New York State Bar Association Launches Task Force To Protect Voting Rights and Democratic Institutions

By Susan DeSantis

New York State Bar Association Launches Task Force To Protect Voting Rights and Democratic Institutions

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With over two dozen states making it more difficult for voters to cast a ballot and some states installing partisans with the authority to overturn election results, the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) is launching a blue-ribbon Task Force on Voting Rights and Democracy to make recommendations and provide expert analysis to lawyers, policymakers, legislators, and journalists on how to safeguard the very foundation of this country’s democracy.

The task force, chaired by veteran election lawyer Jerry H. Goldfeder, special counsel at Stroock, Stroock & Lavan, will review voting laws across the United States and make recommendations for reform. The panel will pay particular attention to those who have the most trouble exercising this right, including people of color, residents of urban areas, disabled individuals, those with limited access to transportation, and workers who hold more than one job.

“The right to vote is fundamental and establishes a benchmark for public participation; it must be protected and preserved,” said T. Andrew Brown, who made the issue one of his top priorities when he took over as NYSBA president June 1. “This hallmark of our democracy is under siege, particularly for disenfranchised individuals whose interests are already underrepresented and whose voices are too often silenced. We cannot sit idly by while this occurs and must ensure we’re doing everything possible to deliver on the promise of free and fair elections.”

“We have assembled an impressive panel of highly regarded legal scholars and voting rights advocates,” Goldfeder said. “We will tap into their collective expertise to analyze the issues before us and help policymakers, the legal profession, and the public combat the restrictive laws that are being adopted or are under consideration in many states.”

The members of the task force are:

Jerry H. Goldfeder is special counsel at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, specializing in election and campaign finance law, public integrity investigations, and regulatory compliance. Prior to joining Stroock, he served as special counsel for public integrity to former New York State Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo. He is a special adviser to the Standing Committee on Election Law of the American Bar Association and has served as chair of the Election Law Committee of the New York City Bar Association. He chaired NYSBA’s 2020 Task Force on the Presidential Election. Since 2003, he has taught Election Law at Fordham Law School, where he was voted Adjunct Professor of the Year in 2015 and 2019.

Kwame Akosah is a senior counsel in the New York City Law Department’s Legal Counsel Division where he advises the Mayor’s Office and city agencies on public policy initiatives, regulatory agendas, local, state, and federal legislation, including drafting and reviewing proposed legislation, regulations, executive orders, and memoranda. Prior to joining the city, Akosah worked at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law where he served as an Equal Justice Works Fellow in the Voting Rights and Elections Program. He authored and contributed to Brennan Center publications, including reports, analyses, and testimony, and engaged in statewide legislative advocacy campaigns to pass voting reforms. Akosah received his J.D. from Fordham University School of Law.

Ava Ayers is an associate professor of law and former director of the Government Law Center at Albany Law School. She teaches classes in administrative law, law of government, and professional responsibility.

Wilfred Codrington III is a constitutional law scholar who focuses on constitutional reform, election law, and voting rights. He is an assistant professor of law at Brooklyn Law School and is a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. The co-author of “The People’s Constitution: 200 Years, 27 Amendments, and the Promise of a More Perfect Union” (The New Press 2021), his work has been featured in the NYU Law Review, Columbia Law Review Forum, The Atlantic, Slate, The American Prospect, and The Hill, among other publications. He was recently a member of the New York State Bar Association’s 2020 Task Force on the Presidential Election.

Arthur Eisenberg is executive counsel to the New York Civil Liberties Union. Previously, and for more than 25 years, he served as the NYCLU’s legal director where he specialized in free speech, voting rights and racial discrimination litigation. He has also written law review articles and essays on these matters. And, for approximately 40 years, he has been an adjunct professor at the Cardozo Law School and the University of Minnesota Law School where he has taught courses in Constitutional Litigation, Constitutional Law, Civil Rights Law and Election Law.

James A. Gardner is Bridget and Thomas Black SUNY Distinguished Professor of Law and Research, Professor of Political Science at the University at Buffalo School of Law, State University of New York. His research focuses on election law, federalism, and democratic theory.

Steven Leventhal is an attorney and CPA and managing member of the Roslyn general practice firm of Leventhal, Mullaney & Blinkoff.  He serves as counsel to the boards of ethics of two counties, four towns, and two villages. Leventhal is the associate village justice, an arbitration chairperson for the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and a hearing officer for the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics. Leventhal is second vice-chair of NYSBA’s Local and State Government Law Section, and co-chair of the section’s Ethics Committee. He has lectured and written extensively on government, legal, corporate, and medical ethics. Leventhal is co-author and editor of “Municipal Ethics in New York: A Primer for Attorneys and Public Officials” published by NYSBA. He is frequently engaged to provide ethics advice, training and continuing professional education programs to municipal officers and employees throughout the state, municipal associations, bar associations, law firms and universities.

Joshua L. Oppenheimer, a shareholder at Greenberg Traurig, focuses his practice on New York State governmental affairs and issues relating to governmental ethics, lobbying laws and campaign finance. Recently identified by the New York Times as “a top election lawyer in New York,” Josh has wide-ranging experience advising clients on ballot access issues, as well as compliance with the complex federal, state and local laws that govern political activity, lobbying, and general interactions between government and the private sector. Oppenheimer counsels companies, trade associations, nonprofit organizations, political parties, political committees, candidates, and public office holders, on compliance with laws regarding campaign finance, elections, ethics, and lobbying. He also works with clients to form and administer political action, candidate, and independent expenditure committees, and has the unique experience of aiding in the creation and ensuring the continued existence of a statewide political party.

Deborah Pearlstein is professor of law and co-director of the Floersheimer Center for Constitutional Democracy at Cardozo Law. She specializes in constitutional law, international law, and U.S. national security law.

Saniya Suri is a recent graduate of Fordham University School of Law, where she was the editor-in-chief of the Fordham Law Review, a Stein Scholar for Public Interest, and a member of the Moot Court Board. After graduating, she will be working at Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer in its litigation group and following that will be clerking for Judge Cathy Seibel in the Southern District of New York. She attended college at Washington University in St. Louis.

Wendy Weiser directs the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, a nonpartisan think tank and public interest law center that works to revitalize, reform, and defend systems of democracy and justice. Her program focuses on voting rights and elections, money in politics and ethics, redistricting and representation, government dysfunction, rule of law, and fair courts. She founded the program’s Voting Rights and Elections Project, directing litigation, research, and advocacy efforts to enhance political participation and prevent voter disenfranchisement across the country.

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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Contact: Susan DeSantis
[email protected]
201-575-5756

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