Cuomo Fills 4 Appellate Division Vacancies

, New York Law Journal

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Top, L-R: Justices Kapnick and Duffy, Bottom: Justices LaSalle and Maltese
Top, L-R: Justices Kapnick and Duffy, Bottom: Justices LaSalle and Maltese

ALBANY - New York state's mid-level appeals court, struggling with a judicial vacancy rate of 23 percent, finally got some help on Friday, when Gov. Andrew Cuomo filled four of the 15 openings statewide with appointments to the Appellate Division's downstate departments.

The seats were the first appellate court vacancies that the governor has filled in more than a year.

In the First Department, which was down three of its 20 judges, Cuomo appointed Supreme Court Justice Barbara R. Kapnick of Manhattan. In the Second Department, in which five of the 22 positions were vacant, he elevated justices Colleen Duffy of Westchester, Hector D. LaSalle of Suffolk County and Joseph J. Maltese of Staten Island.

Cuomo has yet to fill 11 other vacancies and did not appoint any new judges to the upstate departments. Officials said additional appointments are pending.

All four Appellate Division departments have been operating shorthanded. The Third Department, a busy upstate court which, because of its location in the capital, hears a large volume of appeals involving the state and its agencies, is particularly stressed with a 42 percent vacancy rate. One of the five vacant positions has been open for more than two years.

For the past several months, Presiding Justice Karen Peters has been assigning four-judge rather than five-judge panels, which occasionally results in a tie vote and the odd situation in which the case is ultimately decided by a vouched-in judge who was not present for oral arguments (NYLJ, Dec. 13). More recently, Peters cut a session out of the January calendar.

Cuomo said in a statement that the new appellate judges "bring to the courts wide-ranging and distinguished careers exhibiting years of legal experience and sound judgment."

Kapnick, 60, was elected to Supreme Court in 2001 and assigned to the Commercial Division in 2008. A graduate of Barnard College, where she majored in English, and Boston University School of Law, she clerked for two Supreme Court justices. She was elected to New York City Civil Court in 1992.

Kapnick is currently president of the Association of Supreme Court Justices of the City of New York and has been a member of the Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics since 2008.

Duffy, a former litigation associate with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and assistant general counsel for Unilever United States, began her judicial career in 1998 when she was appointed to a Mount Vernon City Court post, a position to which she was elected the following year.

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    Governor Cuomo’s excellence in judicial picks, and bipartisan at that, is a gift to all hardworking New Yorkers who wish to have merit-based resolution of their disputes in a fair and impartial court. That each of these justices have earned their loftier appointment, with hard work and dedicated public service, serves to buttress the well-earned reputation of the appellate bench they have been appointed to. A hearty and heartfelt congratulations to each is due, and given.Luckily, when Governor Cuomo is ready to make more appointments, a statewide judicial team of excellence awaits in the “dugout.”Every time an executive appoints or nominates a judge, democracy’s latent gift, judge-birth, is visible, albeit, forgotten at the ballot box. When in fact, the type of judges appointed or nominated and confirmed ought to be remembered by every voters when casting their ballot to elect or re-elect the executive and the senate-confirmators, as the case may be. After all, it is the Third Branch of government that touches each citizen in a most personal way, seeking to give a full measure of justice for all - the core of American exceptionalism.Dated: 1/19/14/s/Ravi Batra

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