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NATIONAL ITALIAN AMERICAN
BAR ASSOCIATION

Men and women sharing a common heritage in a chosen profession.

President's Messages

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A welcome to the National Italian American Bar Association

October 15, 2023


NIABA Officers and Board Members from across the United States, Canada and Italy attended the Board of Directors’ meetings in Newport Beach, CA on September 28-29, 2023.  Thank you to Board Members Claire Ambrosio and James Michalski for hosting the board meetings and providing breakfast and lunch. 


On Wednesday evening, September 27, 2023, some of the Board attended the Italian American Lawyers Association (IALA)’s New York Street Fair Event at Casa Italiana (1051 N. Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90012), where we enjoyed an incredible dinner and wine.  Many judges, past Presidents, and members of IALA, as well as current President Angela Zanin, were in attendance.   After dinner, the Board enjoyed a magician show by Magician Blake Vogt from America’s Got Talent.  Special thanks to Sponsors NIABA Executive Vice President Alice Salvo, EastWest Bank and Trust Properties USA.  

   

At the Thursday afternoon Board meeting, which was actually held in a Board Meeting room in Huntington Beach, the NIABA board enjoyed a lunch provided by NIABA Board Members Claire Ambrosio and James Michalski, while the Board went through the Agenda and the various reports.  NIABA Board members were treated to an ad hoc Air Show where they could see and HEAR many jets flying overhead.  The Board was visited by Justinian Past President Hon. Gloria Coco, who was officially voted in as a NIABA Board Member, so the Board welcomed her as a new Board Member. 


At the Thursday night dinner on September 28, 2023, the Board had another excellent dinner at Il Farro Restaurant (111 21st Pl., Newport Beach, CA 92663), where more IALA and NIABA members enjoyed another great meal, conversation and wine.  Special thanks to NIABA Regional Vice President of the West, Mariana Noli, for selecting the venue and menu.

On Friday morning, the Board met again at the Board Meeting room in Huntington Beach, where the NIABA board enjoyed a breakfast provided by NIABA Board Members Claire Ambrosio and James Michalski, while the Board finished the Agenda and the various committee reports.  The Board was visited via zoom by Allessandro Graziani of Cosenza and Michele Calantropo of Sicily to give an update on various items going on Italy.  The Board was also given a short presentation by sponsor Paul Hargraves and Roberta Marr of Trust Properties USA.


At the Friday night dinner on September 29, 2023, the Board enjoyed an elegant dinner at Antonello Ristorante (3800 S Plaza Dr., Santa Ana, CA 92704).  IALA President Angela Zanin attended again along with other members of IALA and NIABA, where we enjoyed a special guest of NIABA Board Member Roberta Gentili, (who is also the Hon. Consul of Italy in Arizona), Father Darrin Merlino, who is a Catholic Priest, radio host/writer/actor and now an Italian Citizen.  Special thanks again to NIABA Regional Vice President of the West, Mariana Noli, for selecting the venue and menu.

 

Following our Board meetings in Newport Beach, members did not stop in promoting NIABA further.  On October 12, 2023, I, as President of NIABA, along with many other Italian organization leaders, attended the Italian American Heritage Celebration event at the White House as a guest of the First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, who hosted a large delegation of Italian American leaders from across the country.   


The First Lady said in her address to the delegation, “our heritage is much more than our hospitality and food, isn’t it? It’s the Sicilians who were dragged from their cells and killed in New Orleans by an angry mob, it’s ‘Italians Need Not Apply,’ it’s people like my dad who was never quite accepted by my mom’s family because he was Italian. It’s a history of those who led movements, who wrote our laws and penned our poetry; of men and women who were courageous, even when they were most afraid.”


While I was there attending that event, the same night NIABA Regional Vice Present of New England, Cristina Carabetta, cohosted a Law Student event at the Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University in Arlington, VA with both Scalia and Catholic Law students in attendance. Cristina had the privilege of addressing the students, sharing her story, and what it means to be a member of NIABA.  NIABA presented Catholic Law Student, Sarah Persico a scholarship check.   Finally, on October 14, 2023, several of our NIABA board members attended the NIAF Gala at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC. 


While we work on our goals for my term of finding more ways to continue to increase our membership, maintain fiscal responsibility, and find ways to offer more benefits to our members, I want to thank everyone who have participated at the Committee level because that is where the majority of the work gets done.  I want to encourage those that have not been able to participate to please try to make the time to attend the meetings and help continue the progress that we have made so far.  I want to thank each and everyone of my fellow Officers (namely Executive Vice President Alice Salvo, Treasurer Ralph Liguori and Secretary Domenic Lucarelli), all the Regional Vice Presidents and Board of Directors, for all the contributions of time and energy to continue to make NIABA better.  I also want to especially thank our Administrator, Cindy Martin for everything that she does.  


