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After 2 decades, Judge Ninfo will retire

The Hon. John C. Ninfo II, U.S. bankruptcy judge of the Western District of New York, talks to children from Rochester’s School Without Walls in connection with the CARE program in this file photo from October 2007. Judge Ninfo has announced he will be retiring at the end of 2011. Vasiliy Baziuk

For the first time in 20 years, the Western District of New York will have a new bankruptcy judge in Rochester next year.

Judge John C. Ninfo II informed Second Circuit Executive Karen Milton in New York City of his intent to retire last month. He will step down at the end of 2011.

Judge Ninfo was appointed in January 1992 and served as chief judge from 2000 to 2006. He graduated from Boston University Law School in 1973 and worked at Underberg & Kessler LLP in Rochester for 18 years before his appointment.

“It’s been great working with him and we wish him all the best,” Milton said.

Although the judicial vacancy has not yet been officially announced, Milton said it will be posted in the near future. Once the announcement is made, applications may be obtained from the Second Circuit Court’s website at www.ca2.uscourts.gov.

After a three- to six-week application intake process, Milton said a judicial committee will be formed, chaired by a Second Circuit judge, to review the applicants and make its recommendations in priority order to the Second Circuit judges, who can accept or reject the committee’s recommendation.

Milton said that while it should not be hard to get applicants, it would certainly be difficult to fill Judge Ninfo’s shoes.

“My goal here was to create a responsible, efficient and effective court, where lawyers could be and feel like true professionals and I think we’ve accomplished that,” Judge Ninfo said.
Although he’s leaving bankruptcy court, the judge said he does not plan on giving up his busy schedule.

“Once you’re elected to be a public servant, it’s something you do forever and I’ll continue to do that,” he said.

Judge Ninfo is well known for forming the Credit Abuse Resistance Education program, a nationwide group of bankruptcy volunteers who teach high school and college students money management skills and techniques to deal with credit responsibly and help lead debt free lives (see www.careprogram.us).

“Today, your personal financial wellness is as important as your health and spiritual wellness. To really go forward in today’s world you need all three,” Judge Ninfo said. “From my perspective, I believe I will find many ways to serve the public about personal finance,” including school presentations with CARE.

According to court statistics on the court’s website (www.nywb.uscourts.gov), Judge Ninfo had the most cases of the three Western New York judges in January. In 2010, the Rochester court handled 3,123 cases in all bankruptcy chapters. The Western District heard a total of 8,763 cases.

Despite the workload, Milton said Rochester and/or the Western District is not going to get another judge anytime soon.

“Congress creates judgeships and it’s not a high enough priority,” she said.

Judge Ninfo said he was also looking forward to activities such as snowshoeing in Cobbs Hill Park, studying to be a trail guide at the Ganondagan State Historic Site in Victor and training to become a fitness racing kayaker.

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