Archive for ‘Law School Events’

November 15, 2012

The Law School’s Response to the Storm (and more volunteer opportunities)

Below is the text of a message that I sent to our alumni yesterday:

Two weeks after Hurricane Sandy upended our lives, I write to update you on the Law School’s response to the storm.

Here on campus, both our building and our educational program have emerged intact. Like almost all schools in the area, St. John’s University was closed for the entire week following the storm. Throughout that week, the University’s Emergency Operations Team and many Law school employees worked tirelessly to restore power to our building and to get our students back in the classroom. Running on a generator, we were able to open for classes on Monday, November 5, 2012. (You can read my message to our students announcing the opening and explaining our recovery efforts.) Our faculty, students, and employees have responded to the disruptions caused by the storm with patience, flexibility, and perseverance. We have crafted a make-up schedule – using weekends and other open dates on the calendar – that will enable us to make up all the missed classes.

Everyone in our community was affected by the storm in one way or another. Most of the temporary inconveniences – power outages and gasoline shortages – are easing. But for some members of the Law School family, especially those who have lost their homes and cars, the storm has been life altering. Many students, employees, and alumni live in Long Beach, the Rockaways, Howard Beach, Staten Island, and other severely affected neighborhoods. The University community will be gathering on Thursday, November 15, at 12:15 p.m. for a Mass of Remembrance and Thanksgiving to pray together for all victims of the storm.

In the spirit of St. Vincent, we now turn our attention to helping those most in need. The Law School has formed two separate committees of students, faculty, staff and alumni to begin work on assistance projects. The Pro Bono Hurricane Committee, under the leadership of Professor Jennifer Baum, is organizing pro bono and other volunteer efforts to help victims of the storm. This past Sunday, Professor Baum, herself a Staten Island resident, led a group of law students to the Midland Beach section of Staten Island to assist with clean-up efforts. (You can read about and see a video of that trip on my blog.) Another Staten Island service trip is planned for this coming Sunday. The Pro Bono Committee is also organizing efforts to help storm victims with their legal problems. One of our first projects will be to provide disaster-related information sessions to senior citizens in Queens through our Elder Law Clinic (now known as the Consumer Justice for the Elderly: Litigation Clinic). We are also establishing a network to link student volunteers with attorney volunteers who are assisting storm victims. Alumni who are interested in helping with this project should contact the Pro Bono Hurricane Committee at

We have also established a Hurricane Assistance Committee to provide financial assistance to law students and their families who are experiencing financial burdens as a result of the storm. Under the leadership of Vice Dean Emeritus Andrew Simons, this Committee will oversee a Hurricane Assistance Fund, which is already growing with gifts from generous alumni and faculty. We invite you to contribute to the Fund by contacting Associate Director of Development Philip Maroney at or (718) 990-7991.

In many ways, this storm has exposed the fragility of our local civic infrastructure. But in other ways, the storm has revealed the strength of our civic bonds and the resiliency of our community spirit. I am proud of how the Law School family has unified to respond to the storm with compassion, with fortitude, and with determination. I look forward to working together as we continue our recovery.

UPDATE: Our Pro Bono Hurricane Committee is organizing two additional volunteer opportunities this weekend —

  • Broad Channel, Saturday, Nov. 17 (legal work):  Please join students, alumni, faculty, and friends this Saturday, November 17th, at the American Legion Hall in Queens (a FEMA distribution center), to provide legal assistance to Hurricane Sandy victims.  Volunteers must certify that they have watched a one-hour long training video, which will be screened at the Law School Saturday morning at 9:00 a.m. (and can also be accessed remotely at any time online; email for the link). Transportation to and from the American Legion Hall will be provided – a van is leaving the law school at 11:00 AM and returning at 4:00 PM. Please email ASAP (but no later than Friday 12:00 noon) to reserve an outreach spot.  This opportunity qualifies for pro bono hours toward NYS bar admission requirements.
  • Midland Beach (Staten Island), Sunday, Nov. 18 (humanitarian work): A Staten Island humanitarian service trip has been scheduled for this coming Sunday, 11/18. Transportation will be provided: the van will leave the law school at 8:00 am and return to campus by 1:00 pm. Shovels, gloves, water, cliff bars provided – you just need to show up, sign the waiver, and wear hard-soled shoes. Email to reserve your seat or get meet-up time/location.
October 28, 2012

Justice Kagan at St. John’s

A few weeks ago, Justice Elena Kagan became the seventh member of the current Supreme Court to be hosted by St. John’s Law.  Like Justice Scalia, who visited last semester, Justice Kagan spent most of an entire day at the Law School.  She had a lunchtime conversation with the faculty, spent an hour teaching Prof. Deepa Varadarajan’s Introduction to Intellectual Property class, had a public “conversation” with me in the Belson Moot Courtroom, and then mingled at a reception in the Mattone Family Atrium.

