The Latest News

From Judge Paul G. Feinman to the Nomination of Justice Anthony Cannataro:  Two Openly LGBTQ+ Judges And The New York Court of Appeals

Posted On: June 03, 2021

Loss of Legal Scholar
In Memoriam
Judge Paul G. Feinman 

Originally I was planning on writing a tribute article to Judge Feinman in recognition of his service and ignited by his unexpectedly and sudden retirement from the Court of Appeals.  Needless to say, it was a tragic shock to hear of his unexpected passing on March 31, 2021, only eight (8) days after the sudden announcement of his retirement for health reasons.  This tribute, intended to be about his early retirement, is now an article in memoriam.

This is an incredible loss for the entire legal community and especially for the LGBTQ community who has lost an avid advocate and voice, not only to the public but from the bench.  As many know, Judge Feinman was an incredible legal scholar and jurist and LGBTQ voice from the Court of Appeals bench.  

We mourn the untimely passing of Judge Paul G. Feinman (only 61), one of the Associate Judges of the Court of Appeals, who ascended to the Court of Appeals in June, 2017, as a result of Governor Cuomo’s nomination.  Judge Paul G. Feinman, was the first openly gay Associate Justice of the N.Y.S. Court of Appeals.

Born and raised on Long Island, we were proud and fortunate to not only have had another Long Islander reach high levels in the judiciary, but for him to ascend to our Court of Appeals, not only as an esteemed Jurist, but as the first openly gay and LGBTQ representative and voice.  

Chief Judge, DiFiore, said that “Judge Feinman is an exceptional Judge and a magnificent human being, who has made extraordinary contributions to the Court of Appeals during his tenure and that he will be greatly missed”.  We echo that sentiment and are sorry that his voice and a voice for the LGBTQ community will no longer be on the bench. 

Justice Chris Ann Kelley, of the Suffolk County Supreme Court shared “I recall watching the  N.Y.S. Senate confirmation hearing when Judge Feinman was officially confirmed as an Associate Justice of the Court of Appeals.  His humility, warmth, wit and keen intellect are apparent in that presentation before the Senate.” She further commented that at his confirmation hearing before the N.Y.S. Senate Justice Feinman was questioned about the appropriateness of his filling the vacancy caused by the death of Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam.  Judge Feinman responded: “Certainly my entire career has been about promoting equal access and equal justice for all, and I hope to add to the diversity of perspectives that the Court considers.” Judge Feinman underscored the importance of adding LGBTQ+ voices to the Bench. 

As a member of the SCBA LGBTQ Committee in Suffolk County, I recall Judge Kelley recounting how she reached out to Judge Feinman on a whim, to invite him to the Suffolk County Court Pride Event, to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Stonewall.  She was surprised that he answered his own phone in chambers.  She related that he was so personable and humble and approachable and that he did not hesitate in accepting an offer to come speak at the Suffolk County event.  Judge Feinman graced us with his presence, and we were able to hear his insightful review of the history of LGBT cases decided by the Court of Appeals. He was so friendly and approachable to the members of our committee.  He has served as a role model and mentor to many lawyers and judges.

Judge Kelley also shared with our committee that she was brought into an association, known as the International Association of LGBTQ + Judges, which Judge Feinman was actually a member and a past president.  It is a unique association that supports LGBTQ + Jurists on the bench.  

Judge Feinman was so dedicated.  I was told of an instance where he literally left his hospital bed to appear and give testimony, with respect to Judge’s salaries.  

He was so dedicated to our profession, to his fellow attorneys and fellow jurists.  His voice and presence will be sorely missed!

Last Week Governor Cuomo Nominated Justice Anthony Cannataro
To Serve As The Second Openly LGBTQ+ Judge
Of The New York Court Of Appeals
In Its 170-Year History

Per the LGBT Bar Association of New York:  While the LGBTQ+ legal community has been deeply affected by the loss of their dear friend, Judge Paul Feinman, with the appointment of Justice Cannataro, the Court will once again have a member who has a deep commitment to, strong relationship with, and empathic understanding of the needs of the LGBTQ+ community.

