2023 Celebrate with the Stars: A Night of Honor and Inspiration

Written Tuesday, May 9, 2023

 2023 Celebrate with the Stars Awardees
 (Back Row Left to Right) Jonathan E. Friedler; Cheryl A. Sharp; Carolyn Wilkes Kaas; Rosendo Garza, Jr.; Hon. Terence A. Zemetis; David M. Moore; Kirk Lowry
(Front Row Left to Right) Regen O'Malley, Hon. Cecil J. Thomas, Sylvia Ho, Hon. Karen Lynn DeMeola, Denise W. Merrill, CBA President-Elect Margaret I. Castinado, CBA President Daniel J. Horgan, CBA Vice President James T. Shearin.
2023 Awardees not pictured: Hon. Stanley Novack, John L. Giulietti

View 2023 Celebrate with the Stars Photos

Over 300 legal professionals, community members, families, and friends attended the tenth annual “Celebrate with the Stars” awards dinner on May 3 at the Aqua Turf Club in Plantsville to honor individuals who have made an impact on the Connecticut Legal community. The event began with CBA President Daniel J. Horgan addressing the attendees. “To see lawyers and other professionals supporting this noble and honorable profession and rise to meet the challenges that face our communities is really inspirational,” stated President Horgan. “Recipients, the commitment to serve others are your tracks of accomplishment that we the CBA celebrate tonight, and those tracks will lead and inspire future generations of lawyers, educators, and public servants.”

The first recognition of the evening was for members of the bar admitted in 1973, who were honored for their 50 years of practice with half-century pins.

The awards presentation began with The Honorable Anthony V. DeMayo Pro Bono Award. The winners of this award, as selected by the Pro Bono Committee, exhibit commitment to pro bono service and serve as role models for the profession. This year’s winners included: Rosendo Garza, Jr., John L. Giulietti, Sylvia Ho, and Regen O’Malley.

Young Lawyers Section (YLS) Chair Christopher A. Klepps presented the Young Lawyers Section Vanguard Award to Jonathan E. Friedler. Attorney Friedler was recognized for his commitment to the YLS and for organizing events for the section, such as nature walks that allowed YLS members to socialize during the COVID-19 Pandemic. “I really did enjoy the hiking events, I’m looking forward to doing more of that and promoting health and wellness in the lawyer community,” stated Attorney Friedler. “I’ve also really enjoyed teaching civics to elementary students throughout the state with the YLS Lawyers in the Classroom program.”

After dinner, the signature awards were presented by President Daniel J. Horgan, President-elect Margaret I. Castinado, and Vice President James T. Shearin.

The first signature award, the Henry J. Naruk Judiciary Award, was presented to the Honorable Stanley Novack for his contributions to the administration of justice during his 25-year career as a Connecticut judge. “I really got a lot of enjoyment out of helping people resolve their difficulties by settlement instead of going to trial so everybody could leave with their self-esteem and integrity intact. That was significant to me,” stated Judge Novack. “Also, I appreciated working with so many nice people that were very helpful and made my job easier.

The Citizen of the Law Award was bestowed to Cheryl A. Sharp for her contributions to programs and projects that have increased Connecticut students’ awareness of civil and human rights laws, including the creation of the statewide Connecticut Kids Court Competition and Kids Speak event. She spoke about how she grew up in Hartford and has always strived to give back to her community and empower others. She encouraged the event’s attendees to do the same, stating, “I hope that you see the importance of giving back, the importance of stewardship, the importance of pro bono work because the bar only becomes better when we work together to make a difference.”

Carolyn Wilkes Kaas of Quinnipiac University School of Law received the Tapping Reeve Legal Educator Award for her contributions to legal education, including teaching the school’s in-house civil clinic for over 20 years. “Thank you for seeing and valuing my contributions,” stated Professor Kaas. “My time in law teaching has coincided with the rise of clinical legal education and experiential legal education and finally, I guess this is really helping me take some small credit for that.”

The Edward F. Hennessey Professionalism Award was presented to the Honorable Terence A. Zemetis for his exemplary professionalism and willingness to share his experience and expertise with others through his presentation of continuing legal education programs with the CBA and long-term participation in UConn’s trial advocacy classes. Judge Zemetis reflected on his understanding of the term “all rise,” stating, “Over the years I’ve thought about it as an exhortation, a command, a plea, a prayer, and aspiration. All rise—rise above our limitations, rise above our biases, our prejudices, rise above our self-serving interests…. Think of ‘all rise’ as a reminder to fill your soul with hope and joy and the anticipation of greatness.”

The Honorable Cecil J. Thomas was presented with the Charles J. Parker Legal Services Award for his dedication to the delivery of legal services to the disadvantage in Connecticut during his time as an attorney at Greater Hartford Legal Aid. Judge Thomas remarked on his belief in the importance of closing the access to justice gap and encouraged attending attorneys to act. “I ask you to take action as you see fit, not just because the rules suggest it or it is the right thing to do, but because I believe we are, in this moment particularly, called to answer this significant concern,” asserted Judge Thomas. “Improved access to justice strengthens the rule of law, promotes public confidence in our systems of justice, and demonstrates our own professional deep commitment to equal justice.”

The Honorable Karen Lynn DeMeola received the John Eldred Shields Distinguished Professional Service Award for her long-term outstanding service through the CBA for the benefit of the legal community and community at large. She spoke of the many lessons her parents taught her, including the importance of understanding privilege and helping those in need. “They exemplified the ways in which one person can make a difference in the lives of others,” stated Judge DeMeola.

The final award of the evening, the Distinguished Public Service Award, was presented to former Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise W. Merrill for her significant contributions to society and distinguishing herself in her profession. Secretary Merrill reflected on her experiences as secretary of the state and her involvement with the Connecticut Bar Association. She specifically thanked the CBA’s Civics Education Committee for their work, noting, “That committee is just this little group that’s been operating for all these years trying to make a difference in promoting democracy for the next generation. I think the bench and bar play an incredibly important role and can continue to play an even more important role in preparing the next generation.”

Congratulations to this year’s Celebrate with the Stars awardees and thank you to everyone who attended this memorable event.