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Judith Kaye
Judith S.Kaye.jpg
Chairman of the Commission on Judicial Nomination
In office
March 31, 2009 – March 31, 2013
Appointed byDavid Paterson
Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals
In office
March 23, 1993 – December 31, 2008
Appointed byMario Cuomo
Preceded byRichard D. Simons
Succeeded byJonathan Lippman
Associate Judge of the New York Court of Appeals
In office
Appointed byMario Cuomo
Personal details
Judith Ann Smith

(1938-08-04)August 4, 1938
Monticello, New York, U.S.
DiedJanuary 7, 2016(2016-01-07) (aged 77)
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
Spouse(s)Stephen Rackow Kaye
ChildrenLuisa Marian Kaye,
Jonathan Mackey Kaye,
Gordon Bernard Kaye
Alma materBarnard College
New York University School of Law

Judith Ann Kaye (née Smith; August 4, 1938 – January 7, 2016) was an American lawyer, jurist and the longtime Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals, serving in that position from March 23, 1993 until December 31, 2008.[1] She was the first woman to serve as chief judge, the highest judicial office in New York State, and the longest-serving chief judge in New York history.

YouTube Encyclopedic

  • 1/4
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  • ✪ Judge Judith Kaye Keynote address - Dean Patricia E. Salkin Convocation
  • ✪ Criminal Justice Matters Opening Fall Episode: Breaking the School to Prison Pipeline
  • ✪ Lets Be Frank debate on ALT TV Part 1/4



Early life and education

Kaye was born as Judith Ann Smith in Monticello, New York on August 4, 1938. Her parents, Benjamin and Lena (née Cohen) Smith, were Jewish immigrants from Poland who lived on a farm in the hamlet of Maplewood, Sullivan County, New York and operated a women's apparel store.[2][3]

She skipped two grades, graduating from Monticello High School (New York)[4] at age of fifteen.[2] She then graduated from Barnard College in 1958 with B.A. in Latin American civilization.[2][3] She became a reporter for the Union City, New Jersey Hudson Dispatch, where she was a society news reporter, but left to become a lawyer.[2]

She worked as a copy editor during the day and attended night school at the New York University Law School, graduating with an LL.B. cum laude in 1962, as one of ten women in a class of almost 300.[2][5] Kaye was admitted to the New York State Bar in 1963.[5]

Legal career

She began her career in private practice in New York City at the law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell.[2] Kaye left Sullivan & Cromwell to join the IBM legal department.[2] While raising a family, Kaye worked as a part-time assistant to the dean of the New York University Law School, her alma mater.[2]

In 1969, Kaye was hired by the prominent law firm of Olwine, Connelly, Chase, O'Donnell & Weyher as a litigation associate.[2][3] In 1975, she became that firm's first female partner.[2][3]

Appointment to the bench

Mario Cuomo, a Democrat, made a campaign promise in his successful 1982 campaign for governor of New York to appoint a woman to the New York Court of Appeals—the state's highest court.[2] When the first vacancy arose, however, no woman appeared on the list submitted by the state Commission on Judicial Selection.[2]

After another vacancy occurred, however, the commission listed two women on its list of seven candidates: Kaye (who was at the time 44 years old and a commercial litigator) and Betty Weinberg Ellerin (a judge on the New York Supreme Court, the trial court in New York, and the former president of the Women's Bar Association). Cuomo interviewed Kaye twice and appointed her to the bench for a 14-year term, making her the first woman to serve on the court.[2][3]

Tenure on the New York Court of Appeals

Kaye was appointed associate judge by Cuomo in 1983. In 1993, Chief Judge Sol Wachtler suddenly resigned, and Cuomo nominated Kaye to fill the vacancy.[6] As with her initial appointment, her confirmation by the State Senate was unanimous.[7]

