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Inspiring Public Defense Lawyers honored at NYSDA Conference

STAFF REPORTS


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- Stellar advocacy in court and beyond, for clients caught up in criminal and family law matters, garnered praise at the New York State Defenders Association (NYSDA) Annual Conference. Three attorneys received recognition: Susan Jacobs, founding Executive Director and current Special Counsel of the Center for Family Representation (CFR) in New York City; Nancy Ginsburg, Director of the Adolescent Intervention and Diversion Project (AIDP) of The Legal Aid Society of New York, Criminal Practice; and Alex B. Rosen, Bureau Chief of the Criminal Unit of the Dutchess County Office of the Public Defender.

"NYSDA honors Susan Jacobs for implementing her vision of legal representation that truly serves clients, and therefore families, who experience challenges that bring them into the family law arena," said NYSDA Acting Director Susan C. Bryant. She presented Jacobs with the Jonathan E. Gradess Service of Justice Award, which commends individuals or organizations that have provided outstanding support to public defense and to NYSDA. Jacobs "designed, and implemented a new kind of legal representation for parents in Family Court child welfare cases," noted Professor Martin Guggenheim of the New York University School of Law Family Defense Clinic, a founding CFR board member, when he learned of Jacobs' award. "Sue has also tirelessly led a national movement to advance family defense throughout the United States," he added. NYSDA Family Court Staff Attorney Lucy McCarthy said that Jacobs contributed significantly to the planning of the first statewide conference of family defenders, Families Matter, in 2015, cosponsored by NYSDA, the Office of Indigent Legal Services, and the Child Welfare Court Improvement Project. Jacobs continues to be a resource for subsequent Families Matter events.

Ginsburg received the Wilfred R. O'Connor Award. Attorney Alan Rosenthal of Syracuse wrote in support of Ginsburg's nomination for the award. Ginsburg "has fought the battle for her clients on many fronts," he noted, appearing not only in "countless courtrooms" and "innumerable CLE programs," but also in efforts "to educate our legislators about the need for criminal justice reform for youth." Current and former colleagues noted in a message about Ginsburg's award her efforts to keep children out of adult courts: "Nancy has campaigned, lobbied, and fought for a real raise the age law, one that includes all kids." They added that as to Raise the Age measures taking effect in October, "the law is as good as it is" due in large measure to Ginsburg's efforts. But "while Nancy may be best known right now for her Raise the Age work," Bryant said in presenting the award, "we honor her for that and for much more." The Wilfred R. O'Connor Award is presented to a lawyer who exemplifies the client-centered sense of justice, persistence, and compassion that characterized O'Connor, a founding member and long-time President of NYSDA.

In nominating Rosen for the Kevin M. Andersen Memorial Award, Dutchess County Public Defender Thomas N.N. Angell wrote that Rosen demonstrates "the unique combination of compassion, tenacity and grit that epitomizes the spirit of a true public defender." Included in the nomination packet were letters from fellow lawyers-including a Senior Assistant District Attorney-lauding Rosen's skills, honesty, and zealous client advocacy. Also included were notes from clients and their families thanking Rosen and praising him. One commended Rosen for his work "and for giving me a little hope in my situation." Another wrote to thank Rosen "for your persistence and support." These tributes demonstrate why Rosen received this year's Andersen award, which was established by the Genesee County Public Defender Office to remember and honor its namesake's dedication to the public defense system and his compassion for his clients. Genesee County Public Defender Jerry Ader presented the award, which due to a scheduling conflict was accepted by the awardee's parents. Also in attendance were Kevin Andersen's widow and children, leading Bryant to comment: "Seeing Kristan, Noel, and Elizabeth [Andersen] here, and Barry and Barbara Rosen, reminds me that the sacrifices of time and energy made by public defenders in the zealous representation of their clients are sacrifices made by family members as well."