In a break from longstanding tradition, the Appellate Division, First Department, will reduce its panels from five to four judges beginning in April because it has three vacancies and a judge on medical leave, Presiding Justice Rolando Acosta said.

The move may be temporary but the court faces several obstacles even if Gov. Andrew Cuomo moves quickly to fill the existing vacancies. Justice Marcy Kahn is retiring in late September and Justice John Sweeny will leave at the end of the year because he has not applied to be certificated.

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