A Tribute to Presiding Justice Anthony V. Cardona: The Core Values of Courtesy and Respect Displayed in Jurisprudence and Court Administration

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For the past sixteen years, it has been my privilege to serve on the Appellate Division, Third Department under the exemplary leadership of Presiding Justice Anthony Cardona. During that time, I have personally witnessed his tireless commitment to improving the quality of our Court's work and his compassion for the parties that appear before us. Our "PJ" is--without fail--a steady leader, warm colleague and caring friend. He is also keenly aware of the human consequences of the cases that come before our Court, displaying tremendous sensitivity, wisdom, and decency in considering the impact of our decisions.

First and foremost, the PJ keeps his focus on the fact that there are real human beings whose lives are impacted both by the decisions that the court makes and the manner in which the court functions. He never forgets that with each case and administrative question, real people are at the end of every decision he makes. And so, he is painstaking in both his jurisprudence and his constant efforts to improve the process of our court in ways that promote confidence in our judicial system and reflect the philosophy taught to him by his father, Victor: "Work hard, treat people fairly, and the rest will take care of itself."

The PJ truly lives by that philosophy. It animates every aspect of his work, as well--not the least of which includes his decisionmaking. As Judge Benjamin Cardozo once described the work of deciding cases:

   [E]very one of us has in truth an underlying philosophy of
   life ... which gives coherence and direction to thought and
   action. Judges cannot escape that current any more than
   other mortals. All their lives, forces ... have been tugging at
   them--inherited instincts, traditional beliefs, acquired
   convictions; and the resultant is an outlook on life, a
   conception of social needs ... which, when reasons are nicely
   balanced, must determine where choice shall fall. (1)

The forces that have made the PJ who he is are reflected in his background. Tony was born and raised in Albany. His father Victor immigrated to the United States in the early twentieth century. In 1927, Victor opened an Italian grocery store on Grand Street in Albany, and he operated the store with Tony's mother Dora until they retired in 1980. Tony has said that it was through his parents' example, observed through their actions in operating their store, that he came to deeply appreciate his father's philosophy of life.

Tony's experiences as a child taught him to value family, fairness, respect for others, courtesy, and a strong sense of right and wrong. In fact, he was so greatly influenced by his father's philosophy that it was only fitting that Tony's father raised his hand along with him as Tony was sworn in as a new Supreme Court Justice in 1990. By remaining true to that philosophy of hard work and respect for others, Tony has become the remarkable jurist that he is, dedicated to the pursuit of excellence, service, fairness and justice.

The PJ's core values find illustration in his decisions, and a review of those decisions could fill the pages of this issue. I elected, therefore, to focus on his dissents. After all, the Third Department has a reputation for unanimity--my informal review shows that, of the 1,838 appeals decided by it in 2008, only 26 included a dissent. (2) Indeed, our court has been described as the "most agreeable" of the appellate divisions. (3) This "agreeability" is due in no small part to the courteous tone set by the PJ himself. Collegiality, or "making sauce" as he would put it, is the hallmark of the PJ. So, on the rare occasions where the PJ's disagreement with a decision leads him to dissent, we should expect to, and do, see his core values on display.

The PJ has not forgotten where he came from and firmly acts to protect the "little guy" who finds him- or herself navigating the turbulent waters of the court system. …

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