NYSBA Ukraine Task Force: From the Rule of Law to Rules of War
In December 2021, the International Section of the New York State Bar Association entered into a memorandum of understanding to promote understanding and cooperation between NYSBA and the Ukrainian Bar Association, and to offer benefits and opportunities for their members. The International Section then formed a Ukraine chapter and met virtually with the leadership and members of the Ukrainian Bar Association to launch the new chapter. Shortly after that presentation, Edward K. Lenci, then chair of the International Section, formed the NYSBA Ukraine Task Force to effectuate the goals of the new chapter, and long-time section member Serhiy Hoshovsky was appointed to co-chair the task force. Women in Law Section Chair Sheryl Galler and Chair-Elect Kim Wolf Price joined the task force, and Deborah Kaye volunteered to serve as its secretary. Current co-chairs are Andre R. Jaglom, Serhiy Hoshovsky and Scott M. Karson, past president of NYSBA.
The first meeting of the Ukraine Task Force was held virtually on Feb. 17, 2022. Barely a week later, Russia invaded Ukraine. The task force continued to meet regularly to explore how to support Ukraine during the war and assist the advocacy of the Ukrainian Bar Association.
Our new connections made the war feel personal even for those of us without relatives there. Ukrainian Bar Association Executive Director Inna Liniova shared firsthand reports on the situation in Kyiv. We worried for her safety and the safety of her friends and family as she fled to western Ukraine and eventually to Bulgaria. Anna Dabrowska, a law firm partner in Warsaw and chair of NYSBA’s Poland chapter, invited Ukrainian refugees, including a mother and baby, to stay in her home. Anna shared the tale of their harrowing journey and the dedication of colleagues who helped them along the way.
NYSBA Past President T. Andrew Brown joined the task force’s meeting on Feb. 24 to condemn Russia’s criminal invasion and to affirm that NYSBA stands with Ukraine. NYSBA issued press releases stating its support of Ukraine and the rule of law and inviting others to follow. At the Ukrainian Bar Association’s request, task force members used their connections to encourage bar associations around the world to issue their own similar statements.
Over the next few weeks, the mission of the task force grew to include teams specializing in: (1) providing guidance on the sanctions imposed on Russia and its companies and citizens; (2) providing advocacy and immigration assistance for Ukrainian refugees, residents and immigrants in Europe, Canada, Poland, Moldova, Germany, Ireland, the United States and elsewhere; (3) collecting information regarding charities and resources to assist Ukraine, including guides in multiple languages; (4) providing guidance on the collection of evidence of war crimes – an immensely complicated subject – and other preparations for Ukraine to bring claims against Russia in international tribunals; (5) helping Ukrainian attorneys find remote jobs in other jurisdictions, even as far away as Canada; and (6) coordinating large swaths of law school volunteers for research on myriad projects relating to the invasion (chaired by Kim Wolf Price). The task force has now grown to more than 70 people as it has welcomed additional NYSBA members and staff, representatives of other bar associations in the U.S. and abroad, and representatives of law firms and pro bono legal services organizations, all with the goal of coordinating efforts for Ukraine and its people.
Our refugee and immigration effort has been so successful that it is now independent of NYSBA and the Ukrainian Bar Association, and thanks to the help of the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, it has a wonderfully working website in multiple languages.
NYSBA helped promote the task force’s efforts through articles and press releases, and by creating a resource page with links to international statements against the invasion, international resources on sanctions, lists of charities collecting for Ukraine, plus news articles and updates. (See https://nysba.org/legal-resources-on-the-ukraine-conflict.)
In March, NYSBA offered specialized training on how to help Ukrainian refugees apply for Temporary Protected Status. Nearly 750 attorneys took part in the training, and many people volunteered afterward. It was reported to be the most watched webinar in NYSBA’s history.
Recent developments include signing a memorandum of understanding with the highly regarded Global Accountability Network, which was created by Professor David Crane. The network was designed to create criminal information to support human rights commissions and other countries in their endeavors to protect human rights. The Global Accountability Network’s first project, the Syrian Accountability Project in 2011, was followed by many more (such as in Sierra Leone, Yemen, Syria and others). Professor Crane established a Ukraine task force for crime dossiers on Putin and Russia on incitement to genocide against the Ukrainians by (1) creating a conflict map; (2) determining the most responsible parties; and (3) drafting a white paper. The memorandum of understanding with the task force will commence work on similar reports with respect to crimes committed by Russia and others in Ukraine.
Co-chair Scott Karson spearheaded an important effort by the task force, the Global Accountability Network and the American Bar Association to enter into a “Report and Resolution of the International Section of the New York State Bar Association Regarding Prosecution of the Russian Federation and Its Culpable Officials for Aggression and Related War Crimes Arising From Its Illegal Military Invasion of Ukraine.” The goal of this report and resolution is ultimately to further the prosecution of culpable individuals at the appropriate time and place, and presentation of the resolutions to the United Nations. The NYSBA resolution, which was supported by Ukraine, supports the similar resolution of the American Bar Association that “condemns the unlawful invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation.”
The New York Law Journal and other legal news outlets have written and reported about the task force, its mission and accomplishments and the individuals who are making this happen. Anna Ogrenchuk, president of the Ukrainian Bar Association, continues to be a shining star in the war efforts on the legal stage, winning awards, such as from the NYSBA’s International Section on Jan. 22, 2023, and Inna Liniova from the Madrid Bar Association in June 2022.
We are honored to be part of this important project but hope that the task force can soon return to its original long-term goals: to provide advice and guidance to the legal profession and the judiciary in Ukraine concerning the protection of the rule of law, professional and judicial ethics, best practices in the legal profession and the judiciary, and the greater involvement of young lawyers and women lawyers in the legal profession. We hope that the war will end soon, and that Ukraine can begin to heal and rebuild. Meanwhile, we hope and pray for the safety of our friends and colleagues at the Ukrainian Bar Association, their families and fellow citizens.
Deborah H. Kaye, co-chair of the Women in Law Section’s Champions Committee, is a former managing director and senior managing counsel at BNY Mellon, where she was the chief managing attorney for multiple companies in the international securities, futures, mutual funds and collateral business lines. She also created their Global Pro Bono Committee. Previously she worked at several other major international financial institutions, including JP Morgan Chase. She is a proud member of the FBI New York Citizens Alumni Academy.
Sheryl B. Galler is the chair of Women in Law Section, and the chair-elect of the Labor and Employment. Section. She is counsel to the Book Law Firm.
An earlier version of this article appeared in the WILS Connect, the publication of the Women in Law Section. For more information, go to NYSBA.ORG/WILS.