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WHITPAIN — The ceremonial passing of the gavel marked the shifting of the Montgomery Bar Association presidency from Mary Pugh to Gregory Gifford at a luncheon in the elegant Blue Bell Country Club ballroom on Friday.

Outgoing president Pugh officially handed over the duties to the man she called “smart, caring, kind and funny” by saying “it is beyond my pleasure to hand the gavel to my friend, your president Greg Gifford.”

“2018 was an incredible year for the Bar Association because you were lucky enough to have Mary Pugh as your president,” Gifford told the crowd of around 300 local dignitaries, legal professionals and community leaders who had dined on spinach-stuffed chicken breast and green beans at the start of the annual business luncheon.

According to his bio, Gifford, a partner in the Colmar law firm of Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg and Gifford, has been a member of the firm since 1984 and practices personal injury, criminal, and municipal law. He was admitted to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 1984. A graduate of the Villanova University School of Law, he was admitted to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 1984.

Gifford, who lives in Upper Gwynedd, is also the Solicitor for the Lansdale, Skippack, and Marlborough Township Zoning Hearing Boards, North Wales Borough, the Pennsylvania Juvenile Officers’ Association, and Franconia, Hatfield, Lansdale, and Towamencin Police Benevolent Associations.

He has also served as president of the Montgomery County Trial Lawyers Association and serves on the Executive Board of the Philadelphia Area Girls Soccer Association and the Montgomery United Soccer Association and is chairman of the MDT team of Montgomery County Office of Children and Youth. He also serves as Solicitor of the North Penn Volunteer Fire Company.

Noting Pugh’s “unbelievable energy,” Gifford said, “What was 2018 about? For Mary, it was about relationships … it was about connections, diversity and communication.”

He commended Pugh for increasing the Montgomery Bar Association membership.

“And what a lot of people don’t realize, she worked really hard to connect all the generations of the (organization),” he added.

In his message to membership at www.montgomerybar.org, Gifford noted “I will do my best to continue to strengthen our comradery, our Bar Foundation, and our great relationship with the Bench, the Row Officers and all other Montgomery County Offices. We, as attorneys, have a rare opportunity to positively impact everyone we meet. Although our profession by its very nature is often litigious, only we as lawyers can put a human touch on the practice of law.  Because we spend most of our waking hours interacting with clients and attorneys, we are the greatest ambassadors for our profession.”

In receiving The Honorable Louis D. Stefan Law Enforcement Award, Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele, said “I am truly humbled and honored to be recognized with the Louis D. Stefan Law Enforcement Award, named of course for Judge Stefan, who in his 24 years on the bench was widely respected and beloved. He is still remembered fondly, today, by so many in Montgomery County.”

Steele noted that he recently met a man who had served as a high school intern for Judge Stefan many years earlier.

“Five decades later, he enthusiastically remembered Judge Stefan as a wonderful mentor who was keenly interested in him and his future career. And he told me that the Judge helped teach him about compassion. I am honored to accept an award named for such an esteemed man who stood for justice. And I am also appreciative that this award recognizes outstanding efforts to promote the rule of law and the administration of justice,” he added. “That’s what I have strived to do every day of my three years as District Attorney — to stand on the side of justice, to be able to do the kind of work that I do in order to make a difference in people’s lives.”

Steele recalled that in 1992, when he first became a prosecutor, he was told that being an assistant district attorney would be the best job of his legal career.

“I took that to heart and am still at it. I have not wavered in my zeal for being a prosecutor and I feel blessed to still be at it today. From my early beginnings as a prosecutor, I’ve been committed to earning my badge every single day. And I share that message with all of our young attorneys and our detectives as they are sworn in and handed their badges. All of us in the DA’s Office represent that badge both inside and outside of the courtroom … and hopefully represent it well by working side-by-side with law enforcement, by working compassionately with victims — by treating them with respect and dignity, by working with families who never asked to be involved with the criminal justice system, by working fairly and honestly with defense attorneys and by working with our esteemed bench.

“In my last three years as DA,” he added, “I hope I have earned a reputation for taking on the tough fights and not shying away from the difficult prosecutions. As a prosecutor, it is our duty to follow the evidence wherever and to whomever it leads — even when that’s hard to do, even when there are a lot of roadblocks that need to be overcome, even when the defendant is someone powerful or famous like Kathleen Kane or Bill Cosby. I hope I have earned a reputation for standing up for families and victims in the fight against deadly opioids by taking on drug traffickers and dirty doctors and working to hold them responsible for their crimes. I hope I have earned a reputation for standing up and shining a spotlight on domestic violence and for working to get legislation passed that makes a terrible situation better for victims and their children. I hope I have earned a reputation for standing up for law enforcement to make sure they have the resources and support they need to keep our communities safe. And I hope I’m known for standing up for our prosecutors, detectives and staff by working to get them a living wage as well as known for standing with them, always working as a team to do the right thing in seeking justice for victims.”

The Honorable Horace A. Davenport Diversity Award, named for the first African-American judge in Montgomery County and given to an individual or organization who has championed diversity within the Montgomery County legal community, was given to Marilou Watson.

The Honorable Milton O. Moss Public Service Award, given to a Montgomery County resident who has provided “exceptional service in support of the justice system” was awarded to The Honorable Margaret Hunsicker.

Also on the agenda, Seth Wilson of Morris Wilson, P.C. in Conshohocken was named President of the MBA’s Trial Lawyers Section; Michael J. Lyon of Walsh Pancio, LLC in Lansdale was named Chair of the MBA’s Young Lawyers Section; Marguerite Mary Nocchi of Nocchi Law PC in Lansdale was named Chair of the MBA’s Family Law Section, and Obadiah G. English of Mannion Prior, LLP in King of Prussia, was named Chair of the MBA’s Probate and Tax Section.

As noted on its website, montgomerybar.org, the Montgomery Bar Association is one of the country’s longest running bar associations, established in 1885, and now represents more than 2,100 legal professionals in the county.

Like most trade organizations, the Montgomery Bar Association started as a networking outlet, “lawyers helping lawyers, but now it has really gone so far beyond that, helping the community on various topics,” noted Pugh during an interview a year ago as she welcomed her new role as president.

“If you’re in Montgomery County and you’re not a part of it, then you’re really doing a disservice to yourself. To practice in Montgomery County and not be a part of the bar association would really be foolish because it’s such a wonderful resource, not only for services but the ability to network with colleagues and the educational opportunities,” she noted. “Being a member, you kind of get a comfort level when you walk into a courtroom that you’re not walking into a foreign world.”

This article originally ran on timesherald.com.

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