Although only about 1% of civil cases ever end up in Federal court, having bench vacancies in the Supreme and City courts is never desirable. After New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio received criticism last year pertaining to bench vacancies, he’s now appointed eight new judges to sit on the bench in New York City’s Civil and Family Courts.
Last month, de Blasio appointed two judges to Family Court and six interim appointments to the city’s Civil Court. De Blasio’s choices for Family Court were Lisa Friederwitzer, who spent two decades working as a court attorney referee in Queens Supreme Court and as a support magistrate and court attorney in Family Court, and Lynn Leopold, a former Brooklyn prosecutor who spent 11 years with the New York City Housing Authority.
De Blasio’s interim appointments for Civil Court included Jonathan Shim; a solo practitioner from Queens with ample experience in Family Court and matrimonial cases; Michael Hartofilis, a proud Greek-American prosecutor from Queens with more than two decades of criminal defense experience; Marisol Martinez Alonso, who has 16 years of experience with the Bronx District Attorney’s Office; Ann Thompson, a former deputy bureau chief of the Staten Island District Attorney’s Office’s special victim’s unit; Edwin Novillo, who has 14 years of experience working for the Legal Aid Society in Brooklyn and Queens; and Jeffrey Zimmerman, who worked as the deputy general counsel for Time Warner Cable for 17 years before serving in the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice.
The six interim appointments last for one year’s time. According to a news release from the mayor’s office, Shim will be assigned to Family Court, while the other five interim appointees will go to Criminal Court. Factoring in these six new judges, Mayor de Blasio has now filled nine of 12 bench vacancies.
For many New Yorkers, it’s about time. Countless residents have experienced lengthy court delays simply because there were no judges available to oversee their trials. In 2015, it took misdemeanor and other low-level defendants around 564 days to get in front of a jury or 474 days to get to trial if their case was tried by a judge. That same year, there were only 315 bench trials and 161 jury trials in the whole of New York City non-felony cases. De Blasio was largely blamed for the delays, as he essentially refused to appoint new judges to fill the open slots last year.
Now, at least the majority of the vacancies have been filled. But whether or not that will boost de Blasio’s poor approval rating remains uncertain.