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President's Message

Hon. Peter G. Crummey

Download June 14 President.pdf

            “Faded photographs, Covered now with lines and creases, Tickets torn in half, Memories in bits and pieces.”  Classics IV, 1969.

             Many of us, upon our parents’ passing, have had to sort their personal possessions often involving generations of papers and memories.  I am now in that process and it helps me take pause and consider life’s influences.  For instance, I have found many items belonging to my grandfathers.

            Both my grandfathers were lawyers.  Dad’s Dad grew up in Albany and graduated from Christian Brothers Academy, Georgetown University and Albany Law School ‘10.  He practiced in New York City and Long Island where he eventually became Chief Counsel and Secretary to the Long Island Lighting Company during growth years for that company.  Mom’s Dad grew up in Cleveland graduating from Central High School and Ohio Northern University.    There is a scholarship in his name at the University.   He was admitted to practice in 1916 and practiced in Cleveland, Ohio.  As a young attorney, he served as a Prosecutor in the Cuyahoga County District Attorney’s Office and, in 1936, ran as a Republican candidate for Congress in Ohio.  I have his framed campaign poster hanging  in my office.  He was not selected on election day and eventually moved west with his young family to begin a practice in Los Angeles, California.  After many years of private practice in Los Angeles, he was appointed a California Superior Court Judge (New York State’s jurisdictional equivalent of a Supreme Court Judge) by then Democrat Governor Pat Brown.  I found a black and white photograph of them walking together with Mrs. Brown.  I also found a black and white photograph of him with Richard Nixon and another with Nelson Rockefeller.  Both of my grandfathers accomplished many things during their lifetime but they were also lawyers.

            I was fortunate to know both of my grandfathers while they were on this planet and they shared their grandfatherly love with me.  They never suggested I become a lawyer but I wonder if their elevated stature in my life influenced me to become one.  I have achieved neither the station nor the wisdom they did but I am fulfilled to follow in their footsteps albeit barely occupying just a small part of their large footprints laid so many years ago.

            I also found a book of my Dad’s Dad entitled, May it Please the Court by James Montgomery Beck, (1930).  Beck was a major force in our profession out of Philadelphia who practiced in both Philadelphia and New York City.  He also served in a variety of government positions including Solicitor General of the United States between 1921 and 1925 which put him in charge of over 800 cases then pending before the Supreme Court.  As Solicitor General, Mr. Beck personally argued 100 of those pending cases before the Supreme Court.

            In the book, Beck writes that on February 13, 1925, he delivered after dinner remarks during the celebration of  Elihu Root’s 80th birthday party at the Union League Club of New York City.  Mr. Beck’s remarks were delivered after the remarks given by Charles Evan Hughes, Secretary of State, former Governor of New York State and soon to become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States and immediately preceding the remarks of Elihu Root, former Secretary of State, among other significant titles.  At the outset of his delivery, Beck noted that speaking between these two legal titans made him “feel very much as a little minnow attempting to breast the vasty deep between two great whales”.  In concluding his birthday remarks about Elihu Root, Beck stated, “What a thought at eighty years of age to feel that you have not lived in vain; that you have fought a good fight; that you have kept the faith; that you have won the respect and esteem of men whose esteem and respect are indeed worth having.”   I like Beck’s humility and his capacity to honor another lawyer and our profession.

            I’m glad I found the photographs with lines and creases and the memories in bits and pieces.  I have many more boxes to go.

