Judge Liotti steps down after three decades of service
Westbury Mayor Peter Cavallaro said that there were a number of people qualified to succeed Thomas F. Liotti as village justice.
“But I only considered one candidate,” he said to laughter, holding up a finger as he faced a large audience filling up village hall on Jan. 6, before the meeting of the village trustees.
They were there to observe the installation of Westbury resident and attorney Dana Boylan, selected to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Liotti, who had held the position since 1991.
Liotti said in a statement, “Dana Boylan is a superb choice by the mayor. I fully endorse her selection and candidacy.”
Per a press release, “Boylan will fill out Liotti’s remaining term, through March 31, and is expected to run for a full term in the village election to be held on March 21, along with incumbent trustees Steve Corte and Beaumont Jefferson.”
Wendy Liotti appeared on behalf of her husband to hail Boylan’s appointment. The longtime judge had fallen and was in rehab and “he’s doing very well,” she assured the audience.
Quoting her husband’s words, she congratulated Boylan and affirmed she would continue the tradition started by his predecessor, Judge John Molloy, to make the court “a model to be emulated throughout New York State.”
“It’s been my great honor to serve the community I love,” the retired judge continued. “Former Mayor [Ernest] Strada appointed me in 1991 and asked that I preserve the residential character of the community. In accordance with New York State and the Federal Constitution, I tried to achieve that goal and to serve the residents of the Village of Westbury to the best of my ability.”
Cavallaro also made note of “this distinguished legal legacy that Boylan was stepping into. Dana is taking on a role which is important in the village.”
He added, “My job as a mayor to identify talented people that could help us administer [the village]. This will be the only time—I hope—(chuckles from the audience) that I have to appoint a judge. I think that Dana is going to serve us long and well (applause).”
In a press release, Cavallaro called Boylan, “an outstanding lawyer and public servant, who has committed her life to the law, criminal justice, and youth issues. She has served the village in several capacities, and the Sherwood community as past president of the Sherwood Civic Association. She has a demonstrated commitment to the law and to the community that will make her an excellent village justice.”
The mayor introduced Boylan’s husband Carl, vice president of the Eta Theta Lambda (ETL) Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha, the nation’s oldest black student fraternity.
Boylan said it was a proud moment for not only Dana but the family as well.
Boylan chronicled his wife’s life, born in Jamaica and coming to the United States when she was 13. Education was at the forefront of everything for Dana, who earned her undergraduate degree at St. John’s and a law degree from Fordham University.
After marrying, they moved to Westbury in 2002. At that time Dana was a prosecutor for the Nassau County District Attorney’s office. While there she had an opportunity to work with the prison population rentering society as well as the at-risk community to help them put their lives back together.
He spoke of a young man who was incarcerated for a number of years and wasn’t quite sure what to do when he got out. Thanks to one of Dana’s programs, he was able to turn his life around. Meeting her years later, he gave her a big hug and told her, “Thank you for saving my life.”
Boylan noted that the former prisoner “now works at a Fortune 500 company and is married with kids and is flourishing and doing great.”
Applause greeted this.
According to a press release, “Boylan is a former Nassau County assistant district attorney who served under three successive DAs—Dennis Dillon, Kathleen Rice and Madeline Singas—from 2005 to 2018. She then went on to serve as director of Youth Services for Nassau County and she currently serves as the deputy director of the Department of Human Services in Suffolk County.
In addition to her community and government service, Boylan has been a member of the board of the Nassau County Women’s Bar Association, the NYS Association of Youth Bureaus and the United Way of LI and has participated in the Nassau Bar Association Westbury Middle School Mentoring Program and other philanthropic, professional and community organizations.”
Aside from these achievements, her husband said, she wanted to do something for the community that she loved.
Consequently, she joined the residential civic association and was an officer in the Westbury Arts Council and became a member of the village’s zoning board.
“And now she’s been appointed the third judge for Westbury and first female judge (applause),” he said, adding, “If I don’t say this right, she’ll kill me (laughter). [She’s also] the first Jamaican American judge (more applause).”
Turning to his wife, he announced that he was proud of her and said, “You always give back.”
The large audience, he observed, “is a testament that people appreciate what you do and we cannot wait to see what you’ll be doing in your position. I love you, and congratulations.”
Cavallaro asked Carl and the rest of the Boylan family to join him as he administered the oath.
“Since I met Dana many years ago she impressed me as someone who was civic-minded and loved the community and wanted to do more for the community,” the mayor said as the family assembled on the dais from which Boylan would preside. “On a personal level, she’s helped me as the mayor deal with some difficult issues—both regular municipal issues as well as issues of diversity and inclusion. She takes the temperature very well and has been able advise me on those type of things.”
He talked about judicial temperament and how important it is, stating, “What it means is [having] someone who’s going to be dispassionate but compassionate at the same time. Who’s going to apply the laws [in ways] that’s fair for everybody that appears before her. And everybody who knows Dana knows that she’s even-keeled and she has the perfect temperament to sit on the bench.”
