The Albany Law School Clinic and Justice Center was recently honored with the New York State Bar Association's 2010 Angelo T. Cometa Award for its significant community outreach efforts and legal services in the areas of civil rights, health law, unemployment litigation and family violence prevention. In 2009, the Law Clinic and Justice Center handled 621 different cases on behalf of 523 individuals.
The award, sponsored by the Committee on Lawyer Referral Service, annually recognizes individuals or groups in New York that demonstrate an extraordinary commitment toward advancing the goals of the State Bar's Lawyer Referral and Information Service (LRIS), which is a program that helps coordinate a lawyer referral and information system, as well as provides the public with information about available legal services. Named after past Bar Association President Angelo T. Cometa, the award was presented on April 9 at the State Bar's House of Delegates Dinner.
The committee recognized the Law Clinic and Justice Center for its significant community outreach and the legal advice it provides through six in-house clinics: Civil Rights and Disability Law, Health Law, Securities Law, Unemployment Litigation, Low Income Taxpayer Law and Family Violence Litigation and its collaborative Family Violence Prosecution Clinic. The Law Clinic and Justice Center also offers a field placement program that has placed law students at more than 200 different government offices.
Among its most significant programs was a day-long special education conference, "Beyond the Box, Exploring the Possibilities," for parents and other individuals concerned about the rights of individuals with developmental disabilities; helping clients with cancer challenge insurance company decisions to receive due treatment; and representing survivors of domestic violence in matters related to safety, financial support and custody of children.
Past winners of the Cometa Award include: the Capital District Women's Bar Association Legal Project, Inc.; Allen J. Charne of New York (New York City Bar); and past State Bar President Angelo T. Cometa of New York. Cometa chaired the Committee on Lawyer Referral Services during the first year of LRIS operation. As committee chair, he was instrumental in establishing the LRIS and increasing public access to attorneys. The award was created in 2007 in recognition of his extraordinary service efforts.