STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — A Staten Island native with nearly 30 years experience practicing law, Matt Santamauro is throwing his hat in the ring as a Democratic candidate for the New York City Civil Court in the 2022 election.
After graduating from Hofstra University School of Law in 1995, Santamauro commenced his law career serving as an assistant district attorney for the Richmond County District Attorney’s Office. After three years, he briefly worked at a civil defense firm before founding his own practice in 2000, specializing in criminal and injury law.
Santamauro told the Advance/SILive.com that becoming a Civil Court judge has always been a goal of his.
“I’ve always been in the courtroom either on the civil side or the criminal side. I began my career as an assistant district attorney so, from the very first day I was a practicing lawyer I was in a courtroom. … I got a good feel of what judge roles are, and I respected it and I appreciated it,” he explained.
The longtime lawyer said he found some judges to be very inspiring.
“I saw that certain judges really affected the community in a positive way. I always aspired to get to that position on the bench, be it in criminal court or civil court. And civil court, in particular, you touch and you reach a very broad cross-section of the community,” he said.
Santamauro noted that as someone who was born and raised on the Island and raised his family here, he is “very much invested in our community.”
When asked what he thinks are the biggest issues facing the court, Santamauro replied that the high volume of cases overwhelming the courts since the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is a “huge issue.” The challenge is for judges to ensure cases are handled efficiently without sacrificing quality and justice, he said.
“The courts are extremely crowded. As a practicing lawyer, I see it. And I think it’s very important for judges to make sure justice is served in every case. And that’s a very simple thing to say. But when you’re dealing with such a tremendous volume, the focus should not necessarily be on getting every case done as quickly as possible, but being as efficient as you can, while making sure that each individual case is given the proper attention,” Santamauro explained.
The judicial candidate said he feels the court system is “going in the right direction” with problem-solving courts dedicated to specific issues such as substance abuse, guns and mental health. He noted that the mental health crisis in particular will require more attention coming out of the pandemic.
When asked about highlights and accomplishments in his career that he wants voters to know about, Santamauro pointed to the range in his experience as a lawyer.
Santamauro has practiced law both as a prosecutor and defense attorney in criminal and civil cases and maintained a law firm for the past 22 years.
“I think the biggest highlight, the thing I want people to know most about is how experienced I am and that I’m not just a one trick pony. I’ve done so many different things in my legal career, and I’ve represented people in probably the most serious issues that they faced in their lives over and over and over again,” he said.
Steeped in law, Santamauro has also served as director of Richmond County Bar Association (RCBA), director of the RCBA’s Judiciary Committee and a lecturer for the Bar Association’s Continuing Legal Education.
He added that he feels ready to take on the judgeship and return to public service.
“If I am elected, I’m going to do the best job I can for Staten Island. This is not a retirement for me. I’m in the prime of my legal career. I’m not doing this as a way of slowing down. I’m doing this as a way of getting back into public service and really helping out the community that’s supported me for all of these years,” he said.