Chief Clerk in Brooklyn Criminal Term gave up a career in art for 45 years in the courts
In a courthouse, it is the judges who make all of the decisions, but everyone who works in the courts knows that the people who actually run the daily tasks are the clerks. In Brooklyn’s Supreme Court, Criminal Term, the person running the show is Chief Clerk Daniel Alessandrino.
Alessandrino has served the court system for 45 years now and has been the chief clerk for the past eight, but his is an illustrious career that might not have ever happened if he had followed in his father’s footsteps and become a commercial artist instead.
“My father was a commercial artist, and I was an illustrator who thought that he was going to follow is his footsteps,” Alessandrino recalled. “But that was, and still is, a very tough industry to get into. Once I didn’t get accepted into Cooper Union, that sort of faded away.”
Alessandrino, who was born in Manhattan and raised in Brooklyn, instead went on to apply for a job as a court officer and started his extended career in Brooklyn’s Criminal Court at 120 Schermerhorn St. as a 20-year-old starting in 1973.
That was just his first of now nine official titles the St. Francis and St. John’s University graduate has held while working in the courts. Of course, that’s only nine titles and unofficially has served in many capacities.
Some of Alessandrino’s other titles included clerk in the Kings County Family Court, motion clerk in the New York County Surrogate’s Court, a clerk in Brooklyn’s night court, supervising investigator for the application verification unit, chief court officer of the family court citywide, assistant director for court security services inside NYC, director of personnel for the NYC Criminal Court and liaison for the city to handle the writs on the arraignments.
“Every time I talk about 45 years, my immediate reaction is, ‘Oh my God, that’s such a long time,’ but it went by like a flash,” Alessandrino said. “I think it’s because I like what I did. It was a lot of variety, I did everything from security to investigations, to fiscal work, to human resource work. It really broadens to scope of what you are able to do and it can be a lot of fun. I’m still having fun. That’s why I’m not retired yet.”
He got the job as chief clerk in 2010 after he had been working as a liaison between the courts and the Mayor’s Office for Criminal Justice. He explained that job often put him in contact with then administrative judge of the criminal term, Hon. Barry Kamins. When James Imperatrice retired, Kamins believed that Alessandrino was an easy choice for the position.
“When you’re hiring a chief clerk, you’re looking for someone who is knowledgeable about the court system and who has as much experience as possible,” Kamins said. “You want someone trustworthy and reliable, and Dan fills all of those categories.
“He’s one of the most competent people I’ve met in the court system,” Kamins continued. “I remembered him from my days as a defense attorney when he was a court officer as someone who has always been well liked and respected by judges and court staff.”
As chief clerk, Alessandrino is the top non-judicial court employee who is in charge of running the court on a day-to-day basis. If there is a blizzard, hurricane or other emergencies, he has to determine if the court opens or not, and how it will operate. If there are changes in policy, he is the person to help implement them. When there are layoffs or transfers, he has to be the one responsible to break the news. All of this, in one of the busiest criminal courthouses in the nation.
“We don’t get the high-profile people, like celebrities, here like other courts do, but we do get violent and serious crimes that are high-profile cases,” Alessandrino said. “It’s an interesting place to work with a lot going on. It’s very serious work here and I’m in a support role for the judges.”
Despite 45 years in the court system, Alessandrino said that he doesn’t expect to retire soon. If he does retire, he won’t go back to art work. Despite the fact that he won an award given out by the First Department for his work, he has given it up. Instead, he’ll stick with his current hobbies of fishing and archery.
“If I had plans to do something, to travel or to move somewhere, I might retire, but my wife and I don’t want to be away from our two grandchildren for very long and, honestly, I’m still having fun and learning something new every day.”
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