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Joseph Bianco, judge in LI gang cases, named by Donald Trump to federal appeals court

Bianco, a federal trial judge in Central Islip, has heard cases involving MS-13 gang members including the killings of Brentwood High School teenagers Kayla Cuevas and Nisa Mickens.

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump nominated U.S. District Judge Joseph Bianco, who has overseen many murder cases against MS-13 gang members on Long Island, to serve on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, the White House said Wednesday.

Bianco, based in the Central Islip federal courthouse, has been hearing cases involving MS-13 gang members since 2011, including a current case involving the indictment of two dozen alleged members on 73 counts of murder, attempted murder, racketeering and other charges.

“Judge Bianco has done an outstanding job as Federal District Judge, particularly in his handling of MS-13 cases," Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), said in a statement. King said he supports Bianco's nomination but added he "will be missed on the district court."

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) declined to comment. The nomination requires Senate confirmation.

In 2005, Schumer introduced and supported Bianco at his confirmation hearing for his appointment by President George W. Bush to be a federal judge in the Eastern District of New York. 

Trump on Wednesday also nominated Michael Park, a partner in the New York City office of Consovoy McCarthy Park PLLC, to the Second Circuit, and Philip M. Halpern, a managing partner of Collier, Halpern, Newberg & Nolletti LLP, as federal district court judge in Manhattan.

And Trump nominated Thomas Marcelle, a judge on the Cohoes City Court, to be a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, as he continued toward his goal of reshaping the federal bench with conservative nominees.

Unless the Senate fast tracks the process, the four New Yorkers are not expected to be confirmed this year, with the November elections in less than a month and a short lame duck session afterward, said Carl Tobias, an expert on judicial nominations at the University of Richmond Law School.

If not confirmed, Trump would have to renominate them in January, when they could face a Democratic controlled Senate.

Bianco, 52, went on the federal bench in 2006 after spending nine years prosecuting mobsters, terrorists, violent gang members and other criminals as an assistant U.S. attorney in Manhattan and two years overseeing counterterrorism at the Justice Department.

Five years ago, Levittown coin dealer Joseph Romano, sentenced by Bianco to 15 years in a $19 million coin fraud case, was found guilty of conspiring to hire two hit men to murder and decapitate Bianco and a prosecutor.

For the past eight years, Bianco has presided over some of the most prominent federal cases on Long Island involving alleged members of the MS-13 street gang, according to officials.

Among the cases were those involving almost four dozen murders, including the killings of Brentwood High School teenagers Kayla Cuevas and Nisa Mickens, and four young men found in a Central Islip park.

There were so many MS-13 members in 2017 on Long Island possibly facing the federal death penalty -- and therefore entitled to a regular attorney and a second attorney specializing in death-penalty defenses — that Bianco approved the appointment of defense attorneys from as far away as Puerto Rico, Miami and Chicago.

Bush named Bianco without a New York lawmaker’s recommendation. Bianco expressed surprise because had “had neither been to nor practiced in” the Central Islip federal courthouse, according to an August profile in The Federal Lawyer, published by the Federal Bar Association.

Bianco, who also teaches as an adjunct professor at St. John’s University School of Law and serves as a deacon in a Long Island Roman Catholic parish, has seen many clerks become federal prosecutors.

One of them, Conor Lamb, is running for re-election to Congress after winning as a Democrat in a Pennsylvania special election in March.

With Robert E. Kessler

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