The New York State Senate recently confirmed a slate of judges to the Court of Claims. Among them were three Albany Law School alumni, including the Honorable Lillian Wan, Class of 2000, the first Asian-American woman to serve the N.Y. Court of Claims.
In a statement, James Cho, president of the Asian American Bar Association of New York, praised the appointment as "a historic and significant step forward in making the judiciary more diverse and inclusive."
"Her experience in the courtroom, compassion, and unwavering dedication make her an unparalleled candidate to serve as a judge on the Court of Claims," he said.
Judge Wan had been on the bench of the Kings County Family Court since 2012. Prior to joining the judiciary, she worked as a court attorney-referee in Kings County Surrogate's Court and spent nine years as a trial attorney at the Administration for Children's Services in the Family Court Legal Services Division. She was a member of the Albany Law Review and earned her bachelor's degree from Binghamton University.
Read more about Judge Wan's path to the bench in Albany Law Magazine (2014)
"She's making history—history in this chamber, history in this state," said Sen. Jesse Hamilton of Brooklyn, according to the New York Law Journal.
John R. Higgitt ’01 and James A. McCarty Jr. ’79 also were among the eight judges appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo ’82 and confirmed by the Senate on June 20.
Higgitt most recently was a New York State court system referee and principal court attorney in the Office of the Administrative Judge, Twelfth Judicial District, in the Bronx. He previously served as reporter for the New York State Committee on Pattern Jury Instructions and the Association of Supreme Court Judges' New York State Bench Book Committee. In 2010, he published "CPLR 3211(a)(7): Demurrer or Merits-Testing Device?" and "A Nullity or Not - The Status of a Default Judgment Entered Absent Compliance with CPLR 3215(F)" in the Albany Law Review.
McCarty was a longtime prosecutor with the Westchester County District Attorney's Office. He was named Acting District Attorney in 2016 and most recently served as First Deputy District Attorney, Chief Assistant. McCarty successfully handled several front-page cases in his 38 years as a Westchester prosecutor, including the so-called "Fatal Attraction" murder trial.
"I am grateful to the governor and State Judicial Screening Committee for the selection of these highly accomplished individuals," Chief Judge Janet DiFiore said in a statement. "They are a much-needed addition to the New York courts in the ongoing efforts of the Excellence Initiative to eliminate case backlogs and improve the quality of justice throughout New York. While considerable progress has been made in streamlining operations and reducing case delays, there is much more work ahead if we are to achieve and maintain excellence system wide. I welcome today's nominees to their new roles and look forward to their contributions in pursuit of these goals."
"I am eager to work with these outstanding new and elevated judges—who will be assigned to those courts where the needs are most pressing—and confident that they will serve the people of New York with great distinction," added New York Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks.
The judges will serve nine-year terms, during which they will rule on civil litigation cases against the state or its agencies, or be designated as Acting Supreme Court Justices.