Recognizing all the bar champions…

I remember as a child feeling like the passing of a year was always sooooo slow. Will I ever turn 10, or will I be 9 forever? And will that all important 18 ever happen, and then it seemed to come quicker than 10. As I grew, I began to recognize that the years were picking up speed. And now, I feel as though they are moving at warp speed.

We are just about 10 weeks to the end of another bar year. You have heard me refer to this time of a year as it is a period that I affectionately call, “the dance of the presidents.” The President, Diane Cecero, begins to count the number of meetings she has left to chair. “I have two Board meetings left…” Meanwhile, the President-Elect, Steve Modica, is busy planning for the start of his term. This year, we will also be transitioning a new Foundation President as Audrey Peartree’s two-year term ends, and Bruce Lawrence begins his two-year term.

But as we all know, though we have presidents, bar associations also have so many other bar leaders in the form of committee and section chairs. The MCBA has been most fortunate to have so many great leaders this year, and I wish to take a moment to recognize a few of them that have done such incredible work.

What would a volunteer association be without a hard-working Membership Committee. This year I am pleased to report that under the leadership of Shannon O’Keefe Pero, the MCBA hit its membership budget goal ahead of schedule. Shannon has been a great champion on making that goal, as well as spearheading our new Mentor for a Moment Program. Shannon is in year one of a two year term. We expect more great things in her second year.

Another Champion has been Hilary Merkel McMillan. Hilary has served as Dean of the Academy of Law, the committee that oversees the delivery of all of our CLE programming. Hilary and her Dean-Elect, Mary Jo Korona, have been working to continue to support the fine-tuning of our CLE Curriculum Guide. By the end of this year, we will have produced almost 75 live CLE’s. That is a record year for the MCBA.

Judge Richard Dollinger and Candace Curran have served as Co-Chair Champions of the Litigation Section. We started the bar year with a Litigation Council Celebration as his house, and together they have been delivering some outstanding CLE’s. In the year ahead, Judge Dollinger is going to be stepping aside as Co-Chair, while we welcome Justice Dan Doyle as the new Co-Chair. We are very excited to have Justice Doyle joining the ranks of great bar judges.

Litigation Section Blog

One of the real Champions over the past 2.5 years has been Eileen Buholtz, who assumed the role of Chair of the Solo & Small Firm Committee. Eileen has a gift of bringing people together that need to know each other, and to learn new things. She has delivered two years of incredible programming from groups, professionals and organizations that have a product or service that our solo and small firm members may want to learn about. Plus her oversight of the Committee Listserv has been invaluable.  Brad Kammholz, will be stepping in as Chair of the Committee in the new bar year.

Paul MacAulay has done an outstanding job as Chair of the Criminal Justice Section. In this capacity, he has put in some incredible hours into the MCBA’s work on the Assigned Counsel Plan renegotiation with President Diane Cecero, Jon Getz, AEP Advisory Committee Chair, and Monroe County.


The Awards Committee, chaired by Beth McDonald, is one of the hardest working committees of the MCBA. A small group of champions that review award criteria from the MCBA, NYSBA, ABA and other organizations, and then begin the tedious work of securing applications and letters of support for their worthy colleagues.

The Diversity Committee, under the leadership of Jeff Harradine, is getting ready to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Rochester Legal Diversity Clerkship Program. In May we will welcome __ more 1L law students to Rochester.

Diversity Blog

Keeping the MCBA organization fiscally sound is a shared effort, led by Amy Varel, as Treasurer. The $1.4M budget has its challenges, and Amy does a great job focusing on the budget lines that require another look or added attention.

Jennifer Sommers, Chair of the Judiciary Committee, has a very big job that entails bringing 26 of her colleagues together annually to facilitate the Judicial Evaluation Process for the MCBA. Depending on the election year, there may be 4 candidates or there may be 12. There may be controversy, or there may be none. Jenn’s job is to ensure that we follow the Judiciary Rules, and to determine final ratings for all of the candidates. She does an incredible job!

