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.
Camille Joseph Varlack, Chair
Chair Varlack is a founding partner and the chief operating officer of Bradford Edwards & Varlack LLP, a complex civil litigation firm based in New York, NY. Her practice focuses on risk and crisis management, corporate governance, and civil litigation, including employment matters. She previously served under Governor Andrew M. Cuomo as Deputy Director of State Operations, Chief Risk Officer and Special Counsel.
Ms. Varlack served as principal court attorney to a New York State Supreme Court Justice as well as Special Counsel for Ethics, Risk, and Compliance to the Superintendent of the Department of Financial Services. She is a former Assistant District Attorney in Kings County and served as Assistant Vice President and Counsel for AXA Equitable Life Insurance Company.
Ms. Varlack is a Trustee of the State University of New York. She received her law degree from Brooklyn Law School and her undergraduate degree from the State University of New York at Buffalo. Chair Varlack was appointed to the Commission by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo.
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.
Commissioner Cohen is a founding member and partner at Taylor & Cohen, LLP, a boutique litigation firm with an emphasis on complex commercial business disputes, employment law, and civil rights. He also spent a number of years as a litigation partner in the New York office of Kirkland & Ellis LLP. Prior to starting his own firm, Mr. Cohen was Director of Ethics and Lobbying Guidance and Special Counsel for the Joint Commission on Public Ethics. Mr. Cohen served as a law clerk for Honorable Michael Hawkins of United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Prior to law school, he worked for several years as a legislative assistant in the Washington D.C. office of U.S. Representative Ed Pastor. He received his law degree from the University of Chicago Law School and his undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania. Mr. Cohen was appointed to the Commission by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo.
James E. Dering
Commissioner Dering is a partner at Garfunkel Wild, P.C. (“GW”), a law firm that focuses on serving the business and legal needs of clients in the health care industry and other areas. Mr. Dering works in GW’s Albany, NY office and is a member of the firm’s Health Care, Business and Compliance practice groups. Previously, he served as General Counsel of the New York State Department of Health, and formerly was Deputy General Counsel and Director of the Bureau of House Counsel. As General Counsel, he was the chief legal advisor to the Commissioner of Health and oversaw approximately 125 attorneys and staff. Mr. Dering previously served as Bureau Chief of the New York State Attorney General’s Health Care Bureau, and held other titles with the Office of the Attorney General. Prior to his government service, Mr. Dering was in private practice for more than 10 years and advised clients in the areas of heath care, insurance, corporate law and litigation. He received his J.D., cum laude, from Albany Law School of Union University and his B.S. in Business Management from Ithaca College. Mr. Dering was appointed to the Commission by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo.
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 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 Governor Andrew M. Cuomo.
Daniel J. Horwitz
Commissioner Horwitz is a lawyer in private practice at McLaughlin & Stern, LLP. He is a graduate of Columbia College and the American University Washington College of Law, cum laude. He previously served on the Commission from 2011 until 2016 and served as Chair from 2013 until 2016. He serves on the Board of Commissioners of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the New York State Judicial Screening Commiittee. He was appointed to the Commission by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo.
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.
Juanita Bing Newton
Juanita Bing Newton recently retired after a 45-year membership to the legal Bar of New York including 35 years as a Judge of the New York Court of Claims and acting Justice of the Supreme Court. Her final assignment with the Court System was service as the Dean of the New York State Judicial Institute which is the educational arm of the state court system providing mandatory education to the judges and court attorneys of the state. Judge Newton began her legal career in the Bronx District Attorney’s Office, eventually becoming its first African American woman Bureau Chief, in the Arson/Economic Crimes Unit. She later moved on to the New York State Sentencing Guidelines Committee, which was commissioned to review and reform the criminal justice sentencing structure, before joining the Unified Court System. During her time on the bench, Judge Newton’s decision in People v. Angela Thompson is often considered the first catalyst toward serious discussions of the draconian nature of the Rockefeller Drug Laws. Judge Newton has served on many statewide committees and panels over the years, including the Commission on Judicial Conduct, the Commission on Drugs and the Courts, the Violence Against Woman Advisory Board, the Judicial Commission on Minorities in the Courts, and the Judicial Commission on Women in the Courts. She is a proud recipient of numerous awards from civil and professional organizations, including the Constance Baker Motley Award of the Westchester Black Bar Association, presented to her by Judge Motely, and the New York State Bar Association’s highest award, the Gold Medal. Judge Newton received her bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University and her Juris Doctorate from Columbus School of Law of the Catholic University of America. She was appointed to the Commission by Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.
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
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.