Vows to 'make a difference in people's lives'
Surrounded by family, friends, top county elected officials and judges - not to mention dozens of children not unlike those whose lives will be affected by her rulings - Niagara County's new family court judge was sworn in Sunday.
Kathleen Wojtaszek-Gariano, law clerk to outgoing Family Court Judge David Seaman and a former Niagara Falls City Court judge, recited her oath of office twice - first having it administered by her former boss and mentor, Seaman, and then by her father, North Tonawanda attorney Thomas Wojtaszek.
Wojtaszek-Gariano, whose new office will have her presiding over cases ranging from divorce and custody proceedings to adoptions to juvenile delinquency, vowed to use the powers of her office to change lives for the better. With a 10-year obligation ahead of her, she will have plenty of time to do so.
"As we all know, family court isn't always a happy place," Wojtaszek-Gariano told more than 150 well-wishers gathered at Pane's Restaurant, a popular North Tonawanda gathering place. "But I still think a good family court judge can make a difference in people's lives, and sometimes give them a second chance when no one else will."
Top county leaders and court officers flanked the newly minted judge as she took her oath. Among those attending her swearing-in were Legislature Chairman William L. Ross, District Attorney Michael Violante, Sheriff James R. Voutour, County Clerk Wayne F. Jagow, and several of the county's judges and town justices.
Wojtaszek-Gariano acknowledged that she expects to have to issue many difficult rulings in her new job, but looks forward to the more uplifting moments in Niagara County Family Court.
"There's always those happy moments, like watching a family's joy when they adopt their children," Wojtaszek-Gariano said.
The new judge did get a vote of confidence from former colleagues.
Wojtaszek-Gariano wore a new black robe for the occasion, a gift from colleagues in Niagara County's court system after she secured the office in last fall's elections. She said she had received a great deal of encouragement from current Family Court employees during both her run for office and her transition period since her election victory.
"Running for this job was hard, but I could not have done it without the support of so many fine people in this county," she said. "I promise not to let the people of Niagara County down."