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Alumni Highlights and Class Notes
December 2016 Alumni Highlight
Keep up-to-date with your fellow Law School Alumni
Pace Law would like to keep up-to-date on your personal and professional news. If you have recently moved, had a career change, a job promotion, gotten married, had a child, or were given an honor or award, please share!
The Law School reserves the right to edit all Class Notes submissions.
The Honorable Francesca E. Connolly ('82) is currently an Associate Justice of the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court, Second Judicial Department. A question that Justice Connolly is often asked is how she became a judge in the first place. Justice Connolly attributes her success to a combination of factors including: a strong work ethic, commitment to public service, and the education she received at Pace.
After graduating from SUNY Albany in 1979, in just three years, Justice Connolly immediately enrolled in law school. "It was never really a question in my mind. I wanted to gain a legal education, have a career in litigation, and, hopefully, eventually, become a judge." While at Pace, Justice Connolly was very involved, especially in moot court competitions. "Some of my fondest memories at Pace involve the moot court competitions, from winning the Advanced Moot Court Competition to receiving the award for best oral argument." Not one to limit herself to one challenge at a time, Justice Connolly also actively represented the law school as its American Bar Association Representative at regional and national conferences. During law school, Justice Connolly worked as a law intern with the New York City Department of Probation, Office of the General Counsel.
After graduating from Pace, Justice Connolly jumped right into the legal field and continued her work with the New York City Department of Probation as Assistant General Counsel. Next, she became a Law Assistant to the Deputy Administrative Judge of Queens County Family Court. It was there that she realized the importance of the judiciary in helping families and individuals in crisis. "I saw firsthand the impact judges' decisions make on peoples' lives and knew that one day I wanted to return to the judicial system to dedicate my career to serving others."
Though Justice Connolly had nascent hopes of becoming a judge, she knew that it would take many years of hard work and dedication to the profession to achieve that goal. She felt it was important to gain substantial experience as a litigator in private practice before focusing on judicial office. In 1985, she joined the law firm of MacCartney, MacCartney, Kerrigan & MacCartney as an associate attorney and focused on civil litigation in state and federal courts. She continued her work as a trial lawyer with Gallina & Connolly, attorneys of record for Fireman's Fund Insurance Company. Finally, in 2003, she joined Malapero & Prisco LLP, and became a member of that firm.
Justice Connolly thoroughly enjoyed her 25-year career as a civil litigation attorney in private practice, where she handled all types of high exposure liability cases in state and federal courts, from case inception, through jury trial and appeal. Among the highlights of her career was representing the major contractors in the World Trade Disaster Litigation. "Our country had never faced an attack of this magnitude that impacted so many lives in the New York metropolitan area. Whether you represented the injured workers, the City of New York, or the contractors, we were all in uncharted territory as to legal liability. The issues were challenging, both procedurally and substantively, and the caliber of the attorneys handling these cases was exceptional."
While working full-time as a litigator, Justice Connolly raised her family, and became active in her community. She was very active in youth sports, including being a founding member of two ice hockey organizations, Ossining Youth Hockey Association and Team Westchester Hockey Association. She served as President of Ossining PTA Council and a member of the Town of Ossining Planning Board. In 2000, she was elected Ossining Town Councilmember, where she served for five years, three of which as Deputy Town Supervisor. In 2006, Justice Connolly began her judicial career when she was elected Ossining Town Justice. She also served as Acting Village Justice of the Village of Ossining and Acting City Court Judge of Mt. Vernon and Yonkers.
