39th Gala Honorees

Public Servant of the Year – Camille Chin-Kee-Fatt

Camille Chin-Kee-Fatt

Most recently, Camille Chin-Kee-Fatt served as the first Chief of Staff at the Queens District Attorney’s Office.  In this role, she lead the Office with DA Katz and the Chief Assistant DA. As Chief of Staff, Ms. Chin-Kee-Fatt oversaw the Office’s budget and all administrative divisions.  She also had oversight of all administrative COVID protocols. Prior to serving as Chief of Staff, she was the Director of Administrative Services under two Speakers at the NYC Council.  In that role, she oversaw the Council’s $80M budget and all administrative divisions of the Council.  Prior to her work at the Council, Ms. Chin-Kee-Fatt was SVP of HR and part of the all female executive leadership for the NYC Mission Society, a 200+ year-old non-profit based in Harlem. 

Prior to her role at the Mission Society, she served as Advisor to the Dean at New York Law School and held the positions of Director of Career services and Director of the Office of Student Affairs at Brooklyn Law School. Ms. Chin-Kee-Fatt’s background also includes being the Director of Recruitment for the New York State Office of the Attorney General, the international law firm of Linklaters & Alliance, the New York City Law Department as well as Director of Development at Union Settlement Association, a non-profit in East Harlem. Earlier in her career, she was an Associate Director of Brooklyn Law School’s Career Center. She also served as the Executive Director of the Practicing Attorney for Law Students Program, the renowned mentoring program for law students of color attending law schools in the New York City area. Ms. Chin-Kee-Fatt began her legal career as a corporate associate Shearman & Sterling LLP.

Ms. Chin-Kee-Fatt has served as a member of the board of the Metropolitan Black Bar Association, the advisory board of Union Settlement Association, the New York City Bar Association’s Task Force on New Lawyers in a Changing Profession and as a member of its Committee on Recruitment and Retention of Lawyers. She also served as a member of the Second Department Judicial Screening Committee for three governors.  She is a graduate of Howard University School of Law, Hofstra University and the Bronx HS of Science. She’s proudest of her role as mom to her son Noah and her Trini heritage.

Corporate Counsel of the Year – Conway Ekpo

Conway Ekpo

Director, Associate General Counsel Brex

Conway Ekpo is a Director and Associate General Counsel at Brex, an integrated financial solution which provides corporate credit cards, business cash accounts and spend management software to tens of thousands of other venture-backed startups and mid-market businesses. At Brex, Conway is the head of product legal for Brex’s spend management SaaS business line. He also manages the regulatory legal team responsible for advising on Brex’s numerous financial and technology products. He previously served as Brex’s Chief Privacy Officer where he was responsible for establishing many of the company’s privacy functions.

Prior to joining the fintech industry, Conway began his legal career on Wall Street, first as a large law firm associate and subsequently as in-house counsel at Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley where he was an Executive Director in the legal department. He is also a member of the DC-based Financial Technology Association and the Rutgers Law School Fintech and Blockchain Collaboratory which bring financial regulators and private industry together to propose policy.

Conway is the recipient of numerous awards for his leadership within the legal community including honors from the New York City Bar Association, the Minority Corporate Counsel Association, the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity and the Council of Urban Professionals. Conway earned his B.S. in engineering at the University of Kansas and his J.D. at Rutgers School of Law where he was Managing Editor of the Rutgers Law Review. He and his wife reside in Manhattan with their two children.

Jurist of the Year – The Hon. Tanya R. Kennedy

The Hon. Tanya R. Kennedy

Hon. Tanya R. Kennedy was appointed in July 2020 as an Associate Justice of the Appellate Division, First Department by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. Prior to her appointment, Justice Kennedy served as a Justice of the Supreme Court, New York County, commencing in January 2016, after election in November 2015. She was elected to Civil Court in November 2005 and thereafter served in Criminal Court (January 2006-September 2008), Civil Court (September 2008-December 2009), Family Court (January 2010-December 2010), as Acting Supreme Court Justice (January 2011-December 2012) and as Supervising Judge of Civil Court, New York County (January 2014-December 2015). She is also a former Adjunct Professor at Fordham University School of Law, where she taught a Juvenile Justice seminar for ten years.

