The 2016 Judicial Welcoming Ceremony at Old County Hall wrapped up on a bittersweet note Wednesday as Justice Paula L. Feroleto used her closing remarks to recall and honor state Supreme Court Justice Kevin M. Dillon, who died last week at age 65. Many in attendance were also together Monday for Dillon’s funeral in Orchard Park.
But Feroleto ended on a light note, reminding the guests that Dillon was known for his great storytelling ability, a void that could be filled, she suggested, by Mark J. Grisanti, who was elected in November to the Court of Claims after being appointed to the bench a year ago.
Grisanti earlier had spoken about working in his family’s storefront lawyers’ office and told the assembled judiciary, “I’ve appeared before each and every one of you – some of you will say, ‘You appeared once – and once was enough!’ ... I’m going to miss that.”
“Thank you for all the help and advice you’ve given me in the past, and in the future,” he added. “Hopefully it’s correct!”
That was after he had recognized his family in attendance and said that, since he lost his re-election bid to the State Senate in 2014 and became a judge a year ago, he is home a lot more – “and my wife will say ... you’re home. Why?”
After two weeks on the State Supreme Court, former District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III also was in a light mood after Kevin Spitler, a defense attorney, introduced him by reminding him of how he would tell jurors that his clients were “the people of the state of New York.”
“I always did that,” Sedita agreed, “and I only had one lawyer object.”
That lawyer pointed out that the defendant also was among those people and Sedita didn’t represent HIM.
“So I changed it,” Sedita said, to ‘I represent the LAW-ABIDING people of the state and Erie County.’”
The area’s other new State Supreme Court justice, Emilio L. Colaiacovo, had a more recent experience to relate. He said he was trying to get packed up and return home from “judge school,” when he got an urgent call from Judge Grisanti.
“He said ‘Don’t park your car,’ ” Colaiacovo said, and, concerned, he asked why. Grisanti responded, “We’re going to buy Powerball tickets!”
“He won $8. I didn’t win anything,” Colaiacovo added.
The event was hosted by the Bar Association of Erie County, the Minority Bar Association of Western New York and the WNY Chapter of the Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York. Other judges recognized were Lawrence J. Vilardo and Michael J. Roemer, U.S. District Court; J. David Sampson, State Court of Claims; James F. Bargnesi, Sheila A. DiTullio and David W. Foley, Erie County Court; Brenda M. Freedman, Family Court; and JaHarr S. Pridgen, Buffalo City Court.