I look forward to seeing everyone at our next Board meetings and dinner events in Ft. Lauderdale, FL on February 16-17, 2024, which is being planned as I write this, and I want to thank Past President Paul Finizio, Board Member Antonietta Brancaccio-Balzano, and NIABA Secretary Dom Lucarelli, who have all volunteered to help plan the dinners.  I also want to thank Ken Jenero and Holland & Knight for hosting us at their Ft. Lauderdale office.  Finally, I would ask those who have not already done so, please consider the sponsorship opportunities, either as an Annual Sponsor or Meeting Sponsor for the upcoming meeting, on the forms that are on our website.  I especially look forward to the Italy trip in September 2024 that Past President Anthony Gianfrancesco has been planning for months already. 


Frank A. Sommario

2023-25 President

National Italian American Bar Association

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

June 15, 2023

NIABA Officers and Board Members from across the United States, Canada and Italy attended the Board of Directors’ meetings at Holland & Knight LLP (150 N Riverside Plaza, Suite 2700, Chicago, IL  60606) on June 9-10, 2023.  Thank you to Board Member Ken Jenero and Holland & Knight LLP for again hosting the board meetings and providing breakfast and lunch. 


On Thursday evening, June 8, 2023, the Board had an incredible dinner, which was held in a private room at Adalina (912 N. State Street, Chicago, IL  60610).  Many judges, past Presidents, and members of the Justinian Society of Lawyers, as well as current President Michael Pisano, were in attendance.   After dinner, the Board enjoyed remarks by Civil Rights Attorneys, Benjamin Crump and my law partner, Antonio M. Romanucci, who stopped in from Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA) and Illinois Trial Lawyers Association (ITLA) events.  After dinner, the group went down into the Rose Lounge, which is a speakeasy, where Chairwoman Cristina Carabetta and the NIABA Law Student Council co-sponsored a law student cocktail reception with the Justinian Society of Lawyers and the Avanti Group (via President Pasquale Gianni), which is a networking group of young Italian professionals.  Chicago law students from UIC (formerly John Marshall) Law School, DePaul University College of Law, Loyola University Law School and Kent Law School were in attendance.


At the Friday afternoon Board meeting, NIABA and Justinian Past President Hon. Bruno Tassone swore in the new Officers, including President Frank A. Sommario (IL), Executive Vice President Alice Salvo (CA), Treasurer Ralph Liguori (RI), and Secretary Domenic Lucarelli (FL), as well as the Regional Vice Presidents and Board Members.  The Board was visited by Justinian Past President Hon. Gloria Coco, as well as Ron Onesti, President of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans (JCCIA).  Onesti gave an update on the Columbus Statue litigation in Chicago against the Chicago Park District and City of Chicago, the status of State legislation to designate October as Italian-American Heritage Month, as well as the plans for the Chicago Columbus Day Parade in October 2023.  The Board also was given a presentation regarding future AI utilization by the legal profession by sponsor Lexis-Nexis during the meeting. 

At the Friday night dinner on June 9, 2023, the Board had another excellent dinner at Quartino Ristorante (626 N. State Street, Chicago, IL  60654), where more Justinians, judges and NIABA members enjoyed another great meal.  One of NIABA’s original founders and Justinian Past President, Richard Caifano was in attendance for a short presentation of Cookbooks that were given to new President Sommario by Executive Chef, John Coletta.


On Saturday morning, the Board again was visited by one of NIABA’s founders, Richard Caifano, where he was able to view vintage photos going back to 1983 when NIABA was founded.  The Board finished its meeting and all got ready for the Installation Dinner.

At the Saturday night dinner on June 10, 2023, the Board enjoyed an elegant dinner at Trump International Hotel & Tower® Chicago (401 N Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL  60611).  Justinian Immediate Past President Bruno Marasso welcomed everyone to Chicago and introduced Hon. Bruno Tassone to perform the swearing in of the new Officers, Regional VPs, and Board Members.  Justinian Past President Antonio M. Romanucci introduced me as the new President and gave me a very large gavel, which is a Justinian tradition. 

I am honored to be the 19th President of the National Italian American Bar Association.  I would like to thank everyone who attended the Installation Dinner on June 10, 2023.  If you attended, you witnessed a wonderful and well-attended event. 

