Elizabeth A. Garry, Presiding Justice, Appellate Division, Third Department

This week, as we come together for the New York State Bar Association’s Annual Meeting, it is a privilege to attend for the first time as Presiding Justice of the Appellate Division, Third Department. This event provides an excellent example of what is great about our profession. Attorneys from across New York state and beyond gather as a community of colleagues from vastly different backgrounds, practice areas and professional settings, but with a shared commitment to learning from one another and upholding the highest standards of service and integrity.

As in the legal profession more broadly, the many different backgrounds and perspectives represented within the court system are a tremendous source of strength, and we remain connected through our shared values and traditions. I welcome the opportunity to bring our best traditions forward as we continue to develop strategies to make our courts ever more efficient, accessible, and prompt in rendering determinations.

My predecessor, the Honorable Karen K. Peters, emphasized the importance of ensuring that our bench, bar and legal community reflect the constituencies they serve. I share that focus and am committed to advancing the work that she and so many others have done to improve diversity and inclusion in our courts. As public servants, our institutions must represent the people we serve. Diversity is central and essential to our mission to provide full and equal access to our justice system, and we all benefit from collaborative decision-making by individuals who bring a multitude of perspectives to the challenges we face.

We must pursue this goal deliberately and sensitively. I have occasionally spoken about my own evolving attitude toward representing a historically under-represented group. Over time, I have come to better understand the meaning and importance of representation at all levels of our government. This is particularly true for young people, who have expressed that they view my advancement as further opening the door for them to achieve their own potential. I have been able to bring unique perspectives to my work as a judge and to share those perspectives with my colleagues. I have also learned a great deal from those whose experiences differ greatly from my own. We must strive for diversity while understanding that we are all much more than our race, sex, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, physical ability, geographic background or other social identifiers. As leaders, it is critically important that we remain mindful of the cascade of benefits that accrue when we achieve meaningful diversity and inclusion at every level of our institutions.

I have been proud to serve the Third Department as an Associate Justice, and it is a remarkable honor to have been appointed Presiding Justice. I look forward to working with the Chief Judge and my colleagues across the state to uphold the principles upon which our outstanding Judiciary has been built. I also hope to connect with many of you this week and learn from your experiences as we in the court system seek new ways to provide excellent service to the people of New York state.