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Merit Performance Awards: Winners


Past Winners:2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003

 

2014 Merit Performance Awards

Photo of Award Winners
2014 Merit Performance Award Honorees

L-R: Antonio Galvao, Esq., Court Clerk Specialist Gloria Smyth-Godinger,
First Deputy Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks,
Court Officer Timothy Sweeney and Project Director Joseph Madonia

Superior Work Performance

Antonio Galvao, ESQ.
Counsel’s Office, Office of Court Administration

Erudite yet unassuming, Antonio Galvao began his legal career in 1992 as a central staff attorney at the New York Court of Appeals. Tony, as he’s known, went on to serve as a principal law clerk to then Court of Appeals Associate Judge Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick before joining the Office of Court Administration in 1996 as an assistant deputy counsel to the Chief Administrative Judge. He was later promoted to chief of staff, subsequently serving as special counsel to the Chief Administrative Judge and counsel to the Chief Judge. Among his current duties, Tony represents the Judiciary in litigation, drafts court rules and legislation, participates in statewide policy and provides legal support to the Administrative Board of the Courts, which is made up of the Chief Judge and four Presiding Justices.

Over the course of his distinguished tenure, Tony has played a key role in the development and implementation of policies that have led to important reforms to help bridge the justice gap, enhance professional ethics, advance court technology, promote alternative dispute resolution programs, improve the processing of residential foreclosure and matrimonial cases, and on the list goes. Tony is admired as much for his resourcefulness, talent as a writer and exacting standards as he is for his self-effacing, collegial manner. His wonderful demeanor — combined with his considerable intellect, vast knowledge of the court system and outstanding work ethic — have been tremendous assets to the Judiciary. Indeed, he is treasured by many throughout the court system for his significant behind-the-scenes contributions over the years.

We are delighted to acknowledge Tony for his many fine attributes and outstanding body of work with a 2014 Merit Performance Award for Superior Work Performance.

 

Joseph Madonia
Project Director,
Brooklyn Treatment Court

A licensed clinical social worker and credentialed alcohol and substance abuse counselor, Joseph Madonia dons many hats as project director of the Brooklyn Treatment Court (BTC), which links nonviolent drug offenders to drug treatment and supportive services as an alternative to incarceration. Along with supervising the court’s case managers and overseeing its clinical operations, Joseph is responsible for implementing court policies and managing the court’s federal grants program, helping secure over $3 million in grants in the past five years. Collaborating with a range of agencies and organizations, Joseph works tirelessly to improve the life chances of BTC participants. Along with his myriad day-to-day duties, he chairs the court’s Clinical Advisory Board and hosts the many local, national and international dignitaries who visit the court throughout the year.

Joseph’s sphere of influence goes well beyond the BTC. He played a vital role in the launch of other problem-solving courts in the borough, including a court that aims to address the unique challenges faced by military veterans returning to civilian life. Working with the New York City Mayor’s Office for Veterans Affairs and other entities, Joseph helped build a full network of services tailored to military veterans and their families. Always the innovator, Joseph was among the first drug court practitioners to recognize the need to identify and address trauma in substance abusing defendants. Over the past decade, he has lent his expertise to numerous advisory panels and conducted drug court training workshops around the state and country.

Joseph’s contributions to the BTC and problem-solving court community have been invaluable. We are pleased to present him with a 2014 Merit Performance Award for Superior Work Performance.back to top

 

Gloria Smyth-Godinger
Court Clerk Specialist,
New York County Supreme Court-Civil

Gloria Smyth-Godinger began her court career 35 years ago in Brooklyn Civil Court, distinguishing herself as a quick study with an eye for detail. For the past 29 years, she has worked in New York County Supreme Court’s Civil Term, starting as a courtroom clerk. Always up to the challenge, Gloria was typically assigned to the court parts with the most voluminous, complex caseloads.

In May 1997, Gloria was tapped to head the state’s first Office for the Self-Represented, established to help unrepresented litigants by offering free legal and procedural information. She assembled a terrific team to lead this effort, working day and night and making the office a model for other help centers that have since opened across the state. A few years later, Gloria was again tapped, this time to take on the role of clerk-in-charge of the court’s Trial Support Office, which oversees case management-related functions. She delved into her new assignment, working diligently to promote best case management practices and ensure adherence to time tables for resolving cases. In addition, she helped organize a neutral evaluation program to promote out-of-court settlements in personal injury and other matters, among other innovations.

Today, Gloria is renowned not just for her amazing work stamina and can-do attitude but for her institutional knowledge and mastery of the many automated systems introduced by the court system in recent years. She is also widely regarded for her efforts as mentor, both to court employees and the countless high school, college and law students who have interned at the New York County Supreme Court over the years. It is a privilege to honor Gloria with a 2014 Merit Performance Award for Superior Work Performance.back to top

 

Community Service and Humanitarian Pursuits

Timothy Sweeney
Court Officer,
Chemung County Courts

What makes Chemung County's Timothy Sweeney so remarkable is his ability to juggle the multiple responsibilities of court officer, family man and community volunteer, and make it look so effortless! Since high school, Timothy has been a member of the Town of Southport’s volunteer fire department, with career, marriage and fatherhood doing little to slow down his community service activities. In fact, he was promoted to assistant fire chief fifteen years ago and moved up to fire chief seven years ago, giving selflessly of his time in the event of a fire, car accident or other emergency — late nights, weekends and holidays included. The Town of Southport’s volunteer fire department also provides assistance to neighboring volunteer departments, which means Timothy’s volunteer efforts can take him to Elmira and other municipalities in the area.

While most people would be overwhelmed by the emergency-related challenges faced by a fire chief, Timothy’s dedication doesn’t end there. He also devotes considerable time to educating the community about fire prevention. Additionally, he works with local high schools to coordinate MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) seminars. And he still manages to find the time and energy to participate in pep rallies and other community events. No matter how full his plate is, Timothy never hesitates to do more and is always ready to pitch in to benefit others, with his giving nature and sense of civic duty a great source of pride and inspiration among folks in and around Chemung County.

For his exceptional, long-standing volunteer efforts on behalf of the residents of Chemung County and its neighboring communities, we are delighted to present Timothy with this year’s Merit Performance Award for Community Service and Humanitarian Pursuits.

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2013 Merit Performance Awards

Photo of Award Winners
2013 Merit Performance Award Honorees

L-R: Sergeant Edward Cassidy, Resource Coordinator II Lucile Mallard,
First Deputy Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks, Chief Clerk
Tracy Catapano-Fox and Law Library Assistant Cecilia Berean.

Superior Work Performance

Tracy Catapano-Fox
Chief Clerk
Queens County Supreme Court-Civil

Tracy Catapano-Fox’s passion for the law – and helping people – is apparent from the moment you meet her. This former prosecutor, law clerk and Queens County Women’s Bar Association President – the youngest-ever in the County – has served as Chief Clerk of the busy Queens County Supreme Court-Civil Term since 2011.

An expert on residential foreclosures, Tracy helped establish the state’s first residential foreclosure settlement conference part at the Queens court, with the goal of these statutorily mandated conferences to achieve mortgage modifications and keep people in their homes. Besides coordinating a busy foreclosure part calendar, Tracy works with court administrators to develop policies and procedures to improve the handling of foreclosure matters, also sharing her expertise on the subject at judicial education seminars and bar association events. Additionally, she played an instrumental role in the development of the Queens court’s specialized parts for guardianship and matrimonial matters. Even with her myriad responsibilities, she consistently goes out of her way to provide guidance and assistance to court colleagues and the public.

Tracy’s innovative stewardship as Chief Clerk of one of the state’s busiest civil courts is commendable, and her dedicated efforts on behalf of the Unified Court System and legal profession, extraordinary. I am delighted to honor her with a 2013 Merit Performance Award for Superior Work Performance.back to top

 

Cecilia Berean
Law Library Assistant
Onondaga County Supreme Court Library

Cecilia Berean regularly goes beyond the scope of her duties as Law Library Assistant at the Supreme Court Law Library in Onondaga County. Joining the law library in 1999, Cecilia was quickly recognized by library patrons and employees alike for her can-do attitude and unfailing courtesy. Her outstanding work ethic and other admirable qualities have since been noted by many throughout the Fifth Judicial District.

Cecilia and her library colleagues were recently called on to provide records management support to other courts in the Fifth Judicial District. She took a leading role in that effort, bringing together the District’s employees and technological resources to move this project forward with remarkable efficiency. Over the years, she has played a key part in a variety of law library and court system projects. Presently, she serves as the SEFA-United Way coordinator for the Fifth Judicial District, a responsibility that requires patience and strong planning and communication skills – all Cecilia’s strengths.

Cecilia’s upbeat outlook and meticulous attention to detail come across in everything she does, whether assisting law library patrons, taking on special projects or responding to inquiries via the court system’s telephone information line, 1-800-COURT-NY. It is my pleasure to present her with a 2013 Merit Performance Award for Superior Work Performance.

