Photo: Opening remarks by Leigh Llewelyn, co-chair of the Society’s Young Lawyers Committee, at Kosciuszko event Oct. 26 at Fraunces Tavern Museum. Photo courtesy of Marta Monko.
New York legal history is a story of movements, institutions, ideas — and people, too, although it is kinder (and better-received) to tiptoe around the “history” label for those giants of the Bench and Bar who are still with us. Many of the Historical Society of the New York Courts’ events are backwards looking by necessity, but we often try to use our glance over the shoulder as a way of looking forward. It is that spirit that animates our summer speaker series — “history” in the short term, with lawyers, judges, and other luminaries taking the time to share their stories with both their contemporaries and the next generation of attorneys.
A Conversation with Roy L. Reardon & Patricia M. Hynes
In summer 2017, the Society was delighted to feature two decorated attorneys who are complementary in every way. A husband and wife team, they were kind enough to spend the evening reminiscing about their careers, discussing the challenges they have faced, and extolling the value of mentorship and pro bono service.
Roy L. Reardon is a fifty-plus-year veteran of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, LLP, the sponsor of the evening’s chat. A son of Queens, the first in his family to go to college, and a proud graduate of St. John’s University School of Law, Roy has lived the ideal of a big-firm attorney. From commercial litigation to pro bono defense work — and two trips to the United States Supreme Court — Roy has taken advantage of the connections, mentorship, and room for growth offered by one of New York’s biggest firms.
Patricia Hynes’s career began in public service, at a time when women were still a distinct minority in the profession. After graduating from Fordham University School of Law, Pat clerked for a federal judge and then joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York — the only female attorney in the office. Initially posted in the civil division, Pat was soon trying criminal cases too, and eventually became a bureau chief. After leaving the USAO for private practice, Pat continued to rack up firsts; to name just one, she was one of the first female name partners at a national law firm (Milberg Weiss in 1993). Pat also served as President of the New York City Bar Association.
At times self-moderated — one of the unheralded advantages of the couple dynamic — the frank-and-funny discussion took the audience through both shoals and open waters, from the thrill of Supreme Court argument to the rank sexism that the profession has far from exorcised. While sporting very different careers, both Roy and Pat emphasized the necessity of strong mentorship connections, without which their paths would have looked very different. Their long view allowed for an objective and, at times, critical view of how the profession and law school have changed.
For both new and not-so-new attorneys, Roy and Pat had much to say and share. The Society and its Young Lawyers Committee thank these two titans of the bar for sharing their time, insight, and careers with a receptive audience.
An Evening at Theodore Roosevelt’s Birthplace: Theodore Roosevelt & the Constitution
New York’s legal history is, in many ways, also the history of the United States. The native sons and daughters of New York became America’s sons and daughters — warming seats in the Supreme Court, the Oval Office, and the Capitol.
For its inaugural Cocktails & Commentary event, the Young Lawyers Committee of the Society celebrated the complex life and legacy of President Theodore Roosevelt. Entitled An Evening at Theodore Roosevelt’s Birthplace: Theodore Roosevelt & the Constitution, the evening was an examination of Roosevelt’s constitutional legacy and his ambivalence over an “activist” judiciary. And, in a fitting tribute, the featured speaker addressing this oft-overlooked aspect of Roosevelt’s presidency was Roosevelt’s great-great grandson, University of Pennsylvania Law School Professor Kermit Roosevelt III, who was kind enough to brave the Northeast Corridor to join the Society and its guests in Gramercy.
Prior to the Professor’s talk, the evening’s guests gathered in the great hall of the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site and roamed through the exhibits on display. While the “cocktails” in the series title turned out to be a bit misleading — although we hope to scale those heights quite soon, at the moment, none of our members turns out to moonlight as a mixologist — the event did feature a fine wine, beer, and finger-food hour, where lawyers, law-students, and judges were able to mix and mingle. Professor Roosevelt then delivered an incisive talk followed by a lively — and sometimes contentious — question and answer session.
From the perspective of the Society and Young Lawyers Committee, this inaugural Cocktails & Commentary event was a great success, mixing the informative with the social in a venue that truly celebrated New York’s expansive legal history. The Society and Committee thank Professor Roosevelt, co-chair Leigh Llewelyn, the National Park Service, and everyone who made the event a can’t-miss.
Kościuszko: A Bridge to Liberty for All
In thinking about the American Revolution, its aftermath, and the people most responsible for shaping the post-independence order, Americans understandably focus on the founding fathers and their close associates. But doing so overlooks the extensive contributions during this period made by foreign nationals from outside the colonial/British divide. These momentous figures are far from ignored, however; indeed, some number among the most commemorated figures in America history. And while they might not quite muscle into the rarefied club of names-deserving-East/West-streets-in-Chicago, they adorn America institutions of no lesser character: parks, bridges, counties, skyways, and yes, perhaps the occasional North/South Chicago street.
Kościuszko: A Bridge to Liberty for All, the second entry in the Young Lawyers Committee’s Cocktails & Commentary series, explored the multifaceted legacy of Tadeusz Kościuszko, Brigadier General of the Continental Army and Polish freedom fighter. Held at the Fraunces Tavern Museum, a beautiful space in southern Manhattan, and brought to fruition in partnership with the Polish Cultural Institute New York, the event featured fiery lectures by Professor Paul Finkelman and Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist Alex Storozynski (who has celebrated Kościuszko’s legacy in both print and film, directing the documentary film Kościuszko: A Man Ahead of his Time). Topics addressed included the multi-year fight over Kościuszko’s multiple wills; Kościuszko’s passionate dislike of slavery, especially when contrasted against the doublespeak of Thomas Jefferson; and the proper way to place Kościuszko in American history. Closing out the evening was a piano recital by pianist and harpsichordist Dr. Magdalena Stern-Baczewska, performing original compositions by Kościuszko — and a little bit of Chopin for good measure.
The evening also marked another important milestone for the Society. While the previous Cocktails & Commentary event came up woefully short on proper cocktails, this omission was rectified by a toast joining the “spirits” of Poland and the United States. An original cocktail, “The Kościuszko Bridge,” married Polish Bison Grass Vodka and American gin. Comments about mixological heresy notwithstanding, early reports suggested that the amalgam was much like the man himself, sporting surprising depth and a great deal of fire.
As the year comes to a close, the Society reflects on the success of the Young Lawyers Committee in reaching an untapped audience and looks forward to many more of these events that inspire the next generation of attorneys. We can’t wait for the next event!