Leon D. Lazer, formerly a Justice of the Appellate Division, Second Department, is a professor at the Jacob D. Fuchsberg Touro Law Center. He is a veteran of World War II and served in campaigns ranging from Normandy to the Bulge and the Battle of Germany during three and one-half years in the U.S. Army. Following his graduation from the City College of New York and his military service he attended New York University Law School and was admitted to the bar of the State in 1948.
Judge Lazer had a lengthy career as an attorney before being elected to the Supreme Court in 1972, after two previous efforts to achieve judicial office failed. During the 25 years of law practice proceeding his election, he practiced as associate and partner in a number of City law firms, and as a single practitioner and public servant in Suffolk. As Town Attorney for the Town of Huntington, he achieved a degree of fame based on his record of court successes for the Town. He also served as co-chair of the Suffolk County Reapportionment Committee, where his “Lazer Plan” for a 16 member county legislative body ultimately achieved reality as the current 18 member body. Judge Lazer also served as a member of the Suffolk County Charter Revision Commission.
After his election in 1972, Judge Lazer served as a Justice of the State Supreme Court for six years and, following his appointment to the Appellate Division, he served that Court for eight years. He was the Senior Justice when he left the Court in 1987. During his judicial service, Judge Lazer was the author of 146 published opinions, some of which have been cited hundreds of times. People v. Suitte, dealing with sentencing, has been cited over 5000 times. Nicastro v. Park, dealing with the degree of deference to be given to trial judges by appellate courts has been cited over 3000 times. Some of Judge Lazer’s decisions remain as prevailing law in the State. He was nominated for a position on the Court of Appeals by the State Nominating Commission on three separate occasions.
One of Judge Lazer’s greatest accomplishments has been his stewardship of the Pattern Jury Instructions Committee of the Association of Justices of the Supreme Court of the State of New York. The Committee, consisting of 15 leading judges in the State, produces a four volume set of model jury charges for use by judges who conduct civil trials. It is provided to trial judges by the Office of Court Administration. Judge Lazer has been the chair of the Committee for 30 years. After he left the bench, while a partner in the firm of Shea & Gould, Judge Lazer played a principal role in forming the Office of the Appellate Defender, now considered one of the premier appellate defense organizations for indigent criminal defendants. He served as the original chair of the organization for three years and as a member of its board for subsequent years. Judge Lazer also served as a member of the Temporary State Commission on Tax Relief for Long Island.
Judge Lazer serves as special counsel to his son’s law firm, Lazer, Aptheker, Rosella & Yedid, PC in Melville and is a Court Examiner under Article 81 of the Mental Hygiene Law. He is a member of the American Law Institute, and the American, State and Suffolk Bar Associations.
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