 

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Community Service and Humanitarian Pursuits

Lucile Mallard
Resource Coordinator II
Canandaigua City Court

There simply aren’t enough hours in the day for Lucile Mallard, between her duties as a Drug Treatment Court Resource Coordinator and innumerable volunteer activities in her home city of Geneva and the surrounding Finger Lakes region. Lucile is recognized locally and beyond as a dedicated community leader and human rights advocate, with her good work spanning a range of organizations aiding youngsters, the needy and other underserved populations.

Lucile – the President of the Geneva Chapter of the NAACP for the past 25 years – considers community service a way of life, devoting the better part of hers to fostering racial and ethnic tolerance and helping women and minorities forge paths of leadership. She also travels to local middle and high schools to highlight the dangers of alcohol and substance abuse, sharing with students the knowledge and wisdom acquired over her 30-plus years in the field. A positive force for change, Lucile has a unique gift for uniting people of diverse backgrounds and beliefs, giving a voice to the disadvantaged and motivating youngsters to achieve their full potential.

In appreciation of Lucile’s selfless service to her local community and humankind, I am delighted to present her with this year’s Merit Performance Award for Community Service and Humanitarian Pursuits.

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Heroism

Sergeant Edward Cassidy
Court Officer
Suffolk County Courts

Sgt. Edward Cassidy’s bravery and quick thinking proved invaluable on a late afternoon last September, when the off-duty Court Officer observed a violent domestic dispute at a gas station parking lot. Sgt. Cassidy alerted the Town of Southold Police Department, and upon the arrival of local Police Officer Chris Salmon, he directed Officer Salmon to the perpetrator, who had fled into a wooded area.

When Officer Salmon caught up with the perpetrator, the man became extremely combative. A confrontation ensued, with Officer Salmon sensing someone running up behind him and realizing that Sgt. Cassidy had been following throughout the chase. As Officer Salmon struggled with the perpetrator – and the offender tried to dislodge Officer Salmon’s gun from its holster – Sgt. Cassidy helped Officer Salmon wrestle the man to the ground and handcuff him. Town of Southold Police Department Chief Martin Flatley, in a letter commending Sgt. Cassidy for his actions that afternoon, wrote, “I have no doubt in my mind that if Sgt. Cassidy had not taken the initiative to follow this pursuit, and jumped in to assist Officer Salmon, the outcome could have been tragic.”

We are most fortunate to count Sgt. Cassidy among the courts’ highly trained corps of officers. His courage and sharp instincts were critical in averting a potential tragedy that day. It is a privilege to honor Sgt. Cassidy with this year’s Merit Performance Award for Heroism.

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2012 Merit Performance Awards

Photo of Award Winners
2012 Merit Performance Award Honorees

L-R: Court Officers Michele Lynch, Michael Mathisen, Chief Administrative Judge A. Gail Prudenti, Court Officer Scott Truex and Sergeant Robert Kowal. These four courageous officers were recognized in the Merit Performance category of Heroism and received the courts’ highest honor, the Medal of Valor.

Medal of Valor

Sergeant Robert Kowal
Court Officer Michele Lynch
Court Officer Michael Mathisen
Court Officer Scott Truex

Middletown City Court

Four members of the Unified Court System’s highly trained corps of officers displayed extraordinary heroism, vigilance and presence of mind—potentially saving numerous lives—on February 8, 2012, when a man brandishing a shotgun entered the vestibule outside Middletown City Court just a few minutes past 9:00 a.m.

Middletown City Court Officer Michael Mathisen, who at the time was stationed in the court’s lobby, quickly spotted the gun toting man through the court’s glass entrance. He immediately shouted “gun” to alert nearby Officer Scott Truex and Sergeant Robert Kowal. Within seconds, the gunman fired into the court’s lobby, his shot wounding Officer Truex in the left forearm and penetrating the wall of one of the lobby’s public restrooms. As Officer Mathisen and Sergeant Kowal took up defensive posts near the court’s magnetometers, an injured Officer Truex guided members of the public, including a woman with a baby, out of harm’s way and into an adjacent courtroom. The gunman then fired a second shot— which hit the court lobby’s front desk, ricocheting past the sergeant and into another of the court’s public restrooms—with Officer Mathisen and Sergeant Kowal returning fire and striking the shooter, who succumbed to his wounds. Another of our heroes that fateful morning, Officer Michele Lynch, was inside the courtroom as the incident unfolded. She is credited with safely leading people from the courtroom to an outside location at the rear of the courthouse.

It was later revealed that the gunman, who had an arrest record, a history of mental illness and had previously faced charges for menacing the mayor’s daughter, was carrying a fully loaded 12-gauge shotgun and 38 rounds of ammunition. One can only imagine the degree of tragedy and chaos that might have ensued but for the swift, skillful and coordinated actions of our four heroes. And so, it is with tremendous gratitude and pride that we present these four outstanding individuals—Sergeant Robert Kowal, Officer Michele Lynch, Officer Michael Mathisen and Officer Scott Truex—with the courts’ highest honor, the Medal of Valor, for their exceptional courage and selfless service to the court system and greater community. I am also delighted to welcome to the program the Mayor of the City of Middletown, Joseph DeStefano, who will present these four officers with a key to the city in appreciation of their heroic efforts.

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2011 Merit Performance Awards

Photo of Award Winners

2011 Merit Performance Award Honorees

Front row, L-R: Pamela Greene, Chief Administrative Judge Ann Pfau,
Marisa Alleyn
. Back row, L-R: Mike Williams, Sarah Sennett, and
Court Officer Peter Robinson
.

Superior Work Performance

Michael J. Williams
Deputy Chief Clerk IV
Bronx County Family Court

Over the course of a court career that has spanned nearly two decades, Michael Williams has worked tirelessly to help unrepresented litigants navigate their way through Family Court. Most recently, Michael has devoted his efforts to the development and implementation of online "do-it-yourself" (DIY) programs that since 2009 have assisted tens of thousands of unrepresented Family Court litigants in preparing court-ready child support and other forms and information sheets.

When the Unified Court System first began work on these software programs, Michael volunteered to be part of the development team, going far beyond his regular courthouse duties to master the computer programming skills required to create these programs: the result, a user-friendly program that enables litigants to produce a court-ready petition to modify child support. Before its official launch in May 2009, the support modification form program was tested in Kings County Family Court, where Michael, then an Assistant Deputy Chief Clerk at the court, provided program training to the staff and worked to encourage litigants' use of the new software. Feedback garnered from the pilot program proved indispensible in readying the support modification form program for its official launch, with Michael's expertise also vital in the development of online programs guiding litigants to create court-ready paternity and support enforcement/violation petitions, the latter of which was tested in April in Bronx County Family Court under Michael's direction in his new capacity as Bronx Family Court Clerk.

Thanks in large measure to Michael's pioneering spirit and tremendous work ethic, some 26,000 support modification and paternity petitions were generated last year by unrepresented litigants using the DIY programs. It is our pleasure to present Michael Williams with a Merit Performance Award for Superior Work Performance for his extraordinary support in making our courts more accessible to the public.

Pamela R. Greene
Associate LAN Administrator
Sixth Judicial District Office

Pamela Greene's attention to detail and ability to complete highly complex assignments while adhering to seemingly impossible deadlines continue to astonish both her IT peers and other court colleagues. Her work ethic and ingenuity have become legendary among her co-workers in the Sixth Judicial District and beyond, with Pamela playing a key role in the launch of many computer applications that have helped streamline court operations.

For instance, Pamela was instrumental in the roll-out of a software application that allows traffic case-related data to be imported from local police and other agencies, minimizing the courts' data entry role. She also created an application used by several upstate judicial districts as well as numerous downstate courts to keep track of their computer and furniture inventories. Additionally, Pamela took the lead in modifying a computer application to satisfy recent legislative requirements for tracking foreclosure cases, and developing a revenue-monitoring program that enables the pooling of statewide data into a central repository for ease of consolidation and reporting—working long hours on these projects to ensure their completion within just four months. Pamela's expertise has been vital in the development of multiple online projects that generate critical data for the court system, its partners and the public while helping to make our courts more efficient.

Pamela Greene represents the finest in public service. It is our privilege to present her with a Merit Performance Award for Superior Work Performance for her exceptional contributions to the Sixth Judicial District, the Unified Court System and our great state.

Marisa Alleyn
Senior Court Analyst
Nassau County Supreme Court-Matrimonial Center

In the highly emotional and complicated world of divorce, Marisa Alleyn serves as a voice of reason for sparring couples as they work out child custody and other sensitive matters in Nassau County Supreme Court's Model Custody Part, which offers a non-adversarial forum for parents to resolve their custody issues and otherwise expedite these contentious divorce cases.

Joining this non-traditional court part some four years ago, Marisa quickly earned a reputation for her finesse in opening the lines of communication between couples who are parting ways, even those embroiled in the most acrimonious of divorces. Trained as both social worker and mediator, Marisa brings a wealth of skills to the court, where she makes case assessments, facilitates couples in devising parenting plans that put their children first and links families to critical services. Working with couples at various stages of the divorce process, Marisa's empathetic approach—and her intense commitment and vast expertise—have proven successful in achieving positive outcomes for many families. In addition to her integral role in the Model Custody Part, Marisa also provides mediation services to the Nassau County Matrimonial Center as needed.

