State Supreme Court Justice Joseph S. Forma, once one of Western New York's most renowned prosecutors who went on to become a highly regarded criminal court judge, Friday confirmed his intention to step down from the bench next month.
"It's official, I'm out of here April 13," Forma said in his chambers at 25 Delaware Ave.
Once a member of the Common Council and the top prosecutor in the Erie County District Attorney's office, Forma is also a former Buffalo city and Erie County judge. He said that after nearly 31 years on the bench and almost 41 years in the legal profession he decided "it's just time to move on."
Despite efforts by officials of the Erie County Democratic Party to get him to hold off until at least the end of the year so Republican Gov. George E. Pataki cannot appoint his temporary replacement, Forma said he faxed his retirement papers to Albany Thursday.
"I want to put a sign on the door -- 'Gone Fishin,' " said Forma, twice elected to the state's chief trial-level court and four years into his second 14-year term.
"At the end of this month, I'll turn 64 and I just want to relax for a full year, go fishing with my son and daughter," said Forma. He said he recently passed a health checkup with flying colors.
Forma's eyes lit up with pride as he spoke of his daughter, Catherine, who graduates from Iroquois Central High this year and his son, Andrew, who is a Fredonia State College student and a Junior Olympic All-American in cross-country and track.
Widely recognized as a gun and archery expert, Forma said he will continue his annual spring hunt for turkeys in addition to hunting other game.
Now an Elma resident, Forma said his wife, Barbara, who retired as a nurse for the Iroquois schools several years ago "told me to go out with a smile."
State Supreme Court Justice Richard C. Kloch Sr., supervising judge for criminal courts in Western New York, said, "We're going to miss [Forma] terribly, but I'm glad for his family because he will now be able to spend more time with them."
"He's been a firm yet compassionate judge and a wonderful friend to me," said Kloch.
As a prosecutor in the Erie County District Attorney's office, Forma led successful investigations of corruption at the former E.J. Meyer Memorial Hospital and stolen drugs from the Buffalo Police laboratory.
After leaving the prosecutor's office, Forma was a Buffalo councilman-at-large from 1973 to 1976. He was a city judge from 1976 to 1982 and a county judge from 1982 until elected to State Supreme Court in November 1987.
In 2000 Forma was cross-endorsed by all major political parties when elected to his second 14-year term on the high court.