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President's Message | June 2017 Newsletter

 

A Rebuttal. 

Occasionally articles in the ACBA newsletter generate emails, phone calls and, sometimes, resignations.  Last month's newsletter was one of those occasions.

Every month the newsletter notes that the views expressed are not those of the Association and members are invited to write opposing viewpoints.  This is mine.  I am writing this as a 32 year association member and not as the current president.

To state that all government workers tend to be lazy and unmotivated is not only unfair, it is untrue.   As proof, I would invite you to attend the ACBA Public Service Committee’s June 15 event at the Great Hall of the New York State Bar Association.  At this event the Association will present its Trailblazer and Commitment to Excellence Awards to Lianne S. Pinchuk and Michael P. Naughton.  These awards are presented to individuals who have made notable contributions and accomplishments to public service in New York State.   It has been said there is no higher calling in terms of a career than in public service which is a chance to make a difference in peoples’ lives and improve our state and our system.  The members of the ACBA Attorneys in Public Service Committee can certainly attest to this statement.

Public service was on display at the recent Albany Law’s Alumni in Government Award luncheon.  Albany Law is ranked No. 1 in government law careers according to the statistics compiled by Prelaw Magazine.  It is also rated No. 6 for public defenders and prosecution jobs.  I only wish I could adequately quote the remarks about the rewards of public service which were made by recipients, the Honorable Thomas Vilsack, Richard S. Hartunian, Renee Zirpolo Merges and Kendra Jenkins Rubin.   One name that was mentioned throughout the luncheon was the late Sol Greenberg, former longtime Albany County District Attorney who was a 50 year member of the Albany County Bar Association.  Our profession should celebrate those of us who chose a career in Government.  The Association certainly does.

This rebuttal would be incomplete without mentioning the article was sexist as well as biased.  This is particularly an appropriate comment given another May article which dismissed the current proposal which would require lawyers to complete an one hour continuing legal education program every two years in the topics of diversity, inclusion and elimination of bias.  These issues may not sound like legal education but they are something we all need to be educated on and continuously reminded. 

Lack of diversity and bias still permeate our society.  This fall the Complete Works Project in Oregon won't be able to present "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" because the estate late play right, Edward Albee won't give permission for them to cast an African-American actor in the featured role of Nick, a young professor.  The reason?  The estate representative states that the character was written as a Caucasian and putting an interracial couple into a 1962 play implies aspect of the plot that was not in Albee's script.  Sounds to me like the estate representative could benefit from some education in diversity.  Maybe someone could provide them with a couple of tickets to Hamilton, the biggest hit in modern theater, which casts actors, who are not white, as white, slave owning founding fathers.

On January 4, 2017 the Board of the Albany County Bar Association issued a letter in support of the NYSBA CLE proposal with respect to diversity and inclusion.  ACBA President Daniel Coffey stated “The initiative is clearly in line with the ACBA's goal to promote and enhance the legal Community both inside and outside the courtroom.” 

Finally, a couple of words about the editing of the ACBA newsletter.  Several members have resigned as a result of their disagreement with certain statements in certain columns.  This has happened in the past and will probably happen in the future.  People ask, don't you people edit these articles? Yes we do, but they are personal opinions and are noted as such.

When society, no less an association of lawyers, reaches a place where people are afraid to share their personal beliefs or opinions for fear of public excoriation, we have devolved not evolved.  The greatest diversity issue we are currently facing is to accept and promote diversity of thought.  I often find myself in disagreement with those who express certain opinions but that does not obviate the fact that they have the right to share their opinions.  The ability to disagree without being disagreeable is something every lawyer needs to learn.  I may disagree with the columns in the May newsletter, but I support their authors’ right to express them.  Diversity of opinions make the world a better place and they certainly make the Albany County Bar Association newsletter more interesting.

 

James E. Hacker, Esq.
ACBA President, 2017

 

 

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