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Hamburg judge Whalen will become presiding Appellate justice

Justice Gerald J. Whalen of the Town of Hamburg will soon be named presiding justice of the Appellate Division’s Fourth Department by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, according to several sources.

The appointment will mark the first time a Buffalo area jurist will serve as presiding justice since Justice M. Delores Denman, who died in office in January of 2000.

The five-member panel is based in Rochester, and hears appeals of Supreme Court cases from the Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo areas. Only the Court of Appeals occupies a higher position in New York courts.

The sources say other judges from Rochester and Syracuse were interviewed before Cuomo settled on Whalen.

The new presiding justice, who is 59 and a Democrat, succeeds Henry J. Scudder of Bath, who was appointed by then-Gov. George E. Pataki in 2006.

Whalen, who swore in Cuomo for a second term during Buffalo ceremonies just over a year ago, was also appointed to the appellate court by Cuomo in 2012 following his election to State Supreme Court in 2005. He is a graduate of Canisius College and SUNY Buffalo Law School.

Whalen stems from a large South Buffalo family with deep roots in local Democratic politics. He is the grandson of South Council Member Gerald J. Whalen, who served in City Hall during the 1940s. And he is the son of long time South Council Member Gerald J. Whalen Jr.. His sister, Margaret Keane, was among the first women in the Buffalo Fire Department and was eventually appointed deputy fire commissioner by former Mayor Anthony M. Masiello. His brother, Timothy, served in the Erie County Legislature. And his brother-in-law, James P. Keane, was a former South Council member, deputy county executive and congressional candidate.

Cuomo’s formal announcement of Whalen’s appointment is expected soon, the sources said.