BY DEAN MOSES
Schneps Media is sitting down with
judges across the city’s court systems
to discuss their roles and how they’ve
changed in the age of COVID-19. This
week’s interview is with the Hon. Anthony
Cannataro, Citywide Administrative
Judge of the Civil Court of the
City of New York and Justice of the New
York State Supreme Court.
Schneps Media: Could you describe
your duties as an Administrative
Hon. Anthony Cannataro: I am
the Citywide Administrative Judge
for the Civil Court of the City of New
York (one of the three citywide courts
along with Family Court and Criminal
Court). The Civil Court operates
in all fi ve borough and is best
known for our housing part (the court
that landlords go to when they seek
to evict their tenants and to litigate
other housing matters). That is an extremely
high-volume court, approximately
225,000 new cases are fi led
every year. The other well-known operation
of the Civil Court is the Small
My job is to oversee the day-to-day
operations. I deal with budgets, with
problems like disciplinary issues, and
attendance issues as they come up. I
also deal with what we call access to
justice, which is the court’s effort to
make these high-volume cases fairer
for people. Many of the litigants who
come here do not have attorneys representing
them. So, we must go out of
our way to make sure that the process
is as fair as it can be even for people
who don’t have attorneys.
SM: Have housing cases increased
because of the pandemic?
AC: Not necessarily. I would almost
say that the issue of representation
has gotten a little better because
of the pandemic, which is not
to say that everything is great. Since
the pandemic began there has been
a more concerted movement, both
within the court and outside the court
to try to get counsel assigned for people
who are facing eviction and who
don’t have lawyers.
SM: How has the position
changed during the pandemic?
AC: I fi nd myself communicating
a lot more with interest groups that
represent various litigants. For example,
in the housing sphere, there
are many groups out there who are
concerned about evictions happening
during a pandemic and all the
problems that come along with litigating
those kinds of cases and possibly
evicting people as a result of
those cases. I’m now speaking a lot
publicly and in smaller groups with
the various interest groups about
how the court can do its business and
still be mindful of the public health
and safety needs of the litigants who
come before us.
There are many interests to balance.
It’s extremely diffi cult. Using
housing as the prime example: On
the one hand you have tenants who
probably lost their jobs, they legitimately
cannot afford to pay their
rent. But you have landlords, many
of whom are small landlords who just
own two or three apartments, maybe
in just one building and they have to
pay taxes and they have to pay mortgages.
There are a lot of different perspectives.
SM: Has there been a silver lining
during the pandemic?
AC: The pandemic has really
driven us into using technology to
help us do what we do. Whereas before
the pandemic you would hardly
ever see virtual appearance or conferencing
with the court or among
the parties. We have moved forward
aggressively into using teleconferencing
platforms to do our work.
There is a lot being done with remote
SM: Are there any misconceptions
people have about judges you would
like to clear up?
AC: The biggest misconception about
judges is that we are not sensitive to the
needs of the litigants that appear in front
of us, and I say this as someone who oversees
a court where there are so many unrepresented
people from such diverse
backgrounds. I think there is a feeling
that judges don’t understand what regular
people are going through. People
tend to forget sometimes that judges are
regular people. We come in all different
types, sizes, and backgrounds.
SM: Are there some hobbies you
enjoy partaking in during your free
AC: I grew up as a child of Italian immigrants.
I spent many of my summers
in Italy and as I became older, I started
seeing the world. I just love to travel.
That’s the bug I have.
I love visiting off the beaten path locations
and cultures that I’ve never
seen before. Last summer, I went to the
Azores, which are small islands in the
middle of the Atlantic Ocean that are a
part of Portugal.
SM: You began as a law clerk,
what was that like?
AC: That was my introduction to the
courts. I got a job clerking in the courts
for a very prestigious judge in the highest
court in New York. That sent me on
a course for the rest of my life. That is
where I decided that I wanted to become
a judge. It took me about 10 years to get it
done, but I’m so glad that I did it.
SM: Do you have advice for those
starting a career in law?
AC: My advice is that you must be
open to see where your career takes you.
I would have never expected to have a judiciary
career, but now that I have one, I
couldn’t imagine anything better than
TALENT SEARCH FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD
Teacher (all levels)
Health Nutrition & Safety
Visit our website for career listings.
GO TO CMCS.ORG/CAREERS
BRONX TIMES R 32 EPORTER, AUG. 28-SEPT. 3, 2020 BTR
Hon. Anthony Cannataro
Questions & answers
with a judge
The Honorable Anthony Cannataro, Civil Court
of NY, Justice of NYS Supreme Court
..to sell your car in our
& get...Real Results!
or Email: Personnel@cmcs.org
Call: (914) 997-8000 Fax: (914) 741-0748