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Wolford recommended for federal bench

By: Denise M. Champagne//March 5, 2013

Wolford recommended for federal bench

By: Denise M. Champagne//March 5, 2013

Elizabeth A. Wolford

Rochester attorney Elizabeth A. Wolford is being recommended for nomination to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York.

“Ms. Wolford is a history-making pick, as she would become the first woman to serve as a federal judge in the New York’s Western District,” said Sen. Charles E Schumer in a release issued Tuesday, officially announcing his recommendation of Wolford for a lifetime federal judicial appointment. He noted one of his goals has been to elevate a woman to the federal district bench.

“I am humbled and honored to be selected by Sen. Schumer,” Wolford wrote in an email.

“It’s welcome news and we’re very grateful to Sen. Schumer that he acted as promptly as he did,” said Judge William M. Skretny, the district’s chief judge. “[Wolford]   was the recipient of one of our district pro bono awards a couple of years ago. By all accounts, she has an excellent reputation. She comes from an excellent law firm.”

Wolford received a Special Service Award from the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York in 2000, for excellence in the vigorous representation of a pro bono client.

Judge Skretny said he believes Wolford will be “a very positive asset to our court.”

“I think it’s fair to say we are absolutely thrilled with her recommendation,” said Kimberly F. Duguay, president of the Greater Rochester Association for Women Attorneys. “She certainly is a wonderful candidate.”

Duguay said it has been a long time coming for a woman to be appointed as a district judge in the Western District of New York.

“I don’t know why we haven’t had one,” she said. “There’s certainly no shortage of qualified women candidates. This is a great first step. Obviously, there’s a lot more work to be done, but we’re really thrilled Liz’s name is being recommended. She’s just a wonderful qualified candidate and we’re very happy for her.”

Wolford is a partner at the Wolford Law Firm LLP with her father, Michael R. Wolford, and brother, James S. She has successfully represented clients in federal and state courts in a variety of litigation for nearly 20 years, focusing in the areas of commercial and employment litigation.

Wolford, 46, is a native of Buffalo who grew up in the Rochester area where she attended Fairport schools. She received her undergraduate degree in 1989 from Colgate University and her juris doctor in 1992 from the University of Notre Dame Law School.

In 2003, Wolford was named Outstanding Young Lawyer of the Year by the New York State Bar Association and last June, received the MCBA President’s Award.

She has also served on the board of Sojourner House at Pathstone, a transitional home for women in crisis, and on the Volunteer Legal Services Project of Monroe County Inc.

Diane M. Cecero, president-elect of the Monroe County Bar Association, described Wolford as talented, passionate and someone with high integrity, a strong sense of justice and practical common sense.

“She’s shown her leadership as president of the Greater Rochester Association for Women Attorneys (2003-04) and as president of the Foundation of the Monroe County Bar Association (2010),” she said. “The fact that we’re getting a woman is wonderful, but she’s representative of the best the Western District has to offer, male or female. We look forward to a fully staffed judiciary in the Western District of New York and hope for smooth sailing with her Senate confirmation.”

It is up to President Barack Obama to formally nominate Wolford and forward her nomination to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, which will conduct a hearing before deciding whether or not to send it to the full Senate for a confirmation vote.

Judge Skretny is optimistic. He said the court will do whatever it can to help her hit the ground running after she is confirmed.

“The bottom line is all of us together will better serve the interests of the Western District,” he said.

The addition of Wolford would bring the district to a full complement of two full-time district judges in each of Buffalo and Rochester.

Wolford would fill the vacancy of Judge Charles J. Siragusa, who was elevated to senior status Dec. 15, but is still working full-time. She would join Judge Frank P. Geraci Jr., who just joined the bench in early January to fill the vacancy of Judge David G. Larimer. Judge Larimer took senior status March 3, 2009, but is also working full-time, along with Judge Michael A. Telesca who assumed senior status May 3, 1996. His seat was filled by Siragusa in 1997.

Sitting in Buffalo, in addition to Judge Skretny, are Judges Richard J. Arcara and John T. Curtin, the latter of whom assumed senior status July 1, 1989. There are also six magistrate judges, three in each city, appointed to eight-year terms, including one women: Judge Marian W. Payson in Rochester.

Of the 607 active full-time district judgeships nationwide, 183 are women or 30 percent, according to Charles W. Hall, public affairs specialist with the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

In New York, that breaks down to 19 women among the 47 total active full-time district judgeships: no women of three active full-time judgeships in the Western District of New York; one of 5 in the Northern District of New York; nine of 15 in Eastern District; and nine of 24 in the Southern District.

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