By 2009, Justice Connolly began her ascent into the judicial system when Governor David Paterson nominated her to fill an interim vacancy on the New York State Supreme Court. Then, in 2010, she was elected to a 14-year term as a New York State Supreme Court Justice in the Ninth Judicial District. During this time, she became the Supervising Judge of the Matrimonial Part of the Westchester County Supreme Court, and then went on to preside over an Individual Assignment Part, the Compliance Conference Pat, as well as the Ninth Judicial District Environmental Claims Part. "I enjoyed all of my assignments on the trial bench-even the matrimonial part! While I never practiced matrimonial law, from my first day on the bench, I saw the profound effect a judge can make on the lives of families in crisis. I immediately immersed myself in the subject matter-- working long hours to gain a command of the law-- to do my best to provide these families with justice." After serving three years in the matrimonial part, she was assigned to a trial part where she presided over all types of civil trials, with most of her jury trials being in medical malpractice cases. "My years of experience as a civil litigator were the best training I could have had to serve as a trial judge. Most of the issues that arose during trial were familiar to me, as I had encountered them before on the opposite side of the bench, as an attorney. I think the attorneys appreciated my experience and knowledge—that I had an understanding of the trials and tribulations a trial lawyer faces in presenting a case before a jury."
Throughout her career, many have taken notice of Justice Connolly's determined work ethic and intelligence. In 2015, Chief Administrative Judge A. Gail Prudenti appointed Justice Connolly as an Associate Justice of the Appellate Term of the New York Supreme Court, Second Judicial Department, where she served on a panel of judges hearing appeals from the District, City, Town, and Village courts in the seven counties of the Ninth and Tenth Judicial Districts. One year later, in 2016, Governor Andrew Cuomo appointed her as an Associate Justice of the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court, Second Judicial Department. This is an intermediate appellate court, which is the second highest court in the state. "It was such an honor to be appointed to this prestigious judicial position and to be given this prodigious opportunity to serve the public in this capacity. I am humbled and grateful every day. I truly enjoy it. I can't imagine a more rewarding career for myself than I have had and continue to have."
"Pace Law has been as much a part of the fabric of my career as anything else. I enjoyed my entire law school experience. Having attended a large university for my undergraduate education, I really appreciated the personal nature of the law school experience I received at Pace. I always felt as though the professors were personally invested in each students' success. The professors were always available to answer any questions you might have and were warm and welcoming to discuss your future aspirations. Importantly, I also developed lifelong friendships with classmates, in particular Terri Giacomo ('82) and Chris Johnson ('82), who have been by my side through every one of my major life events." Justice Connolly has two Pace Law graduates working for her: Jeffrey Gasbarro (‘08), Principal Law Clerk, and Lauren Fitton ('16), Assistant Law Clerk. "In addition to Jeff and Lauren, I have had a few Pace Law graduates work for me—Denise O'Connor (‘87) and Ashley DeVito (‘12). I have found that Pace Law School does an exceptional job in preparing their students and that they graduate with outstanding research and writing skills."
In her spare time, Justice Connolly enjoys spending time with her family and traveling to exotic places, which have included Iran, Machu Picchu, and Columbia. If she could give one piece of advice to current and future law students it would be: "My dear friends and family will tell you--I can't give just one piece of advice! Here are just a few: Take the high road in everything you do. Be selfless--go out of your way to help others—it will come back to you tenfold! Practice humility. Work your hardest and always be prepared."
Philip M. Halpern, while continuing to maintain a busy trial schedule, has taken a position as adjunct professor at Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University. He will be teaching a course entitled “The Anatomy of Trial Strategy: The Burden of Proof” to students in the Juris Doctor program.
Karen M. Mazza was promoted from General Counsel to Deputy Executive Director at the New York City Employee Retirement System, the country's largest municipal pension fund.
Harold E. Kaplan, (BBA '72, JD '83) is a Board Certified Health Law Attorney who has relocated to Asheville, N.C. and has established Kaplan Dispute Resolution. He is an arbitrator and neutral dispute resolver for the American Arbitration Association - Health Care and Mergers and Acquisitions Panels, and for the American Health Lawyers Association - Dispute Resolution Service.
Marcia A. Jacobowitz has been named a partner with Jacobowitz and Gubits, LLP.
Harold R. Burke received a favorable decision on June 9, 2016 when the NY Court of Appeals issued a decision in a case he argued on May 5th, S.L (Anonymous) v. J.R. (Anonymous). The case successfully challenged a procedure used by the Westchester Family and Supreme Courts stripping a parent of child custody in violation of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. You can read more about Harold’s law practice here.