Download May 14 President.pdf

President’s Message - ACBA Newsletter - May, 2014
It’s been a hard day’s night /And I’ve been working like a dog./It’s been a hard day’s
night/I should be sleeping like a log./ John Lennon and Paul McCartney - 1964.
Lawyers work long hours. Lawyers work hard for their clients and employers and
routinely, in addition, donate their knowledge and industry to the enhancement of our
community. I often witness the positive impact lawyers make while volunteering.
Just this past month, numerous members of our Association once again volunteered to
preside over our County mock trial tournament. The tournament involves teams of high school
students who compete to represent our County in a regional and subsequent state competition.
The mock trial rounds begin at 5:30 p.m. and often extend beyond 7:30 p.m. I had the good
fortune of not only recognizing the hard work of our members who served as Judges for this
inspirational program but was also fortunate to preside over a round myself. I always learn
something from students. Our member volunteers make this program beneficial to students and
encourage them to respect and, possibly, pursue the law as a profession. I can tell you that,
based on the talent and preparation of the students, the future of our profession is bright.
Lawyers also often volunteer to speak about the law and the profession. Last month, I
interviewed, on video and on separate occasions, Federal District Court Judge Mae D’Agostino,
James Featherstonhaugh and Cornelius Murray for my town’s library. Each of those attorneys,
all members of the Albany County Bar Association, have distinguished themselves, and the
practice of law, in a variety of ways for decades. They are each well known to practitioners
throughout the Capital Region and each remains involved in a variety of community projects and
educational programs for the benefit of others including volunteering to be interviewed about the
Since 2007, I have been fortunate to capture interviews with many lawyers on my show,
self titled, Benchmark. Despite my primitive capacity for television work, my guests have
generously lent of themselves to help document our profession for those who follow. My
sixteen (16) year old son was recently studying at the town library and he forwarded to me a
photo of some Benchmark DVDs that are available on loan. What was striking to him was not
that the DVDs existed but that someone actually checked one out of the library. Children have a
unique way of humbling parents. Actually, it was my interview with Peter Pryor, Esq. so I was
not surprised it was in circulation.
Future lawyers also make themselves available for the benefit of our community.
Last month, I was asked to return to Albany Law School to help celebrate the 35th
Anniversary of the Nelson A. Rockefeller Chapter of the Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity. I was
a founding member of the organization and our beginning was accomplished in the humblest of
terms. Obviously, the students who succeeded this founding member were far more capable and
have now created one of the largest, if not the largest, student organizations at Albany Law
School with over 200 members. The organization donates its time to the school and to the
surrounding community. The organization has a program for 1L students providing information
on school and life choices. They recently co-sponsored, with the School’s Criminal Law
Society, a celebration of Gideon v. Wainwright (372 U.S. 335). The student members also host
“Trick or Treat Street” each Halloween at the school providing trick or treat opportunities to
1000 local community children and residents. For the past two (2) years, they have hosted a
dinner at the Ronald McDonald House in Albany to benefit those at the residence and members
joined in to build a house with Habitat for Humanity. Clearly, the generosity of lawyers and
future lawyers is present in the fabric of our community.
Members of our Association continue to distinguish themselves in the judiciary, as well.
We are so pleased that Association Members Judge Eugene P. Devine and Judge Michael C.
Lynch have been appointed to our Appellate Division. With a talented pool of future lawyers,
lawyers and jurists, our Association continues to be blessed as does our community.

(From the March 2014 Newsletter)   Download March 14 Pres1.doc

“New York, New York, I want to wake up in that city that never sleeps, and find I’m king of the hill, top of the list..”
 John Kander and Fred Ebb-1977   

     Congratulations to our very own David Miranda, Former President of our Albany County Bar Association in 2009, who was recently elected as President-Elect of the New York State Bar Association at its Annual Meeting in New York City.  All of us who were present representing our County Bar were pleased and proud of our State Bar’s choice of David.  We are fortunate to have such a great line of communication with State Bar governance and David has certainly distinguished our County Bar.  We extend our congratulations and best wishes to David, our king of the hill, top of the list.

 The Annual Meeting of the New York State Bar Association also included plenty of comment concerning the current Biennial Attorney Registration form which asks attorneys to list the number of their pro bono hours and list the amounts of money donated to legal service agencies for the underserved or poor.   Based on the tenor of the House of Delegates Meeting on January 31, 2014, the delegates generally oppose the notion of required reporting of such activities on a registration form.  As I pointed out in last month’s message, attorneys generously give of themselves to the enhancement of their communities in countless ways.  Requiring attorneys to count the hours in certain settings and money donated to certain groups has not been well received and the State Bar is actively developing strategies to confront such regulatory action on our profession.

 Maybe government would better use its time than requiring the reporting of charitable work and donations on an attorney registration form when so many significant needs in our community remain unmet.  Take for instance, the fact that government’s current policy of responding to mental health challenges and addictions has rendered our criminal justice system the default service provider.  This trend is wrongheaded.  The courtroom where I preside, which, as of 2013, had the 25th busiest criminal court docket of fingerprintable offenses of all Courts in our State, is routinely presented with defendants with mental health challenges and addictions.  It appears that government policy waits until criminal conduct before addressing mental health challenges and addictions.  All too often, then, the County Correctional Facility is the place available for response.  Was our penal system designed to house mental health challenges and addictions?  I guess it is now.  It is so prevalent that our Albany County Correctional Facility added a new mental health wing to its campus a couple of years ago.  Can government do a better job of addressing mental health and addiction than being forced to create larger penal colonies? 

 Addiction spans a variety of chemicals and dependencies.  Heroin addiction is certainly in the news and in the Courts.  Does pop music need to glamorize heroin use?   