Always the consummate professional, Marisa Alleyn is an asset to the Matrimonial Center, the Nassau County families that it serves and the entire Unified Court System. We are delighted to acknowledge Marisa's admirable efforts with this Merit Performance Award for Superior Work Performance.

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Community Service and Humanitarian Pursuits

Sarah T. Sennett
Deputy Chief Clerk
Monroe County Surrogate's Court

Deputy Chief Clerk Sarah Sennett is known around the courthouse for her diligence and high level of commitment, qualities that shine through in her multiple extracurricular roles, including that of blood drive organizer and coordinator of the county's Supreme and Surrogate's Courts' New York State Employees Federated Appeal (SEFA) campaigns, which provide support to a wide range of charities. In recent years, Sarah also served as an American Red Cross disaster relief volunteer, linking families left homeless by fire to housing and other essential services.

People close to Sarah are struck by her global outlook and genuine desire to make a difference in her community and the world at large. As a monthly volunteer at community blood drives, Sarah can be seen working the canteen or registration desk. She has also successfully coordinated 57 courthouse blood drives over the past decade—doing everything from sending out notices to the donors to arranging space at the courthouse and overseeing the many other logistics. The donations from these courthouse drives alone have helped nearly 7,000 critically ill patients. Sarah's superb organizational and leadership skills have served her equally well these past eight years as a SEFA campaign manager, in which capacity she has helped generate thousands of dollars in donations to a host of worthy causes, from local to international in scope.

In recognition of her many hours of selfless service to her community and countless others living far beyond the borders of Monroe County, we are pleased to present Sarah Sennett with a 2011 Merit Performance Award for Community Service and Humanitarian Pursuits.

Peter P. Robinson
Court Officer
Niagara County Supreme Court

The only thing grander than Officer Peter Robinson's angelic voice is his warm heart, which sustains an indefatigable passion to serve humanity, whether through his singing, as a role model for atrisk youth or as overseer of food drives and other charitable endeavors.

In just the last year, Officer Robinson has donated his vocal talents to numerous courthouse and community events, including Veteran's Day and Memorial Day celebrations and a courthouse dedication paying tribute to crime victims and their families. Additionally, his voice provides inspiration to pre-adolescents in his role as youth hockey division coach, and to teens, in his capacity as a motivational speaker for a local group that fosters integrity and personal growth among this population. Peter has also lent his voice to the Niagara County District Attorney's DWI panels, which admonish offenders on the dangers of driving and drinking. Aside from his gifts as a vocalist and public speaker, Officer Robinson is noted for his management skills and leadership, which he puts to fine use as a volunteer commissioner for the Niagara County Youth Bureau, monitoring a variety of achievement-oriented programs, and as board president of the City of Lockport's fire department. Even with his plate overflowing, Peter somehow managed last December to organize Niagara County's first Peanut Butter and Jelly Drive, with drive volunteers collecting 1500 jars of peanut butter, jelly and marshmallow spread for distribution to food pantries and the Tuscarora Reservation.

It is our privilege to present Officer Robinson with a Merit Performance Award for Community Service and Humanitarian Pursuits for his spirited generosity on behalf of his local community, particularly his tireless efforts to benefit Niagara County's underprivileged youngsters and families.

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2010 Merit Performance Awards

Employee Recognition
2010 Merit Performance Award Honorees

L-R: Court Officer Monique J. Cruz, Senior Court Clerk Donna J. Johnson,
Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, Chief Clerk Sandy Petrella and
Court Officer Sheldon B. Charles.

Superior Work Performance

Sandy Petrella
Chief Clerk
Rochester City Court

Joining the Rochester City Court in 1969, Sandy Petrella worked her way up the ranks, quickly earning a reputation for her hard work and energetic leadership. As Deputy Chief Clerk in the mid-1990s, Sandy streamlined the court’s criminal division operations through automation and other enhancements, introducing a computerized system for identifying defendants that is still in use today. As Chief Clerk––a role she took on in 1998––Sandy is admired both for her high standards and caring nature.

Sandy’s level of commitment was taken to the extreme in late 2005, when she was diagnosed with cancer. Instead of focusing on her illness, Sandy turned her attention to ensuring the smooth operation of the Rochester City Court during her leave. Even as she recuperated from surgery, Sandy kept in frequent contact with her staff, returning to her full duties at the courthouse while still undergoing painful treatment. She remains a dynamic force at the courthouse, despite the physical discomfort she continues to endure.

It is our privilege to present Sandy Petrella with a 2010 Merit Performance Award for Superior Work Performance for her stellar leadership and unwavering dedication and spirit.

Sheldon Charles
Court Officer
Kings County Supreme Court

A court officer since 2005, Sheldon Charles has already been dubbed “the ambassador” of Kings County Supreme Court’s civil term for his calming effect on litigants and jurors who arrive at the courthouse feeling anxious. Many visitors to the court have written letters commending Officer Charles on his professionalism and friendly approach, while judges and colleagues laud Sheldon for his good humor, can-do attitude and contagious enthusiasm.

A charismatic presence at the Brooklyn courthouse, Officer Charles consistently strives to do his best, no matter what the assignment, all the while donning his signature smile. From handling security matters to directing court visitors and otherwise assisting the public, Sheldon demonstrates diligence, good judgment and leadership. With his solid knowledge of the court system and superb interpersonal skills, Officer Charles has also turned out to be a natural fit for the court’s “Take Your Children to Work” and tour programs as well as other outreach efforts.

In recognition of his exemplary work ethic and outstanding service to the public, we are delighted to present Officer Charles with a 2010 Merit Performance Award for Superior Work Performance.

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Community Service and Humanitarian Pursuits

Monique J. Cruz
Court Officer
Washington County Combined Court

In or away from the courthouse, Officer Monique Cruz is known for her selfless nature and genuine desire to bring joy to others, particularly those facing hard times.

Prior to her transfer in 2006 to the Washington County Combined Court, Officer Cruz worked in the Bronx, participating in local fund-raisers sponsored by community organizations on behalf of at-risk youngsters. With typical enthusiasm, Monique dove into the role of event planner, overseeing the many details that helped make these fund-raisers a success. She also took part in toy drives and somehow found the time to bring co-workers together through after-work gatherings she arranged. Since arriving in Washington County, Monique has donated her time and talents to a variety of local organizations that help the needy, recently organizing a softball tournament to raise money for an inner-city Little League. Additionally, she still makes time to brighten the lives of those around her––whether lending a hand to a friend recuperating from an accident or organizing after-work festivities for her court colleagues.

In recognition of her many charitable deeds, we are delighted to present Officer Cruz with this year’s Merit Performance Award for Community Service and Humanitarian Pursuits.

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Heroism

Donna J. Johnson
Senior Court Clerk
Suffolk County Supreme Court

Moments after attorney Kevin Way went into cardiac arrest at Suffolk County Supreme Court on March 24, 2009, Senior Court Clerk Donna Johnson––the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps’ first female chief––was alerted, rushing to the second-floor courtroom where efforts to save Mr. Way’s life were already in progress.

When Donna arrived, a doctor, judge and attorney who were in the courtroom as Mr. Way collapsed––the latter two, emergency medical technicians––were working to keep the stricken attorney’s airways clear. With Mr. Way’s condition worsening, Donna radioed for an ambulance as another first responder, a court officer, administered CPR. After having another officer bring her one of the court’s automated external defibrillators, Donna applied the device’s paddles to Mr. Way’s chest, administering a shock to his heart. Mr. Way’s breathing and heart rhythm stabilized after the first shock, but he quickly went into cardiac arrest again, with Donna administering a second shock to resuscitate him and overseeing his safe transport to the hospital.

Thanks to Donna’s swift control of the situation, and to the teamwork of the other first responders, things turned out well for Mr. Way, who has since returned to the Riverhead courthouse to pay his gratitude to Donna and the court’s emergency team. For her lifesaving efforts that day––and over the past seven years as an ambulance corps volunteer––we are pleased to honor Donna Johnson with the 2010 Merit Performance Award for Heroism.

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2009 Merit Performance Awards

Employee Recognition
2009 Merit Performance Award Honorees

L-R: Emily Gelb(Albert Gelb); Ava Anderson, Sara J. Luck,
Craig R. Snyder, Esq.
, Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman and
Chief Administrative Judge Ann Pfau.

Superior Work Performance

Ava Andersen
Court Assistant
Mount Vernon City Court

Dedication. Reliability. Expertise. And above all, service to the public. These are among the attributes and values that characterize Ava Andersen. Whether working weekend arraignments, being on call to assist a coworker, or juggling any of a myriad other tasks, Ava regularly goes beyond the scope of her duties to ensure that the public is served. Work at a high-volume court such as the Mount Vernon City Court can be stressful, but Ava brings not only her expertise to bear, but a sense of calm and her signature smile. Lawyers, judges, court staffers and, above all, the public, have come to rely on Ms. Andersen for her outstanding work ethic, thorough knowledge of court procedure and genuine desire to help others.

