NYSBA Announces 2021 President’s Pro Bono Service Awards
Devon Galloway, associate at Zuckerman Spaeder, accepts the President’s Pro Bono Service Young Lawyer Award.
The New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) is honoring lawyers, law firms, a law student and a law school clinic that have provided extraordinary pro bono service to those in need in the face of unprecedented challenges over the past year.
NYSBA President Scott M. Karson presided over the 2021 President’s Pro Bono Service Awards ceremony, which is held annually on Law Day. This year’s Law Day was observed on May 3 with programs focused on the rule of law.
“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 in the past year have provided extraordinary pro bono service,” said Karson. “The ceaseless pursuit of equal justice for all guides our momentum as an association. Our profession has a proud tradition of providing pro bono legal services to those who are otherwise unable to afford a lawyer.”
Highlights of the awards ceremony included a keynote address by New York State Court of Appeals Chief Judge Janet DiFiore.
NYSBA also presented an award for attorney professionalism to June Castellano, a solo practitioner in Rochester. The award is given by NYSBA’s Committee on Attorney Professionalism.
Castellano is co-chair of the NYSBA COVID-19 Task Force to Assist Solo Practitioners and Small Firms and a past member of the Executive Committee. She is active in community service work, especially in the area of domestic violence and indigent legal services.
Below is a list of the President’s Pro Bono Service honorees:
1st Judicial District (Manhattan)
Kevin Curnin, founding director of Stroock’s Public Service Project, advises associates and partners on pro bono litigation and transactional work including special education hearings and family and housing court disputes.
2nd Judicial District (Brooklyn)
Jason Moff, special counsel at Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel, has played a key role in every major LGBTQ rights litigation his firm has undertaken. In addition, he has performed substantial pro bono work in the areas of immigration, domestic violence, labor rights, and reproductive freedom.
3rd Judicial District (Albany, Columbia, Greene, Rensselaer, Schoharie, Sullivan, Ulster counties)
Kelly M. Curro, an attorney at Ianniello Anderson, volunteers with the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York to conduct pro se divorce clinics in the Third Judicial District. She has continued to facilitate these clinics during the pandemic via Zoom.
4th Judicial District (Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Montgomery, St. Lawrence, Saratoga, Schenectady, Warren, Washington counties)
David Pratt, the Jay and Ruth Caplan Distinguished Professor of Law at Albany Law School, has a long history of pro bono service including representing former employees of St. Clare’s Hospital in Schenectady seeking to recover pension benefits that were not paid.
5th Judicial District (Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Oneida, Onondaga, Oswego counties)
Russell Dombrow, a solo practitioner, works with the Volunteer Lawyers Project of Onondaga County’s Consumer Legal Advice Resource Office. He helps consumers defend against lawsuits by debt collectors and vacate default judgments and advises consumers on whether they might benefit from filing for bankruptcy protection.
6th Judicial District (Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Cortland, Delaware, Madison, Otsego, Schuyler, Tioga, Tompkins counties)
Feyistan O. Gaji, a solo practitioner, has helped Binghamton residents with immigration matters, end of life planning and divorce cases on a pro bono basis.
7th Judicial District (Cayuga, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Seneca, Steuben, Wayne, Yates counties)
Sheila Sullivan-Dickinson, a retired teacher and lawyer, has advocated for children with special needs with local school districts. She also assisted vulnerable undocumented immigrants to plan for their children’s future in case they were detained or deported.
8th Judicial District (Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Niagara, Orleans, Wyoming counties)
Tony Szczygiel, a University at Buffalo School of Law professor emeritus, volunteers with the New York State Long Term Care Ombudsman Program, which advocates for nursing home and adult care facility residents.
9th Judicial District (Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Westchester counties)
Mary E. Mahoney volunteers at the Pace Women’s Justice Center, fielding calls on the Helpline once a week and representing indigent clients in their divorces.
10th Judicial District (Nassau, Suffolk counties)
Scott Stone, a solo practitioner, helps protect low-income tenants in Nassau County. He began volunteering with Nassau Suffolk Law Services Volunteer Lawyers Program by donating his time with the Landlord/Tenant Project-VLP Attorney of the Day in 2012 and has represented over 221 clients facing eviction.
11th Judicial District (Queens County)
Stephen Helman volunteers with the Legal Aid Society and Mobilization for Justice. He represents taxi and other for-hire drivers against the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission in hearings before the New York City Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings.
12th Judicial District (Bronx)
Sergio Villaverde has donated thousands of hours to public service including representing victims of domestic violence.
13th Judicial District (Staten Island)
Eve Lynn Newman appears regularly in the Richmond County Foreclosure Part to assist pro se litigants.
Large Law Firm
The attorneys of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, a global firm committed to pro bono, donated countless hours to issues including racial justice, voting rights, immigrant protection, responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, and many other areas.
Small Law Firm
Attorneys at Sethi & Mazaheri have provided pro bono representation on artist visas, asylum petitions, deportation proceedings and travel ban waivers.
Law School Group
The Brooklyn Law School Employment Law Clinic launched the Pandemic Employment Relief Clinic. Through this innovative program, 100 students served more than 700 clients, including out-of-work drivers for ride-hailing apps, restaurant workers and film and theater actors who needed help navigating the unemployment insurance system.
Joseph Pinto volunteers with the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York’s Low Income Tax Clinic, taking assignments of clients with federal and state tax issues. While continuing with this representation, he began assisting with LASNNY’s uncontested divorce clinics, as well as its Attorney for the Day program, negotiating for and appearing with clients in landlord/tenant issues in local city courts.
Devon Galloway, associate at Zuckerman Spaeder, has devoted many hours to working to obtain compassionate releases from prison for individuals who are very old, ill or whose families face extreme hardships.
Kaitlyn Lauber, a third-year law student at the University at Buffalo School of Law, spent the summer working in the Volunteer Lawyers Project Positive Families and Individuals Unit, serving clients with HIV/AIDS with employment matters, housing disputes, estate planning and gender-affirming name changes.
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.
Contact: Brandon Vogel