Boylan expressed gratitude to her friends, colleagues and supporters, and singled out Wendy Liotti for representing her husband and extended her regards for his quick recovery and added, “I’m grateful to him for his support.”
She thanked Cavallaro for the appointment and praised him for having kept Westbury a prosperous village.
“I think you should run for county executive,” she told him, to laughter.
She called Westbury “an important community in Nassau County. It’s filled with a spirit of inclusion. Its motto is ‘A Community for All Seasons’ and consequently it’s a community for all people.”
She mentioned the various boards and civic organizations and how they all worked together to make Westbury a thriving village.
“To have the year end in this way with this momentous happening is hugely important for me,” she emphasized, adding that she had worked for both Republican and Democratic district attorneys, “and that says to me, and I hope it says to you, that I am aboveboard.”
She concluded, “I plan to be a justice that you can be proud of. I plan to ensure that I’m fair and respectful of our laws and honor the reason why Mayor Cavallaro chose me to make me the third village justice.”
In a statement, Boylan said, “To be appointed by Mayor Cavallaro to be the Village of Westbury’s next village justice is an honor. I am humbled by his vote of confidence in entrusting this important role and responsibility within our thriving village to me. I look forward to continuing Judge Liotti’s 30-plus year history of excellence in adjudicating matters that come before the court with fairness and impartiality in decision making and in interpreting the Village Code. It is truly an honor to be of service to all who live, work, or visit our village and may have occasion to come before its court.”
A Long Tenure
In a release, Liotti said that his resignation was “due to medical reasons beyond his control.”
He noted that he was elected and re-elected eight times with no opposition, except in his first campaign in 1991. Since 2007, Liotti has run under his own party label, the Judicial Independence Party. He did not solicit or receive campaign contributions, running on his record alone.
Liotti said one of his proudest achievements as a justice was bringing the law to the people of the community.
“I was honored to name the Law Day Program (May) after my predecessors, two giants in the law, Justice John L. Molloy and Justice Frank J. Santagata and the Constitution Day Program (September) after Dean Michael A. Simons of the St. John’s Law School and fellow Westburyite. We focused on contemporary legal issues,” he noted.
Liotti named a number of distinguished panelists who had appeared on his programs and thanked the mayor and trustees for their support.
Among his achievements were receiving the Martin Luther King, Jr. award from the Nassau County Human Rights Commission in 1997 and writing the longest decision ever written by a village or town judge in the history of New York at 109 pages, plus a page of guidelines for the issuance of search warrants in building code cases. As a result, he is one of the experts in New York State on the Fourth Amendment and its application to building code cases. He has been asked to speak at seminars for his fellow judges on the topic.
Since many defendants are unrepresented in village court, Liotti designed a pamphlet for them explaining how to conduct a trial. Former state Chief Judge Judith Kaye appointed Justice Jaunita Bing Newton to oversee the implementation of the pamphlet in all courts.
Liotti created a community service program in lieu of serving jail time. He wrote and published 37 reported cases and co-authored a book, now in its 27th year of publication and referred to as “the bible” in the industry. It is entitled A Practice Guide To Village, Town and District Courts of New York. He is credited with more than 300 legal articles, law reviews and book reviews and three books: Judge Mojo: the True Story of One Attorney’s Fight Against Judicial Terrorism (iUniverse, 2007); The Secret Adoption (iUniverse, 2011); and Memoirs of an Adopted Child (iUniverse, 2020). He was also a co-author with Lynn and Arthur Dobrin of Political Prisoners: Their Stories (Maryknoll, 1981) and a book on domestic violence printed by the New York State Bar Association,
“I wanted to bring the law closer to the people so they might have greater appreciation for it. So I was a columnist for Community Newspapers of Long Island writing about the law,” he said.
Liotti is an Honorary Member of Maria SS Dell’Assunta Society and Durazzano Society, two charitable organizations in Westbury. He also served as president of Kiwanis club of Carle Place, Westbury and Old Westbury as well as president of Columbian Lawyers’ Association, the Criminal Courts Bar Association of Nassau County and the New York State Association of Defense Lawyers. He was also chairman of the Board of the Nassau Lawyers Association and of the Civil Rights Committee of the Nassau County Bar.
Cavallaro said, “The retirement of Judge Liotti is the end of an era. He has served the village with distinction for almost 32 years, following longtime Village Justice John Molloy. Judge Liotti’s tenure continues the long history of our village court being in the forefront of village justice courts throughout the state and nation. Judge Liotti is a recognized leader and has used his tenure to make the administration of justice in our humble local court a non-intimidating and welcoming experience, while at the same time making sure that the village’s quality of life was maintained through the enforcement of our local laws.”
He added, “In the end, the village was fortunate and blessed to have had Judge Liotti serve us for so long. We wish him the best of health and all good wishes as he retires and moves on to new endeavors, and we believe that Dana Boylan will do an outstanding job in continuing the tradition of excellence of the Westbury justice court.”
Additional information provided by the Village of Westbury and Judge Thomas Liotti.