James Moore Receives Rodenbeck Award Today

  • 5/21/2003
  • Jill Miller
  • Volunteer Legal Services Project
  • Source: New York > Rochester / Finger Lakes

An accomplished attorney, respected colleague and cherished friend to many, James C. Moore has dedicated over 37 years of his life to the practice of law in the Rochester community.

Moore's contributions to the legal profession and the local community are immeasurable. In recognition of his outstanding contributions, he will receive the Adolph Rodenbeck Award from the Monroe County Bar Association today. Moore, a partner at Harter, Secrest & Emery and former president of the New York State Bar Association, will receive the MCBA's highest honor during the annual Law Day luncheon.

Moore's Career

Moore, a native of Albany, came from a family of medical doctors. Both his father and grandfather were doctors. However, Moore knew from an early age that he would follow a different path.

"My uncle was a judge of Children's Court," Moore shared. "I figured out in high school that my skills were better suited for a career in the law. And I've never looked back."

Two of Moore's heroes also influenced his decision to choose a career in the law.

"Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., the most famous judge that ever lived in our country had a great legal mind and Joseph Welch, was a great lawyer during the Joseph McCarthy era," Moore said. "They are also part of the reason I decided on a career in the law."

Upon high school graduation, he attended Cornell University and Cornell Law School. While completing his last year of law school, Don Harter, invited Moore to come to Rochester and join Harter, Secrest & Emery.

However, before joining the firm, Moore spent two years in the U.S. Army. He spent his first year of service working as a judge advocate in Virginia and his second year serving as a legal officer at Fort Smith in Vietnam. He was also a paratrooper.

"Vietnam was a really interesting experience," he explained. "I had the opportunity to learn on the job by trying a lot of court marshals ranging from being AWOL to murder cases. I also prepared countless wills. I probably did two to three wills a day and about 700 to 800 wills in the course of a year. I had a preprinted will form and the soldiers would line up outside my tent in the morning. We had a system and weren't very sophisticated."

Moore was also called on to help soldiers handle some hearth wrenching situations back home.

"I also helped people deal with some tragic problems," Moore explained. "They would come to me with letters from their wives who left the children with his mother and ask what should they do about the situation. There were also some credit problems."

While serving in Vietnam, Moore had the opportunity to meet a number of prominent figures including war photographer, Larry Burrows, General William Westmoreland and Teddy Kennedy.

Once he completed his service, Moore came to Rochester and began to build a successful law practice that spans over 37 years.

"I turned in my rifle and three weeks later I was here carrying a brief case, wearing a suit and headed down to the Hall of Justice," Moore recalled. "Since then I've done just about any kind of trial work you could imagine. I've tried cases in City, County, Supreme and Federal courts, the New York State Court of Appeals, before the Workers' Compensation Board and even in the town courts. I think I've handled cases in just about every court in upstate New York. It's been wonderful. I've had the opportunity to get to know judges and lawyers from all over the state. It's a wonderful profession to be apart of."

Originally, Moore thought he would concentrate his practice on Labor Law. He attended the Industrial Relations School while an undergraduate at Cornell University. But, when he arrived at Harter Secrest, the firm had an opening in the trial department. Judge VanGraafeiland advised him to spend a few years in the trial department. He did just that and has spent his career as a member of the firm's trial department.

"I can still recall my first case," Moore shared. "It was an auto accident case in Geneseo. The trial was three days long and I thought it went on forever. It was not a complete victory, nor a complete defeat. I still remember after the case, one of the jurors said to me 'what a great job you did.'"

Today, Moore concentrates his litigation practice on civil litigation in the areas of architects and engineers liability, products liability, construction and insurance coverage. He still enjoys the practice of law.

"There are three things I enjoy the most about the practice of law," Moore explained. "First, the constant variety. I'm always faced with a new problem or new case to address. The variety has been almost addictive for me. Second, I also like the problem solving aspect of being a lawyer."

When he was younger Moore enjoyed coming into the office on a Saturday morning to review a case.

