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Queens Chronicle

Douglaston lawyer aids inauguration ceremony

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Posted: Thursday, February 12, 2009 12:00 am

The next president of the United States hadn’t been picked yet, but efforts were already under way last April to prepare for the inauguration.

Involved in that undertaking was Col. Leonard Livote of Douglaston, a member of the Army Reserve, who is expected to remain in Washington, D.C., for two more months.

“It was an honor to serve, but I miss my family,” Livote said in a phone interview. “I’m lucky to be in Washington, but it’s still a long separation.”

In civilian life, Livote, 55, is a court attorney-referee with the New York State Supreme Court in Queens. If both sides agree, he determines the outcome of certain types of cases such as fraud and foreclosures, rather than a judge.

But last April he was called to active duty for a one-year stint as senior legal advisor with the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee. The joint services group is one of three units that handle presidential inaugurations. The other two are the Joint Congressional and the Presidential Inaugural committees.

Livote’s job was to oversee negotiated contracts and ethics questions and be involved in overseeing the inaugural parade and military events associated with the ceremony.

He indicated that since presidential inaugurations are only held every four years, starting early on planning is a necessity. Now that the Jan. 20 ceremony is behind him, Livote is doing evaluations. He hopes to wind up the work by or before April and return to Douglaston.

“This was a purely ceremonial mission,” Livote said. “It was a good experience.”

The colonel met Barack Obama a week before the swearing-in ceremony. “He made an appearance at our unit to thank us for our work. It was really a thrill,” Livote said.

During the inauguration ceremony, the colonel was busy monitoring the event on television screens in his office, a block from the Washington Mall. He was watching for any legal issues that might arise.

The inauguration also gave him a chance to see his college-age daughter, who attends Hofstra University and came down for the ceremony. He and his wife, Robin, also have a son who attends Hofstra.

While in the nation’s capital, Livote had contract housing with the military since there was not enough space for the special detail military personnel at the nearest base.

Livote grew up in Glendale and graduated from Grover Cleveland High School in Ridgewood. He earned his bachelor’s degree at Queens College and his law degree at Western New England College.

Livote worked for over five years in the Queens District Attorney’s Office and later with the Transit Authority’s legal department. He was appointed as a court referee in 2007.

The colonel, who has served with the Reserves for 24 years, would not rule out the possibility of becoming a judge in the future, but is not anticipating another stint with the military in Washington, D.C. “It was nice to do it once,” Livote said.

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