Scott M. Karson of Stony Brook was officially sworn in today as the 123rd president in the New York State Bar Association’s storied history.
Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, he becomes the first-ever NYSBA president to be installed virtually. The virtual swearing-in was conducted by New York State Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, and was attended by more than 250 guests.
“As we assemble here today virtually for Scott’s installation, we are reminded in a very pointed way of the challenges Scott will face as our next State Bar president leading the association through this historic pandemic,” said DiFiore. “But those of us who know Scott are justifiably hopeful and excited because we know and understand the quality of his character and the strength of his leadership…
“Scott Karson will meet these challenges with the same extraordinary competence, integrity and commitment to service that have defined him throughout his career,” DiFiore continued. “And we can expect that he will bring great honor to his tenure and responsibilities as the 123rd president of the New York State Bar Association.”
Karson then addressed these uncertain times due to the pandemic during his speech.
“This microscopic virus has deeply affected the lawyers of the New York State Bar Association, and it has changed everything I thought that my leadership of the association would entail,” said Karson. “My view of leadership requires that I substantially shift my focus, not only to dealing with the problems visited upon us by the coronavirus, but looking toward how that pandemic will change the future and bring problems we cannot yet see.”
He acknowledged the extent of NYSBA events that have been cancelled or postponed due to the pandemic or held in creative ways, such as the all-virtual House of Delegates meeting to be held on June 13, in lieu of the association’s traditional June HOD meeting in Cooperstown.
“I certainly hope to join our members at a live event before too long, but we are far from saying with any certainty when or where,” said Karson. “Leadership will require flexibility and creativity – and perhaps some risk – in determining the appropriate date, venue and format for our future activities.”
Karson, who will serve a one-year term as president and succeeds Henry M. Greenberg of Albany, noted NYSBA’s ongoing initiatives related to the impacts of the pandemic, including the Emergency Task Force for Solo and Small Firm Practitioners and the Working Group on Reopening Law Firms.
He added that the association will continue and expand its important work training and deploying pro bono attorneys to provide assistance to New Yorkers who need help securing unemployment benefits through the appeal process, resolving matters relating to housing and eviction, handling small estates in Surrogate’s Court, and dealing with other legal issues that arise as result of the pandemic.
“Our work as lawyers is more important than ever,” said Karson. “We are the guardians of justice and protectors of the rule of law – a role which we must never lose sight of.”
Karson asked rhetorically who among his virtual audience had just recently, out of necessity, learned how to use Zoom or Skype. He said the pandemic rushed the technological trend on the legal profession even sooner than anticipated.
“We are being pushed into the law office of the future and the courts of the future before we feel ready. But the future is now, and it won’t wait for us to become comfortable,” said Karson. “And if we were to pursue a return to our old ‘normality,’ that would only signal a failure of leadership. I contend that we should not fear the present – nor the future.”
Karson, a commercial and municipal litigator with a concentration in appellate work who has argued more than 100 appeals in the state and federal appellate courts, described becoming NYSBA president as the “greatest honor” of his professional career.
Karson is a past president of the Suffolk County Bar Association (SCBA). The SCBA assisted with the virtual event, along with Karson’s firm Lamb & Barnosky in Melville. Eugene Barnosky, Karson’s law partner for the past 30 years, provided remarks and gave a virtual toast.
Retired Supreme Court Justice Michael F. Mullen, now counsel to Lamb & Barnosky, also spoke at the event. Mullen described Karson as “a credit to our profession in every sense of the word.”
Past NYSBA President Michael Miller also provided kind remarks about Karson and introduced DiFiore. An invocation was performed by Rabbi Sheila Goloboy. SCBA Immediate Past President Lynn Poster Zimmerman gave introductory remarks. The Pledge of Allegiance was led by SCBA Executive Director Sarah Jane LaCova.