotte Law in Buffalo, with their exclusive focus on immigration matters, have an established network of partners around the world. Their team of nine attorneys and 22 support staff represent a diverse range of clients, from large corporations to small startups seeking initial funding.

Mid-sized Law Firm

Hodgson Russ

This Buffalo firm is recognized for its tireless work on behalf of Afghan families escaping the Taliban and resettling in Western New York. With the help of the Erie County Bar Association’s Volunteer Lawyer Project, Hodgson Russ’ attorneys and support staff worked more than a thousand pro bono service hours over five months. They prepared asylum applications as well as tax and benefit assistance to the new residents.

Large Law Firm

Cleary Gottlieb Steen and Hamilton

In 2022, the firm logged 82,000 hours serving more than 600 pro bono and public service clients around the world. Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton focuses on advancing racial justice, economic equity, and human rights. The firm also supports New York City’s small businesses and nonprofits in transactional matters. Internationally, the firm works with NGOs on refugee and humanitarian relief.

Attorney Professionalism Award

Dorian Glover

The ceremony also features the presentation of the Attorney Professionalism Award on behalf of the association’s Committee on Attorney Professionalism.

Dorian Glover works as a mentor to young people in his Nassau County hometown of Hempstead, serves as the legal adviser to Valley Stream and Roosevelt High schools and volunteers as a judge in the New York State Mock Trial competition.

While balancing his solo practice and volunteer work, Glover is also a leader of the Nassau County Bar Association and the Prince Hall Masonic Fraternity.  Elected president of the Nassau County Bar Association in 2020, he guided members thought the pandemic with skill, grace and a positive attitude. The Nassau County Bar Association increased membership under his leadership.

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