Commission Structure

The Commission consists of 14 members, three appointed by the Legislative Leader of the Same Political Party of the Temporary President of the Senate as of the Effective Date of PIRA (Public Integrity Reform Act) of 2011; three appointed by the Legislative Leader of the Same Political Party of the Speaker of the Assembly as of the Effective Date of PIRA of 2011; one appointed by the Legislative Leader of the Same Political Party of the Minority Leader of the Senate as of the Effective Date of PIRA of 2011; one appointed by the Legislative Leader of the Same Political Party of the Minority Leader of the Assembly as of the Effective Date of PIRA of 2011; and six appointed by the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor. The Commission Chairperson is selected by the Governor. Commissioners serve five-year terms. The Commission appoints the Executive Director.  

 

 

 

 

Jose L. Nieves, Chair

Chair Nieves is founder of the Law Offices of Jose L. Nieves & Associates in Queens, with an emphasis on criminal defense law. Prior to that, he spent more than twenty years in public service as a career prosecutor, Army combat veteran, and community leader. He worked for the Office of the New York State Attorney General as a Deputy Chief in the Special Investigations and Prosecutions Unit, and began his legal career as an Assistant District Attorney in the Kings County District Attorney’s Office. Mr. Nieves also served with the US Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration, and the New York City Department of Correction Trials and Litigation Division. In addition, he served in the US Army Reserves for more than 10 years, and was deployed to Afghanistan for a year during that time. He is also a lifetime member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Mr. Nieves received his bachelor’s degree from St. John’s University and his law degree from Brooklyn Law School. Chair Nieves was appointed to the Commission by Governor Kathy Hochul.   

Commissioners

Richard F. Braun

Commissioner Braun is a retired elected New York State Supreme Court justice for the first Judicial District of New York. He has extensive judicial experience, having served as an acting criminal court judge, civil court judge, acting supreme court justice, and an acting administrative judge. Before serving as a judge, Mr. Braun was in private practice and was a clinical instructor of law at Hofstra Law School. He began his legal career as an attorney providing free legal aid to low income residents, including working as an attorney for the Civil Division of the Legal Aid Society. Mr. Braun currently serves on the Advisory Council of JALBCA, which educates and provides services regarding breast cancer and other issues, and previously served on its board of directors for about 18 years. In addition, he was an active member of the New York City Bar Association and the New York County Lawyers Association, and previously spent 10 years as the Manhattan coordinator of Not Just Blacks and Jews in Conversation, which worked to fight discrimination and bias. He received his law degree from Brooklyn Law School and his undergraduate degree from Queens College. Mr. Braun was appointed to the Commission by Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie.    

Terryl L. Brown

Commissioner Brown is Chief Legal Counsel, Deputy Commissioner for Legal Affairs and Administration for the Fire Department of New York City.  In addition to providing advice and counsel to the Fire Commissioner and senior leadership, she is responsible for overseeing the management of the Fire Department’s Candidate Investigations, Drug Testing, Enforcement of Violations, General Law, Health Law, Health Care Compliance, Human Resources, Investigations and Trials, Labor Relations, and Regulatory Compliance Units. On behalf of the Fire Commissioner, Ms. Brown chairs the New York Fire Pension Board and the New York Fire Investment Board and is a Trustee on the New York City Deferred Compensation Board. Ms. Brown has a strong commitment to public service and spent the bulk of her legal career as a government lawyer and manager. She was the first woman to serve as Executive Vice President and General Counsel of the New York Power Authority.  She has worked for two New York Governors and three New York Attorneys General, serving in such roles as Acting Counsel to the Governor, First Assistant Counsel to the Governor, and Counsel and Chief Ethics Officer to the Attorney General.  Ms. Brown received her undergraduate degree from Pace University and earned a Juris Doctor and Master of Business Administration from the University of Pittsburgh.  She also studied international law overseas -- in Nairobi, Kenya, Salzburg, Austria, and in the Hague and Amsterdam, in the Netherlands. Ms. Brown was appointed to the Commission by Governor Kathy Hochul.

Colleen C. DiPirro

Commissioner DiPirro is Senior Advisor, Public Policy and Economic Development for the Amherst Chamber of Commerce, where she had previously served as president and CEO. She began as the single staff person for the chamber, which has grown to an 8-person full-time staff working with a membership of more than 3,000, representing more than 1,300 businesses. Ms. DiPirro is a member of the Executive Committee and Vice Chair of the Board of Directors of Independent Health and serves on the Erie County Industrial Development Agency Policy Committee; she has also served on the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council, the Roswell Park Cancer Institute Board of Directors, Peace Bridge Authority, and the New York Commission on Judicial Conduct. She attended Alfred State College and her professional education was enhanced by attendance at the Institute for Organizational Management at the University of Notre Dame and later at University of Delaware at Newark. Ms. DiPirro was appointed to the Commission by then-Governor Andrew M. Cuomo.

