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Martoche appointed to fill City Court judge seat; Beats 18 candidates to replace LoVallo

An attorney who works for a prominent local law firm will become Buffalo's newest City Court judge.

Amy C. Martoche "rose to the top of a very competitive search process" to fill a seat that will become vacant as a result of Judge Sharon M. LoVallo's election to Erie County Family Court, Mayor Byron W. Brown announced Friday.

A public search resulted in 18 individuals applying for the $113,900-a-year job, the mayor added. City attorneys interviewed all candidates and forwarded a short list of applicants to Brown. The mayor said it was clear to him that Martoche was the strongest candidate.

"She is a woman of strong ethics and a passion for the City of Buffalo," Brown said.

Martoche, 41, lives on the upper west side with her husband, Timothy W. Hoover, and their young daughter, Juliana. She is also the daughter of State Supreme Court Appellate Justice Salvatore R. Martoche and attorney Mary Dee Martoche.

Martoche has spent most of the past decade working for Connors & Vilardo, a well-known firm that has done legal work for the city over three administrations. The firm currently represents the city in connection with a $1.4 million civil lawsuit by a Cleveland developer that accuses the mayor and others of being involved in a pay-to-play scheme.

The Buffalo News asked Brown if he had concerns about perceptions that he was appointing someone to the bench who works for a firm that is currently defending the city in a high-profile case.

"That lawsuit that has been filed by the Cleveland development firm is completely separate from this [judicial appointment] process," Brown said. "Ms. Martoche, in her service to Connors and Vilardo, was not involved with that case whatsoever. So we saw no issue of concern whatsoever," Brown replied.

The mayor later noted that the law firm has done legal work for the city long before he became mayor. Brown said Connors & Vilardo was involved in cases when Anthony M. Masiello and James D. Griffin served as mayor.

Masiello was among nearly 100 people who attended a City Hall ceremony today that also attracted numerous judges, defense attorneys and other community leaders.

"I promise you, mayor, that I will be a fair and just judge, and I will work tirelessly to make all of you proud," Martoche said.

Chief City Judge Thomas P. Amodeo said Martoche will attend a judicial orientation in White Plains next week, then will start performing certain courtroom tasks Jan. 9.

"The one thing you spoke about was working tirelessly. Well, you're going to get tired," Amodeo told the new judge, noting that Buffalo City Court handles more than 30,000 cases annually.

Martoche is a graduate of University at Buffalo School of Law who spent a year working at the Washington-based Dewey Ballantine law firm before returning to Western New York. She is active in AIDS Community Services of Western New York and is chairwoman of Buffalo Seminary's board of trustees.

"A hallmark of the judiciary is independence," Martoche told a reporter after she was asked to describe her courtroom persona. "Certainly, I will be independent. I will assess the facts as they are presented to me. I will make decisions -- sometimes tough ones -- but I will always be fair and compassionate."

Martoche is a registered Democrat, according to Erie County Board of Elections records. She said she will seek election to a full 10-year term next year.

"I plan to run and win," she said to applause.