From the President

From the President

Collegiality and 

By Vilia B. Hayes
2-25-15 Hayes This is my first contribution to the Federal Bar Council Quarterly, and I would like to say how pleased and honored I am to serve as president of the Federal Bar Council.  It has been many years since I was introduced to the Council by Judge Charles L. Brieant, Jr., while I was his law clerk.  Judge Brieant encouraged me to join and, over the years, I learned personally why his suggestion was such a good idea.

One of the goals of the Council is to promote collegiality among federal practitioners and between the Bench and the Bar.  That goal is advanced through the many opportunities the Council provides for both cutting-edge CLE programs jointly presented by lawyers and judges and social interactions, whether they are CLE programs held at the courthouse, at the weekend Fall Retreat, or at the week-long Winter Conference in February.  Cordial relations are also in evidence at the Council’s signature events, such as the Thanksgiving Luncheon and the Law Day Dinner.  It is impossible in a short column to describe the many activities in detail, but I thought I would highlight one.

Inn of Court

The Federal Bar Council Inn of Court joined in the celebration of the 225th anniversary of the Southern District of New York on January 15, 2015 by presenting a reenactment of the Pentagon Papers case.  An Inn of Court team led by Second Circuit Judge Denny Chin and including Michael Hess, who had represented the government in the Pentagon Papers case against The New York Times, presented a fast-paced recreation of the court proceedings during the 17-day period from the first Times column publication on Sunday, June 13, 1971 to the Supreme Court decision on June 30, 1971.

The reenactment captured the history and times by presenting actual excerpts from the arguments before Southern District of New York Judge Murray Gurfein in what was his first case as a judge. It also presented the proceedings before the Second Circuit and the Supreme Court, as well as an audio recording between President Nixon and Attorney General John Mitchell.  The presentation was so well done and gripping that I was carried along and almost forgot that I knew the outcome.

The other members of the team were Ron Fischetti, Joshua Geller, Laurence Hasson, Elisheva Hirschman, Elana Katcher, Albert Mitchell Levi, Daniel Michael, Yasuhiro Saito, Tracy Sivitz, Alixandra Smith, and David Weinberg of Jurygroup, who provided the powerful audiovisuals.

I encourage you to participate in the remaining events celebrating the court’s anniversary, which are posted on the Council’s website.  In particular, I invite you to attend the Council’s Judges Reception, to be held on March 11, 2015, at the Union League, where we will be honoring the district judges of the Southern District of New York.  Please feel free to contact me or Joan Salzman, the Executive Director of the Federal Bar Council, to find out more about any of our programs.

Asylum Representation Project

Finally, I thought I would highlight one of the pro bono or other public service opportunities available through the Council in each issue of the Quarterly.  The Asylum Representation Project, a collaboration between Human Rights First and the Federal Bar Council’s Public Service Committee, was launched in 2011 to increase high quality pro bono representation in immigration matters.  The program, which was one of the initiatives created by the Study Group on Immigrant Representation led by Second Circuit Chief Judge Robert A. Katzmann, has been funded through the generosity of the Leon Levy Foundation and managed by Gina DelChiaro.

Currently, five law firms have dedicated teams of associates who work with DelChiaro to provide individualized screenings to unrepresented immigrants at New York Immigration Court on a monthly basis.  Through the Asylum Representation Program, hundreds of asylum seekers and other immigrants have received customized screenings about their rights and immigration procedure. For many, these individualized meetings mark the first time that anyone in the United States has ever given helpful information about their cases in languages they understand.  In addition to arming them with vital information, the screenings evaluate the applicants for potential pro bono representation.

Many of the individuals who are screened ultimately become Human Rights First clients whose cases are placed with law firms in New York. The participating firms have the right of first refusal on these cases. Once the cases are placed at the firms, Human Rights First provides guidance and mentoring to associates and partners, from the inception of the case through completion.  The Asylum Representation Project has provided quality pro bono counsel to approximately 100 people facing death, torture, and other forms of harm in their home countries, while giving law firm associates the opportunity to sharpen critical legal skills.  The project has need for additional firms to participate.  Any firms interested in representing individuals in need of protection through asylum or other forms of immigration relief should contact DelChiaro at 212-845-5211 or

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