“You have to pay attention to the interests of the people”


ALBANY – Schenectady County State Supreme Court Judge Vito C. Caruso, who, as the state’s deputy chief administrative judge for all courts outside New York City, is one of the state’s most senior judges, is set to retire .

Caruso, 72, of Rotterdam, who has held the high-level post since May 2019, when he was appointed to succeed Judge Michael Coccoma, will step down from his administrative post at the end of the month. He will leave the bench for good about a month later, Caruso told The Times Union.

Caruso became one of the best judges in the state without attending law school. He is one of the last lawyers to be admitted to practice by reading law. New York State judges face a mandatory retirement age of 70; State Supreme Court justices can apply for certification by two-year extension to age 76.

Caruso, who received such an extension, said he was ready to move on.

“It’s time for my next (expansion) and I’ve just decided that I’ll let the next generation tackle these issues,” Caruso said in a phone interview. “I wanted to spend more time at home with my family. You’ve lost a lot of it, especially at work for the past year and a half.”

Caruso said he will miss the family atmosphere of his job. He noted that his father had been a federal meat inspector.

“He always said you have to be a good public servant,” Caruso recalls. “If you work for the government, it’s more than a job. You have to look out for the interests of the people. I took care of it.”

Caruso added: “I don’t regret a minute of my career.”

Chief Justice Janet DiFiore highlighted Caruso’s impending departure in her last address Monday on the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Under Judge Caruso’s leadership, courts outside of New York City have made historic strides in eliminating backlogs, improving efficiency and improving the quality of our services,” said DiFiore. She praised Caruso as a “first-rate judicial leader and civil servant”.

When the pandemic stayed, DiFiore said, Caruso stood out – first by shifting 640 judges and 6,000 court workers to virtual work, then implementing health protocols to make courts safe to return. in-person operations.

“We are all indebted to him for his dedicated leadership and service to the courts,” said DiFiore. “Thank you, Judge Caruso. We will miss you, and the sense of pride and joy that you brought to us every day will be missed.

Born in Boston, Caruso’s parents moved to Rochester when he was 2 and later to Cattaraugus County. He attended SUNY New Paltz, where he was a member of the wrestling team and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Economics. It was there that Caruso met Judith, his future wife for 49 years. He decided to get married rather than go to law school.

Caruso was a long time member of the Assembly of the Schenectady region, Clark Wemple, before becoming a lawyer in 1977. He spent 18 years in private practice, was deputy district attorney of Schenectady county, councilor of the Republican minority of the State Assembly and City Attorney of Duanesburg. He is a former Republican President of Schenectady County.

Caruso, elected to the State Supreme Court in 1994, was appointed Administrative Judge of the Fourth Judicial District, based in Schenectady, in 2004. It includes the 11 counties of Schenectady, Saratoga, Warren, Washington, Fulton, Hamilton, Montgomery , Clinton, Essex, Saint-Laurent and Franklin.

A 2004 profile on Caruso in the Times Union after being appointed an 11-county district administrative judge. At the time, Caruso said he had dreamed of becoming a lawyer since he was in fourth grade.

“In your life, you should set yourself goals that are as big as possible,” Caruso said. “I’ve wanted to do this for a long time, and now it’s here.”

Caruso was a past director of the Schenectady County Bar Association, as well as a founding member and president of the Italian-American Bar Association for the Greater Capital District of New York State. He served on the board of trustees of Schenectady County Community College and as a volunteer firefighter.

Caruso was the first recipient of the Pro Bono Distinguished Service Award from the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York. Caruso was honored by the Schenectady County Bar Association for his outstanding community service. In 2018, Caruso received the Hon. Anthony V. Cardona Award for Judicial Excellence from the Italian-American Bar Association. It is named after the last appellate judge in the region.

Caruso and his wife, Judith, have a daughter, Mary Elizabeth. The biography of the judge mentions that Caruso is a member of the Saint Gabriel Roman Catholic Church in Rotterdam, where he is Eucharistic minister.

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