After 25 years as a justice of the Appellate Division, Third Department, Thomas Mercure (See Profile) will leave the court in the next couple of months to become an administrative judge.
Mercure is among five new administrative judges appointed on Jan. 18 by Chief Administrative Judge A. Gail Prudenti (See Profile). The others are Bronx Supreme Court Justice Douglas McKeon (See Profile); Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Lawrence Knipel (See Profile); Queens Acting Supreme Court Justice Joseph Zayas (See Profile); and Nassau County Supreme Court Justice Thomas Adams (See Profile).
Clockwise: Douglas McKeon, Bronx; Lawrence Knipel, Brooklyn; Joseph Zayas, Queens; Thomas Mercure, Third Dept.; and Thomas Adams, Nassau.
“It has been great,” Mercure said of his tenure on the Third Department bench. “I enjoyed every minute, but I am looking forward to some new challenges.”
Mercure, a highly regarded judge who was nominated for the Court of Appeals three times, served on the high court by designation twice and led the Third Department as acting presiding justice in 2011-2012 during the illness and subsequent death of Anthony Cardona. He was asked by Prudenti to fill a vacant position in the Third Judicial District.
The vacancy was created earlier this month by the abrupt resignation of George Ceresia (See Profile), who left the administrative position he had held since 2004 and returned to the Supreme Court trial bench without explanation (NYLJ, Jan. 10). Ceresia announced his resignation from the administration job in a terse email to colleagues. He has not responded to calls for comment.
“Judge Mercure was willing to come off the Appellate Division,” Prudenti said. “He is going to take a good hard look at everything, do the right things for the right reasons and the next administrative judge is going to be the beneficiary of all his hard work.”
The Third Department is already three judges short of its full contingent of 12 as Governor Andrew Cuomo has yet to fill the position vacated by the 2011 death of Cardona or two other spots that opened with the 2012 electoral defeats of incumbent Justices Bernard Malone Jr. and E. Michael Kavanagh.
Three Supreme Court justices in the Albany area—Thomas Breslin (See Profile), Michael Lynch (See Profile) and Eugene Devine (See Profile)—are candidates for the Cardona position. The judicial screening panel has yet to advance candidates for the other two spots, according to sources close to the process.
Mercure, who is 69 and faces mandatory retirement at the end of the year, said he will remain on the Third Department temporarily.
“I don’t want to leave the court any more shorthanded than it already is,” he said. “So I am definitely sitting in February, and perhaps March. We’ll see.”
With Mercure’s assignment and the appointment of new administrative judges in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Nassau County, Prudenti has replaced nearly a third of the state’s 18 administrative judges.
“The chief judge and I carefully vetted all the candidates and we chose the individuals that we thought would do the best job and were very experienced judges who would do what they need to do…assuming leadership roles knowing that we feel very strongly that we have to improve trial court operations,” Prudenti said.
McKeon, 64, currently administrative judge for civil matters in Bronx Supreme Court, is replacing Justice Efrain Alvarado (See Profile) as administrative judge for criminal matters. Alvarado is returning to the trial court.
A former New York City Civil Court judge who was first elected to Supreme Court in 1990, McKeon was appointed presiding justice of the Appellate Term in the First Department in 2006. He will continue to serve as Bronx civil administrative judge.
Alvarado said he is “at heart a trial judge” and is “pleased to return to the trial part.”
He said he is also pleased that the Bronx court is getting additional resources to help trim the felony backlog. Last week, Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman (See Profile) announced that at least 10 judges from outside New York City will be asked to conduct criminal trials in the Bronx over the next six months (NYLJ, Jan. 16).
“I had always asked for additional resources to address the backlog, which did not happen overnight,” Alvarado said. “I am pleased that request is now being addressed.”
Knipel, 60, was named administrative judge for civil matters in Brooklyn Supreme Court. He replaces Justice Sylvia Hinds Radix (See Profile), who was promoted to the Appellate Division, Second Department. Knipel, a former New York City Civil Court judge, has been on the Brooklyn Supreme Court bench since 1998.
Zayas, 50, was named administrative judge for criminal matters in Queens Supreme Court, replacing Justice Fernando Camacho (See Profile), who has returned to the trial bench in Suffolk County. Zayas was first appointed to the New York City Criminal Court in 2003 and was named an acting Supreme Court justice in 2010.
Adams, 65, succeeds Supreme Court Justice Anthony Marano (See Profile) as administrative judge for the Nassau County Courts. Marano had reached the mandatory retirement age of 70 and was ineligible to remain as administrative judge, but has been certificated to return to the trial bench.
Adams was a Nassau County District Court judge from 1988 until his election to Supreme Court. He served on the Appellate Division, Second Department, from 2001 to 2006, when he lost a reelection bid and was appointed to the Court of Claims. Adams was reelected to the Nassau County Supreme Court in 2011.
@|John Caher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.