Ds Scholarship

Panel to discuss possible return of longtime NYS agency

The word “reform” gets tossed around Albany a lot these days, but it’s not new.

In 1934, a little-known state agency called the New York State Law Revision Commission was launched for the specific purpose of reviewing and reforming the state’s existing laws. Its website still describes the panel as “the oldest continuous agency in the common-law world devoted to law reform through legislation,” but there’s a catch: About six years ago the commission’s funding quietly disappeared from the state budget.

In 2022, the commission and its members exist but are powerless — at least for now.

On Wednesday, the commission’s most recent chairman, Peter J. Kiernan, a one-time counsel to former Gov. David Paterson; commission member Michael J. Hutter , a past Court of Appeals nominee and Albany Law School professor; and Laura C. Tharney, executive director of the New Jersey Law Revision Commission, will speak at a virtual forum, available through Albany Law School, to discuss the potential return of the commission to active status.

Retired Court of Appeals Associate Judge Leslie Stein, an Albany Law School graduate and former City Court judge, will moderate. Stein is the director of the law school’s Government Law Center.

“We hope to explore some ideas regarding how the structure of the New York Commission may be improved to better serve the Legislature and New York’s citizens,” Stein told Law Beat via email.

The program, part of the law school’s 2022 Warren M. Anderson Legislative Seminar Series, is titled “Revitalization of the New York State Law Revision Commission.” It is scheduled for Wednesday from noon to 1 pm, It is worth one professional practice continuing legal education credit. The program, which is free, is open to the public via Zoom.

The speakers will review the commission’s history, its work developing legislation, restructuring possibilities and how the New Jersey commission could serve as an example for New York.

“New York is considered by many to be the commercial center of the world, and countless individuals and businesses resort to the application of its laws,” Stein said. “There can be no reasonable dispute that the law has always lagged behind technology, rendering many statutory obsolete provisions, and that there are many complex matters that would benefit from careful, thorough and non-partisan study.”

Stein explained that the commission, which long relied on law students for research and analysis, was most recently based at Albany Law School. She said the school and her center believe the revitalization of the commission to be “critical to the ongoing improvement of New York’s laws, and hopes to, once again, have the opportunity to work with the Commission in furtherance of its purposes.”

Stein said state law created the commission to be a permanent commission dedicated exclusively to systematic law reform.

“It was the product of many illustrious government figures, including prestigious judges, governors and leaders,” she told Law Beat.

The commission’s more recent work included a study of not-for-profit corporation law; maintenance in divorce date; the state’s Alcohol Beverage Control Law; a bill adding Health Law privacy provisions for HIV research; and a study of guardianship for people with developmental disabilities under Article 17A of the Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act, which resulted in a proposed bill and memo in support, Stein said.

The law that created the commission tasked it with examining common law and statutes to discover defects and anachronisms, considering recommended changes, recommending them to lawmaker, reporting its proceedings annually and proposing bills, she said.

“In other words,” Stein said, “the Law Revision Commission was designed to serve as a link between the Legislature and the courts and the Legislature and the citizens. It was intended to utilize the knowledge and experience of legal scholars and practicing attorneys to address complex and/or unclear areas of law through careful study, for which the Legislature may lack the time and resources. in direct conflict, with other statutes.”

Scholarship in place in honor of trailblazing judge


Nearly a year ago, the state’s highest court lost a trailblazing member to illness.

A year later, the March 31, 2021 passing of Court of Appeals Associate Judge Paul Feinman is being memorialized with the start of an annual $2,500 scholarship in his name.

The death of Feinman, 61, the first openly gay judge to sit on the Court of Appeals, inspired the International Association of LGBTQ+ Judges to begin the Judge Paul G. Feinman Scholarship. It is for a law student who has demonstrated a commitment to the LGBTQ+ community and will be working as a judicial intern, extern or clerk prior to the student’s final year of law school.

Special consideration will be given to students who work with a member of the association. The scholarship money, which isn’t restricted tuition, can be used for housing, books, transportation, living expenses, bar application and study expenses or any other law school-related expense.

“A wonderful opportunity, in honor and memory of a wonderful human being,” Chief Judge Janet DiFiore said in her statewide address last Monday.

Feinman was president of the International Association of LGBTQ+ Judges from 2008 to 2011 and sat on its board of directors for several years. Presiding Justice Elizabeth Garry, who leads the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court’s Third Department, is now a member of the board.

In highlighting the scholarship, the International Association of LGBTQ+ Judges noted that Feinman, while attending law school at the University of Minnesota in the 1980s, founded an association of gay students.

“Judge Feinman exemplified what is best about our nation’s legal community and judiciary. He will be remembered for his kindness, his humility, his brilliant legal mind, and being a sometimes beleaguered NY Mets fan,” the association stated.

To apply for the scholarship, applicants are being asked to send an email to lgbtqjudges@gmail.com no later than April 1. The scholarship recipient will be announced by June 1.

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