Longtime Queens jurist named chief administrative judge of New York State Unified Court System

Judge Joseph A. Zayas was elevated to chief administrative judge of the New York State Unified Court System after two decades on the Queens judiciary.
Courtesy of NYS Court System

Judge Joseph A. Zayas, who spent most of his judicial career presiding over Queens’ courtrooms, was officially installed as chief administrative judge of the New York State Unified Court System, the highest-ranking administrative position in the state judiciary.

Judge Zayas was appointed by Chief Judge Rowan D. Wilson and approved by the Administrative Board of the Courts to succeed Judge Tamiko Amaker, who served as the court system’s acting chief administrative judge since December 2022.

“Judge Zayas has a stellar reputation for his keen judgment, hard work, integrity and deep knowledge of both the law and the complex workings of the New York State court system,” said Chief Judge Rowan. “He has demonstrated exceptional leadership and the highest ethical standards over the course of his distinguished judicial career. He is a forward-thinking, hands-on manager as proven throughout his tenure as administrative judge for criminal matters in Queens County, where he implemented numerous reforms and programs to improve the delivery of justice.”

The chief administrative judge supervises the daily administration and operation of the Unified Court System, which has a budget of $3.3. billion, with 3,600 state and locally paid judges and nearly 15,000 non-judicial employees in over 300 courthouses spanning 62 counties.

In his new role, Judge Zayas will be responsible for the performance and efficiency of every trial court in the state, working collaboratively with the chief judge, presiding justices, deputy chief administrative judges, local administrative judges and trial court judges. Zayas will support the work of the courts, ensuring the most effective assignment of judges and court personnel, and implement policies and standards governing practice and procedure.

“I am honored and excited for the opportunity to serve alongside Chief Judge Wilson in leading the New York state court system as we seek targeted, viable solutions to address the myriad issues that today confront our courts and justice system,” Judge Zayas said. “I look forward — with the collective efforts of our talented, hardworking court administrators, judges and court personnel across the state, along with the support of our many justice partners — to effecting changes that will make the court system more efficient, accessible, equitable and transparent, serving to advance the delivery and quality of justice for all New Yorkers.”

Before his appointment as chief administrative judge, Zayas served as an associate justice on the Appellate Division, Second Department, to which he was named in May 2021.

He began his judicial career in 2003, upon his appointment to New York City Criminal Court, Queens County, where he served as the presiding judge of the county’s misdemeanor treatment court and mental health recovery court.

He was designated an acting Supreme Court Justice in 2010, appointed to the Court of Claims in 2012 and elected to State Supreme Court, Queens County, in 2016. During his tenure, from 2013 to 2021, as administrative judge of Queens County Supreme Court’s Criminal Term, Zayas was responsible for overseeing the management and day-to-day operations of one of New York’s busiest criminal courts and presided over the County’s Youth Court.

“I am grateful to him for accepting this vital position and am confident that, working together and carefully assessing the local needs of courts throughout our state, we will successfully navigate the many challenges facing our court system,” Chief Judge Wilson said. “Our paramount objective is to ensure that our courts provide just results to all in a timely manner, while simultaneously promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace and building stronger bridges between our courts and the communities we serve.”

Zayas remains involved in the borough’s legal community as a member of the Queens County Bar Association and the Latino Lawyers Association of Queens.