Trip to Cuba, Justice Alito lecture among events he is planning
Arthur Aidala Esq., the new president of the Brooklyn Bar Association, came into office on June 1 with exciting plans for the 2,000-member organization. Among the events he is planning is trip to Cuba for lawyers in 2016. Aidala has also arranged for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito to come and speak to the association about education.
“That’s a biggie. There are only nine Supreme Court justices and there are 50 states. Everyone is asking for their time. The fact that we got him is a big deal,” Aidala told the Brooklyn Eagle during a phone interview on Thursday.
Aidala is the 100th president of the Brooklyn Bar Association. Founded in 1872, the association works to promote professional competence among lawyers and works to foster increased respect for the legal system.
Aidala, 47, who was born and raised in Bay Ridge, officially took office for his year-long term on June 1, but he will be publicly sworn in on June 17 in a ceremony to take place at the New York Marriott at Brooklyn Bridge on Adams Street, where fellow attorneys Alan Dershowitz, Geraldo Rivera, Rose Ann Branda and Andrea Bonina will speak about his accomplishments.
Rivera is a Fox News Channel colleague of Aidala’s. Aidala is a legal analyst for the cable news station. His law firm, Aidala, Bertuna & Kamins, has offices at 8118 13th Ave. in Dyker Heights and 546 Fifth Ave., in Manhattan. The midtown office is only two blocks from the Fox News Channel studios, giving Aidala an easy commute when he has to run at a moment’s notice to the studio to appear on camera to talk about the Boston Marathon bomber or other cases in the headlines.
Under Aidala’s leadership, the Brooklyn Bar Association’s headquarters at 123 Remsen St. in Brooklyn Heights will get a facelift. The renovation will underscore the theme of Aidala’s presidency — that Brooklyn’s lawyers are part of a great tradition that is ever-evolving.
“The borough has experienced a renaissance in recent years like no other. It’s THE place to be. I want to make sure that the Brooklyn Bar Association catches the wave,” he told the Eagle. “I want to make sure that the word is out there in the legal community that Brooklyn lawyers are fantastic. They have intelligence and street smarts. It leads to getting excellent results for their clients.”
Anyone who has watched Aidala at work in a courtroom, where his ability to sway jurors is well known, might be surprised to learn that he didn’t want to be a lawyer when he was young, even though is father, Louis, is a lawyer.
Aidala attended P.S. 185, where his mother taught for many years, and Poly Prep Country Day School before moving on to the State University of New York at Purchase. He harbored dreams of becoming an actor.
“I was in a lot of plays at Poly and I loved it. I studied acting for two years at SUNY Purchase but then I decided I wanted more out of life,” he recalled. “An actor’s life is a hard life. I remember someone telling us, ‘When you’re an actor, you spend a lot of time asking people if they want fries with their burger.’ In other words, there are actors who spend most of their time going on auditions and being a waiter. I didn’t want that.”
Aidala decided that he wanted to be a lawyer.
Another opportunity came his way in college that helped him decide to leave acting behind and study law. He got a summer job as an intern in the offices of Sal Albanese, who was Bay Ridge’s councilmember at the time. “I really enjoyed that,” he said.
After graduating from SUNY Purchase, he entered the City University of New York Law School. He passed the bar in the early 1990s and got a job as an assistant district attorney in the Brooklyn district attorney’s office. Charles Hynes was the Brooklyn DA at the time. “I got to handle a lot of big cases. At the time, crime was high in New York and there were a lot of cases. The DA’s office was putting all of these young ADA’s out there,” Aidala said.
Hynes installed a system in which Brooklyn was divided into zones, with each zone represented by a color. The Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights area where Aidala lived was the Blue Zone. “I made a pitch to handle cases in the Blue Zone, and as a result, I was really able to serve my community.”
But it wasn’t easy. “I remember the first time I spoke to a jury. I made the mistake of holding a piece of paper in my hand. The jurors could look at the paper and see that my hands were shaking,” he said.
Aidala left the DA’s office in 1997 to run for Albanese’s City Council seat. Albanese ran for mayor. Aidala lost the Democratic Primary by 108 votes. He decided to go into private practice. He reached out to Frank Santo, a well-known lawyer who was also a powerful Democratic District Leader. “I walked into Frank Santo’s office on 13th Avenue and told him I was looking for a place to hang my shingle. He gave me that space,” Aidala recalled.
Ever resourceful, Aidala wrote a letter to everyone on his council campaign list to tell them that he was now a lawyer in private practice. “I had a nice, local law practice. I handled real estate, wills, and of course, with my background as an ADA, I found I had a natural fit for criminal law,” he said.
As a result of word of mouth advertising done by satisfied clients, his law practice grew. Aidala said he thinks his success is due to the respect he shows his clients. “I look at my clients and I say, ‘There but for the grace of God go I.’ These are people in trouble and they have come to you for help. I don’t believe in looking down on people,” he said.
Over the years, he has defended a number of famous clients, including New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor, who was accused a sexual misconduct.
But the bulk of his clients are “regular Brooklyn working families.”
Several years ago, he joined forces with Marianne Bertuna and formed a law firm with her. “She was once my intern. Then she became a lawyer. Now, she’s kind of like my boss,” he joked. A few years ago, retired New York State Supreme Court Justice Barry Kamins became a partner in the firm, which is now called Aidala, Bertuna & Kamins.
Aidala’s dad has his law office in the same Fifth Avenue building. “I’m surrounded by great mentors,” Aidala said.
Meanwhile, Aidala’s television career is thriving. “I had a high profile case that landed me on television in 2005. Fox called me and I became their on-air legal analyst,” he said. He appears on “The Kelly File” hosted by Megyn Kelly, on “Shepard Smith Reporting,” hosted by Shepard Smith, and other shows such as “Outnumbered.”
The secret to a successful career in television is simple, he said. “You have to pretend it’s not a television camera on you and that you’re just having a conversation with a friend,” he said.
When he is not working, Aidala dotes on his son Luca. The single dad said he enjoys every minute he spends with his eight-year-old son.