William P. Fisher

Commissioner Fisher is retired from Onondaga County government after serving more than nine years as Deputy County Executive. Among other duties in that role, he administered all administrative and financial units of county government, while working closely with elected officials, business leaders, community leaders, and others as the representative of Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney. Prior to his tenure with Onondaga County, Mr. Fisher was co-founder and CEO of Summit Software Company, based in Syracuse. He serves as a director and volunteers his time as General Manager of the Greater Syracuse Soundstage Development Corporation. He also serves as a member of the boards of the Syracuse Regional Airport Authority, Everson Museum of Art, and other boards in Central New York. Mr. Fisher has a master’s degree from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University and an undergraduate degree from Yale University. Mr. Fisher was appointed to the Commission by then-Governor Andrew M. Cuomo.

Sharon Stern Gerstman

Commissioner Gerstman is counsel to the Buffalo, New York law firm of Magavern Magavern Grimm LLP.  She concentrates in the areas of mediation and arbitration, litigation, and appellate practice. She previous served as a Court Attorney/Referee and Principal Law Clerk in New York State Supreme Court, where her primary responsibility was mediating civil cases to settlement.  She has taught in the law schools of University of Toledo, University of Missouri-Kansas City, and University at Buffalo, where she taught New York Practice for 30 years. She is the author of numerous law review articles, is a co-author of New York Civil Practice and is on the editorial board of Weinstein Korn and Miller, New York Civil Practice: CPLR.  Commissioner Gerstman has served in the House of Delegates of the American Bar Association and New York State Bar Association, where she also served as President in 2017-18. She received her bachelor’s degree from Brown University, her juris doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh, and her master’s in law from Yale Law School. Commissioner Gerstman was appointed to the Commission by Governor Kathy Hochul.

C. Randall Hinrichs

Commissioner Hinrichs recently retired after a 38-year career in public service. Most recently, he spent nearly 10 years serving as the Suffolk County Administrative Judge, supervising 80 judges and more than 900 court employees involved in operating trial courts to serve the needs of the approximately 1.5 million people in the county. Prior to that, he served as Supervising Judge of the County Court, as an elected State Supreme Court judge, and as an elected County Court judge. In his role as Administrative Judge, Mr. Hinrichs he led a Task Force focused on exploring innovative ways to improve Suffolk County Courts operations and co-chaired the committee to implement the 2020 criminal justice reform act for the New York State Courts. He was also appointed to the Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics for New York. Before that, Judge Hinrichs worked for many years in the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office, spending time in the Major Crimes and Homicide bureaus. Judge Hinrichs has been the recipient of the Suffolk County Criminal Bar Association’s Judge of the Year award and the Suffolk County Bar Association’s President’s Award. He is a graduate of Bucknell University and the State University of New York at Buffalo Law School. He was appointed to the Commission by Governor Kathy Hochul.

Marvin E. Jacob

Commissioner Jacob is a recently retired partner of Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, where he focused primarily on corporate financial restructurings. Prior to joining Weil in 1979 as a partner, he served as the associate regional administrator of the New York office of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission ("SEC"). During his tenures at the SEC and Weil, he taught bankruptcy reorganization and securities regulation at New York Law School as an adjunct professor of law and published and lectured extensively. Since his retirement from Weil, Mr. Jacob's practice has focused primarily on mediations, arbitrations, public service and pro bono matters. From 2006-2009, Mr. Jacob served as a member of the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct and in 2010 was appointed to the Governor’s Task Force on Public Authority Reform. Mr. Jacob was originally appointed to the Commission in December 2011 and was reappointed by Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie.

Gary J. Lavine

Commissioner Lavine is associated of counsel with the Syracuse law firm of Bousquet Holstein PLLC. Mr. Lavine served in the United States Department of Energy as Deputy General Counsel for Environment & Nuclear Programs during the administration of President George W. Bush. Previously, he was Senior Vice President & Chief Legal Officer of Niagara Mohawk Holdings Inc. and Senior Vice President, Legal & Corporate Relations of Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation. Mr. Lavine served in a number of staff positions with the state Legislature, including Legislative Counsel to the Minority Leader of the Assembly; Counsel, Senate Committee on Insurance; Executive Director, Senate Committee on Corporations, Authorities & Commissions; and Assistant to the Chair, Joint Legislative Committee on Reapportionment. He served four terms as a member of the United States Commission for the Preservation of America's Heritage Abroad. He received degrees in both business administration and law from Syracuse University. Mr. Lavine previously served on the Commission from 2011 to 2018. He was since re-appointed, and most recently re-appointed to a new term on the Commission in December 2020 by Senate Minority Leader Robert G. Ortt.

