History of the Connecticut Italian-American Bar Association
Founded October 15, 1993
Beginnings, Incorporation and National Recognition
The Connecticut Italian-American Bar Association (“CIABA”) traces its roots to May 7, 1993, when Waterbury attorney Richard M. Marano (now a Judge of the Superior Court) made contact with Attorney Michael C. Rainone, who at the time was the President of the National Italian-American Bar Association (“NIABA”). Having been a member of the Peter W. Rodino Law Society while a student at Seton Hall Law School, and also a member of NIABA, Attorney Marano saw the need for a Connecticut chapter of the Italian-American Bar Association. CIABA was officially established on October 15, 1993, and held its first meeting on that date. During the meeting, which was held at Drescher’s Restaurant in Waterbury, CIABA elected officers and adopted bylaws. Attorney Marano was elected as CIABA’s first President. The Charter Members were Attorneys Marano, Judith Busch, Leonard P. Coviello, Edward R. Giacci, and Gena M. Iannucci. In December of 1993, CIABA was incorporated as a non-profit Connecticut corporation. The purpose of CIABA is to address the concerns of the Italian-American legal community and to improve the administration of justice. Attorney Rainone’s assistance was instrumental in forming CIABA. In a 1993 article in the Connecticut Law Tribune, which announced the formations of both CIABA and the Connecticut Hispanic Bar Association, Attorney Marano stressed CIABA’s dual nature of fostering legal excellence and encouraging camaraderie in the bar.
On March 31, 1994, CIABA elected its first Board members: Attorneys Salvatore C. Agati (now a Judge of the Superior Court), David Barberino, Helen Bruno, Joseph Fasi, and Richard Zipoli. The Board was elected at CIABA’s spring meeting, held at San Marino Restaurant in Waterbury. It chose as a critical element of its agenda combating the proliferation of negative stereotypes of Italian-Americans.
On April 30, 1994, President Marano attended a meeting of NIABA’s Board of Directors, held in Boston, Massachusetts. Upon motion by Attorney Rainone, CIABA was unanimously voted in as an affiliate of NIABA. At this meeting, Attorney Rainone was presented by President Marano with CIABA’s first honorary membership recognition.
On July 7, 1994, several CIABA members attended a luncheon at Marc Anthony Restaurant in Hartford, sponsored by Italian Vice Consul Concetta R. DiLoreto, to honor Dr. Franco Mistretta, Consul General of Italy. During the luncheon, the Consul General conferred the title of “Commendatorenell’ordine al MeritodellaRepubblicaItaliana” upon Professor Guido Calabresi, the Dean of the Yale University School of Law, and more recently a Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Present Marano presented both Consul General Mistretta and Dean Calabresi with honorary CIABA memberships at the luncheon.
CIABA received its official NIABA Charter from NIABA Regional Vice President Philip R. Boncore on July 14, 1994, at a meeting held at 500 Blake Street in New Haven. At this event, Vice President Boncore was presented with CIABA’s fourth honorary membership recognition, along with CIABA’s deep appreciation and friendship. Vice President Boncore congratulated the founding members and called upon the membership to strengthen itself through a membership drive.
The association’s name was inscribed on the National Italian-American Foundation’s (“NIAF”) Italian-American Wall of Honor in Washington, D.C. on October 29, 1994. NIAF President Frank J. Guarini also presented CIABA with a Certificate of Recognition on this date. On November 10, 1994, CIABA held its fall dinner at Giovanni’s Restaurant in Stamford, and was proud to announce that it was successful in establishing a student chapter at the University of Connecticut School of Law.
On March 1, 1995, CIABA presented Italian Vice Consul Concetta R. DiLoreto with an honorary CIABA membership. By this time, CIABA had achieved the 50-member mark, and its members included Chief Justice (Retired) John A. Speziale, United States District Judge (Retired) Robert C. Zampano, and former Hartford Mayor George Athanson. The organization sponsored a highly successful trip to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island on May 6, 1995, and the members enjoyed dinner at the South Seaport.
