Monday, November 4, 2013

An Alternate View of Justice

The other day, Rose and I were treated to an excellent lunch at the Century House in Latham, an impressive Restaurant/Inn catering to business types. The Domestic Violence Project of the Capital District Women’s Bar Association decided I deserved the Stanley A. Rosen Memorial Award for 2013. The plaque says I’d “demonstrated an ability to litigate matters on behalf of victims of domestic violence while showing the utmost professionalism and integrity in dealing with the Court, litigants and attorneys, qualities exemplified by Stanley Rosen during his lifetime.” The plaque-givers are lawyers, of course, and that’s how they talk. I’d never heard of the late Stanley Rosen but learned he was the dean of matrimonial lawyers up here in Albany.

Actually, what I do is go into the Family Courts in Albany, Rensselaer, Schenectady and Saratoga Counties with battered women as their lawyer and kick ass. I don’t like their abusers, who run the gamut from smarmy-mouth con men to redneck morons to killers-in-the-making. They’re called “the Respondents” and they’re always male. I much prefer the on-the-edge boys—their anger seeping out of them, issuing forth in insolent responses to the Family Court Judges, almost uniformly women. If I’m especially blessed, they’re not represented by a lawyer who’d try to get in my way. They usually don’t have lawyers as don’t most of their female victims. Makes it easier for me to provoke them, to stick them good like the picador on horseback taunts the bull with the lance. Very unlawyer-like, I know. But when they lose it in front of the Judge, I’m more than half-way to the right verdict. And my clients appear to love the spectacle.

I volunteered for this work when I relocated from New York City to Albany six years ago this October. I’d never been in a Family Court despite having been in most of the City’s criminal courts during 18 years as a trial lawyer with the Legal Aid Society. I was curious about how it worked in Family Court, and was fairly certain that my clientele would be uniformly female. Having been a New York City policeman for 20 years prior to my lawyering job, I had a first-hand knowledge of the desperation of the women held in domestic servitude by these louts.

That’s pretty much what I said, briefly, from the dais as I was given the plaque by Rosemarie Rosen, Stanley’s widow. In the other photo, I’m flanked, on my right, by Lydia Kulbida, a local TV anchorwoman who grew up in the Bronx, and Lisa Frisch, on my left, who directs the DV Project and confided that she liked that part about sticking it to the men. Mostly lawyers from big firms in the audience, social workers and media people. Another thing I said, I described myself as an accidental lawyer, having gone to Fordham Law School at night while I was a NYC Patrolman—not thinking (never mind, intending) to ever practice law. Went because I had the GI Bill and a curiosity about the law. (Didn’t want those law firm types mistaking me for one of them.)

By pure chance, the old guy who sat down next to me was Neil Breslin, our Albany State Senator, and we found we had Fordham in common and were both friends of Carolyn Wheat, mystery novelist. They were on Law Review together at Toledo (Ohio) Law School way back when, while Carolyn and I worked together in the NYPD Legal Bureau in the late 1980s.

Best moment, however, was at the end of the festivities. Mrs. Rosen—a charming, middle-aged woman who’d been Deputy Controller of New York State—confided that Stanley would have liked me because he’d much preferred being an Albany County Assistant District Attorney in Criminal Court to being the head Matrimonial Partner at McNamee, Lochner, Titus & Willams, PC. I could sympathize.

© 2013 Robert Knightly


  1. Absolutely Wonderful piece - in all aspects! started my day with a huge smile! tjs

  2. Congrats!!! This was such a great self-reporting piece!!! It sure makes me feel good to know that someone like you is out there 'sticking it to the men'.

  3. Now that you are getting so famous as a LAWYER up there, all the more reason to write a lawyerly novel!!!! We're waiting.... tjs

  4. Bob, congratulations on the award and the work you do. The women of Albany are so lucky to have you as their champion. I miss you in NYC, though!

  5. Congratulations, Bob! I must tell you that years ago I was booking a reservation for Malice Domestic. The woman taking my reservation said, "Oh, you should get a very good deal! You're some of those folks who deal with wife beaters, aren't you?" It was with great regret that I had to disabuse her of that notion.