Throughout the day, Justice Kagan was gracious, engaging, funny, and eager to teach our students about her work at the Court.  Personally, I enjoyed speaking with her about her experiences at Harvard, where she was a very successful dean.  The highlight, though, was presenting this die-hard Mets fan with her own personalized Mets jersey as a mememto of her visit to Queens. The full story, along with more photos, can be found here.

September 10, 2012

Back to School (and Back to Blogging)

Welcoming the Newest Members of the St. John’s Family

One of my favorite moments of the year is the first day of Orientation.  After a summer of research, renovation, and rejuvenation, the building is suddenly filled with an entire class of new students all at once.  They are eager, excited, enthusiastic, and filled with energy (much of it nervous energy).  They haven’t yet taken a class or briefed a case; they don’t yet know their professors and they don’t know what it’s like to be “called on.” Although they are law students, the actual experience of law school is, for most of them, still a mystery.  And so, Orientation consists mostly of them getting lots of advice from people who do know what law school is like.

The 265 new JD students that we welcomed in August were no different. They spent the first four hours of their law school careers getting advice: they heard from the Associate Academic Dean, from the Dean of Students, from a panel of professors and students (“How to Succeed in Law School”), and from a panel of alumni (“The Profession of the Law”).  And they heard from me.

The full story about Orientation is here.

My main goal in my Orientation speech each year is make our students feel welcomed and to help them relax a bit.  More substantively, I want to tell them about St. John’s School of Law, about the community they have joined.  And, of course, I give them some advice.  Here is a very brief summary of what I told them.

Things to know about St. John’s:

  1.  We are defined by hard work.  Hard work is part of our reputation, it’s part of our culture, it’s part of what has made our graduates so successful.
  2. We are committed to service.  Service is part of our Vincentian identity and heritage, and it is reflected in our clinics, our pro bono program, our Orientation Service Day, and countless other ways in which we use our knowledge and skills to help those less fortunate.
  3. We treat each other like family.  Dedicated faculty, collegial students, compassionate staff, caring administrators, and supportive alumni — all part of what makes St. John’s a family.

Advice about how to navigate law school:

  1. Work hard (see #1 above), but take care of yourself.  Exercise, sleep, socialize (once in a while).  Do not let the demands of law study overwhelm you.
  2. Serve. (See #2 above).  Do not let the pressures of law school cause you to lose sight of the fundamental ideal of the legal profession: Justice.
  3. Be an entrepreneur.  You are the product, and you should view the next three years as a time of product development.

Needless to say, the full speech was longer (and, I hope, funnier).

June 11, 2012

Celebrating Commencement

Last weekend, I had the privilege of presiding over the Law School’s Commencement Exercises.  More than 3,000 people gathered in Carnesecca Arena on our Queens campus to celebrate the accomplishments of our 265 J.D. graduates and our 23 LL.M. graduates.  It was a beautiful day, filled with a wonderfully festive air.

The full story is here, with photos here, here, and here.

There were many memorable aspects to the day:

  • Gene Orza’s Commencement Address, in which he urged our graduates to understand the importance of compromise in a lawyer’s work and to embrace the richness and diversity of New York City.
  • Tom Principe’s closing remarks, his final official act as President of our Alumni Association (thank you, Tom, for a great year).
  • The presentation of the St. Thomas More Award for Outstanding Moral Leadership to our outgoing Provost Dr. Julia Upton (and actually surprising her).
  • The standing ovation given to Capt. Tom Kehoe ’12, whose legal studies were interrupted by his second tour of combat duty in Iraq.
  • The many honors and awards that we bestowed on our graduates (special congratulations to Dean McGee ’12 for receiving the Joseph Kerzner Prize for having the highest GPA in the class).
  • The participation of so many alumni and faculty in the hooding of their family members (including Carey Alexander ’12 being hooded by his mother Professor Elayne Greenberg, and Kevin Ward ’12 being hooded by his mother Kathleen ’79, his sisters Maggie ’08 and Katie ’10, and his brother-in-law Nick Rigano ’08).
  • The post-ceremony reception in Taffner Field House, where graduates, their families and friends, and faculty all gathered together in celebratory fellowship.

