By Mary Ellen Manley, Esq.
WCBA Past President
I cannot think about Carol without smiling. She had the same effect upon all who met her. Often when attending a professional function I would enter the room and automatically seek her out. Carol was so sweet, effervescent, warm and sincere. Who wouldn’t want to be in her company?
My friendship with Carol solidified the day we realized we had a youthful crush on the same married man—ace Mets pitcher, Tom “Terrific” Seaver, of the 1969 World Series winning Mets! We were both die-hard Mets fans.
Long before I met Carol, she was accumulating academic accolades. She strove for excellence and succeeded brilliantly, whether at St. Eugene’s grammar school, Maria Regina High School, Manhattan College, or Pace University School of Law. However, she truly hit her stride as an accomplished municipal lawyer.
Early in her distinguished career, when Carol was with the Westchester County attorney’s office, she argued before the Court of Appeals the milestone case In the Matter of Westchester County Medical Center (Mary O’Connor), 72 N.Y.2d 514 (1988). There, the Court held that clear and convincing proof of a patient’s firm commitment to the termination of life support was required before that life support could be terminated. This decision led to increased usage of health care proxies and living wills to express and protect a patient’s wishes.
After serving as Assistant Chief Deputy County Attorney for Westchester, and Bureau Chief of the Appeals, Opinions and Legislation Division, Carol joined the City of White Plains Legal Department as Chief Deputy Corporation Counsel. For over two decades, she helped guide and influence the future of the City of White Plains, working tirelessly and diligently to properly advise the City leaders and Common Council, who soon came to realize they could confidently rely upon her good counsel.
Carol continued to receive public recognition for her extraordinary work. She received the Above the Bar Award in 2011 as Outstanding Public Service Attorney, and the New York State Bar Association’s 2012 Award for Excellence in Public Service. The Westchester County Bar Foundation honored her in 2014 for her many contributions to the legal profession.
Carol has been an active leader in the Westchester County Bar Association, serving with distinction as the third female President of the Westchester County Bar Association. She was the past chair of the Municipal Law Section of the County Bar, and the first vice chair of the Municipal Law Section of the State Bar. She served in several capacities with the Westchester Bar Journal and Newsletter. She taught as an adjunct professor at Pace University Graduate School of Public Administration and Iona College, and lectured frequently at numerous bar Associations seminars.
Throughout her nearly nine-year struggle with an aggressive cancer, Carol remained passionate about her family, her faith and her profession. This past summer when her health began to decline, she moved out of her home and into an apartment located across the street from City Hall, so she could work every day, often late into the night.
The Carol I knew, respected and loved, died the way she lived, with grace, dignity, and courage.
Carol was comforted and surrounded by her loving family—her mother Elaine, her brother William Van Scoyoc and his wife Sara, her sister Susan McDonald and her husband John, as well as her nephews James and John, and nieces Melissa and Morgan.
Carol radiated a light that no adversity or illness could extinguish. We will always remember her beautiful smile, her giggle, her joyful personality and her kindness.
The words in Carol’s memorial card say it best. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” We are forever blessed for having known her.
Member Spotlight: Carol L. Van Scoyoc
Reprinted from the April 2016 issue of the Westchester Lawyer Magazine
Number of Years as a Member of the WCBA: 30 years. Past president; former vice president and secretary; former executive committee member; current editor-in-chief of the Westchester Bar Journal; current co-chair of the Bar Journal Committee; current editorial staff member of the Westchester Lawyer magazine; past editor-in-chief of the Newsletter and past chair of the Newsletter Committee; past chair of the Municipal Law Section.
Awards and honors received: the 2014 Westchester County Bar Foundation Award; the 2012 New York State Bar Association’s Award for Excellence in Public Service; 2011 Above the Bar Award for Outstanding Public Service Attorney. I am currently serving as chair of the Local and State Government Law Section of the NYSBA.
My current job and practice area are: as Chief Deputy Corporation Counsel for the City of White Plains, I am involved in many aspects of municipal law, including litigation and the drafting of legislation and legal opinions, involving land use law, zoning, public safety, ethics, and environmental issues, to name a few. I am also an adjunct professor at Pace University’s Graduate School of Public Administration.
How I decided to work in municipal law: as an intern at Pace Law School’s then Michaelian Municipal Law Research Center, I really enjoyed researching some cutting edge local government issues for a number of municipalities and writing articles for the Municipal Lawyer and my involvement led me to pursue a career in local government, with the Westchester County Attorney’s Office for ten years and then for the City of White Plains.
One of my favorite legal success stories: as a young lawyer and only three years out of law school, arguing and prevailing on behalf of the County of Westchester in a controversial and landmark case before the NY Court of Appeals on the right-to-die issue, in Matter of Westchester County Medical Center (Mary O’Connor).
If I were not practicing law I would be: a medical research doctor.
People may be surprised to learn: as a teenager, I competed in and won the Miss Columbus title for the City of Yonkers Columbus Day celebration. WCBA Past President Ralph Nobile served as master of ceremonies for the pageant and festivities.
The best thing I did to improve my skill set as an attorney: volunteering as a speaker at various CLEs for the WCBA, NYSBA, Pace Law School and teaching legal research and writing, local government law and administrative law.
What I splurge on: clothes, jewelry, gifts for my nieces and nephews, attending baseball games, and musical performances.
The best hour of my day is: sunset.
Favorite movies: The Great Gatsby (with Robert Redford); any Harrison Ford movie, especially Presumed Innocent and The Fugitive; The Doctor; The Sixth Sense; Bang the Drum Slowly; The Way We Were; Body Heat; And Justice for All.
Favorite television shows: Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, Downton Abbey, Mr. Selfridge, Longmire, Blue Bloods, E.R., and old Twilight Zone, Perry Mason, Ironside, L.A. Law and Owen Marshall reruns.
Favorite songs: any album or song by Vince Gill; the Eagles’ Hotel California and Tequila Sunrise; Don Henley’s End of the Innocence and any song on his recent Cass County album; Billy Joel’s New York State of Mind and any song on The Stranger album; George Strait’s Amarillo by Morning; Garth Brooks’ The Dance; the Rolling Stones’ Miss You; Sade’s Smooth Operator; Trisha Yearwood’s The Song Remembers When; B.B. King’s The Thrill Is Gone.
Favorite meal: lobster.
Favorite websites or blogs: New York Law Journal, New York Post, New York Times, Washington Post, mlb.com and the New York Mets website and the Law of the Land blog.
My favorite vacation spots: Miami and Captiva Island, Florida; the Hamptons; the Jersey Shore; Cooperstown.
Three things I can’t live without: my family, the law, and the NY Mets.
One of my favorite things to do in Westchester: attending musical performances and plays at the White Plains Performing Arts Theater.
Best advice I ever got: always respect those who respect you and remain constant to your purpose.
My advice to new lawyers: strive to practice the type of law you really have the passion for and enjoy and appreciate the good moments in life.
Last time I was out of my comfort zone: being diagnosed with Stage IV, inflammatory breast cancer nearly eight years ago and trying to figure out how to cope with that reality.
One of my future ambitions is to: write a book.
My favorite part of being involved with the WCBA: acquiring and sharing legal knowledge and experience with true professionals, and the camaraderie and long-lasting friendships with some of the best attorneys and persons in Westchester County.