From Village to County to State: Task Force To Review the Ethics of Government Lawyering

By Jennifer Andrus

August 11, 2022

From Village to County to State: Task Force To Review the Ethics of Government Lawyering


By Jennifer Andrus

The New York State Bar Association is launching a task force to examine the difficult challenges faced by public sector lawyers who represent government entities ranging from a local village board to a massive state agency.

The Task Force on the Ethics of Local Public Sector Lawyering will explore such issues as: What to do if an elected official doesn’t follow the lawyer’s advice and does something illegal? Whose interest does a lawyer represent if the town board and the town supervisor are at odds? How to deliver unpopular advice to elected officials who want to ensure that they are responsive to their constituents.

“This task force will work closely with the newly-created Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government and will develop recommendations, reports and best practices for those in the local public sector,” said Sherry Levin Wallach, president of the New York State Bar Association. “We will help New York State maintain its position as a global leader in the practice of law and guide government lawyers so they can live up to the highest ethical standards.”

The task force will be chaired by veteran public attorneys Steven G. Leventhal, managing member of Leventhal, Mullaney & Blinkoff, and Martha Krisel, executive director of the Nassau County Civil Service Commission. Leventhal and Krisel are both past presidents of the Nassau County Bar Association.

“We have an excellent team of members willing to dig into serious issues facing government lawyers in our state. I look forward to working with each of them as we make recommendations on how best to practice public sector lawyering in New York,” Leventhal said.

Krisel said the task force is focused on dealing with real world problems that all attorneys face, with a particular lens toward issues unique to public sector lawyers.

“There are issues that come up every day when dealing with public officials, governing boards as well as school districts, libraries and special districts. Our task force will establish best practices and guidelines on a range of practical matters,” she said.

Members of the task force include:

Stephen J. A. Acquario, executive director, New York State Association of Counties

Peter A. Bee, senior partner, Bee Ready Fishbein Hatter & Donovan

David H. Besso, member, Long Tuminello

Mark L. Davies, adjunct professor, Fordham University School of Law

Scott N. Fein, senior counsel, Whiteman Osterman & Hanna

Sarah E. Gold, sole practitioner, Gold Law Firm

John H. Gross, partner, Ingerman Smith

Michael Kenneally, chair of the Local and State Government Law Section and executive director of the New York State Municipal Workers’ Compensation Alliance

NYSBA President-Elect Richard C. Lewis, partner, Hinman Howard & Kattell

John M. Nonna, Westchester County attorney

Erin M. O’Grady-Parent, partner, Guercio & Guercio

Catherine O’Hagan Wolfe, clerk of court, US Court of Appeals, 2nd Circuit

Natasha E. Phillip, associate attorney, New York State Department of State

Richard Rifkin, legal director, Albany Law School Government Law Center

Patricia E. Salkin, provost and professor, Touro College

Paul C. Saunders, retired partner, Cravath, Swain & Moore and chair of the New York State Judicial Institute on Professionalism in the Law

Hon. Leslie E. Stein, director, Albany Law School Government Law Center

Kathleen M. Sweet, Executive Committee liaison to the task force

Patrick A. Woods, deputy director, Albany Law School Government Law Center

Jay Worona, deputy executive director and general counsel, New York State School Boards Association

About the New York State Bar Association
The New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. Since 1876, NYSBA has helped shape the development of law, educated and informed the legal profession and the public, and championed the rights of New Yorkers through advocacy and guidance in our communities.


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