Academic journal article Albany Law Review

The Pert Perpender: Associate Judge Eugene F. Pigott, Jr.'s Journey from Buffalo to Rochester and Albany

Academic journal article Albany Law Review

The Pert Perpender: Associate Judge Eugene F. Pigott, Jr.'s Journey from Buffalo to Rochester and Albany

Article excerpt

When we study law we are not studying a mystery but a well known profession. We are studying what we shall want in order to appear before judges.... People want to know under what circumstances and how far they will run the risk of coming against what is so much stronger than themselves, and hence becomes a business to find out when this danger is to be feared. The object of our study, then, is prediction, the prediction of the incidence of the public force through the instrumentality of the courts. (1)


At the outset, it is important to note that the title of this article is somewhat of a misnomer. While Eugene Pigott is largely known as western New York's--really Buffalo's--voice on New York's highest Court, his story actually begins in Rush, New York, a suburb of Rochester. (2) Setting aside the title and its explanation for a moment, the purpose of this article is to offer the reader insight to Court of Appeals of New York Associate Judge Eugene F. Pigott--not only as a judge, but also as a lawyer and person.

The story begins in Buffalo, the city where Pigott attended law school and began his legal and judicial careers, (3) continues through Rochester, where he spent eight years as a justice with the Appellate Division, Fourth Department (six of them as presiding justice) (4), and ends in Albany, where he currently sits as an associate judge at the Court of Appeals. A portion of the information contained in this article is personal background (5)--the who, what, where, why, and how--but later sections focus on quantifying Judge Pigott's voting behavior, identifying trends, and examining vindication rates of his dissents. (6)


As explained above, contrary to the title of this work, Pigott's journey to the Court of Appeals bench really began in Rochester, not Buffalo. He was born in September of 1946 (7) and grew up in Rush, where he attended Rush-Henrietta schools and graduated from McQuaid Jesuit High School. (8) He went on to attend LeMoyne College in Syracuse (which, like his high school, is also a Jesuit institution) (9) where he graduated with a B.A. in 1968. (10) Soon after commencement, Pigott was drafted into the U.S. Army where he served as an interpreter in Vietnam. (11) After his service overseas, Pigott returned to New York to attend law school at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He graduated from western New York's only law school in 1973. (12)

A. Buffalo Lawyer

Eugene Pigott took his first legal job with the law offices of Offermann, Fallon, Mahoney & Adner, a small yet elite (13) Buffalo law firm. (14) He worked there as a clerk throughout law school. (15) Judge Pigott has recounted his first day on the job as a somewhat uncomfortable experience. He explained:

   I showed up for my first day and nobody knew who I was.
   The secretary informed one of the partners, Leo Fallon, that
   I was waiting to meet with him, but he didn't remember
   me--he had forgotten that months earlier he had hired me to
   clerk for the summer. Leo Fallon threw me a Sports
   Illustrated magazine and told me to read it until he could
   find some work for me.

Not because the judge's story needed to be "fact-checked," but out of curiosity, I later had the opportunity to question Leo Fallon (who went on to a successful career on the bench himself) (16) about the incident. His response, after I implied that he "might have forgotten" in the most tactful way I could, was a short chuckle. "It wasn't that I may have forgotten, I certainly forgot," he said.

After graduating from the University at Buffalo Law School, Pigott began his career as an associate with the same firm he had clerked for during law school. (17) In 1978 he became a partner, but left in 1982 for government work after being appointed as Erie County Attorney. (18) During that same time, Pigott joined the Board of Directors of the Legal Aid Society of Buffalo, and became president of the organization in 1986--a position he held until 1988. …

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