February 2021 Justinian Member of the Month
The Honorable Annette M. Rizzo (Ret.)
February 2021 Justinian Member of the Month
Hon. Annette M. Rizzo (Ret.) has been part of the JAMS Internation team for over six years serving as a neutral in mediations and arbitrations in a variety of complex civil matters, including, but not limited to, mass tort, personal injury, products liability, civil rights, employment.
Judge Rizzo served for 16 years in the First Judicial District, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. She most recently served in the Trial Division, Civil Program for 11 years assigned to Motions Court rotation and the Complex Litigation Program with the majority of her time spent in the Civil Major Jury Trial Program where she oversaw a vast array of complex civil disputes. Prior to her tenure on the bench, Judge Rizzo acquired a wide range of experience tied to the corporate, public, and private sectors including her work as litigator for a prominent Mid-Atlantic firm that is the oldest continuous law firm in the United States, as Senior Counsel at one of the largest global providers of insurance, and serving as an Assistant City Solicitor for the City of Philadelphia.
In 2008, Judge Rizzo developed the Court’s Residential Mortgage Foreclosure Diversion Program. The Program, which continues today, is a pioneering achievement of ADR as it brings together, in conference, homeowners, lenders, attorneys, and housing counselors in an effort to keep city residents in their homes. The court-annexed mediation program has been a model for similar programs in Pennsylvania and in other jurisdictions in states such as NJ, NY, KY, IL, MD, and DE.
Judge Rizzo has testified about the Program before TARP, the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the U.S. House of Representatives. She was a panelist at a White House conference invited by the United States Department of Justice and the U.S. Vice President Biden’s Middle Class Task Force. Judge Rizzo continues to speak nationally about the program at trainings for the judiciary, government agencies, mortgage finance companies, public interest entities, lender servicers, and in academia. These diverse organizations include the Federal Reserve, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, the National Low Income Housing Coalition, NeighborWorks America, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and many others. Internationally, Judge Rizzo participated in a European Union Conference and CLE program in Italy regarding the merits of Alternative Dispute Resolution, the Foreclosure Diversion Program, and international mediation systems.
Just prior to taking the bench, Judge Rizzo worked for seven years as Senior Counsel at CIGNA Companies where she oversaw coverage litigation involving mass tort, environmental, and long-term exposure claims. She coordinated litigation management of underlying mass tort cases and oversaw multiple initiatives in the Government Affairs Division. Prior to her tenure at CIGNA Companies, Judge Rizzo served with the Philadelphia Office of the City Solicitor and then in the Litigation Department of the law firm of Rawle & Henderson, where she gained experience in litigation in matters involving general casualty, toxic tort, defamation, product liability, medical malpractice, correctional health care, and civil rights.
Judge Rizzo currently serves as an Adjunct Professor for the Temple University School of Law State Court Clinical Program, which she developed in 2007.
Una Piccola Conversazione
1. How long have you been a member of the Justinian Society?
I have been a member of the Society since 1980 while a student at Temple Law School- WoW!
2. Why did you join the Justinian Society, and what do you hope to gain from membership?
Beyond the general interest in the mission of the Society, it was a way to connect with students, practitioners, and members of the bench over the years for mentoring opportunities, social events; to be part of a community that celebrated Italian heritage! A true family in the law!
3. What do you love or enjoy most about your job?
My current position at JAMS permits me to work on complex and challenging matters with counsel across the nation, and even the world- but I most enjoy my ongoing work in mediation and arbitration with so many members of our local bar, including Justinian members. My commitment to ADR grew out of my work with the Mortgage Diversion Program. I witness its benefit to bring confidential resolution to parties every day.
4. How would you define success?
Success is so personal, but, for me, it is the intersection of finding out where you want to put your energies, time, and "sweat equity", whether personal or professional, and then seeing an endeavor through to create some positive impact. "Did I leave something better than I found it
5. Who or what inspires you?
I love seeing the back story of so many people throughout history and reading their journey of self-discovery and achievement- my formal study of immigration in college, particularly in our Italian and Italian -American circle inspires me, but I have to look no further than in my own family to be inspired by my ancestors' journey to this country.
6. If you could choose anyone in history as a mentor, who would you choose and why?
I have always been inspired by Franklin Delano Roosevelt- for his boldness to deal with unrelenting challenges over his presidential tenure for all Americans in the moment and how he directed the course of history with his courage in decision-making.
7. Name one valuable lesson you’ve learned in your life and that you would advise other members to follow?
Many valuable lessons come to mind, but one I live by is that "It is okay to look over your shoulder, just don't stare!"
8. What’s something about you (a fun fact) that not many people know?
Being a formal "Disco Queen" I love planning dance parties!" (Hope we can get back to them soon!)
9. What’s the last book you read?
I am an avid reader of biographies - just finished one on Dr. Benjamin Rush- a true insight into colonial Philadelphia- love all history about Italy and Philadelphia!
10. What’s your favorite thing about Philadelphia, i.e., sports team, restaurant, museum, history, music etc.?
Being a true "Philly girl" I love exploring quirky areas of the City, and rare historic haunts- But who doesn't love all Philly teams?!!!