Five UB School of Law alumni and one non-alumnus—innovators and advocates, business leaders and champions of diversity—were celebrated as the UB Law Alumni Association confers its 2023 Distinguished Alumni Awards.
The awards, an annual tradition since 1963, recognized the honorees’ contributions to the legal profession and the legal community. They were awarded to honor achievement in the judiciary, private practice, public service, community service, business and service by a non-alumnus.
The awards were conferred at the Law Alumni Association’s annual dinner on Thursday, May 11. The 60th annual dinner celebrated its Diamond Jubilee at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Buffalo.
This year's honorees were:
Hon. Kathy J. King ’84, is currently a presiding Medical Malpractice judge in Supreme Court, New York County. Elected in 2003 as a Civil Court Judge in the City of New York, she was appointed acting Supreme Court Justice in 2009, where she presided over matters relating to law and equity and guardianship. In 2014, she was elected to the Supreme Court, Second Judicial District. Her decisions are frequently published in the New York Official Reports and the New York Law Journal, including the seminal decision, In the Matter of Jane Doe, An Incapacitated Person, a case of first impression under the Family Health Care Decisions Act. After graduating from law school, Justice King was a Court Attorney in the Unified Court System until 1993, when she became General Counsel to the NYC Board of Elections and was responsible for enforcing the Voting Rights Act, supervising litigation, and providing legal counsel to the Commissioners of Elections. She was in private practice until her appointment as Deputy Clerk in Kings County in 2002, where she managed election operations for the largest voting constituency in New York State, until her election to the bench. Active in many community organizations, she is a life member and past president of the NY Chapter of the National Association of Women Judges (NAWJ). She frequently mentors new judges, lawyers and rising college and high school students interested in a legal career. Currently, she chairs the Mentor Team for Afghan Judges and represented the NAWJ at the United Nations at the 2023 Commission on the Status of Woman Conference where she was a panelist on Girls & Women Having Access to Education.
For Private Practice: James W. Grable ’96 is a partner in the Buffalo law firm Connors LLP, where he focuses his practice on complex federal criminal and civil litigation, handling trial and appellate matters in federal and state courts. He has represented a wide range of clients, from multinational corporations in criminal investigations and civil disputes, to impoverished defendants in assigned criminal and civil matters. He has tried numerous cases to verdict in federal and state court, including complex federal trials spanning many months. Grable’s trial work on behalf of his clients has earned him induction into the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, an academy that limits its membership to less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the lawyers practicing in the United States. Before he entered practice, Grable served a two-year term as confidential law clerk to the Hon. William M. Skretny, U.S. District Court judge for the Western District of New York.
For Public Service: Sen. Shelley Mayer ’79 was elected to the New York State Senate to represent the 37th District in a 2018 special election, and was re-elected in November 2018 and 2020. She chairs the Committee on Education. Prior to her election to the State Senate, she served in the Assembly for six years, and from 2013 to 2017 chaired the Assembly’s Education Subcommittee on Students with Special Needs. Previously, Mayer served as chief counsel to the New York State Senate Democrats. She also was senior counsel at the National State Attorney General Program at Columbia Law School. For over seven years, she was vice president of government and community affairs at Continuum Health Partners, working to protect Medicare and Medicaid services and improving the relationship between New York City’s diverse communities and the hospital system. From 1982 to 1994, Mayer was an Assistant Attorney General in the office of Attorney General Bob Abrams, starting in the Buffalo Regional office.
For Community Service: Anne E. Joynt ’05 is a partner in the Buffalo law firm Lipsitz, Ponterio & Comerford LLC, where she has spent her entire legal career. Joynt has consistently contributed an enormous amount of time and energy to improve the quality of life for others. A role model, mentor and teacher for young women law students and lawyers, she has served in top leadership positions throughout the legal community—including the School of Law and all the Western New York bar associations—as well as various civic organizations that promote the betterment of the community. She is currently a member of the law school’s Dean’s Advisory Council and is a past president of the Law Alumni Association. In her legal practice, she represents those affected by childhood lead poisoning, and also has experience in cases involving asbestos exposure, motor vehicle accidents, construction accidents, medical malpractice and defective products. She also represents clients who suffered abuse as children.
For Business: Marc A. Alpert ’86 is senior vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary of Loews Corporation, headquartered in New York City. He joined Loews in 2016 after 30 years at the international law firm Chadbourne & Parke LLP, where he served as head of the Public Companies Practice Group and was a member of the firm’s management committee. Alpert has extensive experience advising clients on corporate transactions, strategic decisions and securities, corporate governance, and dispute resolution matters. He earned his Bachelor of Business Administration degree in accounting, cum laude, from Hofstra University before attending UB School of Law, from which he also graduated cum laude. Alpert serves as a member of the Dean’s Advisory Board of the Frank G. Zarb School of Business at Hofstra University, and as a member of UB Law’s Dean’s Advisory Council.
For Outstanding Service to the University and the Community by a Non-Alumnus/a: Hon. Elizabeth A. Wolford is chief U.S. district judge for the Western District of New York. She was appointed a U.S. district judge in the Western District by President Barack Obama in 2013 and became chief judge in 2021. She is the first female district judge to serve in the Western District and as chief judge. Before assuming the bench, Judge Wolford practiced law for more than 20 years with The Wolford Law Firm LLP, where she concentrated her practice in civil litigation, with an emphasis on commercial and employment matters. Judge Wolford is a past president of the Foundation of the Monroe County Bar (2010 to 2012) and the Greater Rochester Association for Women Attorneys (2003 to 2004), and a former member of the Board of Trustees of the Monroe County Bar Association (2019 to 2022). A resident of Rochester, she is a 1989 graduate of Colgate University and a 1992 graduate of the University of Notre Dame Law School.