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Lane retiring but taking new job

State Supreme Court Justice John P. Lane, a noted workaholic who has never used up the vacation time he earned as a state judge, will actually take some days off before he begins his new job next Monday.

On that date, at age 76, he will become a state judicial hearing officer handling legally complicated asbestos cases. He has been dealing with asbestos litigation for the past year.

Judicial hearing officers are retired trial-level judges empowered to continue presiding over civil cases.

A Town of Amherst legal and elected official for three decades before becoming a judge, Lane is completing his sixth year as a senior judge and is currently dealing with union and administration challenges to the Erie County Fiscal Stability Authority's decision to become a "hard" control board.

Lane said he has no thoughts of leaving the bench permanently, despite the prospect of annual mandatory reviews of his fitness to remain a judicial hearing officer.

"This has been a great opportunity for me to be working with top-shelf lawyers, court administrators and a court staff that this community is lucky to have," Lane said during one of the rare lulls in his busy downtown workday.

Literally born into the law, the Kenmore native was the middle child of the late lawyers Mary Blakeley Lane -- one of the first women to practice in the Buffalo area -- and John F. Lane. For the past three years, he has been supervising judge of civil cases for the state's Eighth Judicial District.

Lane said he and wife, Jenneth, don't travel much, which fits into his plan to keep working and "stay busy because I enjoy the work."

Lane got his law degree from the University of Buffalo School of Law in 1953 under a fast-track program in which he started out as an undergraduate business major and ended up with a law degree. He was in private practice until 1957, when he became a county prosecutor for four years.

Lane was a member of the Amherst Town Board from 1966 until he joined the Amherst town attorney's office in 1971. He was town attorney from 1993 until June 1996, when Gov. George E. Pataki named him a State Court of Claims judge.

In 2000, he was certified as a senior State Supreme Court justice and assigned to some of Western New York's most difficult government budgeting, election and administrative cases.

Justice Sharon S. Townsend, administrative judge of the Eighth Judicial District, said she appointed him supervising judge of civil cases because she knew his "judgment and his ability made him the perfect man" for the job.

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com

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