Judge Coccoma Set To Retired June 30

Judge Coccoma Set

To Retired June 30

Top Administrative Judge Outside NYC

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Judge Coccoma

COOPERSTOWN – Whenever County Judge John Lambert had a question about the law, he knew he could turn to Judge Michael V. Coccoma, the county’s highest ranking jurist.

“He was my mentor,” Lambert said. “There were times that a question would arise about how to handle something, he was a great person to bounce ethical questions of off. He was always willing to be there, even at night or on weekends.”

Coccoma, a state Supreme Court judge who is also chief administrative judge for all state courts outside of New York City, announced Tuesday, June 9, that he will retire at the end of the month.

“He has been a pillar and mainstay of this county for over 25 years,” said Lambert. “He has done nothing but bring dignity and respect to the bench.”

Coccoma began his local legal career in private practice in 1979. In 1980, he was appointed assistant district attorney. Over the years, he served as county attorney – a position his wife, Ellen, now holds – and as district attorney.

Elected in 1994 as county judge, he also heard cases in County and Family courts.

After his election as a state Supreme Court judge in 2007, he was appointed administrative judge of the 10 Southern Tier counties of the Sixth Judicial District, in addition to his trial court duties.

He led formation of the county’s first Drug Treatment Court. For many years he worked with the Drug Court team and presided over the biweekly court proceedings.

“He basically founded the drug court,” Lambert said. “He was instrumental in bringing that concept to the county, and now we’re in our 20th year.”

In 2013, he was tasked with leading a team of criminal court judges from outside New York City as part of an effort to address a chronic backlog of pending criminal cases in Bronx County.

After the 2018 enactment of the new law raising the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18 years of age, he and Deputy Chief Administrative Judge Edwina Mendelson prepared the State judiciary for implementation of the law and to serve on the Governor’s Task Force.

Last July, he was selected as one of four regional judges outside New York City to manage the pretrial preparations of the many lawsuits filed under the recently enacted Child Victims Act.

As deputy chief administrative judge for courts outside New York City, he supervised daily trial court operations in 57 counties, including over 600 state judges and 5,000 court employees in addition to town and village courts.

“Even covering this huge geographical area, he was still hearing cases in Otsego County,” said Lambert.

Among those cases were the contentious Oneonta Fire District, including the 2018 dismissal of the Town of Oneonta’s lawsuit and ruling that it had no standing to prevent the town Board of Fire Commissioners from dissolving, which it did.

Currently, he was judge in the case where Oneonta neighbors sued City Hall to block the Lofts on Dietz, a 66-unit complex of artist lofts and apartments.

“When people walked into Judge Coccoma’s court, they knew that regardless of the nature of the case, they were going to be heard and they were going to get a fair trial,” said Lambert. “That’s all you can ask for.”

He and wife Ellen raised a daughter and two sons locally. The judge is also a long-time Cooperstown EMT, and volunteer at Saturday’s Bread in Oneonta.


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