President 2019 – 2020
Justinian Society of Lawyers
Dear Fellow Justinians,
I am humbled to serve you as the 2019-2020 President of the Justinian Society of Lawyers. It is the highlight of my professional career, and personally, it is a culmination of a dream I shared with my late grandfather, past-president, Anthony Fornelli. Though he is not physically present, his legacy will guide me throughout my tenure as President. The magnitude of this responsibility is one that I both embrace and cherish deeply.
I would first like to thank Vince Vidmer, as he graciously passes along the torch of leadership. The Society’s success this past year is due in no small part to his leadership and unwavering commitment. I have witnessed his dedication to the Society and to his Presidency, and I will do my best to follow the example he set this next year.
I would next like to recognize my fellow officers: Judge Regina Scanniccio and Dion Davi, who will shepherd this organization into and through its landmark centennial with wisdom and reverence. Bruno Morasso and Mike Pisano, whose youthful appearance bely immeasurable insight and strength. I’d also like to welcome Brian Monico as Secretary. Brian has already shown enthusiasm and commitment to the Society, and will undoubtedly leave a personal and lasting mark, as did his father, Michael. Thus, as you can see, the future of the Society is in extremely dedicated and capable hands.
However, this slate of officers and I, we stand on the shoulders of giants. These giants paved the way for the successes, in the legal profession and elsewhere, of countless Italian-Americans. I am no different, as I have benefited from the courage and tireless efforts of those who came before me. Though I could never name all of those who have assisted me in my path, I would be remiss if I failed to mention just a few of these giants.
Tony Romanucci, who hired me out of law school, and taught me not only skill, but what true compassion looks like both inside and outside a courtroom. Judge Gloria Coco, the first female president of this great organization. A trailblazer and problem-solver, she has selflessly shared with me her tremendous experience and guidance. Past presidents Katherine Amari, Michael Bonamarte, Greg Garofalo, Jessica DePinto, Judge Bob Bertucci, and Judge Lisa Marino for providing continuous encouragement, perspective, and offers of service. Sam Tornatore, Franco Coladpietro, and Rich Caldarazzo, who have been instrumental to the success of our Golf Outing each year. Frank Sommario, who has been steadfast in his support by giving me counsel and an ear. He has been a rock upon which I lean, and reminds me daily to trust my instincts.
I would also like to thank Anita DeCarlo for nominating me as her Secretary years ago. My trusted counselor and a consummate mentor, she is never without words of advice to those around her, especially law students and young lawyers. Also, I would like to thank Nina Vidmer for keeping the Society managed and organized, and for making the transition of my office as seamless as possible.
Lastly, I would like to thank my parents – by blood and by marriage – for giving me the confidence to pursue my dreams and accomplish my goals. You have championed my successes and built me up when I have failed. A simple thank you is never enough. Also, to my husband and fellow Justinian, James Whalen, for understanding my passions and sharing in my convictions, and for raising our three young daughters to be strong, fearless, and gracious. I am beyond blessed to have him as my partner.
In the past 90-plus years, the Italian-American lawyer has moved from an outsider to positions of prominence and leadership in Chicago and throughout. This is due in no small part to this organization, ethnic organizations like the Justinian Society, and the giants who paved the way before us. The next generation of lawyers must learn to appreciate these pioneers, the benefits of this unique fraternity, and the relationships that are built one meeting at a time.
Thus, it is my goal this year to focus on this next generation, to increase membership, and to create a bridge between this organization’s glorious past and its bright future. As our legal community is constantly evolving, so too must we. But we must tread lightly, and do so through honoring the traditions, experience, and wisdom of the past while also welcoming the ideas of the future generation. I urge our membership, old and new, to engage with our future young lawyers, utilize the new Career Center on our website, and support our monthly events, especially the Installation Dinner on September 12. It is a balance this Society is prepared to embrace, and one it can continue long after my time as President has ended.
Today there is a law student somewhere anxiously awaiting the results of her law school finals. There is a third-year associate burning the midnight oil drafting a responsive motion. These young people may be the future pillars of this organization -- the next Tony Fornelli, Joe Bisceglia, or Jack Cerone. As members of the Society, we must each do our part to find them, mentor them, and show them what true Justinian brotherhood and sisterhood is.
Thank you for this tremendous opportunity. I look forward to another incredible year.