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State’s top judge to speak at Law commencement


Published May 9, 2013

“It is so important that the next generation of lawyers in New York embraces the core values of our profession that so fundamentally include pro bono legal assistance.”
Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman

Jonathan Lippman

New York State’s highest-ranking judge, who last year enacted the pro bono service requirement for admission to the New York bar, will be the keynote speaker at the UB Law School’s 124th commencement.

The commencement, which will begin at 3 p.m. May 18 in the Mainstage theater in the Center for the Arts, North Campus, will feature Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman. A reception will immediately follow the ceremony in the atrium of the CFA.

A total of 237 students will graduate in February, June and September 2013 with JD degrees; 107 are female. Ten students will graduate with LLM degrees.

Lippman, who was appointed chief judge in 2009, previously served for 11 years as the state’s chief administrative judge. His career in the court system has spanned four decades, starting as an entry-level court attorney in the Supreme Court in Manhattan. He received a JD from New York University School of Law in 1968.

The pro bono service requirement for law students—unique in the nation—is designed to provide additional legal resources to expand access to the justice system for low-income New Yorkers.

“We are facing a crisis in New York and around the country,” Lippman said in proposing the pro bono initiative. “At a time when we are still adjusting to the realities of shrinking state coffers and reduced budgets, more and more people find themselves turning to the courts.

“The courts are the emergency rooms of our society—the most intractable social problems find their way to our doors in great and increasing numbers,” he said. “And more and more of the people who come into our courts each day are forced to do so without a lawyer.

“The new pro bono service requirement for admission to the New York bar serves to address the state’s urgent access to justice gap while at the same time helping prospective attorneys build valuable skills and imbuing in them the ideal of working toward the greater good,” he continued. “It is so important that the next generation of lawyers in New York embraces the core values of our profession that so fundamentally include pro bono legal assistance.”

The 50-hour requirement takes effect for those who seek admission to New York practice after Jan. 1, 2015. Many UB law students already have a significant record of public-service legal work through the school’s legal clinics, summer internships and other opportunities to gain real-world legal experience.

Other highlights of the 2013 commencement will include presentation of the Dean’s Medal to Hon. John T. Curtin, ’49, senior U.S. district judge for the Western District of New York. The Dean’s Medal is given annually to an individual who is distinguished by his or her commitment to justice and the rule of law. Curtin is among Western New York’s longest-serving U.S. District Court judges; he has presided over some of the area’s highest-profile federal cases during more than 35 years on the bench.

“Judge Curtin has championed issues of social justice throughout his long and distinguished career, bringing equality and the rule of law to the Buffalo community in multiple arenas. It is with the greatest respect and admiration that I pay tribute to a man of such stalwart principles,” said UB Law Dean Makau Mutua.

Curtin served as U.S. attorney for seven years before ascending to the bench in 1967. He was named chief judge in 1974 and served in that capacity until 1989, when he assumed senior status.

The Ken Joyce Medal for Excellence in Teaching and Longstanding Service to the Law School will be presented to Helen A. Drew, ’88. The award, named after SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor Emeritus Ken Joyce, a renowned teacher and specialist in tax law, honors teaching excellence and service among the law school’s extensive adjunct faculty.

Drew is a longtime adjunct instructor with special expertise in sports law. Her courses include sports law, drug testing in professional sports and professional sports contract negotiation and arbitration.

A well-known booster of girls’ ice hockey at the high school level, Drew has served as associate in-house counsel and corporate officer to the Buffalo Sabres, and as an associate attorney with the Buffalo law firm Cohen, Swados, Wright, Hanifin, Bradford & Brett, where she worked on NHL matters as well.