In recognition of her outstanding work and her dedication to quality service to the public, it is our pleasure to present Ms. Andersen with this year’s Merit Performance Award for Superior Work Performance.

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Outstanding Educational Efforts

Craig R. Snyder
Principal Court Attorney
Steuben County Courts

After finishing his “day job” as the Principal Court Attorney for the Steuben County Courts, Craig Snyder has devoted countless hours to working with youth in his community. For the past 20 years, he has served as director of a summer children’s program that focuses on character-building and that seeks to instill such core values such as honesty, integrity and tolerance. During the school year, Craig and his wife host a weekly explorer’s club where the children are engaged in activities that not only entertain, but more importantly teach them respect and empathy for others. As a board member of his local school district, Mr. Snyder was an advocate for a values-based curriculum that today is used to teach elementary and middle school students how to be better citizens of the world.

Craig Snyder practices what he teaches. In addition to his educational work with children, Craig devotes considerable time serving the elderly, distributing holiday gifts and arranging for musical programs at local nursing homes.

For his dedication to building character and instilling values in our youth, it is our privilege to present Craig Snyder with the 2009 Merit Performance Award for Outstanding Educational Efforts

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Community Service and Humanitarian Pursuits

Sara J. Luck
Resource Coordinator
Fulton County Drug Treatment Court

Whether in her role as Resource Coordinator of the Fulton County Drug Court, or in one of her many extracurricular activities, Sara Luck is always doing something to enhance the lives of those in her community. She coordinates food, clothing and toy drives for several local organizations serving the needy in her community. She also organized a volunteer group of active and former drug court participants make improvements in run-down parts of Fulton County. Sara in turn reaches out to the community on behalf of drug court participants, collecting food, clothing and other essential goods.

To each of these endeavors, she brings a special blend of persistence and optimism, as well as a talent for cutting through the red tape – skills that serve her well in her court job as well as in her extracurricular role of community advocate.

In recognition of her countless good works, and her dedication to strengthening and stabilizing our families and communities, it is our pleasure to present Sara J. Luck with our 2009 Merit Performance Award for Community Service and Humanitarian Pursuits. back to top

 

Heroism

Albert GelbAlbert Gelb
Court Officer
Kings County Criminal Court
(Posthumous)

One February morning in 1975, Court Officer Albert Gelb, while off-duty, intervened on behalf of a waitress being hassled by a thug in a Brooklyn diner. A struggle ensued, and Officer Gelb ultimately arrested the man on a weapons charge. The man, it turns out, was Charles Carneglia, a reputed associate of a crime family.

Months later, as the case was approaching trial, Officer Gelb began receiving phone threats warning him not to testify against Carneglia. However, the young Officer Gelb –– who with only three years on the job was already the state’s most decorated court officer –– refused to be intimidated. Following a late shift at Kings County Criminal Court days before the trial, Officer Gelb was gunned down outside of his home. Finally, three decades after the murder, Charles Carneglia was tried in March for his role in the murder of Officer Gelb and four other men. While Carneglia was acquitted of conspiracy in Officer Gelb’s murder, he was convicted in connection with four other killings and faces life in prison.

At age 25, Albert Gelb made the supreme sacrifice. Today, with this special posthumous award, we pay homage to Officer Gelb not for how he died but for how he lived.

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2008 Merit Performance Awards

Employee Recognition
2008 Merit Performance Award Honorees
L-R: Justin Barry, Esq., Cindy M. O'Bara, Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye,
Court Officer Timmy L. Cowart, Jr. and Eloina D. Diaz

Superior Work Performance

Justin Barry, Esq.
Citywide Drug Treatment Court Coordinator
New York City Criminal Court

Justin Barry is the coordinator of a comprehensive, highly regarded drug court initiative serving nonviolent offenders in New York City’s five boroughs. The job of overseeing the day-to-day operations of a large program spread out across a busy citywide court would be enough to keep most people busy, but Justin is a consummate multitasker who regularly looks to take on extra projects and responsibilities.

Justin recently brought his considerable talents and experience to the herculean task of creating and implementing protocols to enable the New York City Criminal Court to screen DWI cases in accordance with newly enacted legislation. Justin also played a key role in developing and introducing an innovative computer scanning program that measures arrest-to-arraignment processing times, and in producing a preliminary analytical report for the review of court administrators. Additionally, he’s the driving force behind the New York City Criminal Court’s annual employee recognition program, as well as the revival––after an almost 30-year hiatus––of its newsletter, with Justin wearing the multiple hats of chief editor, production manager and circulation director. He also took charge of producing the court’s annual report, again taking on various roles throughout the publication process. Amazingly, Justin still finds time to sit on the court’s Gender Fairness Committee, and to serve as host and tour guide for the many international dignitaries who come to see the New York City Criminal Court in action.

It is our pleasure to present this year’s Merit Performance Award for Superior Work Performance to Justin Barry, in recognition of his energetic leadership and outstanding accomplishments as a court manager.

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Outstanding Educational Efforts

Cindy M. O’Bara
Secretary to Judge
Erie County Court

Cindy O’Bara is one of those special people who regularly goes above and beyond the scope of her job duties. She has been the champion and driving force behind the outstanding public education activities of the Eighth Judicial District’s Committee to Promote Public Confidence in the Courts. In fact, Cindy spends countless hours working to ensure that these events, many of which help enlighten youngsters about the courts, are informative and inspirational.

It is only fitting that Cindy is being honored on Law Day, given that she’s been instrumental in organizing the Eighth Judicial District’s Law Day programs for many years. The district relies heavily on Cindy’s many talents and boundless energy for its Clergy Days and other important public outreach campaigns. From designing and drafting brochures and handouts to recruiting speakers and arranging for food and transportation, Cindy stays on top of every last detail to ensure that the district’s programs go smoothly and successfully. Whether she is tracking down and reviewing educational materials to make sure they are appropriate for distribution to attendees, or painstakingly obtaining the authorizations required to reproduce and disseminate those materials, it is abundantly clear that Cindy’s extracurricular duties are a true labor of love, reflecting her strong commitment to educating the public about the role and mission of the courts in our society.

We are delighted to present Cindy with this year’s Merit Performance Award for Outstanding Educational Efforts in recognition of her wholehearted contributions to the important work of educating youngsters and the general public about the judicial branch.

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Community Service and Humanitarian Pursuits

Eloina D. Diaz
Senior Court Clerk
Richmond County Supreme Court

Senior Court Clerk Eloina Diaz has long been changing lives for the better while working on guardianship cases at Richmond County Supreme Court. Armed with a comprehensive list of essential resources that she’s compiled while working in a part that handles about 50 percent of the county’s guardianship matters, Ellie––as she’s known to coworkers and friends––typically goes beyond her courthouse role in making sure that incapacitated persons are linked to essential services.

Thanks to Ellie, one young man who was left paralyzed by a diving accident has recently begun to reclaim his life. Living in his sister’s windowless attic when his case first came to the court, he now resides in a studio apartment and enjoys an improved quality of life because Ellie was able to make his court-appointed guardian aware of the availability of critical services. Numerous government agencies and service providers were indeed able to address his housing and other needs, including telephone and Internet services, which have enabled this young man to pursue a high school equivalency diploma. Ellie finds other ways to touch the lives of people in need through her leadership a church’s women’s group and as local coordinator of a national organization that helps link women to jobs and essential services.

Ellie, for your resourcefulness and persistence in cutting through red tape to improve the life chances of those in need, we take great pleasure in presenting you with our 2008 Merit Performance Award for Community Service and Humanitarian Pursuits.

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Heroism

Timmy L. Cowart, Jr.
Court Officer
Bronx County Supreme Court, Criminal Division

When Court Officer Timmy Cowart, Jr., left home to commute to the Bronx County Supreme Court on the morning of April 17, 2007, he never imagined that he would soon be leaping down onto the tracks of the Hunts Point subway station to save the lives of two men.

This courageous court officer was riding the subway when he looked out of the car’s open doors and overheard an argument between two men. The argument quickly turned into a fight, with the pair falling onto the subway tracks while still punching each other, oblivious to the track’s deadly third rail. Officer Cowart didn’t even think twice about jumping down onto the tracks to save the two men from serious harm. By the time he got to them, the two men had managed to knock each other unconscious and were sprawled across the tracks, close to the electrified third rail. Officer Cowart stood over the two men to protect them from further harm until several bystanders came to his aid and helped him carry the two miscreants to safety.

While Officer Cowart describes his reaction as “natural,” the term “surreal” also comes to mind whenever he recounts the incident. “It was the right thing to do,” he told a New York Daily News reporter last November, upon receiving a commendation from the New York State Court Officers Association for his role in rescuing the men.

It is our privilege to present Officer Cowart with this year’s Merit Performance Award for Heroism, in recognition of his selfless––and skillful––actions that fateful day at the Hunts Point train station.

