Tormey remembered as tough, fair, kind

The Hon. James C. Tormey, pictured above right during the January swearing-in of Supreme Court Justice Scott DelConte, pictured center, passed away this weekend at the age of 68.

Chief of CNY judges dead at 68

SYRACUSE — Central New York’s legal community is reeling from news this weekend of the passing of the Hon. James C. Tormey and local judge and officials are remembering the towering figure as a dedicated jurist and “wonderful man.”

Tormey, 68, passed away Saturday after a lifetime of governmental and judicial service. A Syracuse native, he served in the Onondaga County Legislature before taking the bench as a New York State Supreme Court Justice in 1995. Tormey in 2000 was appointed as Administrative Judge of the Fifth Judicial District.

As Administrative Judge, Tormey wielded a tremendous amount of clout within the Fifth Judicial District, comprised of Onondaga, Oswego, Herkimer, Oneida, Lewis and Jefferson counties. Tormey effectively supervised the operations and schedules of more than 300 judges serving in the Fifth Judicial District.

Among those who knew him, however, Tormey was much more than just the capo di tutti capi of central New York’s magistrates.

“He was a wonderful, wonderful man,” said state Supreme Court Justice and Oswego resident the Hon. Greg Gilbert. “He expected a lot of us and he always had our back. He led this district with great distinction and he’ll be truly missed.”

Gilbert’s association with Tormey goes back more than two decades, he said, and called the late judge  “a friend, a colleague and a mentor.”

“The respect people had for him was well-earned and deserved,” said Gilbert. “This is a great loss.”

Oswego County Clerk Michael Backus mourned Tormey’s passing by calling him a “ardent jurist with supreme wit.”

“Judge Tormey’s career in public service went above and beyond his bench,” Backus said. “His impact on my life and nearly everyone I know he interacted with was profound. Judge Tormey’s omnipresent demeanor within central New York went far beyond the legal community. My prayers are with his family.”

The Hon. Scott DelConte of Volney, elected last fall to the Supreme Court, said Tormey “took me under his wing.”

“Judge Tormey cared deeply about the justice system and was dedicated to making sure the courts were open to everyone, regardless of background,” DelConte said. “His first principle was justice for all. He was firm with his judges and had high standards for performance but was also fair, continually reminding us that first and foremost we work for the people of the state of New York.”

Tormey was a “friend, mentor and encourager” to DelConte in his freshman year on the bench.

“His leadership will be missed tremendously,” DelConte said. “I am grateful to have had the privilege of knowing him and working alongside him. Our community has been blessed by his years of devoted service and my heart goes out to his family.”

Tormey is survived by his wife, Susan, and children Andrew and Colleen.

Tormey’s passing creates a Supreme Court vacancy likely to be filled in this November’s election. Two other Supreme Court seats will also be contested within the six-county Fifth Judicial District.

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