To me, the highlight of Commencement is always the hooding of the individual graduates.  Over the course of about an hour, the graduates ascend the stage one by one, as Dean Turano reads out their names and accomplishments.   On stage, I place on their shoulders a purple, red and white hood that is rich with symbolism: the hood itself represents their academic accomplishments; the purple signifies their entry into the legal profession; and the red and white signifies that they are, and will remain, part of the St. John’s family.

The video of the entire ceremony is available here.  The text of my commencement address appears after the break.

Congratulations to all of our graduates!

read more »

May 15, 2012

Carey Center Inaugurates Mangano Grant Program

Judge Mangano, sporting his Belson Medal along with Jerry Belson ’48, ’80HON

Last month, the Hugh L. Carey Center for Dispute Resolution launched the Mangano Grant Program.  Endowed through the generosity of Hon. Guy J. Mangano ’55, ’83HON, the Mangano Grant Program provides grants to St. John’s students and alumni to pursue opportunities and to conduct research in the field of alternative dispute resolution. Mangano Grants support students in their development as dispute resolution practitioners and support alumni who undertake projects that further the Carey Center’s mission of promoting conflict resolution as a value and a practice.

The Mangano Grants are funded by $200,000 endowment given to the Law School by Judge Mangano, the former Presiding Justice of the Appellate Division Second Department and a current neutral mediator and arbitrator.  The Law School was less than thirty years old when a young Guy Mangano arrived as a first-year student in 1952.  For the ensuing sixty years, while Judge Mangano excelled as a public servant, he also remained an integral part of the Law School — as president of our Alumni Association, as an adjunct professor, and as a friend and advisor to many deans (including me).  Judge Mangano has been part of the Law School for more than half of its existence — indeed, he is nearing the 30th anniversay of receiving his honorary degree.  Now, this endowment will ensure that Judge Mangano’s generosity will bless the Law School in perpetuity.

Congratulations to Daniel Merker ’11, Nk Udogwu ’12, Ravin Shah ’13, and Emily Gornell ’13, who are the inaugural Mangano Grant recipients.  The full description of their projects is here.

May 14, 2012

Honoring Nicholas Cannella ’75

One of the wonderful things about being dean is that I get to know many of the Law School’s loyal and successful alumni.  Among the relationships I have developed in the past three years, one of the most cherished is with Nick Cannella ’75.  And so it was a special pleasure for me that the Law Review Alumni Association honored Nick at its annual reception last month.

Nick’s success is a typical St. John’s story.  In Law School, he was a St. Thomas More Scholar and the Managing Editor of the Law Review (and also met his wife Joanne Welty ’76).  Nick began his career clerking on the New York State Court of Appeals, and then joined Simpson Thacher, where he was mentored by Roy Reardon ’54.  In 1984, he joined Fitzpatrick Cella, then a small intellectual property firm.  In the ensuing 28 years (many of which he spent as managing partner), Nick has helped build Fitzpatrick Cella into an IP powerhouse with over 175 attorneys.  Along the way, he has become one of the top patent litigators in the country.

Nick and Joanne have both been wonderful supporters of the Law School.  They both serve on my Dean’s Advisory Council.  They generously participated in the Law School’s first capital campaign and were among the first inductees into the Belson Circle.  Nick has also served as an adjunct professor and is currently on the Executive Board of the Alumni Association.  They’ve even given us their first-born child — Meghan Cannella ’07, one of my former students who is now an adjunct professor herself.  We are blessed that the Cannella family is part of the St. John’s family.

April 26, 2012

Justice Scalia’s Visit to St. John’s

The Hon. Joseph W. Bellacosa Distinguished Jurist in Residence

One of the highlights of the semester was Justice Scalia’s two-day visit earlier this month.  Justice Scalia taught two classes, visited with faculty, conducted a public “conversation” with Judge (and former Dean) Joseph W. Bellacosa ’61, ‘87HON, and mingled with students and alumni at a reception.  The full story of Justice Scalia’s visit, complete with many photos, is here.

Justice Scalia began his visit by conducting the Colloquium on Law & Religion, an innovative course taught by Professors Mark Movsesian and Marc DeGirolami.  For two hours, Justice Scalia engaged in an intense, enlightening, and high-level conversation with the sixteen students in the seminar, as an audience of faculty and alumni watched.

