4-9-18 As seen in the Buffalo Law Journal - Succeeding a legend of the court.

Posted on April 09, 2018

By Michael Canfield – Editor/Reporter - Buffalo Law Journal, Buffalo Business First

When retired Judge Barbara Howe stepped down from the bench at the beginning of the year, it only made sense for Judge Acea Mosey to replace her at Erie County Surrogate’s Court.

After all, Mosey had interned with Howe years before when Howe was an Erie County Supreme Court judge. Mosey also had been the Surrogate’s Court public administrator for years.

“I would not have chosen to be a judge anywhere but here,” Mosey said. “This is the court I practiced in from the time I started practicing until I took office in January.”

The first 10 years of Mosey’s time in Surrogate’s Court was spent as a practitioner. The 14 before she was elected to the judgeship were spent as the court’s public administrator.

“It’s two very distinct roles,” she said.

The public administrator takes over the fiduciary role of an estate when “there’s no one else who can, will or should,” Mosey said.

“It’s truly a neutral party,” she said. “You’re just a stakeholder. It’s kind of like the court is neutral and you present everything to them and then make the decision.”

Mosey said that working with Howe when she was a law student was “amazing.”

“She’s someone who takes people under her wing, and helps them to achieve their goals,” she said.

Howe aged out of serving on the bench on Dec. 31, 2017, at age 70. Mosey said the transition couldn’t have gone smoother, and Howe remains busy.

“She has more energy than anyone I’ve ever met in my entire life,” she said.

Howe stepped into a senior counsel role at Woods Oviatt Gilman LLP after taking about five weeks off.

She is also involved in the Buffalo Diocese’s Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program, which was established to compensate past victims of sexual abuse by local priests.

Howe is a co-administer of the program, along with retired Judge Jerome Gorski.

“It is a privilege to be involved with this program,” she said.

Howe served as a judge for 30 years in New York, first in Buffalo City Court from 1988 to 1991 and then as a State Supreme Court judge from 1992 to 2003.

She started as a judge in Erie County Surrogate’s Court’s 8th Judicial District in 2004.

“Being a judge has been a privilege that I felt it was imperative to re-earn every day by my work on the bench and in chambers,” she said.

Howe said she has the utmost respect for those who practice the law.

“I don’t think lawyer jokes are funny,” she said. “I would never tell a joke about a lawyer. I would never laugh at a joke about a lawyer.”

There’s a disconnect between people who make disparaging remarks about lawyers, Howe said.

“I’ve found it interesting over the years that on the one hand, people will make jokes and remarks about lawyers, but boy, if their child gets accepted into law school and becomes a lawyer, they are very proud,” she said. “Always.”

While Howe has covered a number of high-profile cases. Flight 3407 stands out, she said.

“One of the most tragic cases in which I dealt was with the estates of the victims of the crash of Flight 3407,” she said. “I’ll never forget that evening.”

Howe received a call from the county the day after the 2009 crash. They asked to meet with her on how to set up the estates.

“We spent the whole weekend, my staff and I, with the county attorney and the deputy county attorney,” she said. “We spent that whole weekend trying to see how we were going to proceed so that we could technically issue declarations of death.”

Before stepping down from the bench, Howe began taking classes on alternative dispute resolution, in order to roll those skills into her repertoire.

For Mosey, the role of judge is a bit different than what she was used to.

“While I loved being an advocate for my clients, you often times will be myopic and be just an advocate for them, and not look at the entire big picture,” she said. “You have to as a judge.”

There are a lot of personnel involved with Surrogate’s Court, Mosey said. They’re “one big family.”

“It helped that I’ve been practicing in this court for so long that I’ve met and I know and I’ve worked with everyone who is on the staff,” she said.

Mosey said she’s loved working with the Surrogate’s Court because it’s helpful to people.

“The Surrogate’s Court truly, by definition of the word surrogate, you’re there to help people who cannot help themselves,” she said. “It is such an important role.”

Giving back to the community is important, Mosey said, especially for younger lawyers just starting out.

“I think it’s very important to tell everyone, whether it’s a person who wants to be a judge, or a waiter at a restaurant or wherever you are,” she said. “One-on-one relationships are the most important wherever you are.”

BLJ: Succeeding a legend of the court

Hon. Barbara Howe