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    10.26.17 Justice Peter Tom ’75 One of First Asian Americans to Hear Case on New York Court of Appeals
    Scales of justice

    Hon. Peter Tom `75, who was among the first Asian-American judges in New York, had another pioneering moment last week when he was one of two Asian-American justices to sit by designation on the Court of Appeals.

    According to the New York Law Journal, Justice Tom’s designation of Appellate Division, First Department, and Justice Randall Eng’s designation of Appellate Division, Second Department, are believed to be the first time that an Asian American judge has heard a high court case. Although the Court does not track the ethnicities of sitting justices, a spokesman said that “court staff with institutional knowledge believed [Tom and Eng] represented a first for Asian-American jurists.”

    Justice Tom, who has been a member of the Appellate Division, First Department, for more than 20 years, told the Law Journal that he learned of the distinction after arriving in Albany last Tuesday to hear arguments in People v. Boone.

    In December 2014, Justice Tom, along with fellow Brooklyn Law School alumnus Hon. Dorothy Chin Brandt `74 and Justice Eng—the first three Asian-American judges in New York—were the focus of the Stephen R. Kaye Memorial Program, “Asian-Americans and the Law: New York Pioneers in the Judiciary,” at the Historical Society of the New York Courts.

    Upon graduation from the Law School, Justice Tom practiced briefly at private law firms. In 1976, he joined the New York City Civil Court as a law clerk, working on a wide variety of criminal and civil assignments and, in 1985, he became the first Asian American appointed to the Housing Part of the Civil Court. Three years later, Justice Tom was assigned to preside over the Narcotics Eviction Part, a Special Part that was established as a result of his landmark decision in Kellner v. Cappellini. In 1988, he was one of the first Asian-Americans to be elected to the Civil Court and to win a county-wide election in New York City. In 1990, he became the first Asian American elected to the New York State Supreme Court from New York County, and in 1994, he became the first Asian American appointed by the Governor to the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court.

    Read the New York Law Journal article