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December 11, 2013

Inaugural Address of William P. Fedullo, 87th Chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association

William P. Fedullo Mr. Chief Justice, Mr. Justice, honored judges, honorees and honored guests, friends and family and everyone. Thank you all.

Thank you, Kathy, for that wonderfully kind and generous introduction.

I begin with a seemingly simple question; what does it mean to be a Philadelphia Lawyer?

And I suggest to you that we can start to answer that question by looking around this room - at those who have preceded me as Chancellor and at those who will follow me: at all of the distinguished members of the bench and bar on the dais and yes, at each and everyone of you and all of your colleagues.

So Kathleen I want you to know how grateful we are for your service to the profession and the public. You have upheld treasured ideals and principles of the Philadelphia lawyer. It's been a great year.

And Al Dandridge, you've been a vital part of our team this year. part of that success - and I thank you for signing onto some of the things we will be introducing today and I look forward to working with you as we chart the course of this Association and this profession through 2014 and 2015. And Gaetan Alfano, to you I say: Congratulations and welcome aboard, my good friend. You are about to become part of the leadership team as well.

This is no ordinary team.

This is a team that began in 1802 when a small group of lawyers met at what is now Independence Hall to share law books and information with one another.

Incredibly, for the early years of its life, this first version of the Philadelphia Bar Association was headquartered at Independence Hall - the birthplace of liberty!

That's how intertwined we are with the place, the people, the principles that came to define the very soul of our democracy.

That's our indelible link.

And when I think of that, I am deeply humbled today and grateful to all of you for giving me this honor and this responsibility.

I assure you: I do not take it lightly. And I ask: what does it mean to be a Philadelphia lawyer now?

What does it mean to be a Philadelphia lawyer during a time that our founders could have never imagined - a time when our nation is so diverse, our problems are so complex and the pace of change is so breathtakingly swift?

What does it mean?

For the answer, we must look to the past, the present and the future.

And we must place it all in a global context, remembering how far we've come but mindful as well of the distance we must still traverse.

2014 will mark the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that has reverberated through the decades right up to the present time. Are we living up to the spirit of that ruling when we look at the problems faced by the School District of Philadelphia and throughout Pennsylvania?

We will mark this important anniversary with signature events during law week. We will do this in partnership with the Barristers' Association. I want to thank Barristers' Association President Amber Racine and Al Dandridge. We have laid the groundwork for events I know you will find special and meaningful. We are planning to film several Philadelphia lawyers and judges who were impacted by this case. You will be hearing much more about this event as we go forward.

So going forward, we will ask the tough questions that need to be asked but we will not stop there. We have reached out to the School District of Philadelphia and to school Superintendent, Dr. William Hite to find ways to help our public schools as they navigate their way through a difficult and critical period.

I look out into the audience and I look at the dais behind me and I can say without fear of contradiction that the one thing we all have in common is that we all received a good education.

Certainly a good enough education to help us to go to law school and become a lawyer. Many of you got this education through the School District of Philadelphia.

And I could give you scores of examples - but the point is: Is this same education and same opportunity available to our children now?

It breaks my heart when I see articles telling us that the school district needs paper and tissues and no. 2 pencils, no. 2 pencils.

We have to do more and do better.

We have made a start - our ACE program - our civics education program in schools has already been a great success and we will increase that effort. The LEAP program at Temple is another example of steps we have taken and must continue to take. The Women in the Profession mentoring program is having a tremendous impact.

We will look for other ways to help Philadelphia's school children to make sure they know that we care and that they are loved. We must do this to ensure a brighter future for them and for our city.

I am appointing a task force headed by Judge John Younge and Jeff Lindy as co-chair to help us begin the fundamental task of finding more ways to help public education in our city and commonwealth.

So we will be talking not just today but throughout my year as chancellor and then Al's year and then Gaetan's year about the things that matter in education and our voice will be strong because it is the voice of 13,000 lawyers.

We will be speaking to fundamental issues such as:

  1. The lack of an adequate and fair funding formula that is harming children everywhere - not just in philadelphia.
  2. Fixing this problem will require forceful leadership from the business community of Philadelphia of which we are an integral part.