"When I was younger I would come in Saturday mornings and put the case in the right order," he said. "Cases were like puzzles for me. I would take it apart and put it back together in the correct order. Third, I also enjoy the people. I couldn't have asked for a better place to work. There are a number of intellectually gifted people at this firm."

With such an accomplished career, one case still haunts Moore. It's the case of a woman who was a lesbian and wanted to serve as a minister of a local church. The church refused to allow her to serve as a minister and Moore was hired by the congregation to represent the woman. He won't he case at trial but lost the case on appeal.

"The appeal was before a 15 member church panel," he said. "I lost 14 to one. The case still haunts me. There are days I still feel guilty about losing that case."

Moore has devoted a vast amount of his time to professional and civic organizations. He served as president of the New York State Bar Association from 1998 to 1999 and has been active in the MCBA. He also served as president of the board of directors of Friends of the Rochester Public Library, and is a member of the board of trustees of the Geva Theatre and the board of the Community Intake and Referral Project. He also served on the board of the Family Services of Rochester.

"I've had the opportunity to meet lawyers from all walks of life," he said. "I feel very privileged to be at a firm where I've had such great support."

In fact, Moore's 37-year association with the firm and its clients is one of the things he's most proud of.

"I'm really proud of the fact that I've been working with many of the same people for 25 to 30 years," he said. "It's unusual for lawyers to stay with the same group for 37 years and for clients to stay with an attorney for 25 to 30 years. I'm proud of the fact that these relationships have lasted."

Moore has witnessed a number of changes in the practice of law. One of the challenges he feels attorneys face is time constraints.

"One of the hardest things to do today is to sit back and actually think about what you are doing," he said. "We used to have the luxury of looking carefully at a case and come up with new ways to address an old problem. That luxury is gone and I regret that the time for reflection and creative thinking is sometimes lost."

With such an accomplished career already, Moore still has a few more things he would like to accomplish. He would like to write a book for his grandchildren to share the lessons he has learned in life.

"I always wanted to be a judge," he said. "I would like to continue teaching people. I enjoy working with young people here at the firm, helping them analyze cases, and build their writing skills and client relationship skills."

Moore has a few pieces of advice for anyone starting out in the legal profession.

"Never take yourself too seriously," he said. "Realize that good results usually come from hard work and accept the idea that mistakes will be made and learn from them. Pay as much attention to the staff as you do to judges and lawyers who are older than you. Remember to spend time doing the things you enjoy."

In his spare time Moore enjoys reading and traveling with his wife Shirley. They have been to India, Australia, France and Italy, just to name a few places. They also enjoy spending time with their four children, James, Jennifer, David and Eliza and their eight grandchildren.

History Of The Rodenbeck Award

The Rodenbeck Award was created by the Monroe County Bar Association in 1977 in memory of Judge Adolph J. Rodenbeck - a scholar and humanitarian whose life was dedicated to public service.

Judge Rodenbeck served as Rochester's Corporation Counsel, as Mayor, as legislator in the New York State Assembly, as Judge of the Court of Claims and later as Supreme Court Justice.

Since 1978, the honor has been presented at the MCBA's Law Day luncheon to a lawyer, leader, or organization that lives by Judge Rodenbeck's example of professional and community service.

Recipients include:

2003 - James C. Moore

2002 - Beth Keigher

2001 - Michael R. Wolford

2000 - Beth Ela Wilkens

1999 - Dr. John Klofas

1998 - James C. Gocker

1997 - Anthony R. Palermo

1996 - Judge Michael Telesca

1995 - A. Vincent Buzard

1994 - Edward J. Nowak

1993 - Sydney R. Rubin

1992 - Center For Dispute Settlement

1991 - Thomas J. Cocuzzi and David A. Murante

1990 - Hanna S. Cohn

1989 - Judge G. Robert Witmer

1987 - Rene Reixach, Jr.

1986 - Dr. Peter W. Knapp

1985 - Charles F. Crimi

1984 - Jacob Gitelman

1983 - Justin L. Vigdor

1981 - J. Boyd Mullan

1980 - Harry D. Goldman

1979 - J. Coyne O'Brien

1978 - E. James Hickey