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2007 Merit Performance Awards

Employee Recognition
2007 Merit Performance Award Honorees
L-R: Senior Court Officer John Strandberg, Court of Appeals
Judge Carmen B. Ciparick, Jeanette Helms, John Brennan and
Sergeant Francisco Casiano
.

 

Superior Work Performance

Jeanette Helms
Deputy Chief Clerk,
Erie County Surrogate's Court

Joining Surrogate's Court last April, only days after the
court switched to a new computer tracking system, Jeanette Helms would spend just about every waking hour at the courthouse for the next six months, ensuring the successful conversion of the court's 400,000-plus records to the new system. From hiring, training and supervising employees assigned to the project to overseeing a physical inventory of the court's huge index of wills filed for safekeeping—a most laborious task—Jeanette was on top of every aspect of the court's database upgrade. Thanks to Jeanette's painstaking efforts, this very busy court now has an up-to-date record inventory that employees can easily retrieve from their desktop computers, with the public also able to access appropriate information from the new database.

For her extraordinary perseverance on this latest project and consistent dedication and courtesy toward others throughout her court career, we are delighted to present Jeanette Helms with this year's Merit Performance Award for Superior Work Performance.

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Community Service and Humanitarian Pursuits

John J. Brennan, Esq.
Law Clerk, Herkimer County Supreme Court

Volunteerism may be on the decline, but for John J. Brennan it's a way of life. A guest chef at his local rescue mission, assistant coach for the Herkimer Youth Basketball Program and a judge in the New York State Bar Association's High School Mock Trial Tournament—just to name some of his volunteer
pursuits—John still found the time to form a committee in June 2004 that arranged an all expense-paid trip to the nation's World War II memorial in Washington, D.C. for every surviving Herkimer County World War II veteran, complete with a pair of medically trained companions to attend to the travelers' health needs. John also made sure the veterans had a big send-off and honored them with a welcome-home dinner attended by some 400 people.

The recipient of numerous awards for his charitable work, it gives us great pleasure to present John with our 2007 Merit Performance Award for Community Service and Humanitarian Pursuits for making a difference in his local community and beyond.

 

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Heroism

Francisco Casiano
Court Officer, Bronx Family Court

John Strandberg
Senior Court Officer, Kings County Supreme Court

Though Francisco Casiano and John Strandberg worked in different locations, an off-duty event brought the two court officers together. Both watching from the stands of Staten Island's Wagner College as their children played basketball during a halftime scrimmage, Officer Strandberg was the first to notice Edgar Cartotto, the Northeast Conference officials' supervisor, collapse in the bleachers, rushing to his aid. Officer Casiano, who'd been sitting farther away, was soon at the scene, ready to assist. The two quickly performed CPR on the unconscious 75-year-old without any response. Handed a defibrillator by a college staffer, the two officers had to administer two shocks to Mr. Cartotto's heart before he began breathing. Saving Mr. Cartotto from what could have been a fatal heart attack, the two say they are now “linked for life.”

It is our privilege to present this quick-thinking, fast-acting and humble pair with this year's Merit Performance Award for Heroism.

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2006 Merit Performance Awards

Employee Recognition
2006 Merit Performance Award Honorees
L-R: Court Officer Frank Pastore; Chief Administrative Judge
Jonathan Lippman; Elizabeth Taylor; Kim Kozlowski; Tony Jimenez;
Chief Judge Judith Kaye; Ellen Mathews

 

Superior Work Performance

Kimberly Kozlowski
Principal Court Analyst, Onondaga County Drug Court

With her exceptional dedication, it's obvious why Kimberly Kozlowski has been referred to as “the heart and soul” of the Syracuse Treatment Court in Onondaga County, where she's spent nearly a decade adeptly juggling a “to-do” list that would overwhelm most people. As program coordinator, Kimberly oversees the day-to-day operations of the court, which employs a mix of rehabilitation and intensive judicial monitoring in helping to break the cycle of substance abuse and crime.

Ever the innovator, Kimberly worked with court administrators and other key justice system stakeholders in streamlining the treatment court's screening and other procedures, ultimately enhancing its accessibility. Despite the court's steadily growing caseload, Kimberly continues to provide whatever support she can to assist offenders in achieving their goal of a drug-free life.

In addition to her many courthouse responsibilities—which also include oversight of Onondaga County's Family Treatment Court operations—Kimberly serves as Secretary to the Board of Directors of the New York State Association of Drug Treatment Court Professionals and is a faculty member of both the New York State Drug Court Training Institute and the National Drug Court Institute. In fact, she was recently recognized for her outstanding knowledge of and passion for her field with the Sherry Lintz Drug Court Award, established by the New York State Association of Drug Treatment Court Professionals and named for Kimberly's late friend, a Monroe County drug court coordinator. It is with great delight that we add to Kimberly's award collection with another highly deserved honor, our 2006 Merit Performance Award for Superior Work Performance.

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Outstanding Educational Efforts

Elizabeth A. Taylor, Esq.
Principal Law Clerk, Bronx County Supreme Court

They say you can't go home again, but don't tell that to Elizabeth A. Taylor. Following her graduation from law school in 1995, Elizabeth returned to her native Bronx with a vision to provide inner-city youngsters positive exposure to our judicial system and teach them about career options in the legal field. Within two years, she launched a mock trial competition program for seventh and eighth graders that has since grown sevenfold, this year attracting some 900 students from the Bronx as well as other counties. Students enrolled in the Thurgood Marshall Junior Mock Trial Program work diligently throughout the spring semester to prepare for this highly regarded competition, which puts their analytical, organizational and public speaking skills to the test. Elizabeth is involved in every aspect of the mock trial program, nurturing relationships with area schools, recruiting attorney volunteers to coach the youngsters, even overseeing the preparation of informational handouts for the students. She also works closely with the program's board members in choosing cases that offer the students valuable life lessons, such as the importance of resolving conflicts peacefully. She manages to do all this and more while keeping up with her hectic schedule at Bronx County Supreme Court and maintaining an even disposition.

Elizabeth, for your extraordinary leadership and perseverance in building a law-based program that today is helping underprivileged youngsters gain self-confidence, expand their horizons and, most importantly, realize their dreams, it is our pleasure to present you with this year's Merit Performance Award for Outstanding Educational Efforts.

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Community Service and Humanitarian Pursuits

Anthony Jimenez
Management Analyst, Nassau County Supreme Court

Anthony Jimenez's public service doesn't end with his work at Nassau County Supreme Court, where he performs a range of duties, from overseeing building maintenance to presenting an orientation program to incoming jurors. Come the end of both his workday and workweek, this Purple Heart recipient and certified emergency medical technician serves his community with distinction as council member in his hometown of Glen Cove, first responder for the City of Glen Cove Emergency Medical Services—where he once served as Chief—and mentor to local youth, among other activities.

Credited with answering some 5,000 emergency calls, Anthony has been recognized by the press for his lifesaving efforts, which include coming to the aid of a juror who suffered a heart attack, administering CPR and using a defibrillator to recharge the man's heart. Along with his tireless service as a first responder, Anthony also teaches first aid to local boy scouts and girl scouts, serves on the Glen Cove Drug Free School Committee, is a liaison to Glen Cove's youth board and a member of his local American Legion's Ways and Means Committee. Incredibly, he still spares time and energy to play the role of big brother to an area teen and lend support to local parents whose children are serving overseas in the armed forces.

The quintessential public servant, Anthony never hesitates to put the needs of others before his own. Anthony, you are a source of pride and inspiration to your community and our court family. We thank you for your countless acts of kindness with this year's Merit Performance Award for Community Service and Humanitarian Pursuits.

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Heroism

Frank Pastore
Senior Court Officer, Queens County Supreme Court

Hearing what sounded like an argument between a man and woman while on duty outside Queens County Supreme Court one morning last November, Officer Frank Pastore approached the scene to find a male pummeling a woman seated in her car, in an attempt to steal the vehicle. Responding in typically selfless fashion, he rushed to the woman's aid, grabbing her attacker from behind, pulling the assailant from the vehicle and handcuffing him.

Victim Patricia Klein, who luckily suffered only minor injuries, never expected to survive the vicious attack and regularly thinks about the heartache her loved ones might have suffered if not for Frank's courageous intervention. “Thank you for my family and friends whose lives would have changed forever if they had lost me . . . Your family must be so very proud of you, and they probably don't even know how humble you were about being a hero—you didn't even want to tell me your name. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for shining like a bright light in the darkness when I thought that I was going to die,” Patricia Klein wrote to Frank several days after the incident.

It turns out just moments prior to the attack on Patricia Klein, her assailant stabbed a teacher, speeding off with and crashing the woman's SUV before abandoning it near the Queens courthouse. Thanks to Frank's brave and decisive actions, Ms. Klein was saved from serious injury, and a dangerous criminal removed from our city streets. Frank, not only have you touched us with your valor and sense of duty but also with your humility. It is with great pleasure that we present you with this year's Merit Performance Award for Heroism.