Here are some things we can do:

  1. Connect with schools -

    It is important that lawyers see first hand what is happening in schools. I would ask our task force to consider programs such as a model from Washington, D.C. that will allow firms to partner with individual schools. I will also be asking that we reinvigorate existing bar supported programs such as Philadelphia Futures and Philadelphia Reads.

  2. Educate ourselves -

    This year, we'll use Chancellor's Forums and other programs as an opportunity for lawyers to be fully informed about the issues, including how the funding works and what it takes for a quality education.

  3. Advocacy -

    Many of you have been kind enough to ask me what you can do to help me this year. well, this is it, I want you to help the children of Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania achieve a quality education.

    Together we will advocate for the need and the urgency for attention to education funding.

You know in Philadelphia, our pro bono lawyers are the envy of the nation with so many working so vigorously for those so in need. I congratulate and salute them all. You are the heart of our Association, but I know almost every lawyer in this city who works in the pro bono community would tell you that a quality education would solve so many of the problems that they see. As President Kennedy said. "if a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich."

As lawyers we know instinctively that justice and equality demand the promise of a quality education. Without it, the promise of opportunity and growth is a broken promise.

We will work to see that the promise is never broken you see, our heritage, the present state of our profession and our city and the future of our justice system, are all indelibly linked.

And we've got to learn from our past if we are to be ready for tomorrow.

So, next year our Historical Society will launch a website that will be a living time capsule
of our Association.

It will include interviews with Chancellors from the past 30 years as well as new features spotlighting our rich and varied pro bono organizations.

This is part of our bridge to future generations. It's hard to believe but the Philadelphia Bar Foundation will celebrate its golden anniversary in 2014. Because the Foundation has been so vital to pro bono funding, we will acknowledge the extraordinary public service contributions of our members and the selfless work of those who oversee our pro bono programs. The Foundation will sponsor 50 events for their 50 years of service. This half-century investment in equal justice for all bodes well for the future. Indeed, it provides a pace-setting model for other bars throughout the nation.

At the same time, we will invest in our future by preparing our young lawyers to better serve their clients, their profession and their community.

Through Law Week, the Legal Advice Live program, LegalLine, Lawyer in the Classroom, Lawyer for a Day and the Mock Trial Competition, our Young Lawyers Division gives so much back to the community.

Now, it behooves the rest of the bar to not only become involved in these kinds of programs ourselves but to also help our younger colleagues grow and prosper in their profession.

Because, you can be sure of this - their growth and development will benefit not just our profession but the economic well-being of the entire region as well. So next year we will launch a new Law Firm Laboratory - an ongoing incubator of innovative ideas, strategies and concepts for starting and nurturing new law firms and helping existing law firms of all types serve the changing needs of tomorrow's clients.

To get this underway, I've asked former Chancellor Alan Feldman to put together an important Nuts 'N Bolts Chancellor's Forum on starting your own firm.

But that will be just the beginning.

This is the age of entrepreneurship. The next generation of Philadelphia lawyers must be entrepreneurs - starting and growing new legal service models for new generations of clients. And, if they're good business - builders themselves, these lawyers will be able to help other entrepreneurs and other businesses.

Let's face it: You can't be running any kind of business today without recognizing your link to the entire world. For we live in the midst of a global economy and Philadelphia is an important part of that economy and of our world community.

Your Bar leaders are keenly aware of this and we've traveled to other parts of the world to build and maintain ties with our sister legal communities: to learn, to share, to grow, to benefit from greater knowledge and understanding.

Next fall, we will bring all our good work home when we welcome Bar leaders from cities all over the globe to the World City Bar Leaders Conference right here in Philadelphia. There will be panels, events, important speakers and special programs tied to the conference. What a special treat it will be for our city to host this important event.

As one part of the conference, we'll be showcasing the great work of our Bar Association's Civil Gideon and Access to Justice Task Force.

State and national studies estimate that a staggering 80 percent of critical legal needs of low-income people go unmet due to grossly insufficient funding and support. This task force is heightening awareness of the current state and scope of the unmet need for civil legal services by low-income Pennsylvanians.

