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Janet DiFiore '81 to Speak at St. John’s Law Commencement

Spring 2016 St. John's Law Magazine Illustration by John Inzetta '14C
Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Dean Michael A. Simons is pleased to announce that Hon. Janet DiFiore, Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals and the State of New York, will be the Law School’s commencement speaker and will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws on Sunday, June 4, 2017. The commencement exercises will take place at Carnesecca Arena on St. John’s Queens campus.

DiFiore arrived at St. John’s Law determined to become a prosecutor and, right after graduation, she started working as an assistant district attorney in Westchester County. She served that office for a collective 10 years—with a six-year interlude in private practice—rising through the ranks to become chief of the Narcotics Bureau.

DiFiore left the DA’s office for the bench in 1998, when she was elected a judge of the Westchester County Court. Then, in 2002, she was elected a justice of the New York State Supreme Court. Three years later, she was elected the District Attorney of Westchester County.

In that capacity, DiFiore led an office of 119 ADAs, 32 criminal investigators, and 85 support personnel that prosecuted some 40,000 cases each year. Under her leadership, the office’s felony conviction rate was consistently among the highest in New York.

In January 2016, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo appointed DiFiore Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals and the State of New York. At her installation, he noted that DiFiore has the skills and credentials to get the job done as New York’s chief judicial officer: “Janet’s career has never been about Janet – it has always been about the public she serves. 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.”

As Chief Judge, DiFiore is responsible for New York’s Unified Court System, with its $2 billion budget and 19,000 employees. Immediately upon taking office, she announced her "Excellence Initiative,” which aims to give New Yorkers the level of justice services they expect and deserve in court system that spans some 47,000 square miles and serves almost 20 million people—as well as countless others who work and visit New York and who are impacted by its laws.

“To be effective, New York's Chief Judge must be an excellent jurist, a skilled administrator, a wise policy maker, and a deft politician,” Dean Simons says. “Few people combine these qualities. Chief Judge DiFiore embodies all four. The New York State court system is in very good hands under her leadership, and St. John’s Law is honored to welcome Chief Judge DiFiore home as this year’s commencement speaker and honorary degree recipient.”