In an historic January 1 appointment, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that State Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Garry, an out lesbian member of the Albany-based Third Department appellate court since 2009, would become the Department’s presiding judge. Garry becomes the first out LGBTQ person to serve as a presiding judge in any department of the State’s Appellate Division, comprised of the intermediate level courts just below the state’s highest bench, the Court of Appeals.
Garry, who is 55 and grew up in the Albany area, will preside over a department with jurisdiction over 28 counties that run from just north of the metropolitan area up to the Canadian border and west into central New York. A graduate of Alfred University, Garry earned her law degree from Albany Law School.
In written comments to LeGaL, the LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York, Garry said, “I am so greatly honored by this appointment. I will strive to serve this Court I love, and the people of our State, with the support of my friends and colleagues in the bench and bar. I look forward to the opportunities ahead, working with our Chief Judge, taking on new and challenging duties, and bringing the great traditions of my Court forward!”
Garry’s appointment follows just six months after the confirmation of Judge Paul Feinman as the first openly LGBTQ judge on the State Court of Appeals, after his nomination by Cuomo. Feinman, a former LeGaL president, told the group, “It’s been my pleasure to get to know Justice Garry while working together in the Association of Supreme Court Justices of the State of New York, the Hon. Richard Failla LGBTQ Commission, and the International Association of LGBT Judges. Her keen intellect, diligent work ethic, and kindness will serve New Yorkers well as she embarks on this new endeavor.”
The Failla LGBTQ Commission, on which Garry serves as co-chair, is a new organization tasked with addressing issues related to the community in the state court system. It is named for a the late Judge Richard C. Failla, the first out LGBTQ person elected to the State Supreme Court who died at 53 from AIDS-related complications in 1993. LeGaL’s immediate past executive director, Matthew Skinner, just became the Commission’s new executive director.