The Nassau County Bar Association ‘s Access to Justice Committee has named Donnalynn Darling the chair of the Personal Injury Law and Education Law practice groups, Andrew J. Turro, Member of the Litigation & Dispute Resolution Department and Employment Law practices, and A. Thomas Levin the Chair of the Local Government, Land Use and Environmental Compliance practice at Meyer, Suozzi, English & Klein P.C. as Access to Justice Champions. The award recognizes attorneys with outstanding service and dedication of time and effort to providing legal representation, guidance or advice on a pro bono basis to Nassau County residents.
‘We wanted to find a way to recognize the hard work of these attorneys, and to encourage more volunteers,’ noted Martha Krisel, chair of the committee, which includes Nassau County Bar Association members, the Nassau County Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Nassau Suffolk Law Services, the Legal Aid Society of Nassau County, the Assigned Counsel Defender Plan, and Hofstra and Touro law schools.
Ms. Darling finds it most rewarding to help people who cannot afford legal services to understand their rights under the law and to assist them in obtaining the services or compensation they are entitled to. Several years ago and in response to increasing demand by parents of learning disabled children, Ms. Darling helped establish the Special Education practice at Meyer Suozzi to assist in the securing of timely education evaluations, services and accommodations for children in public and private schools under federal and state regulations.
Believing that parents are, in many cases, the best advocates for their children, Ms. Darling frequently volunteers her time speaking and meeting with parents and advocacy groups, educating them on their rights and those of their special-needs children. In addition, Ms. Darling has offered her services pro bono for those who have been unable to pay, and frequently provides gratis consultations and representation of children in Committee on Special Education meetings before school districts.
“My commitment to the advocacy of those who cannot defend themselves began when I served as an Assistant District Attorney under Bronx D.A. Mario Merola. In that office I prosecuted sex crimes involving children,” said Darling. “I find it rewarding to help people who cannot afford legal services to understand their rights under the law and to assist them in obtaining the services or compensation they are entitled to. A great deal of satisfaction comes from knowing that you have played an integral role in someone else’s life, potentially easing a hardship or making a tough situation more bearable”
Mr. Turro coordinates the pro bono program at Meyer Suozzi. Under his supervision, the firm’s pro bono program has become involved in a wide range of matters providing legal assistance to numerous local not-for-profit and charitable organizations (i.e., Island Harvest, the Long Island Arts in Education Roundtable, the Nassau County Museum of Art), legal organizations designed primarily to address the needs of persons of limited needs (i.e., Nassau/Suffolk Law Services Committee, Inc. and the Nassau County Coalition Against Domestic Violence), as well as individuals such as families and students with special education needs.
Mr. Levin has been pro bono general counsel to the Day Care Council of Nassau County, Inc. and the Rosa Lee Young Childhood Center for over thirty years, and represents many other not-for-profit organizations and individuals on a pro bono basis. He is also a former President of the New York State Bar Association and the Nassau County Bar Association.
“We have a concomitant responsibility to use that privilege to make sure that everyone has access to justice.” stated Levin. “No one should be put in jeopardy of losing their basic life necessities, benefits, liberty or property solely because they are unable to afford legal representation. It has been accurately said that Pro Bono services are the rent we pay for the privilege of practicing law.”