The chief judge of New York has both an administrative role (overseeing the entire state court system, which in 2016 had about 16,000 employees[2]) and a judicial role (hearing and deciding appeals to the state's highest court).[8] In 2008, as Kaye approached mandatory retirement age, The New York Times editorial board praised her, writing: "In her 15 years as chief, Judith Kaye has excelled at both, earning national praise for her jurisprudence and as a court reformer."[8]

As court administrator

As chief judge, Kaye pushed forward with judicial reform and modernization efforts.[2][8] New York State became a national leader in establishing problem-solving courts, which offered treatment and other alternatives to incarceration in cases involving addiction, mental illness, or domestic violence and abuse.[2][9] Kaye also took steps to make jury service more efficient and convenient.[2] Kaye also successfully pushed to eliminate all exemptions from jury service (a phrase Kaye preferred over "jury duty").[10]

Kaye helped establish the Center for Court Innovation, a non-profit think tank that although independent of the court system, serves as the judiciary's research and development arm.[11]

Jurisprudence and notable opinions

Kaye emphasized civil liberties and interpreted the Constitution of New York as providing broader protections in some areas than those provided for by the federal Constitution.[2] Kaye was viewed as a liberal, but was perceived as moving toward the pragmatic center after becoming chief judge, in an effort to build consensus among the justices.[10][12]

According to judge Jonathan Lippmann who was her chief administrative judge and successor as chief judge "Judith Kaye essentially started a revolution, that has redefined the traditional role of the judiciary in addressing the difficult social problems reflected in our record-breaking court dockets: drug abuse, family violence and dysfunction, mental illness and so many more"[13]

  • Kaye voted four times against capital punishment in New York.[2] In People v. Smith (1984), the court ruled in an opinion written by Kaye that the death penalty as applied in New York violated the Eighth Amendment.[14] In In re Robert T. Johnson (1997), however, Kaye wrote for the court in holding that Governor George Pataki had the right to replace Bronx County District Attorney Robert T. Johnson over a case involving the murder of a police officer, since it appeared that Johnson would never seek to impose the death penalty.[12][15]
  • In an important libel case,[2] Immuno AG v. J. Moor-Jankowski (1991), Kaye ruled for the defendant, the editor of a scientific journal who had been sued by a company for publishing a critical letter to the editor. Kaye emphasized that in libel cases, summary judgment can be important in encouraging the exercise of First Amendment rights.[16]
  • Kaye dissented from the court's 4-2 opinion in Hernandez v. Robles (2006), in which the majority held that the state constitution did not compel recognition of marriage between same-sex partners. In a sharply written dissenting opinion, Kaye (joined by Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick) wrote that the ruling was "an unfortunate misstep" and compared a prohibition of same-sex marriage to a prohibition of interracial marriage. Kaye wrote: "The long duration of a constitutional wrong cannot justify its perpetuation, no matter how strongly tradition or public sentiment might support it."[17]

Retirement and career after leaving the bench

Kaye retired after reaching the age of 70, the state's mandatory retirement age for judges.[18] Kaye had "made occasional negative references to the mandatory retirement requirement, once saying experienced jurists were being forced from the bench to the 'great detriment' of the courts."[19]

Kaye gave her farewell speech on November 12, 2008 and formally retired on the last day of that year.[18][20] She was the longest-serving chief judge in New York history.[20] Judge Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick briefly became acting chief judge after Kaye's retirement; Jonathan Lippman was nominated and confirmed to the post and was formally sworn in on February 2009.

