SABA Toronto ANNUAL AWARDS 2017 – CELEBRATING LEADERSHIP, EXCELLENCE AND DIVERSITY

SABA Toronto is pleased to announce the winners of its 2017 Annual Awards.

President’s Award

Tejinder Singh
Partner, Goldstein & Russell P.C.

“Here is the only career advice I have ever received that was worth anything: take whatever opportunity is in front of you right this moment and knock it out of the park. Everything else will follow.”

Tejinder Singh is an appellate and Supreme Court litigator.  His favorite cases involve representing whistleblowers. In 2014, Tejinder became the first turbaned Sikh to ever argue in the Supreme Court when he represented Edward Lane, a whistleblower who exposed corruption in Alabama’s higher education programs, in an important First Amendment case. In 2016, Tejinder represented the Rigsby sisters, two whistleblowers who discovered a massive fraud of the government’s flood insurance program in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Tejinder also represents clients in a range of other matters, including but not limited to civil rights, securities, patent, tort, and criminal cases. For this work, multiple national publications have recognized Tejinder as a “Rising Star” in the appellate bar for the last several years. Alongside his legal practice, Tejinder is a regular contributor to the SCOTUSblog who makes frequent television and radio appearances to discuss developments at the Court. For the last three years, he has been an instructor in the Harvard Law School Supreme Court Litigation Clinic. He also sits on the Board of Directors of the Essie Justice Group, and recently accepted an appointment to the American Bar Association’s Death Penalty Due Process Review Steering Committee. Tejinder earned his law degree from Harvard, and clerked for the honourable Diana Motz on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

 


Diversity Award

Canadian Cross Border Legal Coalition (CCBLC)

The Canadian Cross Border Legal Coalition arose out of a commitment to protecting the dignity of those who had become targets of official government discrimination. Diversity means recognizing our privilege as educated professionals with direct access to the legal system, and using that privilege to help those who need it. The Canadian Cross Border Legal Coalition (CCBLC) was founded in early 2017 as a method for lawyers to assist travellers affected by the sudden implementation of the Trump administration’s travel ban for travellers from eight different Muslim countries. The organization, led by Toronto human rights lawyer Corey Shefman, began initially as a group of volunteer lawyers who mobilized together following the implementation of the travel ban by volunteering at Pearson International Airport and Billy Bishop Airport in January and February 2017. At all times, the group made sure that there was a lawyer present at these airport terminals at all times of the morning, evening, and night to provide assistance to any stranded passengers who were no longer able to enter the United States. Lawyers came together quickly, efficiently, and in large numbers regardless of practice area. Within 48 hours of the initial mobilization, over 100 volunteer lawyers were present at Pearson Airport. Three days later, there were over 300 volunteer lawyers at the Toronto airports. It became a way for each person involved to make a tangible difference in the fight against this discriminatory ban. The Coalition was subsequently born out of these efforts. It brings together volunteer lawyers, law students, and organizations such as the Refugee Hub, the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, in a joint, ongoing effort to oppose the ban as it stands today, as well as assist those who are impacted. The Coalition remains active in monitoring US government efforts to revive the ban. More information is available at https://www.ccblc.org/.


Legal Excellence Award

Sangeetha Punniyamoorthy
Partner, Intellectual Property at DLA Piper

“Take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. No matter how daunting or frivolous it may seem. Once you have that opportunity, work hard and persist. Along the way, never stop believing in the kindness of humanity: some will put up obstacles but more will give you a hand and pull you up.”

For the past 13 years, Sangeetha Punniyamoorthy has developed a career that epitomizes excellence in one’s chosen field of law. Sangeetha completed an undergraduate degree in molecular biology, and has spent her entire career devoted to the practice of Intellectual Property Law. She originally started her career with the boutique IP firm Dimock Stratton, and then continued her practice there when it merged with global law firm DLA Piper (Canada) in 2016. In a time when many lament the lack of advancement of women on Bay Street, Sangeetha is an Equity Partner at DLA Piper.

A large part of her success comes from her dedication to being the best at her craft. She has been involved in incredibly complex IP litigation disputes, including numerous cross-border cases and high profile transactions. Notably, in 2016 she was the lead copyright lawyer in Stargrove Entertainment v. Universal et al, the first IP case to be granted leave to proceed by the Competition Tribunal. Sangeetha has appeared before all levels of court in her practice, including the Supreme Court of Canada.

It is no surprise that Sangeetha’s peers have honoured her and her work with numerous industry awards, including commending her as an “exceptional” leading lawyer in the World Trademark Review 2017, designating her as an IP Litigation Lawyer to Watch in the Canadian Legal Lexpert Directory, and ranking her as a Leading IP Lawyer in the World Intellectual Property Review in 2017.

Sangeetha is currently Chair of the OBA Information Technology and Intellectual Property Law section, and is also an active member of the Canada Amicus Subcommittee of the International Trademarks Association.

 


Arif Virani
Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Canadian Heritage (Multiculturalism), and Member of Parliament for Parkdale-High Park

“To me, diversity and inclusion means seeing yourself in our profession, as lawyers, as leaders of the Bar, as jurists on the bench.  But it goes further than simple numerical representation, it also means that all of us must take on the mantle of staunchly defending the values of inclusion, diversity and pluralism, especially when it means speaking up for the rights of other marginalized persons.”

Arif Virani’s legal career and accomplishment are rooted in an exemplary dedication to human rights, public service, and making his community and world a better place. This has been the case for many years before his election as Member of Parliament for Parkdale-High Park in 2015, and subsequent appointment as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.

Arif developed a strong sense of social justice very early on in his life, given his family’s experiences arriving as refugees in Canada in the early 1970s. Even before he entered law school, Arif had worked on tougher sentencing for hate-motivated crimes, the acceptance of gender-based claims for refugee status, and worked for the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

He went on to practice constitutional litigation at the Constitutional Law Branch of the Ministry of Attorney General of Ontario. Not only has he litigated at all levels of court, including the Supreme Court of Canada, but he was also responsible for providing Ministries throughout the province with advice on constitutional compliance and reform. He has also travelled abroad to work on police accountability mechanisms in New Delhi, India with the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, as well as serving as an Assistant Trial Attorney prosecuting the Rwandan Genocide at the Rwanda War Crimes Tribunal in Tanzania.

Throughout his diverse and international career, Arif has also been a passionate advocate for the South Asian community. He was one of the founding board members of the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario (SALCO), and has been a leading voice in the government to combat extremism, hatred and Islamophobia.