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A. Gail Prudenti, the state's chief administrative judge, said Monday she will step down after 23 years on the bench to become executive director of Hofstra Law School's Center for Children Families and the Law.
Prudenti, 62, of Bellport, has been the state's number-two judge since 2011, overseeing a state court system with $2 billion annual budget, 3,600 judges and 15,000 non-judicial employees.
Prudenti, a Republican, is leaving as chief judge Jonathan Lippman prepares to step down at year's end because he has reached the mandatory retirement age of 70. While Prudenti could be a contender to succeed Lippman, her chances for selection by Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo are considered slim. Prudenti's departure also will allow the new top judge to name her replacement.
Prudenti, daughter of late one-time Suffolk GOP chairman Anthony Prudenti, will step down as of Sept. 1.
She will run the Hofstra Law Center and also serve as an administrative adviser at the 800 student law school.
"It is very bittersweet ... to be leaving the court system where I have spent the majority of my professional career," said Prudenti.
However, she said, "I think I have found the right spot for me," aiding vulnerable families and children through the Hofstra center.
Eric Lane, dean of Hofstra Law School, called Prudenti "a perfect match" for Hofstra as it expands research and policy initiatives in family law. "She's a collaborator and a can-do person who makes things happen," said Lane.
Lippman lauded Prudenti "as a leader and a consensus builder who had a special gift for motivating people to do their very best."
Prudenti's exit will create a third Suffolk vacancy this fall, and there are three in Nassau. Whoever is elected to Prudenti's spot will get a full 14 year term.
Republican Supreme Court Justice Emily Pines has been campaigning for re-election, and other possible contenders include Islip Republican GOP chairman Frank Tantone and Suffolk GOP chief John Jay LaValle.
LaValle, who declined to comment on his aspirations, said no decisions have been made on any Supreme Court candidates, although Prudenti's decision sparked "a number of calls from lower court judges expressing interest." Supreme Court nominations are expected to be made by late September.
Richard Schaffer, Suffolk Democratic chairman, said a number of Democratic contenders have expressed interest, though he declined to name anyone.
Prudenti began her judicial career in 1991 as a state Supreme Court justice, serving until 1995 when she became the first woman Surrogate Judge elected in Suffolk County. After six years as Surrogate, she was re-elected to the state Supreme Court and later became Suffolk's chief administrative judge. Beginning in 2002, Prudenti also served as the first woman presiding judge of the Appellate Division's Second Department.