Terry Emmens is passionate about his attorney colleagues and the clients served. Terry’s job as Chair of Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers is to assist those attorneys or other law related professionals, that find their life in turmoil due to the use of alcohol or drug abuse. Terry and his small, confidential army of volunteers, are listening and watching for their colleagues that may need help, or be asking for help. When the time is right, or if someone is asking for help, Terry is there to assist.

Elena Renner is another passionate chair. Her area of interest is the Lawyers for Learning Committee. Elena is deeply committed to the children of School #29, and a fierce advocate for the fact that we need more mentors and more support. At a time when we are witnessing so many challenges and needs in our City School District, it is so important we not give up on these children. Elena’s message is clear — they need us. Elena is in her second term, and Amanda Dwyer will be assuming the Chair position for next year.


One of the final task any president has for the bar is their role of Chair of the Nominating Committee in the year they are Immediate Past President. This year we have Past-President Connie Walker to thank for her great work on facilitating the nomination of our next slate of officers.

Mark Bezinque has done an outstanding job for 3 years now as Chair of the Professional Performance Committee. This is also a difficult task to take on that requires sensitivity and care of both the clients and the attorneys involved.

Mort Bittker is the Chair of the Senior Attorneys Committee, and like those that went before him, he has delivered a robust line-up of interesting speakers for his term. Everyone has enjoyed them.


If you have never attended the MCBA Memorial Service, you missed the brilliant leadership of the Honorable Frank Geraci as Chair of this dedicated group. Sadly, we have more attorneys that passed this year, and so the judge wrote and produced a video remembering all of these deceased colleagues, and delivered it in such a way that it was an incredible tribute to all of these incredible women and men.

Kelly Ciccone is the Chair of the Family Law Section, and also can claim the sole singer at Jazz For Justice this year when she let out an incredible version of Summertime. In her spare time, Kelly has ensured good CLE’s and is also leading the section in exploring the impact of the Unlawful Practice of Law and divorce.


Under Maureen Garvey’s leadership as Chair of the Real Estate Section, the Section just delivered a standing room only CLE with regard to Review of New Residential Purchase & Sale Contracts. In addition, the Section has been hard at work finalizing the next edition of the Real Estate Guide. It will be available for purchase very soon in emails near you!

One of the groups on the move all the time is our incredibly outstanding Young Lawyers Section, chaired this year by the equally incredible, Wende Knapp. If you think this group is only about “happy hours,” you are way off base. They are philanthropists that can manage running the food and auction facilitation at Jazz For Justice, like Jenn Meldrum did this year. They are planning their own Silent Auction, and for a 5th year in a row, our very special guest, Judge Judith Kaye, will be coming to Rochester to help us celebrate our young lawyer collaboration with Teen Court. In addition, they are riding for diabetes, building houses, planning CLE’s for their peers, supporting puppies and kittens at Lollypop Farm, and making my head spin with all of their good work.

And to everyone else not mentioned above, I wish to say a thank you to you for your leadership as well…

Louis Prieto, Presidents Commission on Access to Justice Committee

Devin Palmer, Bankruptcy Committee

Jon Getz, Conflict Defender Advisory Committee

Sue Laluk & Scott Rogoff, Disability, Labor & Employment Committee

Kristin Jonsson, Elder Law Committee

Alan Knauff & Arthur James, Environmental Law Committee

Andrew Burns, Ethics Committee

Brian Pelkey, Fee Arbitration Committee

Brian DeCarolis, Lawyer Referrral Service Committee

Johanna Brennan and Patrick Malgieri, Municipal Attorneys Committee

Sara Visingard, School Attorneys Committee

Timothy Muck, Business Law Section

Ed Daniel, Tax Section

Christen Bruu, Tax & Estate Section

We are the great bar association that we are because we have great leaders that come in and out each and every day. For all that you do, I wish to say “THANK YOU.” You, your commitment and your colleagues really make a difference in the life of this bar and of our community.

Thanks for checking in,


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