Q: Did you want to leave? Would you stay if you could?
A: I would have probably stayed if I could. The Second Department bench and the members of the court are like no other. We consider ourselves a family who follow the motto: 'All for one and one for all.' I have made many friends and developed many professional relationships over the years. However, after 35 years on the bench (19 of which were in the Second Department where I served under six presiding or acting presiding justices), and the fact that my first appointment to the Second Department was by Governor Mario Cuomo and my most recent (and final) recertification was by his son Governor Andrew Cuomo, perhaps it was time for me to go.
Q: What are your future plans?
A: I have been working in the legal field for the last 49 years. This year will mark my 50th anniversary since my admission to the bar. I plan on taking a month off before I begin to think about what my next venture will be.
Q: You have been a trial judge and an appellate judge. What are the differences between the two roles? Is one role harder than another in your opinion?
A: The main difference between the two is that a trial judge interacts more with the attorneys and the parties and an appellate judge's job is primarily academic; there is less interaction with the parties and more reading. One is not harder than the other, they are just different.
Q: In your time at the Second Department whatif anything at allhas changed in regards to your fellow judges, the attorneys appearing before you or the cases you consider?
A: Over the years I have seen a wealth of diversity (i.e., in gender, race, etc.) in both the attorneys appearing before the court, and in the judges themselves. It's been great to see the legal field flourish in that regard. Additionally, in recognizing a potential lack of civility in the field, we have brought the topic to the attention of members of the bar, who are addressing it.
Q: What were some of your most memorable cases? Decisions?
A: The appeal I will remember the most was that of Marty Tankleff (73 AD3d 78), the Long Island boy who had been convicted of murdering his parents. I was a member of the panel that vacated his conviction and released him from prison after he had served over 17 years behind bars.
Q: What do you think was your greatest achievement in your legal career?
A: I am most proud that I have been able to serve the people of the state of New York for over 40 years, nearly 35 of which have been as a judge. I hope I have done my part in promoting justice for all.?
Q: On the other hand, what was your greatest disappointment?
A: I regret that under the stress and the work overload, perhaps I didn't take the time every day to truly appreciate my job. Now, I must resort to enjoying my memories. I'm sure many judges feel the same way.
Q: On the last day you heard oral arguments at the Second Department, attorneys and fellow judges gave you a standing ovation.
A: On Nov. 1 (my last sitting), I was the justice presiding, and it happened to be only a few days after Hurricane Sandy. My family was unfortunately not able to be there in light of the aftermath of the storm. Justice John Leventhal, who was a member of the bench that day, initiated the ovation and it truly made me feel blessed. It was a great send-off and my career truly flashed before my eyes. I was honored that the judges and attorneys gave me that kind of overgenerous ovation.
Q: You've worked with notable figures like Governor Mario Cuomo and Justice Burton Roberts. What was it like working with both men?
A: It was an absolute pleasure to work for both individuals, although they have very different personalities. Governor Mario Cuomo was very steadfast, progressive, and believed in an activist government. He truly believed that government could make a difference and that was why I enjoyed working for him so much. As for Judge Burton Roberts, although he received a lot of press over the years as having, as some may say, an irascible and flamboyant demeanor, he was a very compassionate person who always cared for the lawyers and parties who came before him and additionally, he was always fair and just. The Manhattan D.A.'s office loss was most assuredly the Bronx's gain as to Judge Roberts.
@|Andrew Keshner can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.