FCBA Incoming President Mitchell J. Katz’s Remarks at the FCBA Annual Meeting

Published: December 12, 2017
Mitchell J. Katz

FCBA President Mitchell J. Katz

Chief Judge Suddaby, judges of the Court, fellow officers and trustees, friends and colleagues. It is an honor to be elected to serve as President of the Northern District of New York Federal Court Bar Association. And I am honored to continue to serve with the dedicated group of Association officers, trustees, members of the judiciary and court employees who volunteer their time to not only enhance the practice of law before the Court, but to also support the relationships among our members, between the members and the Court, and the Court and the community.

Among the many achievements of the Association is its adherence to and support of this Court’s enduring expectation that the practice of law before this Court will be conducted with honor and professionalism, that it is our clients that have disputes, not the lawyers, and that we will treat each other, members of the judiciary and the entire team of people that supports our justice system with dignity and respect, though we will and do oftentimes disagree. I have appeared in other courts. Let’s just say we have something very special here in the Northern District.

This annual meeting is part of the lifecycle of the Association and in part it celebrates change. Our leadership changes; new people join and experienced people step into new roles. New members join, senior attorneys retire.

The law changes – rules, statutes and decisional law evolve. Technology is constantly changing and while we may become more efficient I am not sure that technological advances are always for the better.

Because it is easy to send emails, we do not talk to each other. But thanks to email we have an entirely new part of practice to deal with: electronic evidence. But because of the caseloads of our judges, the ever-increasing costs of litigation and the desirability of settlements and plea bargains, our time to actually see each other and talk in person is limited, or to argue motions or appear in person for conferences; and how many of us talk on the phone as much as we did ten years ago?

Our Association is built on relationships and because our Association is built on a solid foundation of relationships we can continue to adapt to changes without losing sight of our core principles and objectives. The relationships established through the Association are critical to its continued success and I hope to build upon what has been set in motion by Adam Shaw this past year, to build out and fortify our foundation.

The law schools in our District are producing future members of our profession and while many graduates may not stay in the District, we can and should make their time here meaningful; positive experiences will create a legion of ambassadors for the Association. Our new bylaws provide the Deans of the law schools a seat at our table; this is a very good step forward. And through this direct connection our First Decade Committee will hopefully find new members!

Our Social Committee has held events across the District solely devoted to fun and relaxation. In a profession that is besieged by stress and anxiety, our social events can provide a welcome respite from the burdens of practice. I will ask the Social Committee to work to develop other types of activities; perhaps a running event for charity or a volunteer opportunity at a local shelter, food pantry or soup kitchen.

The Court’s need of pro bono attorneys can also be used to develop relationships among our members. I propose that the Association help to create teams of lawyers in different firms to work together to serve these clients. This will serve to share the burden of pro bono work, create new networks and serve this Court’s commitment to providing access to justice. I will ask the pro bono committee to work on a mechanism to match volunteers.

The CLE Committee – one of the largest stones in the Association’s foundation – continues to deliver timely and excellent educational programs to meet the needs of our members. Its chairs are already working to bring on new committee members who will have the privilege and opportunity to help develop and present programs; the more members who are actively engaged with the Association, the more value we deliver to them and the more value they provide to all of us.

Committees are the workhorses of any volunteer group. Committees also provide members with the opportunity to volunteer. Without active committees we are self-limiting. I will work with the officers and trustees to make sure that our committees are active and engaged. We must provide leadership opportunities for our new lawyers and by doing so we can assure a vibrant Association that will continue to deliver value to our members and the Court.

It is my hope that our Association will become actively engaged in building upon the District Court’s community initiatives and the Second Circuit’s Justice For All civic education programs. This will also provide volunteer opportunities for our members and help us engage more attorneys.

Our Association has an unparalleled relationship with the members of the judiciary and court officers and staff. This relationship is the cornerstone of our success and it was built by the prior leaders of the Association with whom I have been privileged to serve and to whom I will look for support and guidance through our newly formed Former Presidents Advisory Committee. And to our judges, court officers and staff – thank you for your willingness to include us as an extended part of the judicial family. It is truly a privilege.

I am honored to take over as President of the Federal Court Bar Association. I am committed to being a good steward of the good will of the Association and to continue to build upon the foundation created by our leadership corps and volunteers. Thank you for this opportunity. I will do my best not to screw it up.