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U.S. Court of Appeals will hear cases here

A federal court that is one step below the U.S. Supreme Court will hear some of its cases in Buffalo for two days next week. For the first time in its 219-year history, the Second Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals will hear cases in Buffalo Thursday and Friday.

"We're very excited. This is the closest people will ever get to seeing the Supreme Court in action here in Buffalo," said U.S. Judge Richard J. Arcara, chief district judge of Western New York.

The Second Circuit is based in New York City, but this year, its chief judge, Dennis Jacobs, has begun taking court operations to other cities on occasion.

"It's going to give people in Buffalo a rare opportunity to see how federal appeals cases are argued and heard by a panel of judges," Arcara said. "I think it will be a wonderful opportunity for law students and others to see how things operate."

Seven cases are scheduled to be argued Thursday, beginning at 10 a.m., and five more Friday, also beginning at 10 a.m. Several of the cases involve legal disputes in Western New York.

One of the cases involves allegations made by a man and woman who claim they were victims of corrupt conduct by former public office holders in the Village of Perry in Wyoming County. One of the former officials is identified in court papers as Ruth Milks, who resigned as a village court clerk in 2003 after admitting she stole more than $50,000 in village funds to engage in casino gambling. The case was dismissed by U.S. District Judge David G. Larimer in May 2007.

Another case focuses on allegations of false arrest and other wrongdoing made against Buffalo police and a state parole officer by the family of a deceased Buffalo man. U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny dismissed the lawsuit last year.

During the Second Circuit's visit to Buffalo, there will also be a ceremony in which more than 100 lawyers from Buffalo and Rochester will receive certification to practice in the federal appeals court, according to Catherine O'Hagen Wolf, the court's clerk.

The court, which covers all federal courts in New York State, Vermont and Connecticut, decides more than 6,500 cases a year, including a wide variety of criminal and civil disputes.

After a case is decided in the Second Circuit, the next and final step of appeal is to the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington.

The legal arguments in Buffalo will be heard by a panel of three judges in the Michael Dillon Federal Courthouse at Franklin and Court streets. They are open to the public.

Court officials said Arcara has been designated to temporarily sit on the panel during the Buffalo visit.

e-mail: dherbeck@buffnews.com

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