Before her election to Civil Court, Justice Kennedy served as Principal Law Clerk to Hon. Barry A. Cozier when he was an Associate Justice of the Appellate Division, Second Department (March 2001-December 2005) and when he was a Justice in the Commercial Division, New York County (May 1999-March 2001). Prior to her clerkship with Justice Cozier, Justice Kennedy served in the Office of the Corporation Counsel, New York City Law Department, as an Assistant Corporation Counsel in the Bronx Family Court Division (August 1992-August 1994) and in the Bronx Tort Division (August 1994-August 1997), where she was promoted to Tort Trial Specialist and later to Assistant Deputy Chief.

Justice Kennedy is Co-Chair of the newly formed Wellness Committee of the Appellate Division, First Department; a life member of the Metropolitan Black Bar Association and a former board member of the Association; member of the Board of Directors of the New York City Bar Association and past chair of the organization’s Special Committee to Encourage Judicial Service. She is also an Executive Committee member of the Women in Law Section of the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA); Secretary of NYSBA’s Judicial Section; member of the Committee on Pattern Jury Instructions of the Association of Supreme Court Justices of the State of New York; member of the Board of Overseers of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, where she received her law degree; and an Advisory Board Member of Penn State Law.

She is also the Past President of the National Association of Women Judges (NAWJ). During Justice Kennedy’s term as NAWJ President, the organization convened cutting-edge legal education for the bench, bar and community to address cybersecurity and the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, the dark web and virtual currencies, e-discovery, bail reform, the opioid crisis, mental wellness, dementia in the courtroom, engaging millennials and building a personal brand. After organizing a Legislative Caucus on Capitol Hill focusing on ensuring a healthy work environment free of sexual harassment, Justice Kennedy led NAWJ in trademarking “#WETOO IN THE LEGAL WORKPLACE.” She also established the ADA Compliance Policy, Law School Outreach, LGBTQ and Technology Committees as NAWJ President to further the organization’s mission to ensure equal access to justice for all.

She is a product of the New York City public school system and a single parent household whose mother worked two jobs during Justice Kennedy’s early childhood and made sacrifices to ensure she knew life existed beyond the Bronx. Justice Kennedy’s mother also instilled in her the value of education and the importance of serving others. Justice Kennedy credits these life lessons, as well as those who saw her potential and provided her with various opportunities as the reasons for her professional advancement, as well as her responsibility to inspire, motivate and assist others in the pursuing their dreams. As a result of her commitment to increasing the pipeline of underrepresented communities to the legal profession, Justice Kennedy has participated in the Role Model Program of the founding chapter of the New York Coalition of 100 Black Women and hosted summer interns from the Sonia & Celina Sotomayor Judicial Internship Program and from the Law and Society Major Internship Program of the Brooklyn Technical High School, which is her alma mater. She is also committed to the pursuit of higher education and has served as a mentor through her visits to various churches, schools, and other organizations as a motivational speaker. Her greatest pride and joy was the informal speakers’ bureau she founded and ran from 2011 to 2014 targeting at-risk youth where she invited guests to discuss their past mistakes and difficult life stories, as well as to provide advice to the youngsters on how to avoid the same pitfalls the guests previously encountered in their young lives.

Justice Kennedy further promotes the advancement and empowerment of women through her membership in Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Tau Omega Chapter. In addition, Justice Kennedy is an Executive Committee member and a silver life member of the NAACP MidManhattan Branch, as well as a member of the Abyssinian Baptist Church.

A frequent speaker at various conferences, Justice Kennedy has received numerous professional awards, including the 2022 Award of Recognition from the New York Women’s Bar Association; the 2022 Champion for Justice Award from the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Center for Elder Justice; the 2021 Distinguished Alumna Award from Penn State University; the 2021 NYSBA John E. Higgins, Esq. Diversity Trailblazer Award; the 2020 Inspiration Award from the New York Coalition of Women’s Initiatives in Law; the 2018 Annual Women of Distinction Award from the National Council of Negro Women, Inc., North Bronx Section; the 2018 Brooklyn Technical High School Hall of Fame Designation; the 2017 Diversity Leadership Award from Penn State Law; the 2017 Diversity Leadership Award from Penn State Law; and the 2015 Alumni of the Year Award from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.