I recall when NIABA was last here in Chicago in October 2021, we were here for the celebration of Justinian Society of Lawyers Centennial, which many of you attended.  I also recall the time before that that NIABA was here in Chicago was when I was President of the Justinians in September 2016, and many were in attendance at my installation dinner at the Palmer House.  It was at that time that I was invited to get more active in NIABA and begin attending meetings and so I began doing just that, rekindling the strained relationship between the Justinian Society of Lawyers and NIABA.


As many of you know, I will be following the prior Chicago leaders in NIABA, notably Richard Caifano who was one of the founders in 1983, and past Presidents Salvatore J. Tornatore in 1993-1995, and Hon. Bruno J. Tassone in 1997-1999.  There have been many other Justinian members who have participated in NIABA over the years and this will be a great opportunity for many old relationships to be reenergized.

Seeing all of the great leaders who have had held this position over the years before me, I know that I have some big shoes to fill but I am confident that, with the help of my fellow Officers and Board of Directors, WE can guide and lead this great organization to the best of our abilities. 


First, I would like to thank the immediate Past President Francis Donnarumma for making such a smooth transition for me and for leading this organization over the past four years, especially during the Covid pandemic.   During this time, we have worked closely together, and I thanked him for his friendship and leadership, where I have learned a great many things from him.  He has done a wonderful job in transforming our organization into not just a national organization, but into more of an international organization by signing agreements with Unione Crint Italiane in October 2021 and the Australian Italian Lawyers Association in February 2022, as well as strengthening our affiliations with National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) and the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO).  He has undertaken many other items - too many to list - that will benefit our organization in the coming years and I look forward to your continued services as my Chairman of the Board.   At the dinner, I presented Fran with a plaque recognizing his years of service as President from 2019 – 2023. 


My goals for my term will be to continue to increase our membership, maintain fiscal responsibility, and find ways to offer more benefits to our members.  I want to mention that I look forward to working with my fellow Officers (namely Executive Vice President Alice Salvo, Treasurer Ralph Liguori and Secretary Domenic Lucarelli, all the Regional Vice Presidents and Board of Directors, and I also want to specially thank our Administrator, Cindy Martin for everything she does.   I look forward to seeing everyone at our next event in Newport Beach in late September 2023, which is being planned as I write this, and would ask those who have not already done so, please consider the sponsorship opportunities on the forms that are on our website.  I especially look forward to the Italy trip in September 2024 that Past President Anthony Gianfrancesco has been planning for months already. 


At the dinner, I also thanked our long serving Treasurer, P. Charles DiLorenzo, for his outstanding and most valuable years of service as Treasurer from 2015 – 2023.  He has kept the books in order and it was a pleasure working with him.  I gave him a plaque for his years of service.  I also thanked and gave a plaque to our past Chairwoman Cristina Carabetta for her services during the years 2021 – 2023, and her many other continued contributions such as with the expanding of the Law School Council and coordinating the law school cocktail events. 

Finally, I thanked everyone that helped make that evening a wonderful event, especially our Annual and Meeting Sponsors.  I look forward to a wonderful future term as your President! 


Frank A. Sommario

2023-25 President

________________________________________________________________________________________________

(February 2023)

The Board of Directors met in New York City in February 2023.  Directors from across the United States, Canada and Italy attended meetings at the Columbus Citizens Foundation. 

At the Thursday evening dinner the Board and our many guests were welcomed by the Consul General of New York, Fabrizio DiMichele.  The Saturday evening dinner crowd enjoyed remarks from Arthur Aidala, the leading criminal defense lawyer in the City.  The Dean of the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute, Anthony Tamburri, PhD, addressed the Board.  The Institute is working with our Director Maria Chiara Parisi on a significant study of discriminatory patterns that continue today.  We were visited, as well, by Maria Tamburri, Chair of The National Organization of Italian American Women.

During the Board meeting, there were in person and virtual events of special note:

  1. We joined with our colleagues and friends of the Australian Italian Bar Association (AIBA).  We jointly announced that in September 2024, NIABA and AIBA will conduct a joint seminar in Italy for our members.  The seminar will be attended, as well, by Italian lawyers, bringing the number of attorney attendees to one-hundred fifty.  As details are finalized among the two associations and in concert with our Italian partners, Unione CRINT Italianae, there will be confirmation of date, details regarding the location, and opportunities presented for participation.  As always, the attorneys attending the seminar are welcome to bring family, friends, and those interested in our cause!  See details to follow!