In February 2009, Kaye joined Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom in New York City as of counsel.[21]

On March 11, 2010, then-New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo appointed Kaye as an independent counsel to investigate Governor David Paterson's alleged violation of ethics laws, due to Cuomo's conflict of interest.[22] In that role, she was granted the authority to investigate various charges against the governor, and to bring criminal charges.[23] Her final determination pertaining to her investigation of Paterson was to not refer charges to the prosecutor's office against the sitting governor.[24][25]

Governor Paterson appointed Kaye to the twelve-member Commission on Judicial Nomination for a four-year term from March 31, 2009 to March 31, 2013. Kaye was elected as the commission's chair on May 21, 2009.[2][26]


Kaye died on January 7, 2016, at her home in Manhattan, from lung cancer. She had been diagnosed with the disease about five years before her death. She was 77 years old.[2][27]

Personal life

Kaye was married to Stephen Rackow Kaye (d. 2006), a commercial litigator who had been her colleague at Sullivan & Cromwell and later a partner at the law firm of Proskauer Rose.[2][28] They had three children: Luisa (Hagemeier), Jonathan and Gordon.[2][3]

Memberships, awards and honors

Kaye received many honorary Doctor of Laws degrees from various universities.[3]

At various times, Kaye served as a trustee and vice president of the Legal Aid Society; co-chair of the Permanent Judicial Commission on Justice for Children; trustee and vice-chair of the Clients Security Fund (later the Lawyers Fund for Client Protection); member of the board of directors of the Institute of Judicial Administration; member of the board of editors of New York State Bar Journal; member of the board of directors of the Conference of Chief Justices; member of the American Bar Association Commission on Domestic Violence; and founding member and honorary chair of the Judges and Lawyers Breast Cancer Alert (JALBCA).[3][5] Kaye served as a member of the boards of trustees of the American Judicature Society, New York University Law Center Foundation, and William Nelson Cromwell Foundation.[3][5] She was also a trustee of Barnard College, serving from 1995 to 2002 and again from 2008 to 2009.[29] President Jimmy Carter appointed Kaye to the U.S. Nominating Commission for Judges of the Second Circuit.[3]

Kaye received a number of awards, including the Distinguished Jurist Award and Gold Medal of the New York State Bar Association and the ABA Justice Center's John Marshall Award.[30] Kaye received the Barnard Medal of Distinction from Barnard College, the college's highest honor, in 1987.[29]

Kaye was a longtime member of Congregation Shearith Israel, a Sephardic synagogue in New York. Benjamin Cardozo, one of Kaye's predecessors as chief judge of the Court of Appeals of New York, was a congregant at the same synagogue.[3]

See also


  1. ^ Seiler, Casey (January 7, 2016). "Former Chief Judge Judith Kaye dies at 77". Albany Times-Union. Retrieved January 7, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x Sam Roberts, Judith S. Kaye, First Woman to Serve as New York's Chief Judge, Dies at 77, The New York Times (January 7, 2016).
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Judith Friedman Rosen, Judith S. Kaye (b. 1938), Jewish Women's Archive Encyclopedia.
  4. ^ Sager, Jeanne (January 22, 2010). "Judge Kaye's judicial legacy is assured". Sullivan County Democrat. Retrieved February 16, 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye New York Court of Appeals Collection, Legal Information Institute, Cornell University.
  6. ^ Sarah Lyall, Cuomo Nominates Judith Kaye For Top New York Judicial Post, The New York Times (February 23, 1993).
  7. ^ Stephanie Francis Ward, Trailblazing former New York judge Judith Kaye dies at 77, ABA Journal (January 7, 2016).
  8. ^ a b c Editorial: Judith Kaye's Example, The New York Times(December 13, 2008).
  9. ^ Eaton, Leslie; Kaufman, Leslie (April 26, 2005). "In Problem-Solving Court, Judges Turn Therapist". The New York Times. Retrieved May 7, 2010. and "New York's Problem-Solving Courts Providing Meaningful Alternatives to Traditional Remedies" (PDF). New York State Bar Journal.
  10. ^ a b Jeffrey Toobin, Special Kaye, New Yorker (December 15, 2008).
  11. ^ Greg Berman, Judith Kaye on the Center for Court Innovation (August 25, 2011).
  12. ^ a b William Glaberson, For Death Penalty, a Day of Reckoning; Appeal of Revised Law Tests New York's Highest Court, The New York Times (May 5, 2002).
  13. ^ Roberts, Sam (January 7, 2016). "Judith S. