In a sweeping exercise of his authority, on Thursday, February 18, 2016, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo appointed 10 judges to fill vacancies in all four of the state’s Appellate Division departments of the Supreme Court. The governor has the authority to appoint justices to each Appellate Division department from among those who have been elected as Supreme Court Justices. These appointments to New York’s intermediate appellate courts do not require Senate confirmation and have taken effect immediately — resulting in long-vacant positions being filled and general adjournments at the trial level while the justices settle into their new roles. Filling these vacancies should assist in dealing with backlogs of cases and will hopefully result in cases getting onto the calendars for argument sooner and improve turnaround time for decisions. At the trial level, these appointments will result in delays while the cases pending before each of these judges are redistributed and integrated into the other judges’ existing calendars.
The new appointments reflect the continuing trend toward greater diversity on the bench. Seven of the ten appointees are women and four are minorities.
In the First Department, which covers Manhattan and the Bronx, Governor Cuomo filled three vacancies with Supreme Court Justices Ellen Gesmer, Marcy Louise Kahn, and Troy Karen Webber. Justice Gesmer brings more than ten years of experience as a sitting judge, first on the New York City Court presiding over Brooklyn and Manhattan civil courts and Manhattan criminal courts. She became an Acting Supreme Court Justice in the Bronx in 2006 and has served in the matrimonial part since that time. Prior to that, she worked in private practice, and brings a breadth of experience to the bench.
Justice Kahn has experience working in the public and private sectors. She was first appointed to the bench in 1987 in the New York City Criminal Court and was later elected to the New York State Supreme Court in 1994, where she has continued to preside.
Justice Webber was elected to the Supreme Court in New York County in 2009 and has served as the Acting Surrogate for New York County.
The appointment of Supreme Court Justices Francesca E. Connelly and Valerie Brathwaite Nelson in the Second Department fill two vacancies. The Second Department is comprised of a ten-county region in downstate New York that includes Kings, Queens, and Richmond counties, as well as Long Island and the lower Hudson Valley.
Justice Connolly has had a variety of experience since being elected to the Supreme Court for the Ninth Judicial District in 2009, including the compliance conference, environmental claims, and matrimonial parts. She also brings appellate experience to this new role, as she was appointed to the Appellate Terms for the Ninth and Tenth Judicial Districts in 2014. She also has nearly 25 years of experience in private practice, including trial experience. In the public sector, she served as an Assistant General Counsel with the New York City Department of Probation and as a Law Assistant to the Deputy Administrative Family Court Judge in Queens County.
Justice Nelson was elected to the New York State Supreme Court for the Eleventh Judicial District in 2004. Prior to that, she served for two years as a Queens County Civil Court Judge. She brings a breadth of experience from both the public and private sectors, having served as a law clerk with U.S. Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, a law clerk for the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, an attorney with the National Labor Relations Board, Deputy Counsel with the New York State Department of Labor, an attorney for New York State Senator Alton R. Waldon, Jr., and as an attorney with the United States Postal Service. She also has ten years of experience in her own private practice.
The Third Department encompasses 28 counties in Eastern and Northern Upstate New York, from the mid-Hudson Valley north to the Canadian border and west to Schuyler and Chemung counties. Governor Cuomo filled the two vacancies in this department with Supreme Court Justices Sharon A.M. Aarons and Robert C. Mulvey.
Justice Aarons worked as a law clerk for the Bronx Surrogate Court Judge and a Bronx Supreme Court Justice. She was an associate attorney in private practice and a trial attorney with the Legal Aid Society before being elected to the Bronx Civil Court in 2004 and then to the Bronx Supreme Court in 2009.
Justice Mulvey was first elected to the Supreme Court in Tompkins County in 2000. He served as the Administrative Judge to the Sixth Judicial District. He has been a member of the Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics since 2006. Justice Mulvey has worked extensively in the public sector, as legislative counsel for New York State Senator James Seward, an Assistant District Attorney in Tompkins County, and as the Tompkins County Attorney. He also has some private practice experience.
In the Fourth Department — which is comprised of 22 counties in Western and Central New York, including the cities of Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse —Governor Cuomo filled three vacancies with Supreme Court Justices from Buffalo: John M. Curran, Patrick H. NeMoyer, and Shirley Troutman.
Justice Curran was elected to the Erie County Supreme Court in 2004 after having served as Town Justice for the Town of Orchard Park. He has worked in private practice in both New York and Florida for 20 years. He brings varied experience, particularly in commercial law and medical malpractice since oversaw the commercial part for many years and most recently had the medical malpractice calendar in Erie County Supreme Court.
Justice NeMoyer has been serving as a Supreme Court Justice in Erie County since 1997. He has also been a member of the New York State Pattern Jury Instructions Committee since 2003. Justice NeMoyer’s career has been almost exclusively in the public sector. He began his legal career as a law clerk with the Administrative Judge of the Eighth Judicial District, served as Erie County Attorney until 1993, and then became United States Attorney for the Western District of New York.
Justice Troutman began her judicial career in 1994 when she was elected to the Buffalo City Court. In 2002 she was elected to Erie County Court and served as an Acting Supreme Court Justice. She was elected to the Supreme Court for the Eighth Judicial District in 2009. She has presided predominantly over matrimonial and general civil litigation matters. She has also worked in the public sector, as a an assistant United States Attorney for the Western District of New York, an Assistant Attorney General for the New York Attorney General’s Office, and as an Assistant District Attorney for Erie County.
As the state’s intermediate appellate court, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court addresses issues on appeal from all areas of law, including civil, criminal and family law. Unlike the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, appeals are typically taken to the Appellate Division as of right and do not require a grant of certiorari. That means the Appellate Division is frequently the highest court to speak on a particular issue until it makes its way to the Court of Appeals. Additionally, the Appellate Division permits interlocutory appeals, which means that this court frequently establishes the state of the law for summary judgment. This is very important to commercial and small business clients who want to know the likelihood of success on a motion for summary judgment.
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