The Bronx Supreme Court will retire three of its most distinguished judges on Thursday, December 31. Justice George Salerno doesn’t want to surrender his robes. Neither do Justice Alan Saks and Justice Paul Victor. But court rules require judges to retire at age 70. Salerno, Saks and Victor won two three-year extensions each but the three 76-year olds are finally through.
“I want to stay on,” Saks said.
“[Salerno and Saks] are terrific judges,” he said. “I think it’s kind of silly to put us out to pasture when we’re at the top of our game.”
Salerno hopes to remain at the courthouse as an arbitrator and/or mediator two or three days a week. A member of the Bronx Supreme Court for more six years, Salerno is worried about where to store his more than 700 written opinions. He doesn’t want to toss the opinions away; Salerno agonized over each, he said.
Born to Italian immigrants, Salerno grew up in the Bronx and attended Dewitt Clinton High School. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in economics from New York University and a law degree from Brooklyn Law School. Salerno served in the armed forces and was admitted to the New York Bar Association in 1961. After employment with a private firm, he was hired as court attorney for Justice Arnold Fein, who Salerno greatly admired.
“[Fein] had tremendous compassion,” he said.
Salerno served as counsel to the city Department of Transportation and chairman of the New York State Board of Elections. He then spent more than two decades as a private trial lawyer. Elected to the Civil Court in 2000, Salerno was elected to the Bronx Supreme Court in 2003. He has served as secretary to Community Board 9, director of the Van Nest Little League and vice president of the Parkchester Little League. The Throggs Neck resident credits his success in part to his modest Bronx background.
“You get to know people in the Bronx,” Salerno said. “My background has allowed me to look at cases with a sense of humility.”
Born in Queens, Saks attended Queens College and Cornell Law School. He and his family moved to the Bronx – Creston Avenue – in 1957. A year later, they bought into the Amalgamated Houses, where, more than 50 years later, they remain.
Saks was elected to the Civil Court in 1981 and became a permanent member of the Bronx Supreme Court in 1988. His wife teaches at John F. Kennedy High School in Kingsbridge. Saks served on Community Board 8 and was a Democratic district leader.
“The Bronx has changed,” Saks said. “It went through a bad period. The real estate bubbled helped. That has weakened somewhat but the borough is on the upswing. Neighborhoods are more stable. People are more devoted to the borough.”
Also born to Italian immigrants, Victor was raised in Belmont on Beaumont Avenue and lived from 1953 to 2001 on City Island. He has fond memories of family-oriented Belmont in the 1940s; Victor graduated from Fordham Prep, Fordham University, where he played varsity basketball and Fordham Law School.
Admitted to the bar in 1959, Victor served as counsel to the Bronx Democratic County Committee for more than two decades. He also represented Assemblymen George Friedman and Roberto Ramirez, as well as Senator Martin Connor. Elected to the Bronx Supreme Court in 2000, Victor has had nearly 100 opinions selected for publication.
Victor has handled insurance, labor and commercial issues; he also defended former Borough President Stanley Simon.
Reach reporter Daniel Beekman at 718 742-3383 or firstname.lastname@example.org