Scott Karson L’75 Reflects on Becoming NYSBA President-Elect and on an Ethos to Live By

 “Lawyers Are the Guardians of Justice”

For Scott Karson, a partner at Lamb & Barnosky LLP in Melville, NY, being active in bar associations at any level is a defining part of being a lawyer. “Bar associations enable me to be involved with the community of lawyers,” he says, looking back on 40 years of local, state, and national bar participation.

Karson’s rise through the ranks of the Suffolk County Bar Association started after
his seven-year stint as a county assistant district attorney, during his career as a law secretary to Justice Lawrence J. Bracken of the Appellate Division, Second Department. “As a prosecutor, I spent a significant portion of my time in court and regularly interacted with my peers in the profession. However, as a law secretary, you lead a monastic life, spending hours alone in a law library researching and writing. After being so visible in court nearly every day, I seemingly disappeared. That’s when Justice Bracken suggested that I get involved in the bar association.”

And get involved he did. In addition to attaining the presidency of the Suffolk County Bar Association in 2004, Karson became more involved with the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) over the years. His involvement included, among other things, election to the NYSBA House of Delegates, serving as chair of the Committee on Courts of Appellate Jurisdiction and the Audit Committee, serving on the Committee to Review Judicial Nominations, and election to three one-year terms as Treasurer. He also became a member of the American Bar Association House of Delegates.

Unique Position
This ascension up the ranks will culminate on June 1, 2020, when Karson becomes the 123rd President of NYSBA. He will take over from fellow alum Henry (Hank) Greenberg L’86, marking the first instance of back-to-back College of Law alums serving as NYSBA President, and he will be the 10th graduate overall to hold the position.

Giving back to the legal community and supporting bar associations are important to the partners of his firm. “My partners at Lamb & Barnosky understand that the NYSBA presidency is virtually a full-time job, and they are supportive of me and my service to our bar association,” he says. In fact, two of his partners currently serve as chairs of NYSBA sections, and another is a county bar committee chair. At the firm, Karson is a commercial, municipal, and real estate litigator concentrating on appellate work, taking advantage of his experience in appellate courts. He has argued more than 100 appeals during his career. Upon taking office, Karson says he plans to maintain the same mantra that has guided him throughout his career: Lawyers are the guardians of justice. “By virtue of a license to practice law, attorneys are in a unique position to ensure that we live in a just society, representing clients and resolving disputes in accordance with the rule of law.”

“By virtue of a license to practice law, attorneys serve in a unique position to ensure that we live in a just society, representing clients and resolving disputes in accordance with the rule of law.”

To that point, Karson says he wants to place an emphasis on civic education. He and Greenberg have agreed to work together—along with New York Chief Judge Janet DiFiore—on a joint bar/bench convocation around this topic. “We have many citizens who can name all the judges on American Idol but who can’t name a justice of the US Supreme Court,” he observes. “A viable democracy requires an informed citizenry.”

Varied Audience
Gun violence is another focus area for Karson. “NYSBA has had two task forces looking at the topic of gun violence. The reports and recommendations of those task forces will be evaluated to determine what NYSBA’s next step ought to be in its continuing effort to curb the horrific and all-too-frequent incidents of gun violence that we have witnessed.”

Having practiced his entire career on Long Island—but with substantial time spent on statewide NYSBA activities—Karson says he understands the challenge of bringing together an organization that stretches over a geographically large and diverse area, from metropolitan Manhattan to rural Upstate.

“The state bar association serves a varied audience of practitioners,” notes Karson. “Topics such as gun violence may mean something different to someone in Upstate New York compared to a New York City attorney. It’s not always an easy task to develop positions that fairly represent all voices, but I am confident we can establish agreeable policy positions on guns and other important issues.”

While at the College of Law, Karson served as the senior editor of the Syracuse Law Review Annual Survey of New York Law. He returned for Law Alumni Weekend in 2019 to reengage with alums and to see Dineen Hall for the first time. Karson observed, “The new building is magnificent and will serve future generations of law students well.”

Karson concludes, “Representing the members of NYSBA as its President is truly an honor. I look forward to leading the association and building on the important work of advancing our great profession, the public which it serves and, of course, the cause of justice.”