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Vilardo’s questionnaire outlines his experience

By: Denise M. Champagne//March 11, 2015

Vilardo’s questionnaire outlines his experience

By: Denise M. Champagne//March 11, 2015

A seat on the federal bench is the first judgeship Buffalo attorney Lawrence J. Vilardo is seeking, but he has served as an administrative judge, hearing officer and fact finder.

In addition, the American Bar Association rates him as well qualified.


Vilardo, a partner in the firm Connors & Vilardo LLP, has focused the majority of his extensive legal career on civil litigation, half of which has been in state courts, 30 percent in federal courts and 20 percent before administrative agencies.

He has also been actively involved in his community and politics, written many articles, contributed to professional publications, spoken on legal topics before many Buffalo area organizations and has been the recipient of many awards.

Those are among the various experiences and qualifications he listed on his questionnaire for judicial nomination to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York. The nomination is pending before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, which has yet to schedule a hearing.

In 2008, Vilardo was retained by the Erie County town of Cheektowaga to serve as a hearing officer and fact finder in a decision relating to the town’s employee residency requirement. He found the employee in question, who had moved out of town, did not meet the residency requirement because he had less than the required 15 years of service to qualify to work in the town while living in another town.

In 2005, he was retained by Kaleida Health to serve as a hearing officer regarding the denial of hospital privileges of a local physician, confirming the denial because the doctor did not belong to a group of physicians with which Kaleida had an exclusive contract.

Vilardo reported he tried four bench cases to verdict as sole or lead counsel and one jury case as an associate counsel; served as sole or lead counsel in at least three trials before administrative law judges with the state Board of Professional Medical Conduct which resulted in panel decisions; and provided substantial trial assistance in at least five other trials.

He has drafted or edited petitions for writs of certiorari in Mouawad v. United States, 510 U.S. 990; Reinig v. New York, 493 U.S. 852; and Bailey v. Grand Truck Lines New England, 484 U.S. 826.

Among his 10 most significant litigated matters, Vilardo lists Cohane v. NCAA, No. 4-cv-0943s, a case that has gained national attention in which Tim Cohane, former head basketball coach at the State University at Buffalo, is suing the NCAA for allegedly conspiring with the university and Mid-American Conference in connection with findings he violated NCAA rules.

Vilardo began as local counsel for the NCAA and several individual defendants, but said the role soon evolved to co-counsel status in which he has helped prepare all written submissions and made nearly all court appearances. A District Court judge granted summary judgment to the defendants in August 2013, but the case is pending an appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

“In addition to my courtroom experience, I have represented the Roman Catholic diocese of Buffalo, New York, and have served as a confidential advisor to four bishops on matters that include defalcations by church employees and allegations of abuse against clerics and others associated with the church,” Vilardo wrote. “I have represented targets or witnesses in a number of federal investigations involving possible False Claims Act or criminal liability. I have been retained as a legal expert on judgment enforcement, age discrimination and attorney’s fees by Buffalo’s two largest firms and by the New York State attorney general, respectively.”

His political activities include serving on state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman’s transition team, as well as the transition teams of former Buffalo Mayor Anthony M. Masiello and former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra.

Vilardo also worked on a number of politically related lawsuits his firm handled including Bush v. Gore, 531 U.S. 98, and he and his wife, Jeanne Susan Vilardo, hosted a fundraiser in their home in 2008 for President Barack Obama’s campaign. The Vilardos have three children.

Vilardo has served as an editor of Litigation Magazine for about 18 years, including two as editor-in-chief. He wrote for The Griffin newspaper while attending Canisius College, graduating summa cum laude in 1977, and the Harvard Law Record while at Harvard Law School, graduating magna cum laude in 1980.

He has served a three-year term as a member of the governing council of the American Bar Association Litigation Section, one year as co-director of publications of that section; and currently serves on the New York State Bar Association Committee on Standards of Attorney Conduct. In addition, he serves on the Erie County Bar Association Nominating Committee.

In addition to doing pro bono work over the years, Vilardo spent considerable time volunteering in bar association activities and on the boards of various organizations. He reported he spent hundreds of hours volunteering for Canisius High School, his alma mater, where he served on and chaired its board, working with the president to help ensure diversity by finding ways to offer financial aid to students lacking the financial resources to attend.

Prior to founding Connors & Vilardo in 1986 with Terrence M. Connors, Vilardo spent five years at Damon & Morey. He also served as a law clerk to the Hon. Irving L. Goldberg, circuit judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

A copy of Vilardo’s questionnaire if available on the Judiciary Committee’s website at

If confirmed, Vilardo will replace Judge Richard J. Arcara who assumed senior status on Jan. 3. As part of an extensive background check, he interviewed in September with attorneys from the White House Counsel’s Office and the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. He was nominated by the president on Feb. 4 on the recommendation of Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., who submitted his name for consideration in August.

The court also has an additional vacancy, as of Sunday, when Chief Judge William M. Skretny was elevated to senior status. The new chief judge is Judge Frank P. Geraci Jr.

Schumer has recommended Denise E. O’Donnell, also of Buffalo, to fill Judge Skretny’s vacancy, but she has yet to be nominated by the president. O’Donnell is currently serving in the Obama administration as director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance in the Department of Justice.

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