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In Recognition of Exemplary Service and Dedication

John J. Mathews, Esq.
Consultation Clerk, Court of Appeals
(Posthumous -accepted by Ellen Mathews)

In the Spring of 1948, Court of Appeals Judge Charles S. Desmond of Buffalo invited a young solo practitioner in his hometown to serve as his new Law Clerk. Accepting the Judge's offer, John J. Mathews began his legendary Court of Appeals career on June 14, 1948. Jack's clerkship continued until then-Chief Judge Desmond left the Court in December 1967. Thereafter, Jack remained with the Court of Appeals as its Consultation Clerk for almost 23 years.

As Consultation Clerk, Jack reviewed every draft and final opinion in cases on appeal, and every internal report on motions and appeals filed in the Court. He attended the Court's confidential conferences, advising the Court concerning its jurisdiction and the order of disposition in pending cases. Beyond this, Jack was the Court's institutional memory. He spoke in intricate detail of the history—not only of its policies, procedures and holdings, but also of its Judges and staff, its transitions and traditions. Indeed, Jack served five Chief Judges, 32 Associate Judges and five Clerks of the Court during his tenure, and left his mark on 105 volumes of the New York Reports, 1st and 2nd series.

Jack Mathews epitomized the ideal public servant, working selflessly behind the scenes for the good of the Court, its litigants and the public. He mentored new Judges, and molded and inspired generations of new Law Clerks. Jack possessed the classic Irish wit and charm, yet was humble and discreet. Above all, he loved the Court and his place within it. We loved and learned from him in return.

For his extraordinary lifelong contributions to the Court of Appeals and the entire court system, we present a special Merit Performance Award to John J. Mathews. The award is received by his daughter, Ellen Mathews.

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2005 Merit Performance Awards

Employee Recognition
2005 Merit Performance Award Honorees
L-R: Carl Oropallo, Court Officer Gregory Gerner, Chief Judge
Judith S. Kaye, Gloria Chandler, Court Officer Tawya Young,
Court Officer Gary Diesel

Superior Work Performance

Gloria Chandler
Chief Clerk and Commissioner of Jurors,
Otsego County Supreme and County Courts

A veteran of the court system, Gloria Chandler has long been respected for her strong work ethic and indomitable spirit, both of which were put to the test in July 2003 when Gloria learned from her doctor that she had cancer. Despite her emotional anguish and the ensuing physical distress brought on by a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, Gloria vowed not only to beat the disease but to keep the courts running smoothly while she battled for her life.

Just days before her surgery, Gloria mapped out a plan of action to ensure the efficient functioning of Otsego County's Supreme and County Courts during her convalescence, assessing the courts' upcoming jury and other needs, and coordinating staff assignments accordingly. She quickly called a staff meeting to break the bad news and offer her employees guidance and support in keeping up with the courts' demands. Incredibly, she kept the lines of communication open from her bedside, trading e-mail messages with staffers on important issues relating to the courts' day-to-day operations.

Less than eight weeks later, Gloria was back at the courthouse and—in between debilitating courses of chemotherapy and radiation—continued to show up for work, smiling and more than ready to do her part. Not only did she manage to retain her focus on the job at hand, but she carried out each task with her typical grace and humor, ever the exemplary public servant and human being her colleagues have come to love and admire.

We are pleased to report that Gloria continues to make steady progress healthwise, thanks in no small part to her positive nature and strong character. In fact, she recently got the green light from her doctor to take a much-deserved long-distance trip. Of course, you can be sure Gloria took every measure possible to guarantee that the Otsego County courts ran like clockwork in her absence!

Gloria, you have taken dedicated public service to new heights with your remarkable perseverance, courageous leadership and extraordinary commitment to our judicial system. You are an inspiration to us all, and it is with tremendous pride and pleasure that we present you with this year's Merit Performance Award for Superior Work Performance.

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Outstanding Educational Efforts

Tawya Young
Lieutenant, Kings County Civil Court

Lieutenant Tawya Young brings her special blend of wisdom and sunshine to New York City youngsters via her participation in numerous educational activities, many targeting at-risk youth. Tawya volunteers countless hours at the courthouse, local schools and community organizations, acquainting schoolchildren and young adults with her work as a court officerlieutenant and other court careers, while also sharing with these young people knowledge that will hopefully keep them on the right side of the law.

Whether facilitating a workshop on gang violence at a local school, playing mentor to girls on the verge of delinquency or inviting a group of special-needs teens with an interest in the law to “shadow” her as she carries out her courthouse duties, Tawya has a unique ability to connect with youth of varying backgrounds and circumstances. Toddlers to teens respond readily to Tawya's openness, giving nature and delightful sense of humor. Luckily, along with her many other gifts, Tawya has a knack for juggling an extremely hectic extracurricular schedule with her full-time night shift at Brooklyn Civil Court, where she's earned a reputation for defusing tense situations arising from some of the court's more contentious housing and small claims cases.

It's been a routinely busy year for this go-getter, who last week visited the Katharine Gibbs School to provide career guidance to graduating criminal justice majors and just yesterday did double duty, coordinating a “Take Your Kids to Work” program by day for youngsters whose parents work in the Brooklyn courts followed by her night shift at Brooklyn Civil Court. In addition to her work with youth, Tawya is committed to serving low- and middle-income minority women who have safety and self-esteem issues. She has arranged several seminars for such women, including a “mind, body and soul” workshop at a Queens County beauty salon, where participants were treated to makeovers and offered safety and health tips from Tawya and other experts.

Next fall, this teacher and role model will turn student, entering the Hunter College School of Social Work to pursue her master's degree while holding down her full-time job. With her typical determination, Tawya has vowed to squeeze in as many extracurricular commitments as possible on weekends once she starts school.

Tawya, for sharing so much of your time, professional expertise and life experience in your mission to brighten the faces and futures of youngsters and the underprivileged, we are delighted to present you with this year's Merit Performance Award for Outstanding Educational Efforts.

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Community Service and Humanitarian Pursuits

Carl Oropallo, Esq.
Principal Law Clerk, Onondaga County Supreme Court

Carl Oropallo's work at Onondaga County Family Court, where he began his court career in 1969, opened his eyes to the social ills plaguing so many children and families, fueling his passion to serve the underprivileged. This lifelong Syracuse resident and active member of his local parish has a long history of service to his church and community, with Carl's humanitarian efforts touching the lives of many over the years in both tangible as well as intangible, but no less significant, ways.

One of Carl's earliest victories on behalf of the needy, which he achieved with the support of his local parish and area residents, was the launching of a multiservice community center in a deteriorating Syracuse neighborhood. So that his grassroots team would be eligible for the federal and local funding needed to build the center, Carl co-founded the Northeast Hawley Development Corporation, Inc., organizing local residents and parishioners, drafting the grant proposals and filing the required paperwork. Officially opened in September 1978, the center serves preschoolers to senior citizens, offering an array of programs to help meet the nutritional, educational and other needs of the community.

Carl has continued to donate his time, talents and legal expertise to numerous housing initiatives and other community projects, including the creation of a day care center for low-income families, where he serves as president. And since February 2001, he has worked tirelessly on behalf of a group of refugees from Sudan who settled in Syracuse to escape the violence and oppression of that war-torn nation. Helping them to build new lives in their adopted homeland, Carl has been instrumental in arranging food, clothing, housing, education, transportation and jobs for these young men, also lifting their spirits through social outings and other activities. With his patient and charitable nature, Carl has endeared himself to each one, as well as to the immigrant Sudanese families he's also befriended, instilling in them a deep respect for the rule of law in their new country.

Carl is a voice for the under-served, and a friend and helping hand to those in need. In recognition of his innumerable acts of kindness and unflagging efforts to enhance the quality of life in his community and alleviate human suffering, it is our privilege to honor Carl Oropallo with this year's Merit Performance Award for Community Service and Humanitarian Pursuits.

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Heroism

Gary Diesel and Gregory Gerner
Court Officers, Nassau County District Court

Thanks to their superb instincts and teamwork, Court Officers Gary Diesel and Gregory Gerner rescued an infant and other residents from a blaze at a Long Island apartment complex on a frigid morning last January 20th, minutes after noticing a thick plume of smoke darkening the skyline surrounding the Nassau County District Court.

The pair immediately trailed the smoke by patrol car, arriving at a horrifying scene: three hysterical women, one holding a small baby, pleading for help from the second-floor window of a burning three-story building in downtown Hempstead. Scaling a five-foot fence, the quick-acting officers—among the first emergency personnel on the scene—raced up the fire escape, with Officer Diesel forcing back a metal window gate in order to get to the infant. He then scooped up the baby with one arm, gingerly handing her over to Officer Gerner, who carried the infant to safety as his partner helped the frantic women out of the smoke-filled apartment.

Even after other rescue workers arrived, the boldhearted duo continued to take part in the evacuation efforts. Accompanied by a local police officer, Officer Gerner rushed back up the fire escape and into the building's second floor to aid other trapped occupants, while his partner grabbed a firefighter's ladder, helping residents from the front and later the back of the building—some elderly and disoriented—escape the powerful flames.