And already, we have established a strong Civil Gideon working relationship with the Allegheny County Bar, the Pennsylvania Bar Association and others, and this Civil Legal Justice Coalition is attracting attention at the highest levels of state government.

We're very proud of this.

And we're determined to continue to move forward with this initiative.

Look at all the changes that are taking place.

Look at the big issues of the day.

When you do, you will find that Philadelphia lawyers are at the forefront.

We don't wait for problems and issues to come to us.

We seize the initiative as we always have, in the name of fairness, justice and equality.

For example, we were one of the first Bar Associations anywhere to form an LGBT Rights Committee and one of the first to endorse marriage equality.

And in 2014, we will host a Chancellor's Forum on the landmark Windsor case featuring some of the principal advocates in the arguments on marriage equality as this issue winds its way through the Pennsylvania courts. Justice is for all, or it is for none.

And so, on issues of justice and fairness, we will continue to remain at the forefront. This includes our Military Assistance Program, or MAP, in which we provide a pro bono assistance to active duty military personnel and their families, as well as to post - 9/11 veterans. we will continue to proudly serve these individuals for their commitment to our nation, as they have served us.

We owe it to the great, inclusive spirit of our professional family here in Philadelphia to continue to reach out and strengthen bonds of cooperation and progress with every community.

So, we will renew our commitment to our affinity bars in 2014 - all the various ethnic and diverse bars we're looking forward to much cooperation and great programs with all of them. We are the Bar Association of inclusion.

Now there is one area where all this comes together - where all of our interests converge and we have absolute unity and commonality.

And that involves our judges and our courts.

Our federal judiciary faces a funding crisis that threatens to derail its ability to administer justice. The congressional sequester has cut $350 million from our already underfunded national court system, reducing supervision and treatment services for convicted felons, and impeding implementation of new technologies that would make the courts function more efficiently. I hope you will join me and the Bar Association in calling on congress to increase funding so that our federal judiciary can meet its constitutional obligation to provide justice in a timely and effective manner.

Let us be clear. We respect the judiciary. We honor the judiciary. We depend on the judiciary. They are the guardians of justice. There is no higher calling in the law than to serve as a judge. So it's no surprise that we want the finest people on the bench. The best prepared, the fairest, the most independent-minded judges possible.

For decades, our Judicial Commission has worked to evaluate judicial candidates for the common pleas and municipal court bench, report its findings to the public and advocate for those candidates found to be "recommended" based on its findings.

I thank each member for the countless hours each of you have spent in service to the bar and the citizens of Philadelphia.

Time has come to take a good, hard look at everything we do in this area.

What can we do to recruit top-notch judicial candidates?

Can we screen the candidates more thoroughly and fairly?

Do we need greater explanations accompanying our ratings?

Can we create new ratings categories to more specifically identify the very best candidates and better inform the public?

What can we do to ensure that a selection of a high ballot position is not tantamount to getting elected?

In the age of social media, what more can we do to communicate our ratings to the public?

I have been in discussions with many of you regarding these issues and I have also been in contact with political leaders who are also concerned.

So the questions we have raised and more will be asked by a new task force, under the leadership of 2014 Judicial Commission Chair Ken Murphy and the Co-Chair of this task force Cathy Carr. This task force will review this whole process in 2014 and make substantive recommendations that we would like to implement by the next round of judicial elections in 2015.

So many important issues, such high stakes.

I challenge you to identify an issue in the news today that does not have some important link to the law and the justice system. That's how important our profession is to every single citizen.

All this can be daunting but I am not discouraged.

I am determined to make every day count.

I feel confident as I look ahead to the continued vibrancy of the Philadelphia Bar Association and I must salute Ken Shear for his remarkable 37 years of service as executive director.

Ken, your excellence and your support to all has made this the greatest bar association in America;

We all know and love you and Susie - thank you for all you have taught me and I will do my best as Chancellor to make you proud.

I feel confident because I believe with our new executive director, Mark Tarasiewicz. We will make a seamless transition.

Mark, we will be the transition team and we will strive to continue the high standards already set - but more than that, you will find your own path to excellence.

