Associate Justice of the Appellate Division, First Department
Supreme Court of the State of New York
Justice Peter Tom holds a number of judicial “firsts” for an Asian American. After graduating from Brooklyn Law School in 1975, he practiced briefly at private law firms before embarking on a long and distinguished career in the judiciary. In 1976, he joined the Civil Court of the City of New York as a Law Clerk, working on a wide variety of criminal and civil assignments and, in 1985, he became the first Asian American appointed to the Housing Part of the Civil Court. In 1988, Justice Tom was assigned to preside over the Narcotics Eviction Part, a Special Part that was established as a result of his landmark decision in Kellner v. Cappellini (135 Misc. 2d 759 ), in which he utilized the 100-year old “Bawdy House Statute” to evict drug dealers from real property. Employing this novel decision, the City of New York implemented a city-wide program, which used the statute to expeditiously evict drug dealers from residential and commercial properties.
In 1988, Justice Tom was one of the first Asian Americans to be elected to the Civil Court and to win a county-wide election in New York City. In 1990, he became the first Asian American elected to the New York State Supreme Court from New York County, and in 1994, he became the first Asian American appointed by the Governor to the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court. He remains the only Asian American to sit on an appellate court in this State. In addition to the Kellner decision, over 250 legal opinions by Justice Tom have been published, many of which involved innovative rulings and received widespread media coverage.
Justice Tom is active in the community and has received numerous awards, notably the Trailblazer Award from the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (2004), the Ellis Island Medal of Honor (1993), and the Asian American For Equality Leadership Award (1991), as well as several awards from the New York County Lawyers Association, the Asian American Bar Association of New York, and Brooklyn Law School.
Justice Tom is also the first Asian American to win the New York City Golden Gloves Boxing Championship.