Justice John Copertino was born in Manhattan and raised in Queens, where he worked in his father's fish store as a youth. He went on to earn a degree from the City College of New York in 1950. He then served as a special agent in the United States Army Counter-Intelligence Corps from 1951 until 1953, at which point he began legal studies. Copertino graduated from Fordham University School of Law in 1955, the same year that he was admitted to the Bar and began private practice in New York City.
He worked in private practice from 1955 to 1962 and 1964 to 1967. From 1962 to 1964 and 1967 to 1968 he was employed at the Suffolk County District Attorney's office in various capacities, including as a trial assistant, Chief of the Indictments Bureau, and Chief of the Appeals Bureau.
Copertino joined the bench in 1969 as a Suffolk County District Court Judge, a position he held until 1977, and then as a County Court Judge from 1978 to 1987, winning reelection three times. In 1985, he presided over the highly publicized trial of James Troiano, accused of the killing of Gary Lauwers, which the police initially theorized was a Satanic ritual murder. In 1988, Copertino was elected to the Supreme Court for the Tenth Judicial District. On July 18, 1991, he was designated to the Appellate Division, Second Department. In 1993, he ruled with the majority in a divided 3-2 decision that struck down distribution of condoms to students by New York City public high schools without parental consent. Although the program was designed to curb the spread of AIDS, the majority ruled that it violated parents' constitutional rights as well as state health laws that required parental consent for the provision of health services to minors. Copertino retired from the bench in 1998.
He has a wife, Elizabeth, and three children.
Appellate Division, Second Department, 100th Anniversary. 23. The Historical Society of the Courts of the State of New York, 1996. Web. 24 Aug. 2011.
"Condom Handouts Voided in Schools." New York Times (1923-Current file): A1. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (1851-2007). Dec 31 1993. Web. 21 Oct. 2011 http://search.proquest.com/docview/109054223?accountid=8012.
"Copertino, John." Biographical information sheets. Appellate Division, Second Department Library, Brooklyn.
"L.I. Judge: Passion for Law." New York Times (1923-Current file): B2. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (1851-2007). Apr 23 1985. Web. 21 Oct. 2011 http://search.proquest.com/docview/111234989?accountid=8012.
"L.I. Jury Acquits Defendant in Killing of Youth in Woods." New York Times (1923-Current file): B2. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (1851-2007). Apr 26 1985. Web. 21 Oct. 2011 http://search.proquest.com/docview/111221323?accountid=8012.