New York Court of Appeals Judge Theodore Jones, who served on the state’s highest court for the past five years, died of an apparent heart attack last night, a spokesman said. He was 68.
Jones suffered the heart attack at his home in New City, Gary Spencer, a spokesman for the Court of Appeals in Albany, said in a phone interview. He is survived by his wife of more than 40 years, the former Joan Sarah Hogans, and two children, Wesley Jones and Theodore T. Jones III, according to a biography posted on the court’s website.
“Judge Jones was a jurist of great talent, intellect and compassion,” Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman said in a statement. “He was also the gentlest of men with a wonderful sunny disposition, great warmth and empathy for all. Ted Jones had a smile and a laugh that captivated the court and the entire legal community.”
Jones began his career in New York State Supreme Court, the state’s trial-level court, in 1990 and was nominated to the seven-member Court of Appeals by then-Governor Eliot Spitzer in January 2007 to replace retired Judge Albert Rosenblatt, according to the biography. He was confirmed by the state Senate the following month.
Jones was born in Brooklyn and attended public schools in New York City, according to the biography. He graduated from Hampton University in Virginia in 1965, served three years on active duty with the U.S. Army in Vietnam, and graduated from St. John’s University School of Law in 1972.
As a trial judge, Jones in April 2006 fined New York City’s bus and subway workers union $2.5 million for shutting the U.S.’s largest transit system for 60 hours during a December 2005 strike. He also jailed the union’s head, Roger Toussaint, and suspended the automatic deduction of dues from workers’ paychecks.
“New York State has lost a jurist of keen intellect and profound compassion,” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement. “During his many years of service on the bench, Judge Jones was a model of fairness, justice and legal excellence.”
Jones was the first African-American to serve as administrative judge of the state Supreme Court Civil Term in Brooklyn, according to a statement from Governor Andrew Cuomo.
“Judge Jones was a tireless advocate for equal justice and inspired many through his public service and work outside the judiciary,” Cuomo said in a statement. “His contributions to New York’s highest court will be sorely missed.”
Judges on the Court of Appeals serve 14-year terms, although they are required to retire at the end of the year they turn 70 under the state’s Constitution, Spencer said. No Court of Appeals judge had died in office since the current appointment process was adopted in 1977, Spencer said.
Anyone interested in becoming a judge on the Court of Appeals must apply to the state’s Commission on Judicial Nomination, a 12-member panel set up in 1977 to help choose candidates for the state’s highest court.
The clerk of the Court of Appeals will notify the commission of the vacancy today or tomorrow, Spencer said. The panel will have 120 days to submit a list of three to seven names to the governor, who then will have 15 to 30 days to make an appointment, he said.
The court is currently evaluating candidates for a vacancy that will begin Jan. 1 on the retirement of Senior Associate Judge Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick, and will issue a report to Cuomo on Dec. 1, according to its website.