New Leaders and Continued Success
On June 15, 1995, CIABA held its mid-year meeting at Casa Mia Restaurant in Hartford. Attorney Joseph Fasi was installed as CIABA’s second president that evening, and United States District Judge (Retired) Robert C. Zampano received CIABA’s first Achievement Award. On December 13, 1995, CIABA held its annual Christmas Party at the Waterbury Club.
Judge Joseph H. Pellegrino, Chief Administrative Judge for the Civil Division, lectured at the University of Connecticut School of Law on April 7, 1998. At the event, sponsored by the Italian-American Law Students Association (an affiliate of CIABA), Judge Pellegrino addressed the size of the civil docket in Connecticut, and focused on the need for successful alternative dispute resolution programs. The lecture was followed by Italian foods and desserts. A video was produced of the well-attended lecture. Judge Pellegrino subsequently received an Achievement Award from CIABA, presented later that year.
In 1999, Attorney Natale A. Messina was elected as CIABA President. CIABA began publishing an expanded newsletter titled “StiamoInsieme,” which was well-received by the Italian-American community. At CIABA’s winter meeting, Giuseppe Mazzotta, Yale’s Charles C. and Dorothea Dilley Professor of Italian Culture, addressed the group and discussed his book, “The New Map of the World,” documenting the life of GiambattistaVico (1668-1774). Vico was a lawyer-philosopher who taught at the University of Naples. Attorney Marano and Sandro Bologna, co-authors of the book “Growing Up Italian and American in Waterbury,” were guest speakers at CIABA’s meeting held on April 19, 1999.
CIABA held a winter meeting on January 31, 2001 at San Marino Restaurant in Waterbury. Attorney Steven J. Grant was installed as CIABA’s fourth president at that meeting. Judge Pellegrino was the evening’s guest speaker. With the organization continuing to grow, President Grant announced that CIABA would form a mentoring program with area law students, and also create a CIABA website. Superior Court Judge Salvatore C. Agati received the CIABA Achievement Award that year at the Saint Joseph’s Day celebration held at the Legislative Officer Building in Hartford.
Attorney Grant was succeeded by Attorney Jerry P. Padula, CIABA’s fifth president. The association continued for many years, recognizing the accomplishments of Italian-Americans making significant contributions to the profession, and bestowing achievement awards at the Italian-American Legislative Caucus’ Saint Joseph Day Celebrations.
Revitalization, CBA Recognition, and National Prominence
In the spring of 2012, Woodbury Attorney Francis M. Donnarumma began revitalizing CIABA. On May 14, 2012, Attorney Donnarumma called a meeting at Juniper’s Restaurant in Middlebury. NIABA’s immediate Past President, Attorney Anthony J. Gianfrancesco of Providence, Rhode Island, attended the meeting and pledged NIABA’s support and commitment toward the revitalization of CIABA. During this meeting, Attorney Donnarumma was elected as CIABA’s sixth President, Attorney Daniel P. Elliott was elected CIABA Vice President, Attorney Robert A. D’Andrea was elected as CIABA’s Secretary, and Attorney Rebecca L. Paolino was elected as CIABA’s Treasurer. The association also elected a new Board of Directors, primarily from the Waterbury area.
The newly revitalized CIABA immediately went to work, hosting an Annual Heritage and Awards Dinner on September 27, 2012 at the Graduate Club in New Haven. That night, President Donnarumma and Vice President Elliott delivered opening remarks, and an opening benediction was given by Father Anthony J. Bruno. Two distinguished Italian-American attorneys, Alice Bruno and Karen Torre, were presented with Italian-American Achievement Awards, and United States Senior District Court Judge Alfred V. Covello was the keynote speaker. It was announced that evening that Father Bruno had been named as CIABA’s first Chaplain. Immediately thereafter, CIABA launched a brand new website.
On March 19, 2013, CIABA officers and directors attended the Italian-American Legislative Caucus’ Saint Joseph’s Day Celebration in Hartford. Superior Court Judge Frank A. Iannotti was presented with CIABA’s Saint Joseph’s Day Award, honoring an Italian-American who has excelled in the law. On May 29, 2013, CIABA held a spring social – the “Festadella Primavera” – at the Quinnipiack Club in New Haven.