As the Administrative Judge of the New York City Civil Court, Justice Cannataro brings a unique perspective on the challenges of administering a vast and often burdened court system. Justice Cannataro is one of the original Commissioners of the Richard C. Failla LGBTQ Commission of the New York Courts. In this capacity, Justice Cannataro has presided over an education program to ensure that transgender litigants, among others, are treated with respect and dignity in their interactions with the courts.

We applaud the Governor for this nomination and urge the Senate to move swiftly with confirmation.  


Why Do Women Typically Take Their Husband's Last Name?

Posted On: June 01, 2021

Although the concept of taking a husband’s last name seems to be ingrained in our culture and thought to be historically the way things are done everywhere, this is not entirely accurate.  Taking on a husband’s name was not always the case and in fact in medieval England, surnames didn’t even exist.  Also, in some European cultures, taking the surname has not been a tradition.  In fact, in some circumstances, like my relatives in Europe, keeping both surnames was how it was done.

This article gives a nice history of how women taking their husbands name has existed in our traditions and patriarchal society.  Interestingly enough, it has its roots in laws that date back to the 11th Century.  Most attorneys have seen this word utilized in law, but many don’t even know what it means.  The idea of “coverture” goes back to the idea that a woman’s identity was “covered by her husband’s”.  Again, almost reducing women to that of property.  In fact, the utilization of this law in reality erased the identity of the woman, from a legal standpoint.  I think if more women looked at it from this perspective, they would be less likely to take on a husband’s surname.

The coverture laws did not expire, but in essence became out of favor and were no longer utilized in the law.  Both the Suffragette movement of the 19th Century as well as current day feminism have both fought back on this traditional subrogation of women.  Most people are not aware that not too long ago, just prior to the 1970’s, women could not get passports, driver’s license or register to vote unless they adopted their husband’s last name.  How archaic!  A little known fact, while white women earned the right to vote in 1920, most people are not aware that the fine print read at that time that they could only do so using their husband’s last name.  It wasn’t until over a half century later that a Tennessee Court upheld a woman’s right to use her maiden name, courtesy of Dunn v. Palermo

Although taking on a husband’s last name may be customary, do woman really give it much thought of what it truly encompasses and delineates, both legally and personally, when one chooses to do so?

This article is definitely an interesting read. 

I would also suggest that people look to their names and heritage when thinking of what name their children will carry.  Many times there are strong feelings about the lineage of a family name.  Most feel a male’s name is the only way to carry on a family name.  Well, if women kept their family name that might not be the case.  However, it still raises the issue of what name a couple’s children will carry.  An interesting place to start a conversation? 

I hope you enjoy this article as much as I did.  What are your thoughts about it?

Selected excerpt(s) and linked article courtesy of Sharobn Brandwein,
Royalty-free photo courtesy of UnSplash


Couples Who Make It Through Tough Times Share These 8 Traits

Posted On: May 26, 2021

Relationships are easy when things are going well and everyone is happy.  It's the tough times that challenge us to keep harmony - when things are going wrong and the stress level is high that really test the strength of our relationships. 

I think this era, with the pandemic and all that we have endured, has been an unprecedented time and challenge for our relationships.  It is often never one crisis or stressful event that causes the breakup of a strong partnership.  It's helpful when couples are flexible, empathetic and team oriented in their approach to problems. 

This article points to 8 traits that significantly help couples manage the storms and stay together through difficult, and what may seem like impossible, times or circumstances.  I find it interesting that the most important ingredient from the studies have shown, that to sustain a long term relationship, it is important to be emotionally accessible or available to one another.  I have always said that communication, honesty and respect are a great foundation to building any relationship.

