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Alumni Recognition Reception

  • Judge Michael B. Powers L’82

  • James Czapiga L’94

  • Kristen Brierley L’13

  • Veronica Coletti Barry L’11

  • James Harrington L’10

Western New England University School of Law held its Annual Alumni Recognition Reception on October 19, 2018 at The Log Cabin in Holyoke. The event featured the presentation of the Dean's Award, the Distinguished Alumnus Award, two Ascending Alumni Awards, and the Distinguished Law Review Alumna Award.

Dean Sudha Setty offered opening remarks to the assembled alumni and friends, and Talia Gee L'10/G'12, president of the School of Law Alumni Association, presided over the ceremony. The Public Interest Law Association (PILA) held a silent auction during the event, with proceeds benefiting students pursuing unpaid internships in non-profit organizations and government agencies.

The Law Alumni Board of Directors recognized several honorees for their professional achievements and outstanding representation of the School of Law. Read more about the distinguished honorees below and view photos from the event.

Honorable Michael Powers L’82

This is award is given at the discretion of the Dean to an alumnus/a whose professional accomplishments bring credit to the Western New England University School of Law and who has a record of service to the school, community, state, nation, or world that demonstrates the core values of the School.

Judge Michael B. Powers L’82 is a judge for the Town of Clarence, NY, and is also a partner in the trial department of Phillips Lytle LLP, where he concentrates in commercial litigation. He practices primarily in the areas of commercial litigation and product liability defense.

After earning his bachelor’s degree from St. Bonaventure University and his master’s degree from Niagara University, Judge Powers worked for the FBI. He left the FBI to pursue his law degree; he earned his Juris Doctor from Western New England in 1982, where he graduated summa cum laude.

He then served as Confidential Law Clerk to Hon. Matthew J. Jasen at the NY Court of Appeals until 1984. He joined the law firm of Phillips Lytle LLP in Buffalo, NY, that year and was elected partner in 1988. For several years, Judge Powers has been listed in The Best Lawyers in America®, America’s Top Lawyers, Best Lawyers in New York, Upstate New York Super Lawyers®, and Business First’s Who’s Who In The Law.

Immediately after becoming Clarence Town Judge in 2008, he created the Clarence Drug Court—a specialized treatment court that has helped many young (and not so young) people conquer their addictions and lead healthy productive lives outside the criminal justice system. He also created the Clarence Safe Driving Program, the Clarence Community Service Program, and the Clarence Youth Court, which allows high school students to adjudicate minor offenses committed by their peers and help them avoid substance abuse and avoid entering the criminal justice system at an early age.

James Czapiga L’94

The Distinguished Alumnus Award is given to a member of the Alumni community who has made significant contributions, not only to the legal profession, but to society as a whole. The recipient’s contributions exemplify leadership, ethics, and integrity. In addition, the accomplishments of the recipient reflect positively on Western New England University School of Law.

James Czapiga L’94 is president and CEO of CATIC Financial, Inc., which is the parent holding company for Connecticut Attorneys Title Insurance Company (CATIC) and CATIC Title Insurance Company (CATICO). In addition, he serves on the Board of Directors for CATIC Financial, CATIC, and CATICO. In business for more than 50 years, CATIC is the nation’s largest Bar-Related® title insurance company, and is currently licensed in Connecticut, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The Company is an underwriting member of the American Land Title Association (ALTA) and the North American Bar-Related® Title Insurers. Its sister company, CATIC Title Insurance Company (CATICO), is licensed in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

James has more than 23 years of experience in the title insurance industry, having worked in several positions in management, sales, and operations for two national underwriters.

In addition to being the past president of the Connecticut Title Association, James is a member of the Real Property Section of the Connecticut Bar Association, the New England Land Title Association, the American Land Title Association where he currently serves on the Executive Committee, Title Insurance Underwriters Section, and the Real Estate Finance Association of Connecticut. He is actively involved with fundraising activities for Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters and Easter Seals Capital Region & Eastern CT.

Kristen Brierley L’13

Kristen Brierley L’13 is currently a labor relations specialist for the State of Connecticut Office of Policy and Management. In that role, she serves as the state’s chief negotiator in collective bargaining negotiations, conducting grievance hearings and arbitrations, and providing advice and guidance to state agencies on labor and employment matters.

Prior to that appointment in 2017, Kristen served as law clerk—first for Judge Michael R. Sheldon at the Connecticut Appellate Court and then for Judge Donna F. Martinez at the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut.

After graduating with a B.A. in English from Eastern Connecticut State University in 2008 as an Honors Program Scholar, she attended the Evening JD program at Western New England while working full-time a legal assistant at a labor law firm in Connecticut.

Kristen cites serving as Editor-in-Chief of the Western New England Law Review as the highlight of her legal education. Since graduating, she has remained involved with the Law Review as a member, and later chair, of the Law Review Advisory Committee.

Veronica Coletti Barry L’11

The Ascending Alumni award spotlights the achievements of our new alumni who have graduated within the last 10 years from the School of Law. Recipients are those who have shown leadership in a chosen field or in the community. The recipients stand out among peers and display a great deal of drive and potential.

Veronica Coletti Barry, class of 2011, has devoted her legal career to serving the public of New York State, and is highly regarded by all who practice alongside her. She currently serves as the Court Attorney for the Honorable Paul M. Deep, Family Court Judge, in Oneida County Family Court, where she conducts pre-trial conferences, conducts legal research, and drafts decisions and orders for the Judge for such matters as custody, neglect and abuse, child support, persons in need of supervision (PINS), juvenile delinquent, and family offense matters.

Prior to her current position, Veronica worked for several years as an assistant public defender for the Civil Division of the Oneida County Public Defender located in Utica and Rome, New York. In this role, she represented indigent clients in various Oneida County Family Court matters. And earlier in her career, she was employed as the employee relations manager with Upstate Cerebral Palsy, a human services agency that provides both residential and day programs to individuals with differing abilities and needs.

James Harrington L’10

The Ascending Alumni award spotlights the achievements of our new alumni who have graduated within the last 10 years from the School of Law. Recipients are those who have shown leadership in a chosen field or in the community. The recipients stand out among peers and display a great deal of drive and potential.

Since graduating in 2010, James Harrington has tried numerous personal injury cases in the Connecticut Superior Court, and has handled appeals before the United States Supreme Court, Connecticut Supreme Court, and Connecticut Appellate Court.

In addition to handling cases for personal injury in the State of Connecticut and Massachusetts, James also practices tribal law, representing clients whose injuries occurred at either of Connecticut’s two casinos, Mohegan Sun or Foxwoods.

James argued before the Connecticut Supreme Court on the issue of tribal sovereign immunity in Lewis v. Clarke. The case was ultimately appealed to the United States Supreme Court where in a landmark unanimous ruling, the Supreme Court adopted the legal argument advanced by James changing tribal law across the nation. In 2018, James’s work on Lewis v. Clarke garnered him a professional excellence award at the Connecticut Law Tribune’s annual ceremony.

James’s other career accolades include being consistently named a Rising Star by Super Lawyers Magazine, among the Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Connecticut by the National Trial Lawyers Association, named to the Board of Governors for the Connecticut Trial Lawyers Association, and much more. James has also been a guest lecturer on the topic of trial methods at the University of Connecticut Law School and before the Connecticut Trial Lawyers Association.