  2. We were joined, as well, by Honorable Basil Russo, president of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO).  Judge Russo brought our Board current with ongoing litigation.  Attorney George Bochetto of Philadelphia, the counsel undertaking litigation in a number of jurisdictions on the Columbus statue and holiday defense explained the basis and nature of ongoing proceedings.  A protocol is being worked out between the Conference of Presidents and NIABA so that our association can serve as resource to communities particularly impacted by unlawful takings or destruction of Columbus statues and improper stripping of Columbus holidays.  Any members or readers with deep interest in the litigation, administrative proceedings or other forums in which success can be found on these subjects should contact NIABA at cindylu616@comcast.net.

  3. A cocktail hour arranged by Chairwoman Cristina Carabetta for New York-area law students.  Nearly twenty students from Fordham, Cardozo, St John’s, and Catholic law schools joined an august group of our directors and officers for robust conversation. A NIABA welcome of warmth and emotion was extended to these students which included several Italian admitted attorneys now making their way through schools in the United States.

  4. The annual general membership meeting of NIABA will take place in Chicago on June 8 through 11, 2023.  All NIABA members are welcome to attend!  Please make your travel reservations, particularly airline, now.  The designated hotel and dinner events will soon be posted at niaba.org.

During the two-year term now concluding, I have been privileged to serve as president.  I look forward to continued participation under the new leadership team!

Special thanks are given to those with whom I have served as officers.  Our Executive Vice President, Frank Sommario of Chicago, our Secretary, Alice Salvo of Los Angeles, and our Treasurer, P. Charles DiLorenzo of New Jersey, have each been dedicated servants of NIABA and great partners in the last two years.  I thank, as well, our Chairwoman of the Board, Cristina Carabetta of Connecticut and New York.  Our Chairwoman has led us well and is drawing law students and recent admittees from the bars of all the states to NIABA.  Her special attention and regard for the lifeblood of the future for NIABA has been so much appreciated by us all. 

In June, a new era under the leadership of Attorney Frank Sommario of Chicago will be underway.  As a great indicator of how it will go, I can assure that Frank is already actively engaged and will hit the ground running upon his inaugural event on June 8-11, 2023.  Of particular importance to all NIABA members and readers, Frank is strengthening our committee structure and urges participation by any NIABA member in each of those committees.  See on this website the collection of committees for the opportunities.  Kindly email your interest in service and be assured that with a smoothly functioning committee system, your participation will be real, active, and recognized!

As my term as president nears its end, I look backward with appreciation but look forward with renewed excitement and dedication to our NIABA cause and mission!

Francis M. Donnarumma

President


(March 2023)

Dear Colleagues,

We are reaching out to seek your involvement on an important new project. The John D. Calandra Italian American Institute, part of The City University of New York (CUNY), and the National Italian American Bar Association (NIABA) have partnered to conduct a study on Italian Americans and the legal profession. Although data on diversity in the legal profession is often published by national and state bar associations, there has not yet been a study that includes data on the career paths of Italian American law students and lawyers. This study is the first to explore Italian Americans’ representation and experiences in various sectors of the legal field, helping us gain valuable insight into how Italian Americans are currently situated in the legal profession. 

We hope you will contribute to the study by filling out a 3-minute survey that we are distributing to Italian American law students and lawyers throughout the country. The deadline to complete the survey is April 30th.

Though we know that Italian American lawyers have made great strides over the last century, this survey addresses salient unanswered questions on Italian Americans and the legal profession. For example, what legal practice areas, such as employment or property law, do Italian American lawyers gravitate towards? How are Italian American lawyers distributed among different employment sectors, such as private firms, non-profits, or government? To what extent are Italian American lawyers represented in the most “elite” legal spaces, such as academia, the federal judiciary, major law firms, or top law schools? How many Italian American lawyers feel that they have been discriminated against in their legal careers due to their ethnicity? And how might the legal paths of Italian Americans diverge depending on age, gender, sexual orientation, or immigration status? 

Broad participation in the survey is imperative to build the empirical grounding to start a conversationboth within and outside of the Italian American communityabout the unique challenges and opportunities Italian Americans face in their legal careers. We hope you will participate in this opportunity to get a deeper understanding of Italian Americans and the legal profession. 

Thank you, 

Francis Donnarumma

President, National Italian American Bar Association (NIABA)

Dr. Anthony Tamburri 

Dean, John D. Calandra Italian American Institute of Queens College at The City University of New York (CUNY)


          


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