By Jessica Dye and Joseph Ax
NEW YORK, Jan 18 (Reuters) - Five new administrative judges
have been appointed to oversee courts in New York City, Long
Island and upstate New York, court officials announced Friday.
The appointees are Justice Douglas McKeon, 64, who will
serve as administrative judge for criminal matters in the Bronx
County Supreme Court; Justice Lawrence Knipel, 60, for civil
matters in Kings County Supreme Court; Acting Justice Joseph
Zayas, 50, for criminal matters in Queens County Supreme Court;
Justice Thomas Adams, 65, for Nassau County courts; and Justice
Thomas Mercure, 69, who will be acting administrative judge for
the Third Judicial District in Albany.
The appointments were approved by Chief Judge Jonathan
Lippman in consultation with presiding justices in the
respective judicial districts.
The new appointments come as top court officials contend
with pressure to improve court operations despite tightening
budgets statewide. Administrative judges are charged with
supervising trial judges and overseeing court operations and
policies in their courts.
"These are extraordinarily challenging times for the court
system, and we are most fortunate to have five candidates with
outstanding credentials to fill these critical positions," Chief
Administrative Judge A. Gail Prudenti said in a statement.
McKeon's assignment was first announced on Tuesday and was
said to be part of a broader effort to combat a decades-long
backlog of felony cases in the Bronx. That initiative includes
an unprecedented plan to bring in 10 trial judges from around
the state to help dispose of cases that have been pending for
three years or longer.
McKeon will take over for Acting Justice Efrain Alvarado,
who is returning to the trial bench full-time. McKeon, who was
first elected to state Supreme Court in 1990, has also overseen
civil matters in the Bronx since 2011 and will continue to do
In Brooklyn, Knipel is replacing Justice Sylvia Hinds-Radix,
who was appointed last year to the Appellate Division, Second
Department. Knipel, a former associate at the law firm Vanginkei
and Benjamin, sat on the New York City Civil Court bench from
1991 until 1997, and was elected to the Kings County Supreme
Court in 1998.
Zayas, who was named an acting Supreme Court justice in
Queens in 2010, takes over for Acting Justice Fernando Camacho,
who will move to the trial bench in Suffolk County. Zayas was
formerly a court attorney in state Supreme Court and a staff
attorney with the Legal Aid Society before his appointment to
the New York City Criminal Court in 2003.
In Nassau County, Adams is filling the post vacated by
Justice Anthony Marano, who has reached the mandatory retirement
age of 70. Marano will be stepping aside from his administrative
post but has been authorized to stay on as a Supreme Court
Adams has spent 25 years as judge in various courts,
including the Nassau County District Court, Nassau County
Supreme Court, the Appellate Division's Second Department and
the Court of Claims.
Mercure will take over as acting administrative judge for
the Third Judicial Department -- which covers Albany, Columbia,
Greene, Rensselaer, Schoharie, Sullivan and Ulster counties
--for Justice George Ceresia, who will return to the trial
Mercure was first elected to the Supreme Court in 1981 and
was tapped for a temporary seat on the Court of Appeals in 1994
and again in 2011. He has been a judge at the Appellate
Division, Third Department since 1988, including one year as
acting presiding justice from 2011 to 2012, and will continue to
sit on the court.
Administrative judges earn $165,700 annually.
Follow us on Twitter @ReutersLegal | Like us on Facebook