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APRIL President's message


Wendy Marie Weathers, Esq.

 

Inaugural Address

 
                                   
 
Farewell
 

Serving as President of the Westchester County Bar Association during the most devastating Pandemic in the 21st history brought the collaborative and collective need for all of us to embrace a “New Normal”. Communication and collegiality allowed for all of us To Listen, To Learn, and To Grow.

To Listen to our members—addressing their needs by providing tools, resources and facilitating new relationships, beyond text or email. To Learn from every generation —empowering the younger, less experienced lawyers to have a voice to share their knowledge, passion and energy. To Grow and continue relationships within our communities, such as collaborating with law schools, public communities and fellow bar associations.

With the tremendous support of the WCBA Executive Director, Isabel Dichiara, and with the assistance of Roni Brumberger, Director of Marketing and Communications, the WCBA held over 163 CLE/webinar/events and welcomed more than 3,000 registrants in the past year! That is three times the number of events and registrants compared to 2019. The WCBA collaborated with several organizations including the New York State Bar Association, the Westchester Black Bar Association, the Westchester Women’s Bar Association, the Hudson Valley Hispanic Bar Association, the New York State Academy of Trial Lawyers, the Dutchess County Bar Association, the Rockland County Bar Association, the Albany County Bar Association, the New York County Bar Association, as well as the Elizabeth S. Haub School of Law at Pace University.

From the first day of the pandemic, the WCBA kept our members updated with the latest changes in the law and updates from the court systems. Thank you to Mary Ellen McCourt for your creativity and excellence each month in making our monthly Magazine fresh and remarkable. As a result of remaining relevant and responding to the needs of the bench, bar and community, the WCBA had more members at the end of 2020 than at the beginning of 2020.

In May 2020, the Westchester County Bar Association and the Westchester County Bar Foundation, being sensitive to the needs of our local law students during these challenging times, were very happy to donate $8000 in support of the Pace Law Emergency Assistance for Students (P.L.E.A.S.) fund. The WCBA and the WCBF recognized that the next generation of lawyers were truly impacted by this pandemic and we are honored to help the students and the entire Pace community.     

Communication and collegiality allowed for all of us To Listen, To Learn, and To Grow. I am proud to share that the WCBA did just that through many programs launched during my Presidency.

The WCBA Community Recovery Task Force, chaired by Dolores Gebhardt, offers guidance and solutions to the current legal challenges facing first responders, the business and legal community, and the citizens of Westchester County because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In keeping with the mission of the WCBA, the mission of this Task Force is to employ our resources to aid Westchester County in navigating, recovering, and ultimately emerging stronger than before. Thank you, Dolores, for your collaboration and civility in keeping this Task Force relevant. And thank you, James Hyer, for your leadership in directing the Subcommittee for First Responders, which provided free information about and preparation of advance directives. I would also like to thank those who have contributed to the Economic Recovery Program SubCommittee, which consists of industry-specific guidance in the form of FAQs and links to government websites, and is committed to the recovery from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic: (a) Labor and Employment group, chaired by Kim Berg, Esq. and Hon. Kyle McGovern, which held monthly meetings to address the laws surrounding PPP, EIDL business loans, mandatory vaccinations, unemployment, etc;  (b)  Landlord Tenant Task Force, chaired by Carl Finger, Esq. and Mark Guterman, Esq., which made remarkable strides and continues to have important discussions with the Ninth  Judicial District leaders regarding the ever changing world of landlord tenant practice; (c) Small Business Group (including Business Interruption Insurance), chaired by Jonathan Engel, Esq.; (d)  Real Estate Group chaired by Brian Cohen, Esq.; (e) Hospitality Group, chaired by Russell Yankwitt, Esq. and Dina Hamerman, Esq.

The Social Justice Task Force led by the Co-chairs of the Diversity Committee, Karen Beltran and Keri Fiore, and Board Member Brian Cohen hosted an impactful and informative program moderated by Judge Everett covering the current legal issues in police brutality claims spurred by recently enacted NYS Executive Orders and legislation in response to ongoing national occurrences of police brutality.

During the one hundred twenty-five years of existence of the Westchester County Bar Association, our nation has overcome many challenges —world wars, famine, the Great Depression, and several financial crises, to name a few. In each situation, our nation triumphed due to the strength of our citizens and our democratic institutions. Humanity and unity will lead us out of this season of turmoil.

The WCBA made tremendous efforts to initiate new ways for members to stay in touch. One of these, “Coffee Talk”, since our inaugural Zoom meeting on April 2, has allowed WCBA colleagues to network on Thursday afternoons. During this hour, colleagues share how they are adapting to this “New Normal”. We discuss technology, courts, family, economic programs and mental wellness. It has organically grown into a casual, informative and fun hour.

Thank you to Jessica Parker and Dan Lust, co- chairs of the membership committee, who created a fun and collegial project—WCBA Membership Project—WCBA members share stories on how they have been handling the past year—at work and at home. These stories have now become a monthly page in the this Magazine.  With the tremendous commitment to find the next story, Roni Brumberger, Director of Marketing and Communications, has paired over 10 law students and practicing attorneys in an interview setting that results in candid, honest and fun articles to read.  The law students who have been participating in the membership project came from many different schools: Pace, Haub Law; Rutgers University; Regent University; George Washington University; New York Law School. Thank you to the attorneys who were interviewed and shared their  stories.

