Joseph Zayas named New York’s Chief Administrative Judge of the Court System

May 19, 2023 Rob Abruzzese
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Joseph Zayas, a leading figure in the New York State Judiciary, has made history by being appointed as the state’s first Latino chief administrative judge. The landmark announcement was made by Chief Judge Rowan Wilson, who praised Judge Zayas for his integrity, hard work, and deep knowledge of the law and court system on Thursday.

“Judge Zayas has a stellar reputation for his keen judgment, hard work, integrity and deep knowledge of both the law and the complex workings of the New York State court system,” Chief Judge Wilson said.

“He has demonstrated exceptional leadership and the highest ethical standards over the course of his distinguished judicial career. He is a forward-thinking, hands-on manager as proven throughout his tenure as Administrative Judge for Criminal Matters in Queens County, where he implemented numerous reforms and programs to improve the delivery of justice.”

This monumental appointment comes at the heels of Judge Tamiko Amaker’s term as acting Chief Administrative Judge since Dec. 2022. Judge Zayas will now be responsible for the daily administration and operation of the court system, overseeing the performance and efficiency of every trial court in the state.

In this pivotal role, he will administer a $3.3 billion budget, supervise 3,600 state and locally paid judges, and manage nearly 15,000 non-judicial employees spread across over 300 courthouses in 62 counties.

“I am honored and excited for the opportunity to serve alongside Chief Judge Wilson in leading the New York State court system as we seek targeted, viable solutions to address the myriad issues that today confront our courts and justice system,” Zayas said. “I look forward–with the collective efforts of our talented, hardworking court administrators, judges and court personnel across the state, along with the support of our many justice partners–to effecting changes that will make the court system more efficient, accessible, equitable and transparent, serving to advance the delivery and quality of justice for all New Yorkers.”

Hailed for his exceptional leadership and ethical standards, Judge Zayas has a rich judicial career spanning decades. His tenure includes noteworthy contributions as an Associate Justice on the Appellate Division, Second Department, as well as an Administrative Judge for Criminal Matters in Queens County.

Throughout his career, Judge Zayas has spearheaded various reforms and programs aimed at improving the delivery of justice, earning accolades for his forward-thinking and hands-on management style. He is widely regarded for his commitment to creating a more efficient, accessible, equitable, and transparent court system.

Zayas, who began his judicial career in 2003, is a renowned figure in the legal community, known for his advocacy for diversity, equity, and inclusion. His illustrious career also includes a stint as a principal law clerk to Hon. Rolando Acosta in New York City Civil Court, the Harlem Community Justice Center, and State Supreme Court in Manhattan.

Sherry Levin Wallach, President of the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA), lauded the historic appointment. Wallach emphasized Judge Zayas’ unique understanding of the challenges facing underprivileged New Yorkers, a perspective shaped by his Puerto Rican heritage and upbringing in a public housing project in West Harlem.

“Judge Zayas is smart and benevolent and has a wealth of experience as an Appellate Division judge, an administrative judge in Supreme Court in Queens County, a Criminal Court judge and a Court of Claims judge,” said Levin Wallach. “He’s a dynamic public speaker who will proudly represent New York and its court system wherever he should travel.”

Paying tribute to Judge Amaker, Chief Judge Wilson expressed his profound gratitude for her tireless efforts, acknowledging her remarkable tenure as acting Chief Administrative Judge. Her contributions in managing the complex responsibilities of her key administrative post have not gone unnoticed.

“Our paramount objective is to ensure that our courts provide just results to all in a timely manner, while simultaneously promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace and building stronger bridges between our courts and the communities we serve,” Chief Judge Wilson said.

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