Letter From The President Of The New York County Lawyers Association

2011-01-31 01:00

To The Readers Of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel:

In Celebration of Black History Month

NYCLA has a long and rich tradition of inclusiveness and our celebration in February of Black History Month attests to that commitment.

Two of NYCLA's charter members - D. Macon Webster and Wilford H. Smith - were prominent African-American lawyers. Webster, a successful corporate lawyer and the only non-white member of the NAACP's coordinating committee, promoted the Black Elks, an African-American fraternal organization. Smith was the first African-American attorney to win a U.S. Supreme Court case, Carter v. Texas (1900), which affirmed the right of blacks to sit on juries.

Among the numerous initiatives and reforms that NYCLA has pioneered have been: the establishment in 1938 of a Civil Rights Committee (the New York State Bar Association and ABA created a similar committee soon after); a 1943 resolution appointing a committee to confront the ABA and demand that it revoke its discriminatory policy of barring African Americans from joining its ranks; and the 1989 launch of the Summer Minority Judicial Internship Program, founded by former NYCLA President Hon. Harold Baer Jr. and his wife, Dr. Suzanne Baer.

More recently, since 2003, NYCLA and the Metropolitan Black Bar Association have co-sponsored the annual Ida B. Wells-Barnett Justice Award Program, named in honor of Ida B. Wells-Barnett, an African American who adamantly fought against segregation and in support of women's rights. In 2002, NYCLA launched a Diversity in the Legal Profession Committee, chaired by Hon. Juanita Bing Newton, then Deputy Chief Administrative Judge, Justice Initiatives. Two of NYCLA's Annual Dinners - in 2005 and 2010 - have focused on issues surrounding diversity. The 2005 dinner theme, Celebrating Jurists and Lawyers of Color, and the 2010 theme, Celebrating Diversity in the Legal Profession, encouraged law firms and law departments to "support efforts to increase diversity in the legal profession" by quantifying the results of their diversity activities in "dollars and cents" by agreeing to report "the number of hours devoted to the clients' matters by minority lawyers." NYCLA presented its first Diversity Award at the 2010 dinner to Roderick A. Palmore, executive vice president and general counsel, General Mills, Inc., who wrote "Call to Action, Diversity in the Legal Profession."

Ida B. Wells-Barnett Justice Award To Be Presented To Edna Wells Handy

Edna Wells Handy, Esq., commissioner, Department of Citywide Administrative Services, will receive the ninth annual Ida B. Wells-Barnett Justice Award on February 8 at 6:00 PM at the Home of Law. Ms. Handy was appointed commissioner of the Department of Citywide Administrative Services in November 2010 and plays an integral role in the New York City administration's ongoing cost-saving consolidation and shared-services initiatives. The Department ensures that City agencies have the resources and support needed to provide the best possible services to the public. Commissioner Handy also leads the Department of Records and Information Services, which was recently consolidated into the Department of Citywide Administrative Services.

Commissioner Handy previously served as deputy attorney general for administration in the Office of the New York State Attorney General. Prior to that, she was deputy executive director for Human Resources at the City's Department of Education, where she led a redesign of the Division of Human Resources and a series of diversity initiatives. She has served as general counsel and vice president for legal affairs at the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation and as general counsel for the New York State Conference of NAACP branches and the St. Paul Community Baptist Church of Brooklyn.

Commissioner Handy received a BA from New York University, where she was a member of the Coat of Arms Honor Society, and a JD from Georgetown University Law School, where she was associate editor of the Black Law Journal .

Ida B. Wells-Barnett (1862-1931)

Ida B. Wells, the daughter of slaves, was born in Holly Springs, Mississippi and went on to become a teacher, newspaper editor, journalist, orator, suffragist and anti-lynching crusader. In 1884, after she was forcibly removed from her seat for refusing to move to a "colored car" on the Chesapeake & Ohio, she filed suit against the railroad for her civil rights. Ms. Wells won her case in the local circuit court, but the railroad company appealed to the Tennessee Supreme Court, which reversed the lower court's ruling in 1877. She lived in Chicago and in 1895, married Ferdinand L. Barnett, a fellow crusader and founder of The Conservator newspaper. In 1930, she ran for the Illinois state legislature, one of the first black women ever to run for public office in the United States.

Sincerely,

James B. Kobak, Jr.