ABOUT JUDGE GERALD WHALEN
Judge Gerald “Jerry” Whalen was the third of seven children born to Helen and Jerry Whalen in Buffalo in 1956.
He graduated from CanisiusCollege in 1979, the first in his family to go beyond a high school education. During college, Judge Whalen supported himself with various jobs – doing piece work in the machine shop at the Eastman Machine Company, working as a laborer at General Mills, and painting houses.
After spending one year in an administrative position at the Office of the Erie County District Attorney after college, he enrolled in what is now known as the University at Buffalo School of Law, graduating in the Spring of 1983.
In his final year, he was awarded the Robert J. Connelly Award for excellence in trial practice. Following law school, Judge Whalen began a 21year career as a trial lawyer, representing clients in civil and criminal cases in federal and state courtrooms throughout the Eighth Judicial District (including Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Niagara, Orleans, and Wyoming counties). He rose to the position of litigation partner with Hiscock & Barclay, LLP, now known as Barclay Damon, LLP, and served on the firm’s Diversity Committee. He also served as the firm’s Associate and Hiring Partner for the Buffalo office, which afforded him the opportunity to mentor young lawyers as they entered into the practice of law.
During this period, Judge Whalen had the privilege to teach as an adjunct professor at Canisius College, his alma mater, where he engaged with first-year students on social, political, governmental, and legal topics. Since becoming a judge, he continues to share his experience and expertise with lawyers and judges as a lecturer at various seminars.
Between 2002 and 2012, he served on the Eighth Judicial District Committee on Character and Fitness, the committee charged with making recommendations to the Appellate Division concerning the admission of law graduates to the bar. Judge Whalen left private practice in 2005, when the voters of Western New York elected him to New York State Supreme Court.
As a Supreme Court Justice, he presided over jury and nonjury trials for six years and was recognized for his fair and impartial conduct both inside and outside the courtroom.
In 2012, Judge Whalen was honored to be elected by his fellow judges as President of the Supreme Court Justices Association, Eighth Judicial District, and to be recognized by the New York State Trial Lawyers Association, Western New York Regional Affiliate as trial judge of the year. That same year, Judge Whalen was designated as a Justice of the Appellate Division Fourth Department, moving from handling cases in the eight counties where he had previously practiced as a trial attorney to review cases from the 22 counties of Western and Central New York. A thorough application and interview process is required prior to designation as a Justice of the Appellate Division or appointment as the Presiding Justice. The interview panel is made up of qualified and well regarded local attorneys, who found Judge Whalen highly qualified to serve in his current position. The Appellate Division, among other things, reviews civil, criminal, and family court cases for errors committed during trial, and determines an appropriate remedy if an error is discovered.
On January 7, 2016, Judge Whalen assumed the role of Presiding Justice of the Fourth Department, a position he still holds today. He was also honored to be one of only seven candidates statewide to be considered in 2016 for appointment to New York’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, based upon a review of his legal writings and opinions by a panel of the New York’s top lawyers, legal academics, and former judges. As the Presiding Justice, Judge Whalen oversees and administers the Fourth Department and its 200 plus employees, in addition to his duties as a fulltime appellate justice. He also sits on the five judge Administrative Board that manages the courts throughout New York, which is made up of the Chief Justice of the New York Court of Appeals and the Presiding Justices of each of the four Appellate Departments.
As the only representative of Western and Central New York on the Administrative Board, Judge Whalen takes pride in giving a voice to the citizens of our community in the statewide administration of justice.
Judge Whalen and his wife Nora have lived in Hamburg, New York for over 30 years where they raised their two sons, Conor P. Whalen (now married to SaraJo Scime Whalen, Esq.) and Gerald J. Whalen II, Esq.
Throughout his career as both a trial lawyer and a judge, Judge Whalen has made time to give back to the community in which he lives and serves. Judge Whalen was recognized by the Judge John J. Hillery Memorial Scholarship Foundation for his 20 plus year commitment to raising scholarship funds for students in need and served on the board of directors of the Franciscan Center in Buffalo. More recently, Judge Whalen was honored to receive the 2016 Leadership Award from the Judges & Lawyers Breast Cancer Alert organization, as well as the 2019 Jurist of the Year Award from The Judges & Police Executives Conference of Erie County, New York.
Judge Whalen was raised in a family that values service to others and understands both the sacrifice and commitment that comes with public service. His sister, Margaret C. Whalen-Keane, was in the first class of female firefighters for the City of Buffalo and was the first woman to rise to the position of Deputy Fire Commissioner in the city’s history. Both his brother and brother in law served as City of Buffalo Firefighters as well.