In the summer of 2013, CIABA was designated by the Connecticut Bar Association (“CBA”) as an Affinity Bar, which is a bar association that has as its primary goal the promotion of diversity in the legal profession. The designation entitled CIABA to a seat on the CBA’s House of Delegates, and Vice President Elliott was designated as CIABA’s delegate.
CIABA’s ranks continued to grow during this period, as Italian-American attorneys from throughout the state began expressing interest and submitting membership applications. In recognition of CIABA’s revitalization, NIABA invited President Donnarumma and Vice President Elliott to attend its summer 2013 Board of Directors meeting in Montreal, Quebec. Both were elected to NIABA’s Board of Directors at the meeting.
On November 13, 2013, CIABA hit a fever pitch when it held its Annual Heritage and Awards Dinner at the Hartford Club in Hartford. The Dinner was attended by approximately 150 people, including 15 federal and state judges, the President of the Connecticut Bar Association, and the Past President of NIABA. Justice Peter T. Zarella of the Connecticut Supreme Court was the keynote speaker, and gave a highly interesting and scholarly discussion of the Sacco and Vanzetti case and its impact on the Italian-American community. Justice Zarella called on the audience to use the experiences of the Italian-American community as a guide in assisting other ethnic groups to attain diversity in the legal profession. Attorneys Rosemary E. Giuliano (former CBA President) and John A. Marella (General Counsel, Knights of Columbus) were presented with Italian-American Achievement Awards at the Dinner, and Attorney John A. DelBuono was presented with CIABA’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
After the 2014 Annual Dinner, membership swelled to nearly 100 attorneys from all over Connecticut, and from a wide and diverse range of legal specialities. The Board of Directors was infused with a group of talented and energetic attorneys from New Haven, New Britain, and Hartford.
CIABA continued its strong program of events in 2014. On April 8, 2014, CIABA presented Attorney Joseph Mengacci (a CIABA Board Member) with its Saint Joseph’s Day Award at the Italian-American Legislative Caucus’ Saint Joseph’s Day Celebration at the Sons of Italy Hall in Middletown. On May 21, 2014, CIABA held its second annual Festa Della Primavera at the Quinnipiack Club. Justice Lubbie Harper (Retired), Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court, delivered an extremely well-received keynote address which blended humor regarding his love of and numerous connections to Italian culture with eloquence in advocating for the cooperation and fellowship of all attorneys in Connecticut to create a more diverse bar. After his address, Justice Harper was inducted as an honorary member of CIABA.
In May of 2014, at NIABA’s Board of Directors Meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Vice President Elliott was elected as NIABA’s Regional Vice President for New England, thus increasing CIABA’s presence on the national level. Also in 2014, Attorney Mark Iannone of Wolcott was elected as CIABA’s Treasurer.
On November 5, 2014, CIABA hosted its Annual Heritage and Awards Dinner at Aria in Prospect, Connecticut. The keynote speaker was Attorney William J. Nardini, a federal prosecutor who served as the United States Justice Department’s Attaché in Italy from 2010 to 2014. Attorney Nardini delivered a fascinating address regarding the joint efforts of the United States and Italy to combat organized crime; a model of international cooperation that has become the envy of other nations throughout the world. Attorney Nardini was presented with CIABA’s Achievement Award that evening, as were Attorney Garrett Moore, former Bridgeport Mayor Leonard Paoletta, and CIABA Chaplain Father Anthony Bruno, the Director of Religious Services for the Connecticut Department of Corrections. The evening’s Master of Ceremonies was CIABA Board Member and former CBA President Attorney Louis Pepe of Hartford.
Beginning in 2015, CIABA commenced a program of bi-monthly membership dinners, each of which featured a speaker on various Italian cultural topics. In January of 2015, noted author and historian Anthony Riccio gave a presentation, at Consiglio’s Restaurant in New Haven, on the history of Italian-American women in Connecticut. In April of 2015, professional genealogist Bianca Ottone of Pennsylvania hosted a seminar at the Quinnipiac University School of Law on conducting Italian genealogical research.
CIABA continues to push forward with an ambitious agenda, to increase membership, to advocate for a more diverse bar, and to promote and advance Italian culture in the legal community.