By: Anthony J. Enea, Esq.
On March 1, 2002, I had the privilege of representing our Association at the legislative breakfast of the Network of Bar Leaders ("ANBL"), held at the offices of the New York County Lawyers Association in Manhattan. In attendance at the meeting were approximately forty-five(45) bar leaders, representing various county bar associations in the metropolitan New York area as well as numerous special interest bar associations, such as the New York State Trial Lawyers Association.
The program's moderators were Les Nizer, Esq. and Gary Pillesdorf, Esq. of the NBL. The first featured speaker was Assemblyman, Richard Brokdsky, Democrat from Westchester County. Assemblyman Brodsky was critical of Governor Pataki's proposed budget and what he perceived to be the tactics utilized by the Governor to promote his agenda. He accused the Governor of using his executive powers and various administrative regulations to promote his agenda and not laws. He stated that there was a paucity of new bills coming forth from the Governor's administration. The Assemblyman briefly discussed the new Real Estate disclosure bill which became effective on March 1, 2002, requiring the Seller of real property to make various disclosures to the Buyer. Additionally, the Assemblyman presented a grim picture of the likelihood of any additional funding being approved for the 18-B program and assigned counsel fees. During a question and answer period, various bar leaders expressed the opinion that the proposed increase in the filing fee to commence an action ($170), contained in the pending budget bill be exclusively dedicated to the 18-B program. Approximately half of the attendees expressed their consent to this proposal.
The next speaker on the agenda was Elizabeth Coleman, the Executive Director of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association. Ms. Coleman addressed the proposed filing fee increase contained in the Governor's proposed budget. She expressed her approval with the State Bar's decision to write a memo opposing the proposed fee increases, and the proposed use of the fee increase to fund the creation of a new agency, known as the New York Institute for Cultural Education. Under the Governor's proposed budget the filing fee to commence an action would be increased from $170 to $185. The $15.00 increase is being earmarked for this new agency which will manage the ministerial functions of other agencies, such as state museums, state libraries and archives. Ms. Coleman expressed concern that the proposed fee increases will effect everything that attorneys and their clients do, with particular concern upon the increasing cost for personal injury attorneys and their practices.
The third featured speaker was newly elected State Senator Liz Krugman, Democrat from Manhattan. Senator Krugman stated that she supported an increase for 18-B fees, but, cautioned there was quite a fight ahead to obtain any funding. She was also quite critical of the Rockefeller Drug Laws. She described them as an "extremely expensive failed model".
State Senator Krugman recommended to the Bar leaders that they prioritize their legislative agenda. That they limit their proposals to three(3) major agenda issues at a time, and that they coordinate their positions on an issue to avoid giving mixed messages.
Special Counsel, Anthony Crowell from Mayor Michael Bloomberg's office also briefly addressed the audience. He stated that the Mayor's office was developing a legislative agenda and that the Mayor supports meaningful tort reform and ensuring continued access to the Courts for all. There were also brief addresses made by New York State Assemblyman, Carl Hastings, Democrat from the Bronx, Hugh Campbell of the New York State Trial Lawyers. Mr. Campbell spoke briefly of the Trial Lawyers Care program wherein attorneys are representing victims of the September 11th disaster through the victims compensation program.
While the meeting I attended had a decidedly political slant, I left feeling confident that NBL was addressing important issues of concern to the Bar. I believe our continued participation in the NBL is of utmost importance.
The next meeting of the NBL is scheduled for April 16, 2002 at 6 p.m. at the New York County Lawyers offices at 14 Vesey Street. The features speaker is Chief Judge Judith Kaye.