Law School Celebrates 116th Commencement, Announces Honors, Prizes, and Awards

Brooklyn Law School celebrated its 116th commencement ceremony on May 18 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music where 368 J.D. and 31 LL.M. degrees were conferred. The Law School also has announced the names of graduates who have been awarded honors and prizes and awards.

Errol Louis ’05, CNN contributor and political anchor at NY1 News, was the commencement speaker and honorary degree recipient. In his remarks, Louis encouraged the graduates to remember their “invisible clients.”

“Remember that you have clients beyond the ones who are paying you,” he said. “Justice is your client. Fairness if your client. Honesty and integrity and service are your clients, and they deserve your best effort.”

Acknowledging that there will be many opportunities to show off or say “yes” to questionable jobs and deals, Louis encouraged the graduates to learn when to say “no.”

“Remember your job is not just to say, ‘Here’s how to do it, how to make it seem legal,’” he said. “You are meant to find a better path, whether you’re a full-time lawyer or a non-practicing attorney. You have the chance to follow or create a career path with real depth and meaning.”

Stuart Subotnick '68, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, presided over the ceremony and led the conferring of degrees. Fr. Patrick Keating ’17, deputy chief executive officer at Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens, delivered the opening invocation. The graduates also heard from valedictorian Jamie Kurtz ’17 and Marissa Potts ’17, who was elected student speaker by her classmates.

Kurtz spoke about how success can look different for different people, using the example of Kristaps Porziņģis, the 21-year-old Latvian basketball star who plays for the New York Knicks.

“There’s a bit of Kristaps in all of us,” Kurtz said. “We may not all have eight-foot wingspans, but we do have wit and grace and determination.”

Kurtz also commended his fellow students for springing to action in the wake of the president’s travel ban Executive Order in January and supporting their fellow Brooklynites during the Brooklyn Stands Together rally in February. “It does feel like we are living in a world where more lawyers is—for once—exactly what we need,” he said. Kurtz later received his diploma from his parents, New York State Supreme Court Judge Donald Kurtz and Nina Kurtz, both Class of 1982.

Potts reflected on the historical events that punctuated her and her classmates’ three years at the Law School, including the advent of the Black Lives Matter movement, the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges legalizing same-sex marriage, and the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Noting that she and her fellow graduates would be starting their careers in a tumultuous landscape, Potts said: “We have a responsibility, a duty, and a privilege as attorneys to contribute to the movements that inspire us, to teach others, to listen effectively to those who feel overlooked, and to advocate for positive change in our nation.”

In his remarks to the graduates, Dean Nick Allard echoed the call for Brooklyn Law School graduates to use their educations for the greater good.

“Every day, we witness new threats, from within and from abroad, to our republic and to our shared vision of this nation and what it means to be an American,” he said. “How will you respond? Regardless of your career path, armed with your legal education, you will be called upon to use the power of law to make a positive difference for your community, your nation, and our world.”

Allard also recognized Professor Arthur Pinto, who is retiring after 30 years of teaching at the Law School. “Professor Pinto is one of the most well-respected and deeply engaged members of the faculty,” Allard said. “Since coming to the Law School in 1984, he has taught nearly every course concerning the complex world of business. He has been instrumental in building the Law School’s reputation as a leading institution in the world of international business.”

Dean Allard also recognized several members of the class of 1967 who joined him on the stage to mark 50 years since their own graduation, including Paul Bergman, Frederick Cohen, Stanley Hochberg, Stephen Lusthaus, and the Hon. Louis Rosenthal.

In another highlight of the ceremony, 103-year-old Elena Teresa Sanfilippo ’36 presented her great-great niece Francesca Adamo ’17 with her diploma.

After the commencement ceremony, the Law School continued its annual tradition of hosting a picnic for graduates and their families in the courtyard of the main campus building.