John Lennon told us in 1968 on The White Album, that, “Happiness is a Warm Gun” and the recent Grammy Award winner, Lorde, entitles her album, Pure Heroine.  I get the play on words but why are we playing on those words?  In the wake of so many casualties, even the recent death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, how many hours is to be reported to government as to addiction’s toll on our court system, our correctional system and on our society?  Government should prioritize its requirements for reporting hours.

(From the February 2014 Newsletter)

“You say goodbye and I say hello”, Paul McCartney/The Beatles 1967

For the past year, our Association has been led by Michael Hutter, a legendary Professor of Law at our Albany Law School and an Appellate Practitioner of distinction.  Following Mike as President reminds me of Thomas Jefferson’s quote from 1785 when he appeared in France to follow Benjamin Franklin as our Ambassador.   Jefferson went to pay his respects to the French Foreign Minister.  “You replace Monsieur Franklin?” asked the Minister.  “I succeed him” was Jefferson’s reply.  “No one can replace him”.  I feel the same about following Michael Hutter.  On behalf of our Association, I thank Mike for lending his expertise and his imprimatur to our Association and I wish him continued success in his future endeavors.    

Since 1900, our Association has been promoting the practice of law and its need for collegiality amongst lawyers and with the greater community.  Our Association has established and fostered countless programs that not only provide benefit to our membership but also support charitable and pro bono services by its members for our community at large.  Our Family Court Help Desk, soon to become the Family Court Help Center, through a broader partnership with our Court system and Albany Law School, together with our Pro Se Divorce Program and Law Day Run, now in its 20th  year, which raises needed resources for victims of domestic violence, represent mere examples of the Association at work for the greater good.

Our Lawyers Referral Service constantly connects citizens in need of counsel with our membership to solve life’s problems.  In 2013, our Association received 4,211 calls to our Lawyer Referral Service.  Our members have been endeavoring to serve as facilitators, as opposed to complicators, for 114 years. 

Our membership also certainly benefits directly from Association programs including scores of CLEs spanning a variety of relevant topics and countless Bench and Bar gatherings which have become some of the only venues for attorneys to gather collectively as the practice of law becomes weighted on submissions as opposed to collective personal appearances such as our former Special Terms.

I find that our members donate their education and expertise to the greater community every day, often outside of the Courtroom, and such service is integral to our community at large.  We need to look no further than our local not-for-profit boards, school boards, religious councils and classrooms which all are served by the pro bono dedication of our membership.  It is important to publicly recognize the integral role attorneys play in a civilization and the pro bono work attorneys do every day in and outside of society’s courtrooms.  The depth of an attorney’s contribution in our society is not to be measured merely by work in a courtroom.  If there is a demand on attorneys to annually report their pro bono service, we need to recognize the  totality of significant community volunteer service provided by attorneys.  I am keenly aware of the needs of our courtrooms as I preside currently in one of the busiest courts in our State.  I believe that the best courtroom is an empty courtroom and we do need attorneys to help accomplish that goal.  We also need attorneys in most facets of our community.  An attorney’s commitment in community volunteer capacities must also be recognized in any accounting of an attorney’s pro bono life. 

The need for lawyers in maintaining and enhancing our greater community is obvious; however, our profession is not currently without a variety of challenges, not the least of which is providing opportunity to recently graduated, unemployed attorneys.  Our law schools are facing a dramatic drop in applications as job opportunities have decreased and education costs often increase.  A debt load for a recent graduate can exceed $150,000 for three years of law school tuition, books, room and board.  To meet this challenge, Albany Law School in working diligently and proactively to insure our profession’s time honored legacy in our community by implementing a variety of dynamic programs including the Residency Associate Program for 2013 graduates.  The program allows legal employers the opportunity to hire not yet employed, newly admitted lawyers in a manner characteristic of a fellowship.  For more details, see page of our newsletter.  Obviously, gainfully employed lawyers create access to new members for our Association and enlarge opportunities for the enhancement of our community.   
Your Association is blessed with a dynamic Board of Directors and staff.  I wish to welcome our new Executive Director, Stacey Whiteley, who previously served our New York State Bar Association.  Please feel free to contact me if you have any comments or wish to become more active in the Association’s Committees or governance.  I hope to see you at the 114th Annual Court of Appeals Dinner on February 12, 2014.

(From the January 2014 Newsletter)
(From the December 2013 Newsletter)
(From the November 2013 Newsletter)
(From the October 2013 Newsletter)
(From the September 2013 Newsletter)


November 2014 NEWSLETTER

Albany County Bar Association
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