Pace Law School’s Alumni Leadership Awards Dinner Honoring Michael C. Finnegan, Esq. ’87 and The Honorable Sondra Miller was a Big Success!

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — Pace Law School’s 8th Annual Leadership Awards Dinner took place on Thursday, October 24, 2002 at the Rye Hilton.  Over 500 people attended the dinner honoring Pace Alumnus Michael C. Finnegan, Esq. ’87 and New York State Supreme Court Justice Sondra Miller for their distinguished service to the law school.   This year the dinner raised nearly $106,000.  All of the dinner’s proceeds will be used to enhance our financial aid program, giving money to deserving students who exhibit financial need.

Rather than the usual flower arrangement found at most dinners, centerpieces for the dinner were high school law textbooks.  These books were donated at the end of the evening to Gorton High Law Magnet School in Yonkers.  Gorton High houses the Law and Public Service Academy, which concentrates on developing knowledgeable and self-assured citizens of tomorrow. Students in this four-year program are provided with a variety of unique opportunities to examine the diversity of the legal world. Not only are students exposed to the many different occupations through visits from professional and field trips, but students also learn by doing. Through the use of a unique courtroom, Law and Public Service students demonstrate their understanding of the various legal topics by conducting trials and role-playing simulations. Students are also given special opportunities to put into use their knowledge and skills through participating in out-of-class activities including being involved in the NYS Bar Associations Statewide Mock Trial Competition, real juvenile hearings at Yonkers Youth Court, cross-grade level “trials” with elementary schools, held at Yonkers City Court and serving as pollsters on election night. In the senior year, many Law and Public Academy students intern in “the real world” of private attorneys and government offices. Many of the law courses are recognized as outstanding and college credit is available upon completion.

The two honorees have greatly contributed to the legal profession and the community.  Michael C. Finnegan is a Managing Director at J.P. Morgan Securities Inc. in New York specializing in Environmental Finance.  Prior to joining Morgan, Mr. Finnegan served three years as Chief Counsel to Governor George Pataki of New York where he was responsible for all legislative, legal, and policy matters.  He was the first appointment to the new Administration and, at midnight on January 1, 1995, swore in George Pataki as the 57th Governor of New York.  During his first year as Counsel to the Governor, Mr. Finnegan successfully negotiated the landmark New York City Watershed Agreement which safeguarded the drinking water of nine million New Yorkers ending a bitter conflict which had divided New Yorkers for more than two generations.  Mr. Finnegan also negotiated a historic Adirondack timber agreement between lumber interests and environmentalists, and in 1996 conceived and negotiated Governor Pataki’s $1.75 billion Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act legislation. He later served as Chairman of the committee which won overwhelming approval of the Bond Act from New York voters. While serving as Counsel to the Governor, he also drafted and negotiated other landmark initiatives including the State Income Tax Cut legislation, the Workers’ Compensation Reform Act, the Farmland Preservation Act, and the Deadbeat Dads statute.

Justice Sondra Miller was appointed to the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, Second Department by Governor Mario Cuomo in January 1990. She was then serving as a New York State Supreme Court Judge of the Ninth Judicial District, having been elected in 1986, and had served as a Family Court Judge in Westchester County from 1983-1986.  Among Justice Miller’s “firsts” are her law degree from Harvard Law School (she was in its first class to admit women); her election to the Supreme Court, Ninth Judicial District in November 1986 (the first Democrat to win a contested election in the 9th JD in nearly 100 years); and her appointment as Associate Justice, Appellate Division, Second Department, in January 1990 (the first woman in the 9th JD to be so recognized).  Justice Miller’s legal decisions are frequently cited in various areas of the law and most particularly for their impact on family law and the rights of children. She serves by appointment of Chief Judge Judith Kaye as Co-Chair with Justice Anthony Cardona of the New York State Family Violence Task Force.  In addition, she serves by appointment of the Governor on the New York State Permanent Judicial Commission on Justice for Children.  She is a founding member, former Co-President, and member of the Board of Directors of Judges and Lawyers Breast Cancer Alert (JALBCA), and a founding member of Blacks and Jews in Conversation. Justice Miller serves on the Board of Visitors of Pace University School of Law; is a member of the Executive Board of the UJA Federation Benjamin N. Cardozo Society; a member of the Advisory Board of The Center for Children, Families and Law at Hofstra University School of Law/North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System; and a member of the permanent committee of Parent Education Advisory Board. She is also a former Director of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, and former Vice President of the Harvard Law School.

Among the many dignitaries and members of the bench attending this year were the Honorable Albert A. Rosenblatt, Associate Justice of the Court of Appeals; the Honorable Francis Nicolai, Administrative Judge in the Supreme Court 9th Judicial District; the Honorable A. Gail Prudenti, Administrative Judge in the Supreme Court 10th Judicial District; Westchester County District Attorney Jeannine Pirro; and the Honorable Mark Fox, U.S. Magistrate Judge.  The Appellate Division was well represented with over 10 justices in attendance.

Founded in 1976, Pace Law School is located in White Plains, N.Y., 20 miles north of New York City. The School offers the J.D. program for full-time, and part-time day, and evening students. Its post-graduate program includes the LL.M. and S.J.D. degrees in Environmental Law and the LL.M. in Comparative Legal Studies. Pace has one of the nation’s top-rated environmental law programs and its Clinical Education Program also is nationally ranked, offering clinics in domestic violence prosecution, securities arbitration, criminal justice, and disability rights.

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