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Janet DiFiore, Westchester County District Attorney. Nominated for Chief Justice of the NY Court of Appeals today. Photo, The District Attorney’s Office

WPCNR WHITE PLAINS LAW JOURNAL. From the Governor’s Office. December 1, 2015:

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today nominated Westchester District Attorney Janet DiFiore to serve as the next Chief Judge of the New York State Court of Appeals – New York State’s highest court – and head of the judiciary branch. In addition to her nearly 10-year tenure as District Attorney, DiFiore has years of experience as both a prosecutor and judge, with an extensive background in judicial and legal reform. As District Attorney she also manages an office of more than 230 people.

“Janet DiFiore is tremendously qualified to serve as Chief Judge of the State Court of Appeals,” said Governor Cuomo. “She has served as both judge and prosecutor, and has spent her career working to ensure justice and fairness for New Yorkers. She has led crucial reform efforts to make our judicial system both more effective and more efficient, and I am confident that she would continue this leadership on the Court of Appeals. I am proud to nominate Janet for this position, because she has the strong, balanced experience that New York needs.”

Governor Cuomo continued: “I also wish to thank Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman for his years of dedicated service on the Court of Appeals, as well as former Chief Judge Judith Kaye and the members of the Commission on Judicial Nomination for their work in recommending a number of qualified and experienced potential nominees. This was a truly exceptional list of candidates.”

District Attorney DiFiore said: “I am humbled by the incredible honor of being nominated to serve as Chief Judge of the New York State Court of Appeals. My professional life has been devoted to the fair administration of justice, and I would gladly continue my service to the people of New York on our state’s highest court. I am grateful to Governor Cuomo for this nomination.”

Westchester County Executive Robert P. Astorino commented: “I congratulate my friend Janet DiFiore on this prestigious appointment.  I have known Janet for many years and have worked closely with her on many issues and I know she’ll be an excellent judge and administrator for the New York court system.  I applaud the governor for choosing such a highly qualified individual as Janet DiFiore. New Yorkers will be well served.”

If confirmed by the State Senate, DiFiore would be only the second female chief judge in New York State history. The first – Chief Judge Judith Kaye – was nominated by Governor Mario Cuomo.

DiFiore has held her current position as District Attorney of Westchester County since January 2006, and is now serving her third term as the county’s chief law enforcement officer. Over the course of her tenure as District Attorney, she has targeted a broad array of crimes involving everything from gang-related violence to identity theft and environmental pollution. She also has considerable experience with domestic violence issues, and has spearheaded efforts to improve the investigation and handling of child abuse cases. Early in her first term, DiFiore also designed and launched the Westchester Intelligence Center, which helps coordinate resources and information sharing among local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.

Prior to beginning her first term in 2006, DiFiore spent more than six years on the bench of state and local courts. She first served as a Westchester County Court Judge from January 1999 to December 2002, and was later elected to serve as a Supreme Court Justice for the New York State Criminal Courts, 9th Judicial District from January 2003 to May 2005. In her time on the bench, DiFiore presided over hundreds of civil and criminal cases on a broad array of issues. As a Supervising Judge on the state’s criminal court, she oversaw a restructuring of the case assignment system in order to increase efficiency and achieve the first elimination of all backlogged cases in any of the state’s judicial districts. Furthermore, during her time on the bench DiFiore was directly involved in the creation of Mental Health and Sex Offenders Courts, as well as the implementation of the newly established Domestic Violence and Drug Treatment Courts.

In addition to her responsibilities as District Attorney, DiFiore has co-chaired the New York State Justice Task Force since 2009, leading investigations of cases involving wrongful convictions and identifying reforms that will prevent such cases from occurring in the future. She was appointed to this position by the current Chief Judge, Jonathan Lippman. Additionally, during her first term as District Attorney, she personally led an investigation into the case of Jeffrey Deskovic, who had been wrongly convicted and sentenced as a teenager in 1990 for rape and murder. In addition to proving Deskovic’s innocence and securing his release from prison, DiFiore’s investigation resulted in the confession and sentencing of the actual killer.

DiFiore is a past president of the New York State District Attorneys Association, and has served on the New York State Commission on Youth, Safety and Justice, which recommended both statutory and administrative reforms pertaining to the prosecution and imprisonment of youthful offenders, as well as the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics as its Chair. She received her B.A. from C.W. Post College, Long Island University and a J.D. from St. John’s University School of Law.

This is Governor Cuomo’s fifth nomination to the New York State Court of Appeals. Governor Cuomo previously appointed Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam and Judge Jenny Rivera, who were confirmed in 2013, and Judge Leslie Stein and Judge Eugene Fahey, who were confirmed in 2015.

DiFiore has been nominated to replace Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, who will be retiring at the end of the year.

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