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GRAWA High Achievers Include Recent Judicial Appointments

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

  • By: Elizabeth Wolford
  • Organization: Volunteer Legal Services Project

As a general rule, the Law Day issue of The Daily Record provides the bar presidents with one of their final opportunities to express their views before the end of their term. I find myself in the unusual position of having this serve as the first column of my tenure as president of the Greater Rochester Association for Women Attorneys. When Marian W. Payson was sworn in as U.S. Magistrate Judge for the Western District of New York on April 14, 2003 she resigned as president of GRAWA.

Instead of the typical year-long term, I will serve as GRAWA's President for an additional one and one-half months. One of the many benefits of this lengthier term (yes - I'm determined to view this in a positive fashion!) is that I am permitted the opportunity to write another column for The Daily Record.

The theme of Law Day this year is "Independent Courts Protect Our Liberties." As recognized by this Law Day, the importance of an independent judiciary cannot be overstated. Given this Law Day's focus upon the importance of the judiciary, it seems appropriate to highlight the quite unprecedented events that took place at the GRAWA board level this past year as related to the judiciary.

The GRAWA board found itself in the unique position of having two of its board members become members of the judiciary. Having worked with these individuals over the past years, I know that they will each serve the principles of this Law Day well.

Marian Payson began the GRAWA year as Assistant New York State Attorney General In-Charge of the Rochester Office, but as mentioned above, she ended her term when she was sworn in as the first female federal judge in Rochester. This is no small feat, but certainly not unexpected given Judge Payson's outstanding qualifications. She worked as a law clerk, an associate at a prestigious New York City law firm, and an Assistant U.S. Attorney, all before moving to Rochester some six years ago. During this past year, she has served as GRAWA's president with a steady hand and impeccable integrity. She consistently and selflessly devoted an enormous amount of time and effort to GRAWA during her tenure as president, always acting with the best interests of our organization in mind. GRAWA certainly will miss having Judge Payson as its president, but we are fortunate that she will be devoting her remarkable talents to the position of U.S. Magistrate Judge.

A few months before Judge Payson was sworn in as U.S. Magistrate Judge, the GRAWA board had another one of its members assumed judicial responsibilities. In December 2002, GRAWA's Legislative Chair, Ellen Yacknin, was sworn in as Rochester City Court Judge.

Before winning the election as Rochester City Court Judge, Judge Yacknin served at the Greater Upstate Law Project, where perhaps one of her most notable successes dealt with the Attica prison riot litigation. Judge Yacknin's intellect and creativity served her well during her tenure as GRAWA's legislative chair, and those characteristics will likewise serve her well on the bench.

When she was sworn in as Rochester City Court Judge, Judge Yacknin resigned as legislative chair, but she enthusiastically agreed to continue her service on the GRAWA board by becoming co-chair of the CLE Committee.

The achievements of both Judge Payson and Judge Yacknin represent just two of the many accomplishments of our members during this past year. I continue to be impressed by the talent of our many members and their dedication to our organization.

This year GRAWA is hosting its annual installation dinner on May 21, 2003, at the Eagle Vale Golf Club. We are particularly pleased that the Honorable Richard Wesley has agreed to be our guest speaker. When Judge Wesley swears in the new GRAWA Board of 16 women, we will embark on GRAWA's 21st year, and hopefully achieve as much success as experienced during the preceding years. And who knows what prestigious assignments and accomplishments are in store for our members this year!

Elizabeth A. Wolford, the 21st President of GRAWA, is a partner with the litigation firm of Wolford & Leclair LLP.

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