Getting To Know President-Elect Domenick Napoletano
As Brooklyn attorney Domenick Napoletano takes over as president-elect of the New York State Bar Association on June 1, he’s looking to support lawyers who are dealing with the day-to-day concerns that come up in their practices.
“What President Richard Lewis and I have talked about is continuity,” said Napoletano. “So that it carries over a period of two years and not just one year, because one year comes and goes very quickly… Dick and I talked about what we both would like to see happen, and that is going to be a concentration on what is good for the lawyer.”
Napoletano pointed to helping attorneys with the changes brought on by the pandemic, and his work as co-chair of the Emergency Task Force for Solo and Small Firm Practitioners, which was created to help attorneys get through the COVID-19 crisis.
“Two-thirds of our association is made up of solo or single practitioners – small firm attorneys,” said Napoletano. “What we really want to do is concentrate on the solo and small-firm practitioner and what we as an association can do to assist in that area.”
Napoletano is a solo practitioner with a general practice that concentrates on commercial litigation. “We have some appellate work that we do as well,” he said. “We’ve gotten some good results from those appellate cases that we filed.”
From Brooklyn to the Bar Association
Born the only child of Italian immigrants, Napoletano grew up in Brooklyn. His father was a longshoreman, and his mother was a homemaker. “Both of my parents were not educated people,” he said. “My father went as far as the second grade, my mother the fifth.”
His father immigrated in 1939, and his mother in 1952. Domenick was born a year later. His father served in the U.S. Army during World War II, achieving the rank of corporal. “He was stationed in the Pacific chapter,” said Napoletano. “He specifically said, ‘I don’t want to go to Europe because I have relatives there, and I don’t want to fight on Italian soil.’”
Domenick got into law school through a Council on Legal Education Opportunity program at the University of Pennsylvania in 1977.
“I spent six weeks there,” Napoletano said. “Made friends that are lifetime friends. One of my dearest friends, Lynn Terrelonge – who became the first African American president of the Brooklyn Bar Association – got me involved with the Brooklyn Bar and that’s ultimately how I became president some years later.”
He attended Hofstra Law School alongside former Gov. David Paterson. They were in the same criminal procedure class. Whenever they could get together, Napoletano would read their case assignments to Paterson, who is legally blind.
Napoletano grew up in a diverse neighborhood in Brooklyn. “My friends growing up were all black, all Hispanic, and Italians,” said Napoletano. “So it wasn’t uncommon for me to blend in with those groups of people.”
He also was the only white member of the Black American Law Students Association, which he became involved in by mentoring incoming students in a buddy system. Hofstra Chapter President Charles Walker was a friend and endorsed his membership. (To this day, Napoletano serves on the association’s luncheon committee.) Napoletano was also made the godfather of Walker’s daughter, Alia Carponter-Walker, when she was born in 1996. She was recently named Director of Equity and Community Life at the Hewitt School in New York City.
In addition to the Brooklyn Bar Association, Napoletano is also a past president of the Columbian Lawyers Association of Brooklyn, the Confederation of Columbian Lawyers of the State of New York and the Catholic Lawyers Guild of Kings County.
Napoletano has been involved in Catholic organizations all his life. “I started as an altar boy many, many years ago,” he said. “I can still remember some of the Latin phrases.”
He still serves his parish, St. Mary’s Star of the Sea Roman Catholic Church. His first office was across the street, and he would often come in for Mass. After getting to know the church’s clergy, he became a Eucharistic Minister, which involves serving the Eutherict host and precious blood at Holy Communion.
Then a friend from grammar school, Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Vincent Del Giudice, suggested that he become a Knight of the Holy Sepulcher and endorsed him for the position. Napoletano rose through the ranks, eventually becoming a Knight Commander with Star of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, a papal order. The order is primarily philanthropic, with the goal of providing support to the Christian community in the Holy Land.
Looking Forward To Making Connections
Napoletano has served as NYSBA treasurer since 2018. “The 990 reports for the four years I was treasurer were probably the best 990s that we filed with the IRS in over a decade,” he said, noting that was due in part to the cost savings in travel and other meeting expenses created by the pandemic.
In addition to presiding over the House of Delegates, Napoletano will chair the Committee on Access to Justice during his year as president-elect. He is particularly excited about the opportunity to connect with lawyers who practice upstate because he doesn’t know their concerns as well as he does with his downstate colleagues.
“What I’m really looking forward to is to actually meet up with other bar associations throughout the state,” he said. “I want to be able to meet with lawyers, especially those upstate… I want to find out what is going on and how we can help assist those lawyers to practice law more efficiently.”
Napoletano’s wife Fran is a Chief Compliance Officer and an attorney licensed in both New York and New Jersey. They have been married for 18 years and have a son, Nicholas, and a daughter, Alexis. Alexis is an attorney as well.