Judge Vito J. Titone

Article excerpt

Well, good afternoon. It's always difficult to follow Judge Kaye. But I want to thank her for her wonderful remarks. And thank you, Judge Rosenblatt, for the introduction. And thanks to the Albany Law Review and Professor Vincent Bonventre for hosting this wonderful event. And thank you for highlighting our Court in your upcoming issue of State Constitutional Commentary.

Before I begin, a lot of people have been recognized here today, but I see Professor David Siegel. I want to particularly recognize you, Professor Siegel. (Applause). Professor Siegel actually has three former students currently sitting on the Court of Appeals. He was my professor at St. John's, he was also Judge Jones's professor at St. John's, and he was Judge Graffeo's professor here at Albany Law School--so you have three of us.

DAVID SIEGEL: I need one more.

JUDGE CIPARICK: You need one more, right. Maybe Patrick Connors. (Laughter).

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: I'll give you the fourth vote. He's my professor, too.

JUDGE CIPARICK: Today, I will be speaking about our beloved Judge Vito J. Titone.

I have selected Uncle Vito, as he is fondly referred to by some, not only based on Professor Bonventre's e-mailed list of characteristics, including a Judge's wisdom, influence, opinions, dissents, writing-style, jurisprudence, administrative accomplishments, personality, character, and politics, but on, "whatever other factor," and that other factor, for me, is plain fun. And the great affinity I felt for Judge Titone, being a graduate, as I am also, of that other great law school, St. John's. And Judge Jones, I'm sure, seconds that comment.

I joined the Court of Appeals in January of 1994, over 14 years ago, and was privileged to sit with Judge Titone for four and a half of those years until his early retirement from the Court in June of 1998. What a tremendous experience, and what a caring colleague. He never forgot a birthday. In fact, he was fond of celebrating half, and even quarter birthdays. We racked up many more than seven cakes a year at Jack's on State Street. Anytime Judge Titone was feeling mischievous, which was often, or just plain wanted dessert, he declared it to be someone's birthday. And Jack's went along with him. They brought out the cake with candles; they sang happy birthday; they snapped a Polaroid shot. And I'm sure, after a while, they caught on to Judge Titone's playfulness. But they never complained.

Now Lisabeth Harrison, who we know as Libby, who was Judge Titone's law clerk for 12 of the 13 years that he was at the Court, wrote a most loving and thoughtful biography, which I hope you will get an opportunity to read. She wrote about Judge Titone: "[H]e never took himself or his robes too seriously. It is that trait, along with his irrepressible sense of humor and devotion to his family, that his colleagues and friends will remember long after the force of his judicial opinions has faded." (1) And how true.

As for his judicial opinions, Judge Kaye, in her remarks at our conference room ceremony marking Judge Titone's retirement in June of 1998, said, they were marked by:

"Clear thinking, concise writing, and common sense. From A to Z, adoptions to zoning, pausing especially on constitutional questions and matters affecting families, there are exemplary writings of Judge Titone sensibly articulating the law and the opinions for the Court."

And she also extended her heartfelt good wishes for many, many healthy, happy, challenging, and fulfilling years ahead. Unfortunately, that was not to be, as Judge Titone passed away in 2005 after a long illness.

Now Judge Kaye has related this story several times, in the ceremony I just mentioned, and in a dedication to a tribute to Judge Vito J. Titone published at--and if you want me to give you the citation, I will--61 Albany Law Review, in 1998. (2) The story goes like this:

She first met Judge Titone when he interviewed for the Court of Appeals before the State Bar Committee on the Judiciary, and was asked by a member of the committee what he, the Judge, would write if he were to write his own epitaph. …