Former State Supreme Court Justice Phylis Skloot Bamberger of the Bronx, who worked both before and after her time on the bench to reduce the number of wrongful convictions in New York, died Sunday, Oct. 28, at the age of 79.
Bamberger served on the bench for nearly two decades before her retirement in 2006. She was active in the legal community after her retirement and well-recognized among her peers.
Fifty years after she graduated from Brooklyn College, she returned to speak to the graduating class in 2010. She addressed the students, quoting Dr. Seuss.
“Oh, the places you’ll go!” Bamberger said to the graduating seniors.
And oh, the places she did go over her career.
After graduating from NYU Law School, she spent more than two decades as an appellate defender with the New York City Legal Aid Society. Much of that time was spent as the head of the federal defender unit for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
She argued four cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and nearly 200 in the Second Circuit. She was one of very few women to head a federal defender office after Congress created the federal public defender system in the 1960s.
She was first appointed to the state Court of Claims by Gov. Hugh Carey in 1982, but was never confirmed because the nominations were held up by the Legislature that year.
She was nominated to a judgeship by Gov. Mario Cuomo in 1988 and went on to serve 18 years on the bench as a justice of the State Supreme Court in the Bronx, where she heard many cases involving major crimes.
She was the sentencing justice for former New York City Councilman Rafael Castaneira-Colon, for example. He pleaded guilty to creating fake employee accounts in his offices and cashing their paychecks for his own personal gain. Bamberger sentenced him to a maximum of six years in prison.
Off the bench, Bamberger was involved with and chaired committees and planned programs for the New York State Bar Association, New York City Bar Association, and the Office of Court Administration. She spoke and wrote on the subjects of wrongful convictions and forensic evidence.
She was also deeply involved in her community. She chaired the Ritual Committee at the Central Synagogue in Manhattan, where she was a member for several years. She frequently wrote bulletin articles on matters of ritual.
Bamberger is survived by her husband of 53 years Michael Bamberger, her sons Kenneth (Sara) and Richard (Kristin), and eight grandchildren.
She died at home from complications of Lewy body dementia, her family said.
A funeral for Bamberger will take place on Oct. 30, at 11:30 a.m. at Central Synagogue, Lexington Ave. and 55th Street in Midtown Manhattan.