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Nugent-Panepinto sworn in with song

Catherine Nugent-Panepinto, after being musically serenaded by her three daughters, pledged today to be a "fair, open and honest" jurist for all who come before her as she was sworn in as State Supreme Court Justice.

During the noontime ceremony, the judge's daughters Rachel, 14; Julia, 12, and Natasha, 9, sang a "Star Trek" musical theme song that described how their mother is now an active member of "courts, the final frontier" and will "boldly go where no judge has gone before."

They received a standing ovation.

The girls' performance before the standing-room-only audience in the Ceremonial Courtroom at Erie County Hall prompted State Court of Appeals Judge Eugene F. Pigott Jr. to remark that their efforts are "one for the record books" of local judicial lore.

State Supreme Court Justice Tracey A. Bannister administered the oath of office with the new justice's husband, Marc Panepinto, holding the Bible.

The new judge, 46, a former Buffalo school board member also thanked Bannister for lending her one of her judicial robes for the ceremony.

Nugent-Panepinto also thanked School Superintendent James A. Williams, with whom she frequently clashed, "for giving me some name recognition." Williams did not attend the event.

Her sister Laura Nugent Currier and brother William told the audience their sister got her strong values from their late parents, Charles and Marion Nugent.

Nugent-Panepinto thanked her siblings, including her sister, Beth Spicer, who came from Bradford, Mass., for the event, for helping her get through the campaign following the death of their father this past September.

In a room filled with Democrats, Laura Currier got a loud laugh by noting their mother, who passed away 10 years ago, taught all six children in the family that in their house "all were welcome to come over, that is except for Republicans."

Nugent-Panepinto, a lifelong Democrat and former labor union organizer and labor attorney, ran for election without Republican Party endorsement.

Pigott told the new judge she now has "14 years of very important work" to perform.

Kenneth F. Case and Deborah A. Chimes will take their oaths today as Erie County judges during back-to-back ceremonies in the Ceremonial Courtroom.

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com

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