Private Practitioner of the Year – Nexus U. Sea

Nexus U. Sea

Nexus Sea is a versatile litigator and trial lawyer, with significant experience representing Fortune 500 companies, financial institutions, and pharmaceutical firms in a variety of disputes in state and federal courts. Nexus has defended class actions and mass torts on behalf of various pharmaceutical firms, and most recently defended a high-profile state attorney general consumer protection action against a leading medical device manufacturer.

A veteran of product-liability and mass-tort litigation, Nexus played a key role in defending a Fortune 500 bank and premises owner in more than 340 toxic tort personal injury suits arising from the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Bringing his experience defending against asbestos related claims to bear, Nexus served as a member of the lead national team that defended an international consumer products company against numerous state court consumer product cases involving talcum powder. Nexus also has experience defending branded prescription drugs, having successfully defeated failure-to-warn, product defect, and wrongful death claims involving such products.

Nexus’s deep experience has also allowed him to look to the future of his practice, pioneering work on the impact of Artificial Intelligence on product-liability law.

Throughout his career, Nexus has conducted internal investigations for financial institutions and companies, including in response to state attorney general actions. He played a prominent role on the court-appointed counsel team to the Securities Investor Protection Act Trustee for the liquidation of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC, and he represented various foreign claimants in connection with allegations of corruption and money laundering in the largest civil forfeiture action brought under the Department of Justice’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative.

Nexus is a founding member of “1844,” an association of African American male attorneys that focuses on promoting collaboration, business development, and mentorship among attorneys of color in Big Law. He was President of the Nigerian Lawyers Association from 2014 to 2016, where he worked to build strong, diverse communities in the U.S. and abroad. And as a member of the Metropolitan Black Bar Association, Nexus mentors college and law students interested in private practice.

Trailblazer of the Year – Deborah N. Archer

Deborah N. Archer

Deborah N. Archer is Associate Dean and Co-Director of Clinical and Advocacy Programs, Professor of Clinical Law, and Co-Faculty Director of the Center on Race, Inequality, and the Law at NYU School of Law. Deborah is also the President of the American Civil Liberties Union and a leading expert in civil rights, civil liberties, and racial justice. She is an award-winning teacher and legal scholar whose articles have appeared in leading law reviews. Deborah has also offered commentary for numerous media outlets, including MSNBC, National Public Radio, CBS, Monocle, The Atlantic, and The New York Times.

Deborah is a graduate of Yale Law School, where she was awarded the Charles G. Albom Prize, and Smith College. She previously worked as an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., where she litigated in the areas of voting rights, employment discrimination, and school desegregation. Deborah is also a former chair of the American Association of Law School’s Section on Civil Rights and the Section on Minority Groups. She previously served as Chair of the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board, the nation’s oldest and largest police oversight agency.

Deborah has been honored by numerous community organizations and legal institutions, including Yale Law School, Columbia Law School, Boston University School of Law, New York University, Smith College, New York Law School, the American Association of Law Schools, and the Law and Society Association. In 2021, the Law and Society Association awarded her the John Hope Franklin Prize, Honorable Mention for her article “‘White Men’s Roads Through Black Men’s Homes’: Advancing Racial Equity Through Highway Reconstruction” which appeared in the Vanderbilt Law Review. Deborah also received a 2021 Podell Distinguished Teaching Award, the 2020-2021 Jacob K. Javits Professorship from New York University, the 2021 Stephen Ellmann Memorial Clinical Scholarship Award from the American Association of Law Schools, the Otto L. Walter Distinguished Writing Award from New York Law School, and the Haywood Burns/Shanara Guilbert Award from the Northeast People of Color Legal Scholarship Conference