Ronald H. Tills and Mario J. Rossetti, two of Western New York's most widely respected judges in dealing with criminals, will leave the bench at the end of this month because of the state's age mandates.
Both State Supreme Court justices turned 70 months ago, making this the last year they can serve as trial court judges.
The two were honored Wednesday at a dinner given by the Erie County Bar Association.
Tills and Rossetti became best of friends on the bench while handling some of the area's toughest criminals in recent decades. They also jointly dealt with one of the area's most criminally infamous physicians.
Since 2000, Anthony Pignataro, a former doctor now 47, has been serving a combined prison term of up to 18 years imposed by Tills and Rossetti for his attempt to kill his wife and the death of a patient after office surgery.
Next month, Tills and Rossetti join State Supreme Court Justice Judge Russell P. Buscaglia on a trip to Rome.
Tills, a longtime Hamburg vegetable and flower grower on his greenhouse "farm" in the middle of the Village of Hamburg, gave U.S. Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds, R-Clarence his start in government.
Tills hired the then 21-year-old Reynolds as an Assembly legislative assistant in 1973, and the two remain "best of friends."
The congressman said his longtime friend "truly enjoys coming to work on the bench every day because he was meant to be a judge, and the people of Western New York have [benefited] and continue to benefit from his efforts."
Tills, who served as an elected Hamburg town justice from 1962 to 1968, said he will continue seeking an appointment as a state judicial hearing officer to keep close contact with the court system.
Gov. George E. Pataki appointed Tills to serve as a criminal court judge in 1995 and again in 2001.
Tills, a one-time private law firm partner of former State Supreme Court Justice Seth A. Abbott, estimates that he and his wife, Beth, have traveled to three-quarters of the nations of the world and have "enjoyed all of them so much I couldn't pick out a favorite."
Following his trip to Rome, the Buffalo-born and raised Rossetti said he expects to return to political activity while reviving his career as a lawyer.
A judge since 1987, Rossetti said the best part of his job on the bench has been in serving the community with compassion and justice for all parties and dealing with defendants in a "humane" but stern fashion.
Rossetti, who lost his wife, Helen, in June, keeps photos of her on his courthouse desk.
Appointed to a Court of Claims position in 1987 by then-Gov. Mario M. Cuomo and reappointed twice by Pataki, Rossetti was chief lawyer for Erie County Surrogates William J. Ragan and John J. Honan through 1981.
Rossetti is also a former assistant general counsel for the Niagara Frontier Port Authority, the precursor to the Niagara Frontier Port Authority.
His treasured keepsakes include the warm letters he has received from some defendants, including a drug suspect he spared jail three years ago. The defendant recently thanked Rossetti for his "ability to see that I am human" and giving him "room to learn" from his mistakes.