Thursday, March 5, 2009

Leonard Link: Breaking a Lavender Barrier - NY Gov. Paterson Nominates Lesbians to Appellate Division

Leonard Link: Breaking a Lavender Barrier - NY Gov. Paterson Nominates Lesbians to Appellate Division

Several talented lesbian and gay attorneys have managed over the past twenty years to get themselves elected to the New York State Supreme Court -- our trial court of general jurisdiction -- but until today we had faced a lavender barrier of sorts, as we have never had an openly gay or lesbian Supreme Court justice appointed to the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court. (The Appellate Division is an intermediate appellate court that hears appeals from the Supreme Court; its justices consist of elected Supreme Court justices designated by the Governor to sit in the Appellate Division. Since our highest court, the Court of Appeals, whose members are appointed by the Governor from a list of candidates approved by a standing screening panel, controls its docket, for most litigation, the Appellate Division is the final and only appeal.)

Today, Governor David Paterson announced several appointments to the Appellate Divisions, which included -- fanfare, please -- two lesbian judges! Here are the relevant parts of the press release that came from the Governor's office this afternoon. Although the Governor made nothing out of the fact that two of his nominees are lesbians, Justice Richter is well known as one of the city's most prominent lesbian attorneys and then judges, and the final line of Justice Garry's biography gives it away.

From the Governor's press release:

Governor David A. Paterson today announced several appointments and nominations for judicial vacancies.

The Governor will appoint the Honorable Roslyn Richter to fill a vacancy in the Appellate Division, First Department. He will also appoint the Honorable Leonard B. Austin, the Honorable L. Priscilla Hall and the Honorable Plummer E. Lott to fill three vacancies in the Appellate Division, Second Department. Further, the Governor will appoint the Honorable Elizabeth A. Garry to fill a vacancy on the Appellate Division, Third Department.

Justice Richter has been a Justice of the Supreme Court since January 2003, and was an Acting Supreme Court Justice from 2000 to 2002. She currently presides over matrimonial and guardianship cases, and has had experience presiding over civil and criminal matters. From 1998 to 2000, Justice Richter was the Supervising Judge in Bronx Criminal Court, and the Deputy Supervising Judge in that court during 1997. She was a criminal court judge in New York County from 1990 to 1996, and from 1993 to 1996, also served as a part-time judge in the Midtown Community Court. From 1987 to 1990, she presided over administrative proceedings in the New York City Office of Administrative Trials. She served in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office from 1983 to 1987, as the Executive Director of Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund from 1980 to 1983, and as an associate in private practice from 1978 to 1979. Justice Richter also teaches at New York Law School, and serves on a number of court advisory groups and bar association committees. Justice Richter received her Bachelor of Arts from Barnard College in 1976, and her Juris Doctor from Brooklyn Law School in 1979.

Justice Garry was elected to the State Supreme Court, 6th Judicial District in November 2006. From 2001 through 2006, she served as Town Justice for the Town of New Berlin, and from 1995 through 2006, she worked at the Joyce Law Firm in Sherburne, New York, as a litigator primarily handling plaintiff’s personal injury litigation. From 1990 through 1994, she clerked for Justice Irad Ingraham. She graduated from Alfred University in 1984 and Albany Law School in 1990. Justice Garry resides with her same sex life partner, step-son and adopted son.

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