Thankfully, some 20 minutes following the two court officers' arrival at the scene, firefighters managed to get the blaze under control, with all of the residents safely evacuated. At that point our pair of selfless heroes, exhausted and suffering smoke inhalation and minor injuries, headed for the nearest hospital emergency room, meeting some of the tenants they had just helped to evacuate. It was an emotional encounter, as these individuals showered our two heroes with hugs and words of gratitude.

Officers Diesel and Gerner, you have done us proud with your remarkable bravery and swift, skillful actions on that fateful winter day. For your professionalism, valor and humility that blustery January morning and every day at Nassau County District Court as you carry out your duties in protecting court employees and the public, it is with great pleasure that we honor you with this year's Merit Performance Award for Heroism.

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2004 Merit Performance Award

winners of the 2004 Merit Performance Awards
Merit Performance Award Winners 2004
L-R: Senior Court Officer Albert Alfano, Court Officer Leroy Davis,
Ignatius Muscarella, Esq, Amy Serson and Martha Farbo-Lincoln.

 

Superior Work Performance

Martha Farbo-Lincoln
Chief Clerk, Niagara Falls City Court

Martha Farbo-Lincoln has played an integral role in virtually every aspect of the day-to-day operation and management of Niagara Falls City Court, where she began her court career some 29 years ago as an entry level clerk, working her way up through the ranks. Thanks in large measure to Martha's tireless efforts and pioneering spirit, in 1983 Niagara Falls City Court became New York's first computerized City Court. In fact, the computer-generated reports still used today in City Courts statewide are Martha's own creation.

From 1987 to 1992, as Deputy Chief Clerk of Niagara Falls City Court, Martha traveled to courts throughout the Eighth Judicial District, overseeing the installation of computer hardware and software, and instructing jurists and their staff in the use of personal computers. Promoted to Chief Clerk of Niagara Falls City Court in late 1992, Martha remains a resource for each of the district's City Courts, advising on daily operations and procedures.

She is also one of the co-authors of the Traffic and Criminal Operations Manual for the City Courts, and over the years has lent her time and talents to numerous committees and associations. President of the City and District Court Clerks Association from 1988 to 1989 and chair of its board of directors from 1989 to 1991, Martha has for the past two decades been active in the association's non-judicial seminars planning committee, working diligently to ensure that attendees return from these seminars with a wealth of knowledge to share with their colleagues. Additionally, she wore the dual hats of Chief Clerk of Niagara Falls City Court and Acting Chief Clerk of Niagara County and Supreme Courts from September 1992 to March 1993, when the latter position was permanently filled.

Highly respected for her resourceful nature, integrity and commitment to quality service, Martha is a proven leader and an extraordinary individual. It is with great pleasure that we honor her today with a Year 2004 Merit Performance Award for Superior Work Performance.

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Outstanding Educational Efforts

Leroy Davis
Court Officer, Red Hook Community Justice Center

Leroy Davis has brightened the day of many a youngster in the Brooklyn neighborhood where he grew up and for the past four years has worked as a court officer in the nation's first multi-jurisdictional community court—the Red Hook Community Justice Center. Admired by both local residents and colleagues for his dedication to the community, Officer Davis's day in Red Hook doesn't end with his shift at the courthouse. For Leroy, that's just the beginning.

Officer Davis spends countless weekends and weeknights helping run a basketball clinic for Red Hook Rise, a local agency that works with teenagers, as well as coaching local youth in baseball and basketball. Then there are the year-round events he's involved in: the reading programs, art shows, parades and holiday parties—the latter complete with gifts he delivers door-to-door to the area's neediest families. Leroy's unbridled passion truly is infectious, with many of his co-workers joining him in these volunteer efforts.

Officer Davis continually strives to bridge the gap between the Court and local community, and to enhance the quality of life for local residents. He takes a personal interest in keeping youngsters on the right track, often linking them and their families to GED classes, job training and other services provided by the Red Hook Community Justice Center. Leroy regularly invites youngsters to tour the Justice Center and is a frequent speaker at local schools, where he talks to students about his work as a court officer, also teaching them about other career opportunities in the courts and the role of the courts in our society.

For his commitment to our youth and the educational guidance and moral support he extends to youngsters both in and outside of the courthouse, we are delighted to present Officer Davis with a Year 2004 Merit Performance Award for Outstanding Educational Efforts.

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Community Service and Humanitarian Pursuits

Ignatius Muscarella, Esq.
Principal Law Clerk, Nassau County Supreme Court

Social historians report that nowadays people don't volunteer as readily as they used to. Don't tell that to Ignatius “Nate” Muscarella, Principal Law Clerk to Nassau County Supreme Court Justice Thomas Phelan. For Nate, volunteerism is a way of life.

A founding member of the Nassau County Courts' Kiwanis Club, Nate works tirelessly to fight hunger. Several years ago, he invited a speaker to one of the Kiwanis Club meetings to address members on Island Harvest, a then-fledgling program that salvages perfectly edible, unsold food from restaurants and catering establishments for distribution at soup kitchens, homeless shelters and to other needy recipients. Nate and some of the other Nassau County courthouse Kiwanians were among the first and largest group of Island Harvest volunteers, with Mr. Muscarella spearheading the initiative and eventually becoming a highly valued member of Island Harvest's board of directors.

When it comes to feeding the hungry, Nate is always ready to roll up his sleeves, be it “rescuing” unsold food from retail establishments, or sorting or transporting the food items for distribution. Each year, Nate helps coordinate the local postal workers' food drive, collecting a large bounty of goods for the needy. Then there's the annual courthouse Kiwanians' “Make a Difference Day,” organized in conjunction with Island Harvest. Volunteers collect food from local supermarkets, with Nate transporting some 1,000 pounds of food to a neighborhood pantry.

And Nate's charity is by no means confined to edibles. An active member of the Kiwanis Club, this devoted father of three brings cheer to hospital and nursing home patients during the holiday season, also lending his support to the group's clothing and book drives and other charitable works. Amazingly, he still finds time to pitch in as assistant soccer coach for the Bellmore-North Bellmore Police Athletic League. It is our privilege to honor Ignatius Muscarella for his innumerable good deeds with a Year 2004 Merit Performance Award for Community Service and Humanitarian Pursuits.

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Community Service and Humanitarian Pursuits

Amy Serson
Senior Court Office Assistant,
Rensselaer County Family Court

Since joining the staff of Rensselaer County Family Court in June 1998, Amy Serson has dedicated countless after-work hours to toy, food and other drives for the low-income families served by the Court's children's center, part of a statewide network of court facilities where youngsters can play and learn while their parents attend to court business. From collecting and wrapping toys to delivering food and gift items to those who can't pick them up, Amy does it all—and always with her signature smile.

During the holidays this past winter, Amy collected enough turkeys and other food items and gifts—including disposable cameras—to fill 14 vans. Leading the effort, she inspired other court employees and children's center staffers to join her in this charitable endeavor. And just before the start of each school year, Amy gears up for the back-toschool supplies drive sponsored by the Commission on Economic Opportunity, the host agency for the Rensselaer County Family Court's children's center. Amy designs, prints and disseminates the flyers announcing the drive, also overseeing the various collection sites, picking up items that donors can't drop off and coordinating the distribution of the pencil cases, rulers, scissors and other supplies, many of which she purchases with her own money.

Whether bringing locals together to help a family in financial trouble get back on their feet, serving refreshments at her children's school events or serving on her local zoning board, this mother of three is there to lend a hand, giving her typical 200 percent.

With her boundless generosity and energy, Amy exemplifies the very essence of community spirit. In recognition of her kindness, which has touched the lives of many who are less fortunate, we are pleased to honor Amy Serson with a Year 2004 Merit Performance Award for Community Service and Humanitarian Pursuits.

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Heroism

Albert Alfano
Senior Court Officer, Bronx County Supreme Court

Last December 31st, Senior Court Officer Albert Alfano's quick and selfless actions helped turn one family's New Year's Eve nightmare into a celebration of life. Vacationing with his own family in Cancun, Mexico, Officer Alfano was lounging at his hotel pool that morning when he noticed two girls in the ocean at a seemingly perilous distance from shore. Almost simultaneously, he heard the frantic screams of a woman—who turned out to be the girls' mom—from ashore. Immediately, he raced toward the beach, grabbing part of a boogie board he found in the lifeguard's station—there were no lifeguards on duty and only a handful of people on the beach at the time—before diving into the water.

Officer Alfano later learned that as he was running toward the beach, the father of the girls swam to their aid, and with the help of a nearby surfer managed to fight the powerful undercurrent and return to shore with the younger girl. Frighteningly, the undercurrent swept his older daughter farther out. Another man came to the older girl's rescue, with the two fighting to stay afloat. Albert, who could see the two struggling in the water, continued swimming toward them, tossing the boogie board out to the pair as he approached them.