Thank you to Michael Reed, Esq. of Yankwitt Law, LLP for chairing Mentoring Circles,  which provide members with a confidential and more personal forum that allows the groups to hone law practice development and management skills, build relationships, expand referral networks and engage in substantive discussions.  Thank you also to Anastazia Sienty, of Hollis Laidlaw & Simon P.C.; Matthew Donovan, Esq. of Farrell Fritz, P.C.; and James Landau, Esq., who is the current President of the White Plains Bar Association and a WCBA Board Member, and Dolores Gebhardt, Esq. of Goldschmidt & Genovese, LLP, who is a Vice President  of the WCBA, for your time and dedication in leading a Mentoring Circle. 

The WCBA hosted its first Virtual Meet the Judges event, which provided an excellent opportunity for all attorneys, especially new attorneys and law students, to meet and get to know participating Judges from the Ninth Judicial District through several virtual sessions to network and chat on set topics. This event led to law students obtaining summer judicial internships!

The WCBA hosted several fun events- Golf Outing, Virtual Wine Tasting, Virtual Whiskey Tasting, 2020 Real Men Wear Pink (WCBA members Robert Hertman, Paul Millman, Saad Siddiqui and Richard Vecchio), three Trivia Challenge Nights and the first Virtual Annual Meeting and Pre-Spring Social.

Led by the WCBA Public Service Co-chairs, Past President Kelly Welch and President-Elect James Hyer, the WCBA delivered baskets and thoughtful notes to the VA Hospital in Buchanan-Montrose in honor and recognition of Veteran’s Day in place of the WCBA’s Annual Bingo event. 

The WCBA hosted its first Virtual NYSBA’s Mock Trial Competition for Westchester County. We had over 15 high school teams competing this year. Thank you to Arthur Muller III and Executive Director Isabel Dichiara for making this a successful event.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the WCBA has answered hundreds of phone calls from the public who are seeking legal help.  For 40+ years, the WCBA Lawyer Referral Service (LRS) has been referring thousands of clients annually to attorneys in Westchester County.  Brittney Moore is the WCBA’s Director for Lawyer Referral Services (LRS) and she has been successfully placing prospective clients with participating attorneys based on the attorney’s area of concentration, status on the rotation list and clients’ geographic location.  

The WCBA is also very proud of its Assigned Counsel/18-B Committee.  This Committee has many duties: 1) it certifies to the Legal Aid Society of Westchester County a panel of attorneys competent to provide representation under Article 18-B to poor or indigent persons within the County of Westchester; 2) it supervises the panel of assigned counsel attorneys and recommends from time to time to the Board of Directors of the Association such action or such proposed legislation as will, in its judgment, improve the administration of justice in respect to all matters within the scope of its duties. The Assigned Counsel/18-B Committee is divided into two subcommittees, each having its own Chair: Family Law Subcommittee and Criminal Law Subcommittee.  I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to Ron Stokes for his thirty years of service on the Criminal Law Subcommittee, the last 12 years as Chair.  Ron’s exemplary service and dedication to the Criminal Law Subcommittee has put the WCBA in a rank of its own – a model for Assigned 18B Counsel for all of New York.  As of now, we have updated the Application and Recertification processes for the Program.  More to come in the months ahead!

During my Presidency, I met and talked with so many inspiring and thoughtful members of the WCBA.  I had the privilege to appoint over 20 new committee co-chairs and I also had the privilege to foster new leaders and appoint delegates to the NYSBA House of Delegates. I also had the privilege to honor the section/committee co-chairs who ended their terms.

My term as President ends on April 30 and as a result this is my final President’s Message. I commend the engagement and work ethic of our Officers, Directors and Section and Committee Co-Chairs. Your engagement, willingness to volunteer and dedication are what makes this organization great and you have all been the best support I could have hoped for. I continue to learn from each of you and I am so happy that I have had the opportunity to get to know you all.

A humble thank you to Immediate Past President, Judge Linda S. Jamieson, whose leadership, with grace and fortitude, has been priceless to me. I would be remiss if I did not give a huge shout out to Executive Director, Isabel Dichiara, whose strength and wisdom in contingency planning during this crisis has been nothing short of amazing. Our Vice Presidents, Dolores Gebhardt and Andrew Schriever have, in addition to devoting hours as members of the executive committee of the board, each co-chaired committees and, I am happy to report, will continue next year as president-elect and vice president, respectively. Julie Cvek Curley and Brian Cohen brought their dedication to the jobs of treasurer and assistant treasurer, respectively and maintained the financial health of the WCBA during a tumultuous time. Denise Ward and Robert Hertman made sure that comprehensive minutes were memorialized every meeting!

Most importantly, I would like to give special thanks to my family, specifically my daughters, Madison and Sophia Weathers, who accept their mother’s passion to serve and who remain supportive, loving and patient...I love you both very much!

I also want to thank my significant other—Jonathan Castellani—for his loving and patient support of me during our time together. Thank you sweetie, for inspiring me to succeed in the face of life’s challenges.

And to the Past Presidents of the WCBA – Jody Fay, Dawn Kirby, Kelly Welch, Stephanie Burns and Richard Vecchio– I am so grateful to have such a smart, fun, loyal, committed, generous and selfless group of friends holding me up and mentoring me!

Lastly, thank you to both of my law firm families – Cabanillas & Associates, P.C. and Clair, Gjersten & Weathers, PLLC. You have both influenced me and continue to do so in more ways than you know. Muchas Gracias!

It has been a privilege to serve as President and to represent this great bar association for the past year. And whatever success we have had this year, I share with all of you. Thank you. I end my term as President confident that the WCBA will continue to thrive under the leadership of James Hyer.

Please join us on May 5, 2021 to celebrate the swearing in of our new officers and directors. More information to follow.

Be well, be safe and God bless.

Annual SPONSORS AND CORPORATE PARTNERS