Donald Trump is unlikely to nominate Kathleen Sweet to fill the federal court vacancy here, left by Judge William Skretny, who has moved on to senior status on March 8, 2015. Skretny was appointed to the bench in 1990 by President George H.W. Bush.
Senator Charles Schumer had recommended former US Attorney Denise O’Donnell to the judgeship. President Barak Obama refused to act on the recommendation from Schumer, for fear that O’Donnell’s activities as a political operative would become an embarrassing debacle during her Senate confirmation hearing.
O’Donnell had served as Director of Criminal Justice Services in the administration of Governor David Paterson. In the midst of his heated primary reelection effort against Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, O’Donnell choreographed a highly publicized resignation in February of 2010 that was designed to sink Paterson’s reelection. The fallen political operative G. Steven Pigeon brokered that resignation. Her husband, State Supreme Court Judge John O’Donnell, has offered allies politically motivated decisions in cases involving political actors. Her son, Jack, is a lobbyist for the Albany firm Bolton St. Johns.
When it became obvious that O’Donnell couldn’t be confirmed by a Republican controlled Senate, Schumer pulled the recommendation and put forth the name of Buffalo attorney Kathleen Sweet instead. Sweet is a graduate of Boston College and Villanova University’s Charles Widger School of Law. The nomination met some quiet criticism that her resume was too light and her political leanings too leftward for the federal bench.
President Obama has not acted on this recommendation, either. With the incoming presidency, Sweet’s nomination — like that of US Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland — is effectively dead.
That has the local legal community scrambling to predict who President Trump will appoint to the vacancy, and it seems that some consensus is emerging that State Supreme Court Judge Mark Montour, a fourth generation Western New Yorker, is a leading contender.
Montour has spent 30 years as a private practice attorney, Lancaster Town Justice, and as an acting City Court Judge in Buffalo. He graudated the University at Buffalo Law School in 1983, and from Canisius College in 1980.
In private practice, he specialized in a wide field of laws including criminal defense; real estate transactions; civil contracts; and wills, trusts and estates. He is the son of a Buffalo autoworker, and grew up in the Town of Tonawanda. He has a wife, Michele; and two children, Kyle and Cameron.