John M. Vorperian received the first-ever "Front-Line Professional of the Year Award" from the Eastern Regional Interstate Child Support Association (ERISCA) at its 53rd Annual Training Conference May 2, 2016 in Myrtle Beach, SC. He is an Assistant County Attorney with the Westchester County Attorney's Office, Family Court Bureau.
Brian M. Rothery is now a partner at Fox Rothschild LLP. Previously he was a partner at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP.
Jeff Jacobson was appointed CEO of Xerox Corp.
Carol Lambos, will receive the 2016 Connie Award presented by the Containerization & Intermodal Institute (www.containerization.org) in Newark, NJ on Monday, December 5. Carol is a partner of The Lambos Firm LLP, who has provided a broad range of legal services and counsel to the international maritime industry.
Lisa M. Delsante was recently named Senior Vice President, General Counsel at REC Solar, part of Duke Energy. Lisa is also President and Co-founder of Children of the Sahara Foundation (www.saharachildren.org).
Ben Steven Chazen has been living in La Jolla for the past 7 years with his wife and two children. He also established his own National Search Firm specializing in Real Estate & Construction towards the end of 2014. You can read more on his website at http://criticalpathsearch.com. And, his 8 year old son just won the World Putting Championship for his age group!
Tiffany N. Gagliano now works for the Orange County Department of Law as the Chief Assistant County Attorney - Family Law & Juvenile Justice.
Lisa B. Kelly and her husband, Michael Lombardi, are happy to announce the birth of their son, Alexander Deivid Kelly-Lombardi. Alexander was born on Thursday, August 4, 2016, weighing 7 lbs., 8 oz., and was 21 inches long.
Nathan Zezula has been promoted to the position of partner at Pastore & Dailey LLC.
Michelle Beltrano, JD, RN, has been elected president of the At Home in Greenwich board of directors. She is principal and founder of her firm, Beltrano Law, LLC.
Jason T. Komninos was elected to the position of Secretary of the Municipal Court Practice Section of the New Jersey State Bar Association on May 19, 2016. He previously served as the Section’s Junior Legislative Coordinator from 2014-2015 and as the Section’s Senior Legislative Coordinator from 2015-2016.
Allison G. Cappella has joined the law firm of Jacobowitz and Gubits, LLP (J&G) as an associate.
Stephanie Chow has recently joined the Academic Success team at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University as an Associate Director. Formerly, Stephanie was Director of Student Services and Residential Life at the School.
Jeannette Arlin Koster (LLM) opened a law practice in Yorktown Heights focusing on municipal law and general practice. In June 2016, she was elected president of the Yorktown Bar Association. She is a member of the executive board of NYSBA Local and State Government Law Section, Westchester County Bar Association, Yorktown Rotary Club, and Business Networking International (BNI).
Donato Palumbo has accepted an associate position with Shewmaker & Shewmaker, in Atlanta, GA. The firm specializes in family law, criminal law and military law. Additionally Donato and his wife Jessica Palumbo (2009), are expecting their second child in November.
Kristen D. Romano is now an associate with McGlinchey Stafford PLLC.
Ben Sosne left the Appellate Division, Second Department at the end of April to move with my family up to Williamstown, MA. He has been working for a very successful museum developer and director named Thomas Krens. Thomas Krens founded the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MOCA) in North Adams, and then became director of the Guggenheim Foundation, which he did for over 20 years. Ben is now assisting Thomas Krens in some of his latest ventures, including several museum and developmental projects, such as the “Extreme Model Railroad and Contemporary Architecture Museum” and an adjacent luxury art hotel and spa. Ben has been doing a variety of development work for Mr. Krens, both legal and non - technically as a “senior project manager and legal advisor” - the company is called EMRCA, Inc.
Laura Jensen has started a new position as Law Clerk to Justice Ellen A. Gorman in the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.
Alix Cotumaccio was named Associate Director of the Elisabeth Haub School of Law Environmental Program at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University.
J. Justin Woods, JD, MPA ’16, has been appointed to a one year full-time lecturer position in Pace University’s Department of Public Administration. He will be teaching graduate courses in sustainable development and research methods, supervising graduate student capstone projects, and advising MPA students.