Selected excerpt(s) and linked article courtesy of Virginia Pelley, Fatherly
Royalty-free photo courtesy of Un Splash


Bill and Melinda Gates Never Signed a Prenup. Here's How They'll Divide Their Assets Instead

Posted On: May 19, 2021

By now everyone knows that Bill & Melinda Gates are getting divorced. One of the richest couples in the world didn't have a Pre-Nuptial agreement (an agreement that is entered into prior to the marriage to determine ownership and distribution of assets in the event of a divorce). However, this divorce is not going to be a highly contested public affair because they have entered into a separate contract that addresses the division of property and spousal support after or during the marriage but before filing for divorce. This is often called a Post-Nuptial Agreement.  It’s important to note that these agreements cannot include provisions for child support and/or custody, but in the Gates case this was never necessary because they didn't have any minor children.

It appears the couple had been working on reconciling their differences, but when that became futile, they smartly handled everything that needed to be handled in the dissolution prior to actually filing a Court Proceeding.

This is a great example of how Collaborative Divorce can work, which is available to families in New York and not just for the rich and famous.

Selected excerpt(s) and linked article courtesy of Justin Chan,
Royalty-free photo courtesy of UnSplash


Concetta G. Spirio Elected to the Board of Directors of the New York State Council on Divorce Mediation

Posted On: May 19, 2021

I am proud to announce that I have been elected to the Board of Directors of the New York State Council on Divorce Mediation.

This organization and its members are truly dedicated to the benefit of their clients as well as to a holistic approach in resolving family conflict and divorce resolution.

I feel privileged to be part of such an amazing organization and I look forward to working towards their lofty goals to better serve a diverse public.


The World Is Changing For Same-Sex Parents – And This Week I Made History

Posted On: April 27, 2021

The world is changing for same sex parents as a result of the new surrogacy laws that have come into effect in New York.  In fact, as delineated in this article, history was made last Monday, when a same sex couple was granted a Pre-Birth Parentage Order, under the new statutes that have legalized gestational surrogacy in New York. 

Due to the pandemic, this Court Hearing and Order was issued from the Court as a result of a virtual Court Hearing, through the Court’s preferred platform, Microsoft Teams.

For this lesbian couple, surrogacy was not the issue.  However, parentage, with respect to a non-biological parent in New York, historically has been problematic.  Until very recently, lesbian parents in New York and most gay parents in New York, in order to protect their interests and to secure their parental rights, needed to go through what is termed as a “second parent adoption”.  In order to secure legal recognition for the non-birth mother, or in the case of a gay adoption by a single parent, the second parent adoption in also necessary.  Needless to say, these legal proceedings to secure rights for the LGBTQ community cannot only take time, but are extremely costly. 

With respect to a “second parent adoption”, most do not realize there is a required investigation that is quite invasive and extensive and the adoption process cannot start until the baby is born.  For the non- biological parent, this puts them in limbo until after the child is born and God forbid there is an issue or a medical emergency during child birth, which could have dramatic and tragic results. 

With the new law that came into effect in February, this process can be streamlined and accomplished so that both parents have parental rights with respect to the child before the child is born.  This recognition and ability to accomplish the same in a much more efficient way has been a long time coming.

Selected excerpt(s) and linked article courtesy of Arwa Mahdawi, The Guardian
Royalty-free photo courtesy of Unsplash


Want to Fight Less in Your Marriage? Quit Using Logical Fallacies.

Posted On: April 19, 2021

There are obviously worse things that can happen in a relationship than having a heated argument with your significant other, especially if there is a chance of making things better or learning from each other.  But there should be rules to fighting and arguing, whether spoken or unspoken. 

In 1980, two Dutch scholars developed some simple rules that can help.  This article also focuses on what fallacies to avoid using.  When I looked through these, what struck me is that many of them contain a judgment embedded in them, which is another thing to avoid when having an argument or a discussion with your spouse or significant other.  The last thing you want to do is blame or speak with a statement dripping with judgment.

Selected excerpt(s) and linked article courtesy of Stever Calechman,
Royalty free photo courtesy of