Diverse Backgrounds Are Hallmark of New Class of 10 NY Appellate Division Justices | New York Law Journal

New York’s four mid-level appeals courts are inching closer toward a full complement of judges, with Gov. Kathy Hochul going a long way toward adding to its quality while furthering efforts to diversify the courts when she appointed nine new judges, while elevating a 10th, legal observers said Monday.

With Hochul’s class of appointments Friday, there are now just two vacancies in the appellate division, one each in the First and Fourth Departments. But in the Fourth, a second vacancy will open up when a judge retires later in August, court system spokesman Lucian Chalfen said Monday.

Six of the judges are in the state’s two downstate appellate courts, while two each were added to courts in Albany and Buffalo. 

“We are delighted that Gov. Hochul has appointed 10 judges to the Appellate Division,” New York State Bar Association President Richard Lewis, said in a statement about the judges, who will hear civil appeals from the supreme, surrogate’s, and family courts, and Court of Claims, and criminal appeals from supreme and county courts. “The court has been extremely short-handed, and that has put intense pressure on the judiciary.”

Lewis also noted that the “appointments demonstrate that the governor understands how important it is for our judiciary to operate effectively and efficiently, and we are happy that she’s acted so swiftly.”

Justice Mary M. Farley, president of the Association of Justices of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, said: “We appreciate the Governor’s appointment of 10 qualified and experienced justices to the Appellate Division, to fully staff our appellate courts to fully serve citizens and litigants. “

Justices Anil Singh, Llinét Rosado, and Kelly O’Neill Levy were appointed to the First Department on Madison Avenue in Manhattan, a court that holds jurisdiction over New York and Bronx counties and is one of the country’s highest volume mid-level appeals courts, if not the highest. 

Singh, a native of India, had already been serving on the Appellate Division, and Hochul elevated him to associate justice to fill the vacancy in the constitutional bench that was created when she recently appointed Justice Dianne Renwick to serve as presiding justice, who stepped in after the retirement of Justice Rolando Acosta.

Justices Lourdes M. Ventura, Carl Landicino and Laurence Love were appointed to the Second Department, which spans the 10 downstate counties of Richmond, Kings, Queens, Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Dutchess, Orange, Rockland and Putnam. 

Justices Mark Powers and Michael Mackey were appointed to the Third Department, and Justices Henry Nowak and Scott DelConte to the Fourth Department.

Attorney Hank Greenberg, chair of the Third Department screening committee, called the governor’s appointments “a triumph of merit selection and diversifying our state judiciary.”

Speaking of the Third Department as an example, Greenberg said it wasn’t long ago that it “consisted solely of white men and one or two women, while, today, “owing to gubernatorial appointments, the Third Department is a model of diversity and judicial excellence.”

“Eight of the 12 justices are diverse, including five women, two African Americans, one Hispanic, and an LGBTQ person. We have a long way to go, especially upstate. But the governor is to be commended for her commitment to judicial excellence and diversity,” said Greenberg, a Greenberg Traurig shareholder and former president of the state bar.

Acosta, the retired First Department presiding justice who’s now a partner in the litigation practice of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, described the collective group as an “embarrassment of riches.”

“You have great candidates, all approved by the respective committees, Acosta said, while giving a nod to what he said was the “sacrifice” for the trial courts.

“Initially, you get the best judges going up to the Appellate Division, leaving a little bit of a vacuum at the trial level, because you have got to retrain judges, you have got to reassign judges – but that’s just the normal course of business. I mean, it’s every judge’s dream, at least mine was, to get to the Appellate Division.”

New York State Trial Lawyers Association president David Scher said: “New Yorkers will benefit from the justices’ strong qualifications, diverse expertise and commitment to fairness. These 10 appointments reflect the values of our state and Governor Hochul’s commitment to continuing to build a just and fair appellate court.”

The Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York said it applauded Hochul for the appointments, and was “particularly delighted to extend heartfelt congratulations to four esteemed members of our organization” in Rosado, O’Neill Levy, Ventura and Landicino. 

“WBASNY recognizes the dedication and hard work displayed by these accomplished judges throughout their legal careers and is confident that they will continue to serve the state of New York with the utmost integrity and dedication,” the association said in a statement.

Hochul said the 10 judges would “continue to bring honor and integrity to New York State’s judiciary.”

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