The following day, Justice Scalia returned to the Law School for a full day of activities as part of the Sixth Annual Honorable Joseph W. Bellacosa Distinguished Jurist-in-Residence Program. After a discussion with Law School faculty members, Justice Scalia spent the afternoon teaching Professor DeGirolami’s Constitutional Law class. He then joined Judge Bellacosa and a standing-room only audience of students, faculty, administrators and alumni for a “conversation” in the Belson Moot Court Room.The Bellacosa Distinguished Jurist-in-Residence Program was established by alumni and friends of Judge Bellacosa, who served for 14 years as an Associate Judge of the New York State Court of Appeals before returning to St. John’s as Dean of the School of Law from 2000 to 2004. Past Jurist-in-Residence honorees have included Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye (New York State Court of Appeals), Justice Dennis W. Archer (Michigan Supreme Court), Chief Justice Frank J. Williams (Rhode Island Supreme Court), Judge Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick (New York State Court of Appeals) and former New York State Governor Mario Cuomo. In addition to Justice Scalia ― who first visited St. John’s in 2000 ― the Law School has hosted and honored five other members of the current Supreme Court: Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anthony Kennedy, Sonia Sotomayor and Clarence Thomas. In October 2012, Justice Elena Kagan will be a Visiting Jurist at the Law School.

The Colloquium on Law and Religion

February 5, 2012

Annual Alumni Luncheon: Celebrating our Strength

At the end of January, almost 400 members of the St. John’s community gathered for the Alumni Association Annual Luncheon.  The event gave us an opportunity to celebrate our alumni, as we gave the St. Thomas More Award to Judge Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick  and the Recent Graduate Service Award to Kathryn Carney Cole.  We also inducted twelve new members into the Belson Circle, recognizing their lifetime generosity to the Law School.

In my remarks that day, I noted that the state of the Law School is “strong and getting stronger.”  I also noted, though, that as the post-recession job market enters its fourth year, fewer and fewer students are choosing the legal profession as a career.  That means tough times are ahead for law schools.  But I am confident in our ability to thrive during these times because of the core strengths of the Law School: a University that is large and supportive; students who are smart, hard-working, eager to learn and filled with entrepreneurial spirit; a faculty that is dedicated to teaching excellence and committed to preparing our students for the profession; and an alumni network that stays connected to the school and loyally gives back to support our students.  More details about the Annual Luncheon are available here.

January 19, 2012

Happy Lunar New Year

Monday marks the beginning of the Year of the Dragon.  At St. John’s, our celebration of the Lunar New Year began last week with the annual alumni dinner hosted by the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association (APALSA).  Over one hundred students, faculty, and alumni gathered at Chef Yu in Manhattan for an evening of food, drink, fellowship, and networking.  The honoree was Daniel D. Chu ’97, current Chair of New York City’s Civilian Complaint Review Board, the independent agency charged with investigating allegations of police misconduct.  A Queens native, Daniel began his legal career as an assistant district attorney in the Queens County District Attorney’s Office.  He later served as an Administrative Law Judge with the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission and a senior associate at Stern & Montana before opening his own midtown solo practice.  Daniel received the Thomas H. Lee Award, named for the 1936 graduate of St. John’s who became the first Asian American lawyer licensed in New York State.

The many students and alumni in attendance provided a vivid illustration of the vibrancy of the Asian American community at St. John’s — and the willingness of our alumni to return to help our current students.  Many thanks to APALSA President Peter Yi ’12 and the entire Executive Board for putting together a wonderful celebration.

January 3, 2012

AALS Annual Meeting

Tomorrow, I’ll be heading to Washington, D.C. for the Annual Meeting of the Association for American Law Schools.  The four-day conference should be engaging, as law schools continue to grapple with the challenges presented by the economic turmoil of the past several years.  I’m particularly looking forward to an all-day workshop titled “The Future of the Legal Profession and Legal Education: Changes in Law Practice: Implications for Legal Education.”  It will be a good opportunity for me to compare some of the things that we are doing to respond to the changing marketplace with best practices at other law schools.

We’ll also be  hosting two events in D.C.  On Wednesday, January 4, our Alumni Association will be hosting a reception for area alumni.  The reception will be from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the offices of Dickstein Shapiro, 1825 Eye Street., N.W.  Then, on Thursday, January 5, our Ronald H. Brown Center for Civil Rights and Economic Development will be hosing its annual reception honoring minority faculty and deans.  All are welcome to join us at 7:00 p.m. in the Truman Room at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park (the site of the AALS Annual Meeting).  To rsvp to either reception, contact Assistant Dean Claire McKeever at

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