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Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Spitzer Fills Two Vacancies On First Department Bench (MORE, CLICK HERE)

Spitzer Fills Two Vacancies On First Department Bench

By Joel Stashenko and Daniel Wise
January 2, 2008

ALBANY—Governor Eliot Spitzer's appointment of Manhattan Supreme Court Justices Karla Moskowitz (See Profile) and Rolando T. Acosta (See Profile) to the Appellate Division, First Department, is seen as the first step toward significant change in the composition of not only the First Department, but the Third as well.

Mr. Spitzer announced on New Year's Eve that Justices Moskowitz and Acosta will fill openings in the First Department created by the retirement of Justice Joseph P. Sullivan (NYLJ, Nov. 2) and the addition of a new judgeship.

In a statement, the governor called both new Appellate Division justices "superb lawyers and jurists." Both judges said through Mr. Spitzer's office that they were honored to join the First Department bench.

Neither judge could be reached for comment Monday.

Justice Moskowitz has been a Supreme Court justice since 1992 and sits in the Commercial Division in Manhattan. She was formerly a Civil Court judge in Manhattan. In 2001-02, she was president of the National Association of Women Judges.

Justice Acosta has been a Supreme Court justice since 2003. A former Civil Court judge, he was designated in 2001 as an acting Supreme Court justice to preside over the Harlem Community Justice Center, a court that handles family law and civil cases.

Both Justices Moskowitz and Acosta are graduates of Columbia Law School.

Mr. Spitzer's selections are in keeping with his expected emphasis on promoting more women and minorities to the appellate bench. (NYLJ, Dec. 24).

His predecessor, George E. Pataki, appointed only four women, two blacks and two Hispanics to the First and Second department benches in his 12 years as governor. One of those appointees, now-U.S. District Court Judge Sandra L. Townes, is black and a woman and she is included in both of those categories.

Justices Moskowitz and Acosta will join Angela M. Mazzarelli, Milton L. Williams, Luis A. Gonzalez and Peter Tom as minority or female members on the First Department bench.

Changes in the composition of the First and Third departments are seen, ultimately, as being interrelated.

Two current First Department judges, Bernard J. Malone Jr. and E. Michael Kavanagh, are Third Department residents who are candidates for two of the four openings on the Albany-based appellate court.

Should Mr. Spitzer shift Justices Malone and Kavanagh closer to home — the two judges have been splitting their time between the First and Third departments since November — that would create two other openings in the First Department.

In addition, Justice George D. Marlow is leaving the First Department at the end of January to resume hearing cases in Dutchess County Supreme Court and to run a new statewide ethics education initiative (NYLJ, Oct. 17).

Along with Justices Moskowitz and Acosta, sources said Mr. Spitzer and his counsel, David M. Nocenti, interviewed six other candidates for openings in the First Department: Manhattan Justices Sheila Abdus-Salaam, Leland G. DeGrasse, Helen E. Freedman and Bronx Justices John A. Barone, Dianne T. Renwick and Nelson S. Roman (NYLJ, Dec. 28).

Two new judgeships have also been created in the Third Department. Justices D. Bruce Crew III and Carl J. Mugglin stepped down at year's end after reaching the court's mandatory retirement age to account for the other two vacancies on the Albany court.

Mr. Spitzer also has four openings to fill in the Second Department within the next month following the election defeat of Justice Robert W. Schmidt, the mandatory retirements of Justices Gabriel M. Krausman and Gloria Goldstein and the resignation, effective Feb. 4, of Justice Stephen G. Crane (NYLJ, Nov. 2).

The first round of Mr. Spitzer's appointments Monday concerned just the two First Department openings. Mr. Spitzer will make further appointments in the coming days, his spokeswoman Jennifer Givner said Monday.

The governor is choosing from lists of candidates found highly qualified by screening panels in the First, Second and Third departments. There are no openings in the Fourth Department.

Both Justices Moskowitz and Acosta will make $144,000 a year in the Appellate Division, $7,300 more than they were paid as Supreme Court justices. Mr. Spitzer's selections are not subject to confirmation by the state Senate.

— Joel Stashenko can be reached at Daniel Wise can be reached at


Anonymous said...

You know, the first department used to be a highly respected court. Thanks to knucklehead Gov. George Pataki, the AD1 became a joke. Now, maybe, Spitzer can undo some of the damage George and his thugs did. These are good appointments.

Anonymous said...

I am sooooooooooooo disgusted that I voted for Eliot Spitzer. I thought he would at least TRY to clean up the court corruption.

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See Video of Senator John L. Sampson's 1st Hearing on Court 'Ethics' Corruption

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               Video of 1st Hearing on Court 'Ethics' Corruption
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