The year 2021 is only a month old, but it already has been a time of progress and action.
In his written remarks Saturday to the House of Delegates, President Scott M. Karson talked about all the accomplishments he sees at the federal level but also those he is witnessing closer to home at NYSBA.
Karson noted in his President’s Report that the Biden Administration has taken executive action to preserve and fortify the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) immigration policy, revisit civil immigration enforcement, continue the pause of federal student loan payments, return the United States to the Paris Climate Agreement and combat discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation – “all goals and priorities of our Association.”
Meanwhile in New York, Karson noted that Governor Andrew M. Cuomo in December signed into law an Association-advanced bill that simplifies and improves the state’s power of attorney form. “This was truly a cause of celebration,” said Karson.
NYSBA had long advocated for reform of the power of attorney form. The new user-friendly – and consumer-friendly – form benefits not just attorneys but our clients and all New Yorkers and their families who rely on these documents for essential life-planning purposes, Karson said.
He added that NYSBA will continue to monitor and participate in the ongoing state budget negotiations. Governor Cuomo’s recent State of the State address contained several items of interest to our membership, including the legalization and regulation of cannabis for recreational adult-use, the expansion of reliable broadband service in underserved rural and urban areas, and full funding of the Liberty Defense Project.
Of special note, according to Karson, is the governor’s creation of a statewide New York Vaccine Equity Task Force to monitor the vaccination of millions of New Yorkers against COVID-19. NYSBA’s House of Delegates called for assurance that all New Yorkers have equitable access to the vaccine. NYSBA will continue to guide our policymakers and elected leaders through the COVID-19 crisis. “Although the light is not yet in sight, I am confident that the end of the tunnel is soon approaching,” said Karson.
Karson said that the ceaseless pursuit of equal justice for all guides our momentum as an Association.
“I encourage you to be steadfast in your support for the underprivileged in this extraordinary time of need,” said Karson.
Following up on a pledge he made as president-elect, Karson recently took on a pro bono appeal through the Committee on Courts of Appellate Jurisdiction’s Pro Bono Appeals Program.
“I am even more pleased that so many of you have also heeded the call to help, whether through participation in the COVID-19 pro bono initiative, which is co-partnered by NYSBA and Unified Court System, or through service with your local bar association, law school, or legal service provider,” said Karson, who noted that over 2,250 New Yorkers have been helped through the NYSBA Unemployment Insurance and Surrogate’s Court small estates pro bono projects since May.
To further help small businesses avoid evictions, New York State and the the state court system, alongside Start Small Think Big and NYSBA, will launch the Commercial Eviction Prevention Partnership to provide mediation for landlords and commercial tenants facing eviction.
He also applauded the NYSBA Task Force on Racial Injustice and Police Reform, led by President-Elect T. Andrew Brown and Secretary-Elect Taa Grays, for its “hard examination of the issues contributing to police brutality.” Karson looks forward to the continued work of the Task Force as they develop recommendations to end the destructive policing practices that disproportionately impact persons of color and contribute to such gross injustices.
“Racial injustice – the stain on our national conscience – demands our entire civil society’s immediate, careful and considerable attention,” Karson said.
Among Karson’s other initiatives, the Task Force on Nursing Homes and Long-Term Care and the Task Force on COVID-19 Immunity and Liability continue in “their earnest work to investigate and make recommendations in these critical areas.” The Task Force on Attorney Well-Being is “likewise persistently engaged in efforts to support and improve the quality of life of all lawyers.”
He noted excellent attendance at this year’s virtual meeting with 4,000 attendees. He extended congratulations to colleagues honored with awards and commendations over the course of Annual Meeting. “Your dedication, service, and hard work are what makes NYSBA great, and, indeed, what defines us as a profession,” said Karson.
“We do not know what the next few months will hold, but we can be cautiously optimistic that life will get better,” said Karson, who looks forward to addressing the House of Delegates again in April. “I am proud that NYSBA has risen to meet the many challenges presented over the past year and has reinvented itself in order to continue to serve its members and advocate for its policy priorities.”
He concluded: “I thank our section and committee chairs, presenters and staff for their exceptional dedication in ensuring that this virtual Annual Meeting was a success. And I thank you, our delegates and members, for all that you do to make our Association great. It is my pleasure to serve as your NYSBA president. Stay well and keep involved.”