Stanley Parness
Stanley Parness ()

Stanley Parness, a former presiding justice of the Appellate Term, First Department, died unexpectedly on July 8. He was 85.

Parness, who was admitted to the New York bar in 1955, worked for the court system for more than two decades, first as a law clerk Supreme Court Justice Hyman Korn. Parness was later elected to the Civil Court of the City of New York. He served 18 years on as a justice of the Appellate Term, the last four as its presiding justice, and retired in 2001.

As a judge, Parness presided for 15 years over all tax certiorari and condemnation cases in New York County.

Among his most notable cases was Matter of Urban Development Corp., 176 Misc.2d 772 (1998), where he upheld the condemnation of many Midtown properties for private development. The ruling paved the way for Times Square’s redevelopment, which was one of the largest public commercial urban renewal projects in the state.

His 1991 ruling involving One New York Plaza determined that owners of commercial buildings containing asbestos were eligible for refunds and reductions in their tax assessments.

Friends and colleagues said they were surprised by Parness’ death. Many described him as a pragmatic jurist with a knack for bringing about resolutions before cases needed to go to trial.

He also had an “extraordinary dry and caustic wit … that could diffuse any situation,” said Betty Ellerin, who is senior counsel to Alston & Bird and served for 20 years as an Appellate Division judge. She said in a telephone interview she and Parness were friends for more than 50 years and spoke by phone last week.

“We both grew up in the system and knew how it could work to help people. I’m going to miss him, and I think the bar and the profession is going to miss him,” Ellerin said, her voice breaking.

John Werner, chief clerk and executive officer of the Manhattan Supreme Court, civil branch, said in an email that Parness was “a sage observer of the human condition, an enormously accomplished jurist, a very quick study and an ever loyal friend to his colleagues on the bench and to all court staff.”

For the past 13 years, Parness was of counsel to Stroock & Stroock & Lavan advising on tax certiorari matters. “What he taught people at Stroock is to not just know the law, but to know its practical implications,” co-managing partner Alan Klinger said.

After leaving the bench in 2001, Parness began serving with Ellerin on the character and fitness committee of the Appellate Division, First Department,’ and on the court system’s Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics.

He was a past president of the Supreme Court Justices Association of the City of New York and taught real estate law at New York University as an adjunct professor.

Parness attended New York University as an undergraduate and earned his LL.M. at the University of Virginia School of Law. He then earned his J.D. from St. John’s University School of Law.

He is survived by his wife, Harriet, and his brother, Howard.

Donations in his memory can be made to the American Heart Association or Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Funeral services were private. A memorial service will be announced at a later date.