Judges from Rochester to Oswego to Albany have been tapped as the initial recruits in what Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman (See Profile) has called a judicial "SWAT team" to clamp down on felony backlogs in the Bronx.
According to initial lists from the courts, the pool of potential judges is being filled mostly from upstate courts and include some judges in administrative roles.
They are: Albany County Supreme Court Justices Thomas Breslin (See Profile) and Joseph Teresi (See Profile); Onondaga County Justice Donald Greenwood (See Profile) and Acting Justice John Brunetti (See Profile); Oswego County Justice James McCarthy (See Profile); Suffolk County Justices Joseph Santorelli (See Profile) and Andrew Crecca (See Profile); Monroe County Supreme Court Justice John Ark (See Profile); Court of Claims Judge Donald Cerio Jr. (See Profile); and Acting Niagara County Supreme Court Justice Richard Kloch Sr. (See Profile).
Michael Coccoma (See Profile), deputy chief administrative judge of courts outside of New York City, offered his services from late April to late May while Suffolk County Administrative Judge C. Randall Hinrichs (See Profile) volunteered for a two-week slot at some point in the summer. Court of Claims Presiding Judge Richard Sise (See Profile) volunteered for later in the fall, if needed.
Bronx Administrative Judge Douglas McKeon (See Profile) noted yesterday, however, that the complete tally of volunteer judges has not yet been determined. All told, he said, the special "blockbuster" part will be drawing from around 20 judges.
Trials in the part will start by the end of February. McKeon said some cases could be sent to trial even sooner, but the goal is to accumulate a "sufficient inventory" of cases ready for trial, so that when one finishes, another is ready to go.
"The last thing we want and the last a judge wants is to sit around. We're not going to bring down judges unless we can keep them busy," said McKeon.
Before trials start, McKeon said court officials are ironing out details like space for the trials and adequate support staff for the judges, such as clerks, reporters and court officers.
As the part is launched, another challenge, said McKeon, is estimating a sufficient jury pool to handle the blockbuster part on top of the other criminal and civil trials that are proceeding outside of it.
Though some aspects of the part are still being planned, McKeon noted that some of the pending cases are already being addressed.