James W. McCarthy

Commissioner McCarthy is retired after nine years as a Supreme Court Justice in the Fifth Judicial District in Oswego County. He also served as an acting justice for 10 years, and was the sole justice in that six-county District presiding over asbestos litigation during that time. He has served in a number of different roles on the bench for more than 30 years, including as an Oswego County Court judge, where he created the first sex offense court in New York State and was the first judge in the county to preside over a county-wide drug court program. Prior to that, Mr. McCarthy was an attorney in private practice and served as city attorney in Oswego. He also served overseas in active duty for the US Army and was in the active reserve for several years. Mr. McCarthy has also served on a number of boards including the Oswego County United Way and Red Cross. He received his law degree from Albany Law School and his undergraduate degree from the State University of New York at Oswego. Mr. McCarthy was appointed to the Commission by then-Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb.

David J. McNamara

Commissioner McNamara is a partner at Phillips Lytle LLP, with a practice concentrated in the areas of general commercial litigation, representing individuals, corporations, and financial institutions in complex commercial litigation and real estate transactions, and maintains offices in Buffalo and New York City. He previous served as the firm's managing partner and as a member of its governing committee. Mr. McNamara has been listed in The Best Lawyers in America as well as lists of influential business and legal leaders in Western New York. He also currently serves as a member of the board of directors of the United Way of Buffalo and Erie County, among others. Mr. McNamara received his law degree from the Louis D. Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville and his undergraduate degree from the State University of New York College at Brockport. Mr. McNamara was appointed to the Commission by then-Senate Majority Leader John J. Flanagan.

George H. Weissman

Commissioner Weissman is Chair of the Cortland College Foundation, Inc, and a member of the Advisory Board of the Government Law Center at Albany Law School. In his over thirty years of government service, Mr. Weissman served in various capacities in the legislative and executive branches of government. In addition, he published articles on taxation, public debt, and the state budget. He received his J.D. from Albany Law School of Union University. Mr. Weissman was originally appointed to the Commission in December 2011 and reappointed by then-Senate Majority Leader John J. Flanagan.

James A. Yates

Commissioner Yates is a retired Supreme Court Justice, serving from 1997 until 2011, as well as sitting on the New York State Court of Claims from 1992 to 1997. He previously served as Counsel to the Speaker of the New York State Assembly from 1989 until 1992 and again from 2011 to 2015.  Prior to that, he also served as Chief Counsel to the Assembly’s Codes Committee, Counsel to the Assembly Majority, and Legislative Counsel to the Speaker. He has served as a Commissioner on the New York State Sentencing Guidelines Commission, the Commission on Uniform State Laws and as a Board Member of the IOLA Board for New York. In addition, he has taught criminal law, ethics and legislative process at New York University School of Law, New York Law School, CUNY School of Law, Cardozo School of Law and Pace University School of Law and has co-authored textbooks on criminal procedure. He received his law degree from Rutgers University School of Law and his undergraduate degree from Princeton University. Mr. Yates was appointed to the Commission by Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie.  

Sanford N. Berland, Executive Director

Sanford N. Berland was appointed Executive Director of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics in April 2021. He most recently served as a Judge on the New York State Court of Claims and as an Acting Justice of the Supreme Court of the State of New York in Suffolk County. Judge Berland has a long career in private practice, including 14 years with Pfizer, Inc. as well as a number of stints as a law firm partner after beginning his legal career as a law clerk for United States District Court Judge Edward R. Neaher, Jr. in the Eastern District of New York. Judge Berland is a magna cum laude graduate of both the State University of New York at Buffalo and of SUNY Buffalo Law School, where he was Editor-in-Chief of the Law Review. He is a member of the American Bar Association, the New York State and Suffolk County Bar Associations and the Association of the Bar of the City of New York and is admitted to practice in the State of New York and in various federal courts, including the United States Supreme Court. Judge Berland has served the community as a member of the Advisory Board of the Jewish Community Relations Council-Long Island and as co-founder of Families Against Anti-Semitism and for Campus Tolerance.

Code of Conduct and Recusal Policy

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    Recusal Policy and Addendum

    Members of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (“Commission”) should recuse themselves from Commission deliberations or votes on matters relating to any organization, entity or individual where their impartiality in the deliberation or vote might be reasonably questioned.

     

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