Brian Dennis has served in the Ontario County District Attorney's Office for nearly 30 years
CANANDAIGUA — During his nearly 30-year career as a prosecutor in Ontario County, First Assistant District Attorney Brian Dennis handled more felony cases than any other prosecutor in county history.
Starting Jan. 1, Dennis will be overseeing such cases from the bench as an Ontario County Court judge.
In the Ontario County Courthouse on Wednesday morning, Dennis took the oath of office for the position, being sworn in as judge by Judge James Harvey, who hired Dennis to his current position as prosecutor in 1987.
“I am so excited for my future — so thrilled that I will be in this position to continue to serve the citizens of this great county,” Dennis told the crowd that gathered in the South Courtroom for Wednesday's ceremony. “There will be important decisions to make which will directly affect members of our community. The 30 years of legal experience I have will certainly help me make fair and just decisions.”
Dennis spent the majority of his address thanking dozens of those who influenced his career and the many family members who sat in the courtroom gallery. He invited his wife Anna Polimeni, who served as his campaign manager, to stand beside him at one point during his address, as well as son Kevin Dennis, who earlier led the crowd in a singing of the National Anthem.
Dennis also spoke of his regard for the District Attorney’s Office, and expressed gratitude for the opportunity to work with District Attorney Michael Tantillo.
“He taught me so much about the value of hard work and the importance of doing the right thing; it’s something that is emphasized by prosecutors nationwide,” Dennis said. “He stood behind me when I needed him the most.”
The closing of his address was met with a standing ovation from the group that packed the South Courtroom, which was standing room only.
Dennis, who appeared on the Democratic line, was elected as the next Ontario County judge in November following a tight race for the position with Terence Robinson Jr., an attorney who ran on the Republican ticket.
Election day ended in an unfathomable situation with Dennis and Robinson knotted up with 21,967 votes each. After the absentee ballots were counted several days later, it became evident that Dennis would occupy the position.
The pair battled for the seat left vacant by Judge Craig Doran, who was sworn in as state Supreme Court justice in January.
During Wednesday’s ceremony, Doran spoke and, at one point, directly addressed Dennis, as the future judge sat in the courtroom’s jury box along with several other area judges.
Doran expressed that he was grateful for Dennis’ selection — a welcomed addition to the position of an area judge.
“You will have some lonely times,” Doran told Dennis. “You will have times when you wonder whether or not you made the right decision. We’re here for you, and you need to lean on us because we support each other. That’s our tradition as judges in this region, and we’ll be there for you.”
“We know that you know this community,” he continued. “We know that you understand the values, you understand the law, you understand why this county, in particular, is special. You bring all of those things with you to the bench, and all of those things … will make you an extraordinary judge. We will be proud to work side-by-side with you as we always endeavor to improve the justice that we deliver in this county.”
Moments before having Dennis recite the oath of office, Harvey talked to the courtroom gathering about his decision to hire Dennis nearly 30 years ago when he was the county's district attorney. It was a decision he made "on the spot," he explained, pointing out Dennis' enthusiasm that he carries with him through his devotion to the people of Ontario County.
"He will continue to work for the people of Ontario County in the capacity as judge," Harvey said while turning to face Dennis. "Some of us consider it a promotion; I consider it a well deserved change in your professional career."