Eugene F. Pigott Jr., one of two Western New Yorkers serving on the Court of Appeals, enjoys being a judge so much he wants to continue on a lower level after he retires from the state's highest court on Dec. 31,
Pigott has taken the unusual step of seeking approval to serve as a State Supreme Court justice in Buffalo after he reached the mandatory Court of Appeals retirement age of 70 earlier this year. Now he says he would relish the experience of serving on the Western New York trial bench.
After his election to State Supreme Court in 1996, Pigott explained he was elevated to the Appellate Division in 1997, eventually becoming presiding justice of the Rochester-based Fourth Department. Gov. George E. Pataki elevated him to the state's high court in 2006 and is its longest serving member.
"The farther you go along the fewer lawyers you see," he said. "I look forward to getting back to a court room and seeing if we can resolve some cases."
Only one other high court judge -- John Scileppi of Suffolk County -- sought reassignment to the trial bench when he reached 70 in 1972, Court of Appeals spokesman Gary Spencer said.
While many Court of Appeals and Supreme Court jurists have left the bench to enter private practice, Pigott said he would rather remain in the judicial arena as a senior judge with the option of serving until the maximum allowable age of 76.
"I've enjoyed each court I've been in, because they're all so interesting," he said. "But the trial court, to me, it where it's happening."
Pigott has submitted an application to extend his judicial career to the administrative court comprised of the chief judge and four presiding justices of the Appellate Division. If they approve, he will be eligible to assume the Western New York bench early in 2017. Pigott thinks he stands a good chance of approval because of the recent elevation of three Buffalo Supreme Court justices -- Shirley Troutman, John M. Curran and Patrick H. NeMoyer -- to the Appellate Division without being replaced on the trial level.
"That's roughly 900 cases the court has been handed," he said.
Pigott is a former Erie County attorney who served in the administration of former County Executive Edward J. Rutkowski.
Pigott's retirement will leave Judge Eugene M. Fahey of Buffalo as Western New York's only representative on the Court of Appeals.