And I feel confident because of those who have guided me in the past - those who have helped put me here and those whose love, affection and support I continue to enjoy.

I should start with those no longer with us:

My dad, the first Bill Fedullo (there are three of us) was my first hero, he was one of those from the greatest generation. He served his country as a pilot during the Second World War. He was an utterly charming and witty man who could do almost anything. He was a pilot, an artist, an athlete, a builder, a mechanic. And for all those talents he had - he was quite, humble and modest. He has been gone more than 21 years and I miss him everyday.

My mother Carmela wanted so much to be here with us today; she fought so hard but her heart gave out in May of this year. To me she epitomized wisdom, loyalty, reason and love.

Mom, I feel your spirit here and I will draw from your strength for this upcoming year.

I must mention my first boss - (also my only boss during the time I have been a lawyer) - Judge Charles P. Mirarchi Jr. If you are going to have only one boss he was the one to have.

His lessons of civility, kindness, service to the Bar and others are lessons that still reverberate with me.

In addition I have lost some very special friends over the years including my predecessor as Justinian Chancellor, Nick Lisi. To me, Nick epitomized all the best we find in Philadelphia lawyers - he was bright, direct and without guile. He was a great leader and he is missed.

I have also to thank so many others who are no longer with us.

But I want to also talk about folks who are with us.

All the past chancellors who have taught me so much over the years.

Mark Aronchick - who was the first to tell me I would be Chancellor one day.

Allen, Sayde, Rudy, Scott and John. John. It is true now that of our former firm I think you can safely say that we set two records.

  1. Greatest average height of partners.
  2. Greatest percentage of partners to become Chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association

My firm, Rosen, Schafer & Dimeo - Thank you Frank, Jim and Ilene for such a wonderful place to practice and such warm, caring and talented people to practice with. And thank you Frank on your advice about unfulfilled potential.

All of my friends in the Justinian Society where I served as chancellor in 1996 - My home base (Don Marino) - All my friends in the Philadelphia Trial Lawyers on whose board I served for 14 years.

All of my softball guys - We were a dynasty and I would do it all again. (J.B. and J.B. and Legrome).

All of my clients over the years - Who have become my friends. And to represent all my friends, I go back to the days of our car pool to law school with Hughie and Scotti. (Foglietta & Scaricamazza)

I thank you guys for a lifetime of friendship. Can you imagine the professor who had to pronounce Foglietta, Fedullo and Scaricamazza?

To my sisters, Debbie & Julie and to my cousins, Jerry, Lisa and Susan, and all my relatives - Shelli's family who have become my own.

To my son Bill - who is a sophomore at Swarthmore. And who has volunteered the last three summers at VIP. You fill my heart with joy. I adored the child you were and I am thrilled at the man you have become. Cherish this moment with me and mom.

My hope is that this next year will make you as proud of me as I am of you.

Have I forgotten anyone?

Oh yes - the love of my life, Shelli, my dear, I know that if our paths did not cross more than 40 years ago, my life would be much different. And I know I wouldn't be standing here as Chancellor. Those years have been a wonderful journey with you through sickness and health, through good times and bad, you are beautiful and brilliant and my life is complete because you are in it. This year will be very special for both of us.

I love you.

So ultimately, we come back to the question:

What does it mean to be a Philadelphia lawyer?

It means that we must be mindful of the proud legacy of this great legal community.

It means that we must continue to be involved and engaged. It means we must give back.

It means we must support one another, share, help and yes love one another.

It means we must live in the world as it is now. Not in another time or place or in a time or place that we'd rather be. Not in an idealized utopia; but now, with all its fresh opportunities, challenges and responsibilities. I look forward to the leadership team we have assembled to meet those opportunities, challenges and responsibilities.

I remember from my childhood, my first political hero, JFK, offered wisdom that applies to our efforts in the upcoming year:

"Change is the law of life, and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future."

Therefore, it means we must lead. and we must do it now.

For the rate of change today is so swift and justice is so important that we dare not hesitate.

So - as Philadelphia lawyers all - as dedicated professionals, as caring citizens - let us begin!

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