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LI bar associations honor 3 women, all retired State Supreme Court justices

Retired State Supreme Court justices Sandra Sgroi, left,

Retired State Supreme Court justices Sandra Sgroi, left, and Fern A. Fisher were among those honored Tuesday evening in Smithtown for their achievements on and off the bench. Credit: Suffolk County Women's Bar Association

Four Long Island bar associations joined forces to honor three women considered trailblazers — all retired State Supreme Court justices with distinguished careers on and off the bench.

Former justices Fern A. Fisher, Sandra Sgroi and Mary Werner were feted Tuesday evening by the Suffolk County Bar Association, the Suffolk County Women’s Bar Association, the Amistad Long Island Black Bar Association and the Long Island Hispanic Bar Association in an event at Stonebridge Country Club in Smithtown recognizing “Visionary Women of Justice."

Organizers called the joint recognition by the four legal organizations, which boast a combined membership of over 3,000 attorneys, judges and law students, a "groundbreaking event" that looked back at the "accomplishments of these forward-thinking women and focus upon the horizon for Long Island women, generally and in the legal profession."

Dawn Lott, president of the county Women’s Bar Association and past president of the Amistad Long Island Black Bar Association, said the honorees are role models who have also worked well in the organizations with their fellow attorneys and judges.

“Aside from the fact that they’re phenomenal women, they have all, at some level, been a part of the four associations that are honoring them,” she said. “They also echo what we stand for, regarding women’s and children’s rights and some of the communities we serve . . . Each of them has been a trailblazer in her own right.”

Lott said the event was attended by members of the four organizations and legal luminaries aside from the honorees, including Nassau District Court Judge Andrea Phoenix, acting Supreme Court Justice Theresa Whelan and Suffolk Supreme Court Justice and District Administrative Judge C. Randall Hinrichs.

Lynn Poster-Zimmerman, president-elect of the Suffolk County Bar Association, said, "This is actually, on a lot of levels, a really momentous event for the bar association."

Fisher, who served as deputy chief administrative judge for New York City courts and director of the New York State Courts Access to Justice Program, is now special assistant to the dean for social justice initiatives and a visiting associate professor at Hofstra University’s law school.

Sgroi most recently served as an associate justice in the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, Second Judicial Department, a post she had held since 2009 and from which she retired recently. She has also served as a town attorney and councilwoman for the Town of Smithtown.

Werner has served as a Supreme Court justice as well as district administrative judge of Suffolk County, and she is a founder and past president of the county Women’s Bar Association.

Lott said the collaboration among the bar associations dovetailed with their efforts to recognize prominent women in March for Women’s History Month.

“This is the first of what we believe will be many events like this,” she said.

Poster-Zimmerman said the four groups had formed a collegial bond while planning an event they hope becomes the start of several more projects.

"We have never had an event like this where we have coordinated our four bar associations to come together to honor these women," she said.

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