Volunteer Lawyers for Justice Appoints Five New Members to Its Board of Trustees
Wednesday, May 23, 2012 • 4:49pm
Volunteer Lawyers for Justice (VLJ) has appointed five new members to its board of trustees including Thomas J. Cannon III, Esq.; Gemma M. Giantomasi, Esq.; Suzanne M. Klar, Esq.; Susan E. McGahan, Esq.; and Kristi L. Vaiden, Esq. Established in 2001, the Newark, N.J.-based not-for-profit provides comprehensive pro bono legal services to thousands of low-income individuals in N.J. each year. The new members will serve a two-year term.
"We are thrilled to welcome Kristi, Susan, Suzanne, Gemma and Thomas to our board of trustees," said Karen Sacks, Esq., founding executive director of VLJ. "They already have a deep commitment to VLJ, and will be instrumental in our critical work of meeting the legal needs of the under-served in New Jersey."
Since its founding, VLJ has grown from a grass roots effort of 30 volunteer attorneys in Essex County to a state-wide not-for-profit with five staff attorneys and more than 1,500 volunteer attorneys. VLJ's programs include free legal counsel and advice; educational seminars on various legal matters such as consumer law, bankruptcy, family law, and special education; and direct representation for at-risk individuals facing critical civil legal issues.
In addition, VLJ's Newark Reentry Legal Services (ReLeSe) focuses on helping low-income Essex County residents with criminal records address the civil legal barriers that serve as obstacles to their successful community reintegration. Through direct in-house representation as well as through referrals to volunteer attorneys, ReLeSe assists its clients with driver's license restoration, resolution of long out-standing municipal matters, modification of child support orders, and the expungement of criminal records.
New Members Bring Broad Experience to VLJ Board
"Each of our new board members has a distinguished record in his or her field of expertise. They will bring those unique perspectives as well as their proven dedication to helping those in need to our board," added Sacks.
Cannon is the president of Flag Warf Properties, a diversified real estate investment and management company headquartered in New York. A resident of Essex Fells, he is a licensed real estate broker, focusing on long-term cash flow benefits of well-located commercial properties, and an active member of the International Council of Shopping Centers. Cannon is admitted to the bar in N.J., N.Y., and Washington, D.C., and has taken numerous cases through VLJ, focusing on family law.
Giantomasi is an associate in the commercial real estate, redevelopment and environmental law practice group of Genova Burns & Giantomasi of Newark, where she concentrates her practice on real estate acquisitions and sales as well as condominium development and creation. A resident of Essex Fells, Giantomasi is also a member of the ReLeSe Steering Committee of VLJ. In addition to her efforts with VLJ and ReLeSe, she serves as Secretary of the Board of Trustees of The Opportunity Project, Inc. of Millburn, N.J.
A resident of Livingston, N.J., Klar is associate general litigation counsel at PSE&G Services Company, where she oversees the creditor's rights section. She has extensive experience in bankruptcy, collection, commercial litigation and personal injury defense litigation. Active in the community, Klar has received numerous leadership awards including the 2009 Tribute to Women and Industry Award from the Bergen County YWCA. She is a member of the Corporate Advisory Council of the National Tourette Syndrome Association and serves as one of the host coordinators for the Interfaith Hospitality Network of Essex County.
McGahan is a general attorney in the intellectual property law group of AT&T, concentrating on transactional work, assertion, licensing, patent sales and litigation. A resident of Hanover Township, N.J., she spearheads AT&T pro bono efforts with VLJ, specifically its work with the Newark Legal Advice and Resource Clinic for Consumers (NLARCC). She was honored as VLJ's "January 2011 Pro Bono Attorney of the Month." McGahan is the membership officer of the American Bar Association's Section of Intellectual Property Law and currently serves on its continuing legal education board.
A resident of Wayne, N.J., Vaiden is a global counsel for Ernst & Young, where she advises sourcing managers on a wide range of technology agreements and other commercial transactions. She is a past recipient of the Robert I. Townsend Award, one of the highest honors that the Association of Corporate Counsel bestows on its members, and more recently was recognized as one of the 50 Best Women in New Jersey by NJBIZ. She also has served as president of the New Jersey Corporate Counsel Association.
Frequently recognized for its contributions to the community, VLJ received the "Community Builder Award" from the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice in 2008 and was the 2007 recipient of the New Jersey State Bar Association's "Annual Pro Bono Award." The non-profit is an approved legal services provider of the New Jersey Supreme Court. This designation allows certain court costs and filing fees to be waived for VLJ's clients, enables VLJ volunteer attorneys to claim an exemption from mandatory pro bono assignments after 25 hours of voluntary service, and provides the opportunity for out-of-state attorneys to volunteer with the program.