Appellate judge bails over money

Another Westchester County-based judge is leaving the bench and returning to private practice over money, or a lack thereof.

Appellate Court Justice Robert A. Spolzino is rejoining his former partners at the high-powered law firm of Wilson, Elsner, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker LLP. Wilson Elser has more than 170 attorneys in White Plains, making it the largest single law practice in Westchester County, according to the firm’s website.

In a written statement sent by the Appellate Division’s 2nd Judicial Department, Spolzino said the 10-year pay raise drought for New York judges was the main reason for leaving the bench six years before his 14-year term ends. The fact that he has made $136,700 since former Gov. George Pataki appointed him in May 2001 (he was elected to a full term that November) apparently has created a financial hardship for his family.

“I would not have even contemplated leaving this job thart I love so must if it were not for the judicial salary situation in New York,” he said in the statement. “Eight years ago, my family and I accepted the fact that my commitment  to public service would mean a financial sacrifice. With no immediate prospect for reform in sight, I can no longer ask them to do that.”

The move means Spolzino will be working down the hill from the home of Completely Legal. The firm’s White Plains law office is at 3 Gannett Drive; The Journal News/LoHud.com is headquartered at 1 Gannett Drive.

Spolzino follows in the footsteps of Westchester County Judge Rory Bellantoni, who stepped down earlier this year to start a new law firm with controversial civil rights lawyer Jonathan Lovett. In his resignation letter, Bellantoni also cited the lack of pay raises for leaving the bench.