Janet DiFiore was sworn in Monday as the Chief Judge of the New York State Court of Appeals following a unanimous confirmation by the Senate. “My professional life has been devoted to the fair administration of justice, and I [will] gladly continue my service to the people of New York on our state’s highest court,” DiFiore said. “I am grateful to Governor Cuomo for this nomination.”
DiFiore, only the second female to serve as New York’s top judge, was born and raised in Mount Vernon, establishing her roots in Westchester County. After graduating from Mount Vernon High School and C.W. Post College at Long Island University, she studied law at St. John’s University School of Law.
DiFiore will also serve as Chief Judge of the state of New York, a position created in 1977 to address the rampant inefficiencies and backlogs in the state’s court system. As Chief Judicial Officer, DiFiore will oversee a $2 billion budget with 19,000 employees. “She has the leadership skills and the management credentials to streamline and manage that bureaucracy,” Cuomo said after she was sworn in Monday.
Following her graduation, DiFiore embarked on a busy career in law. She first served as assistant district attorney for Westchester County under the distinguished Carl Vergari, from 1981 to 1987. DiFiore then took a break from the DA’s office from 1987 to 1993 and practiced law at the firm Goodrich & Bendish, and before returning to the public prosecutor’s office to serve as chief of the Narcotics Bureau from 1994 to 1998.
While DiFiore has been widely recognized as Westchester County’s district attorney since 2006, she has had many years of experience in local and state courts prior to this title. From 1999 to 2002, DiFiore acted as Westchester County Court Judge, focusing on both criminal and civil cases. She soon moved into the New York State Criminal Court System, Ninth Judicial District, acting as the Supreme Court Justice from 2003 to 2005.
In this position, she was a pioneer in creating a more efficient and just case assignment system, as she sought to eliminate the backlogged cases in her district. Aside from her role as district attorney, she has helped to spearhead countless important projects to ensure a more sound judicial process in New York State. Since 2009, she has co-chaired the New York State Justice Task Force, an organization that scrutinizes cases of wrongful convictions, and works towards preventing these injustices in the future. This has become a significant part of DiFiore’s career, particularly after her well-known investigation of Jeffrey Deskovic, a man wrongly accused of rape and murder in 1990. She was also instrumental in creating the Domestic Violence and Drug Treatment Courts, as well as the Mental Health and Sex Offenders Courts when she was leading the New York State Criminal Court System in the Ninth Judicial District.
From her nomination to confirmation as chief judge, DiFiore has been widely praised. “Ms. DiFiore has had a long and distinguished career as a public servant,” said State Bar Association President David Miranda. “Ms. DiFiore’s breadth of experience, intellect and collegiality will serve her well as she leads the Court of Appeals. As both a judge and a prosecutor, she has demonstrated her commitment to justice and fairness in the courtroom.”
The only other female chief judge, Judith Kaye, was nominated by former Gov. Mario Cuomo. DiFiore lives in Bronxville with her husband Dennis Glazer. They have three grown children and one grandchild. “Janet’s career has never been about Janet — it has always been about the public she serves,” Cuomo said Monday. “That, my friends, is the key to Janet’s success. She’ll make this court a better court and she will write the next chapter of judicial progress into the history books.”