Nassau Appellate Court Judge Peter B. Skelos has announced his retirement from the bench, effective Aug. 1, saying in a letter to the state's chief administrative judge that he has accepted a "wonderful opportunity" to return to private legal practice.
Skelos, 59, of Rockville Centre, was re-elected to a 14-year term in 2012. He has served for 11 years as a judge in the Appellate Division, 2nd Department, and started his judicial career as District Court judge in 1995, according to his official biography.
He is the younger brother of state Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), who resigned in May as Senate majority leader after federal prosecutors charged him and his adult son, Adam, with conspiracy, extortion and soliciting bribes.
Prosecutors disclosed they had put wire taps on the phones of both Dean and Adam Skelos as they probed allegations that the senator pressured companies, including Arizona-based AbTech Industries, to pay more than $200,000 to his son. Dean Skelos and Adam Skelos have denied any wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Nassau County Court spokesman Dan Bagnuola said Thursday, "Judge Skelos has assured me that his retirement from the bench has nothing to do with his brother's legal issues. He has been contemplating a return to private practice since 2014."
Peter Skelos said in a statement, "I will be joining a prominent Long Island law firm where I will direct the appellate practice group and be a member of the litigation group. I plan to develop an alternative dispute resolution practice and may be engaged by an alternative dispute resolution firm."
He did not disclose the name of any firm but court insiders suggested that Skelos would land at the Uniondale law firm of Forchelli, Curto, Deegan, Schwartz, Mineo & Terrana.
Partner Jeffrey Forchelli, noting that Skelos' resignation is not effective until Aug. 1, would not confirm or deny that the judge will join his firm. "It is inappropriate for me to comment on a sitting judge," Forchelli said.
Skelos announced his plans in a June 29 letter to A. Gail Prudenti, chief administrative judge for the state of New York.
"I have been offered and have accepted a wonderful opportunity to return to the practice of law," he wrote. He noted in the letter that he had recently been elected to the board of directors of the Nassau County Bar Association.
"My return to the practice of law will allow me to make greater contributions to the bar association," he wrote.
John McEntee, immediate past president of the Nassau Bar Association, said he had awarded the association's 2015 Presidents Award to Skelos for his work on behalf of its lawyer assistance program, which helps lawyers with personal challenges.
"Peter stepped up and was a real leader there," McEntee said.
"He worked unselfishly to assure the continuation of the program," McEntee said.
McEntee added that Skelos "is very well-liked by all. As a judge, I think he was considered fair and thoughtful."
Marian Rice, another past president of the association, said, "I am devastated on the loss of Judge Skelos. He is one of the finest judges, one of the finest trial judges and one of our finest appellate judges."
"It's really a shame for the bench, but congratulations for Judge Skelos. He's fair, even-tempered and a well reasoned human being."