A: I lost count at 25 … I remember Hon. Joann Friia was the
President at the time.
Q: Why did you become a
member and what has kept you involved?
A: Rae Ellen Vitiello was my mentor and
encouraged me to join, and to go to the meetings. We also traveled together to Montreal and New
Orleans for a State Convention and to Washington, D.C. to be admitted to the
U.S. Supreme Court. I remember meeting
fascinating women and enjoying the camaraderie.
matrimonial lawyers reach out to me, periodically, for ideas on CLE topics and
to coordinate efforts for events.
My husband, Steven,
has for many years been on the WWBA Judicial Screening Committee. I fondly remember Steven and I volunteering
to be among the “models” in a “dress for success” event program sponsored by
Q: Please tell us about your
A: This is my third career. I was a registered dental hygienist, a
registered dietitian and taught nutrition at NYU (I can’t help but notice a
beautiful smile!). I applied to law
school after my daughter was born, and I went to Pace at night (my son was born
during my second year). I met Amy
Lippman in law school and we became close friends and both participated in the
internship program and worked together in the law department. I also worked for Hon. Theodore Dachenhausen
in Supreme Court and Hon. Isaac Rubin in the Appellate Division before
graduating. After a short stint in
Yonkers City Court and relief clerking for Hon. George Bergerman and Hon. Sam
Fredman (both of whom I adored), I was very fortunate to be chosen for an open
court attorney position in the fledgling law department headed by Fred Shapiro
(soon to become Hon. Fred Shapiro), a wonderful person and great boss. At the time, we shared cubicle space with
James Garfein, Rae Ellen Vitiello, and Hon. Ingrid Braslow.
job of a court attorney has changed significantly. In my tenure, we have gone from 5 court
attorneys to now over 20. Judge
Scheinkman restructured the court system and created the compliance part and
the matrimonial parts. At his urging
(you could not say “No” to Judge Scheinkman) and my desire to undertake a new
challenge, I was assigned to the matrimonial part in 2012 as the supervising
the matrimonial attorneys heard that I was going into the “Mat Part” there were
several words of advice: “Don’t just
give dates for discovery” (try to settle the case), and if you show any signs
of weakness, the attorneys will “Eat you alive.” I’m still here and my record speaks for
itself. I have enjoyed working with
every judge that has been in the Mat Part, and I give my Mat Part colleagues
credit for always working as a team. We
have regular “brown bag” lunches to discuss cases, issues, and strategies. The best part of these lunches is the law
secretaries who have left the Part and return for our lunches!
Q: How has the legal
profession changed for women since you first started practicing, if at
A: Despite the fact that court employees
attended mandatory sensitivity training, it was not uncommon for a judge to
call us “Dear” if he could not remember our name. Many years ago I applied for an open law
secretary position with a well known judge who clearly intimated that I, a
woman with young children, would be taking away the position from a man who
needed to support his family. I can’t
imagine that would happen today. To say
I was insulted and angry is an understatement.
Obviously, I did not get the job.
Q: What advice do you have
for balancing work and family life?
A: When I joined the law department, Hon.
Fred Shapiro followed by James Garfein led our then small team of court
attorneys and always made it clear that
family and personal life comes first. I
know from my husband how hard it is for attorneys in private practice, most of
whom work long hours and weekends to meet deadlines and prepare to go to court. I am very fortunate that my position affords
me the time and ability to have a diverse and rewarding family and personal
life outside the courthouse.
Q: What activities are you
involved in when you are not on the bench?
A: Now that our children have grown and
moved to Austin, Texas, my husband and I travel as much as possible. We recently returned from a trip to Dublin to
attend a Rolling Stones concert and to visit the Ireland Supreme Court where we
were privately entertained by Justice Iseult O’Malley, one of three women
Justices on the nine-member court.
We regularly take long bike trips, I
entertain often as I love to bake, and we have recently moved into New York
City after 35 years in Ardsley in Westchester County.
I love the theatre and have a weekly
Mahjong Game (or perhaps it should be called weekly wine tasting parties) with
a group of longtime close friends. I am
doing the reverse commute and my husband can now walk to work (and work even
Q: What are your
professional and personal goals in the future?
A: I now have
almost 30 years in the court system. I
love my job but ever-changing policies now make it quite different from the
early days. I am certified as a mediator
and hope shortly to be certified as an arbitrator. When my days on the 10th Floor are over, who
knows? I may be doing the same thing,
only in a different forum. But for now,
I take a lot of pride in helping (or trying to help) a divorcing couple to
resolve their differences and hopefully eliminating or at least minimizing the
conflict in their lives.