Several people, including a hotel employee who swam to the aid of the three, worked feverishly to pull the exhausted trio back to shore. Just as the three grasped the rope used to haul them back to safety, a strong undercurrent pushed the girl underwater, with Officer Alfano somehow mustering up enough strength to pull her back up before losing consciousness.

Thankfully, the sisters, though extremely shaken, were fine. Their dad, the other rescuer and Albert were rushed to the hospital, where Officer Alfano, who suffers from asthma and had water in his lungs, spent the day. Mom Jodi Siegel of Ardsley, New York, credits Officer Alfano with saving nine-year-old Hannah and her other rescuer. When she and husband Matthew called Albert to express their gratitude, he told them, “I couldn't imagine not helping.”

For those who've had the privilege of working with Officer Alfano, his reply, like his actions that fateful day, are anything but surprising. It's simply Albert's nature to put others' safety before his own, and to do so with his usual grace and humility. And so it is with both tremendous pride and delight that we present Albert Alfano with this year's Merit Performance Award for Heroism.

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2003 Merit Performance Award

winners of the 2004 Merit Performance Awards
Merit Performance Award Winners 2003
L-R: Senior Court Officer Randall W. Meirerdierks, Senior Court Officer
Jacqueline A. Mahon
, Captain Neil R. Schloth, Michele Catalano,
Ann M. Carlucci
and Karen Ambrozik.

Superior Work Performance

Karen Ambrozik
Chief Clerk, Binghamton City Court

One of the court system's shining stars, Karen Ambrozik is admired as much for her immense knowledge of court operations and procedures as she is for her consistently helpful nature. Karen joined the Binghamton court in 1997, following her service as chief clerk of Ithaca City Court, where she quickly earned a reputation for her innovative spirit and wonderful way with people.

Karen's contributions to New York's court system are both many and wide-ranging. With a college intern from SUNYBinghamton, she launched the Binghamton City Court's Web page, one of the first in Broome County. Soon after, she took on another special assignment: the development and implementation of a specialized drug treatment court in the county. Karen played an instrumental role in every phase of the project, from assembling the drug court team and coordinating their travel arrangements to organizing a community forum during which the drug court concept was presented to locals and arranging the special training required for the court's judges and staff. Karen also worked diligently to acquaint the local police department with drug court procedures.

Along with juggling numerous projects at Binghamton City Court, Karen has managed to lend her time and talents to other courts in the Sixth Judicial District. Recently, she spent the better part of a year dividing her time between Binghamton City Court and Elmira City Court, assisting the latter in streamlining operations to maximize overall efficiency and service. Karen also serves on various committees and has coauthored manuals used by both the District's criminal and civil courts. And there's no chance of her slowing down any time soon: Karen is currently in the midst of several exciting projects, including the planning and implementation of a specialized domestic violence part for Binghamton City Court and the revamping of the courthouse to accommodate a third judgeship. In between, she shows school groups and other visitors around Binghamton City Court and is a featured speaker at various courthouse functions. This exceptional sense of duty extends to her personal life, with Karen a very active member of her community.

Highly esteemed throughout the Sixth Judicial District and beyond for her incredible energy and outstanding dedication, Karen Ambrozik is a true leader with an extraordinary commitment to our courts and those they serve. It is with great pleasure that we honor her today with a Year 2003 Merit Award for Superior Work Performance.

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Ann M. Carlucci
Associate Court Clerk,
Richmond County Surrogate's Court

With her outstanding work ethic and exceptional kindness and patience, Ann M. Carlucci leaves a lasting impression on everyone she meets. As Associate Court Clerk of Richmond County Surrogate's Court, Ann regularly assists in the administration of highly sensitive—and oftentimes emotionally charged—matters relating to the trusts and estates of the deceased. Ann does an extraordinary job, whether she's helping a bereaved family member navigate Surrogate's Court, aiding an attorney in expediting the necessary paperwork, or sharing with her colleagues her vast knowledge of the court's policies and procedures.

Ann is diligent and thorough, always taking extra time and care in helping others. Following the tragedy of September 11, 2001, she worked tirelessly in aiding the families of loved ones missing and presumed dead in the World Trade Center attacks, helping these grieving relatives in preparing affidavits, the first step in obtaining a death certificate. Ann was part of a special unit established by Richmond County Surrogate Judge John Fusco to expedite issuance of death certificates to these families.

It was a wrenching process, but necessary in bringing the families some financial relief, as such legal documentation is required in accessing insurance proceeds, pension benefits and other assets. And though she was undoubtedly grieving with her own family and friends during this difficult time, Ann carried out this onerous task in stellar fashion, not only providing technical assistance to those in need but also a hand for them to hold and a shoulder to lean on. Once again, Ann rose to the challenge, displaying the high level of proficiency and courtesy, and the immense compassion, that we have all come to know her for.

Due to Ann's winning combination of technical and people skills, she has garnered much praise from members of the bar and general public since joining Richmond County Surrogate's Court in March 1996. In fact, she has generated quite a bit of fan mail, with many writing the court and lauding Ann, both for her proficiency and caring nature. Ann has also won the acclaim of her colleagues, who describe her as a friend and mentor as well as a constant source of inspiration. And so, I am delighted to acknowledge Ann's distinguished service by presenting her with a Year 2003 Merit Performance Award for Superior Work Performance.

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Community Service

Michele Catalano
Secretary to Judge, Nassau County District Court

Michele Catalano, secretary to Judges Kenneth Gartner, David Gross and Adam Moser of Nassau County District Court in Hempstead, turned her talent with computers into a charitable network that since March has been providing music CDs, batteries, books and other such items to our troops stationed in the Middle East.

One night in mid-March, Michele learned via a Web site she created several years ago that while most of the servicemen and women preparing for war in Iraq had the basic necessities, many yearned for music they could listen to on their portable CD players to help them pass the difficult days ahead. With the help of a Massachusetts woman she came into contact with through her Web site, Michele came up with the idea of collecting new and used CDs to ship to those stationed overseas.

Michele and her new friend launched a Web site, TROOPTRAX.COM, that in the weeks ahead would serve as a conduit in seeking out such special supplies for our servicemen and women. Within days of the Web site's launching, donations began flowing in from all parts of the country. Thanks to the aid of a serviceman stationed in Nebraska, Michele quickly arranged shipment of the donated items to the Middle East.

Though Michele has spent an inordinate amount of time and energy in making this vision a reality, extraordinarily, she has not compromised her other roles in life. Throughout this hectic and trying time, she remains the devoted mother, loving wife and diligent employee we have all come to admire. Looking at her many contributions, whether to her family, the courts or her country, one has to stop and ask, “How does she manage it all?” The answer: with grace, dignity and humility. Michele is not one to toot her own horn, but rather a private person, the type who likes to get things done quietly. Ironically, she has been thrown into the spotlight of late, with various media outlets requesting interviews from her in connection with the creation of TROOPTRAX.COM.

Today, we ask Michele to take the spotlight once again as we present her with the 2003 Merit Performance Award for Community Service for her extraordinary efforts in bringing a little bit of home to our troops stationed in the Middle East.

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Heroism

Neil R. Schloth
Captain

Jacqueline A. Mahon
Senior Court Officer

Randall W. Meierdierks
Senior Court Officer

Nassau County Court

Several weeks ago, three members of the court system's valiant officer corps acted swiftly in saving a life at the Nassau County Supreme Court Matrimonial Center. The quick-thinking trio, Captain Neil R. Schloth, Senior Court Officer Jacqueline A. Mahon and Senior Court Officer Randall W. Meierdierks, administered aid to attorney Michael Dikman, who had collapsed inside the courthouse.

Mr. Dikman wears a pacemaker, which appeared to fire as Officer Mahon, the first to reach him, approached. As Officer Mahon knelt beside him, Mr. Dikman declined assistance. Seconds later, the device fired again, leaving the 66-year-old Mr. Dikman unconscious. At that point, Captain Schloth and Officer Meierdierks were also on the scene, and the three officers, all certified emergency medical technicians, promptly evaluated the stricken attorney's condition, using an automated external defibrillator—a portable device which monitors heart rate and pulse, directing the rescuer to send an electric shock to the heart if necessary—to resuscitate him.

The three applied the machine's self-adhesive paddles to Mr. Dikman, whose heart rhythm, pulse rate and breathing stabilized after the first shock reached his heart. Officer Meierdierks, operating the oxygen bag valve administered to Mr. Dikman, also called 911. After spending a week at an area hospital for further observation and treatment, Mr. Dikman continues to do well, and we join the Nassau County court family in wishing him a speedy recovery.

Mr. Dikman's physicians attribute his survival to the invention of this miraculous medical device and the immediate response of these three highly skilled and caring individuals, whose professionalism, resilience and valor shine through not only in emergencies like this, but each and every day as they carry out their duties in protecting the many who work, do business in and visit our courts. Like Mr. Dikman and his family, we remain forever grateful to these three outstanding members of our court family for their gallant efforts on that spring morning, and take delight in presenting them with this year's Merit Performance Award for Heroism.

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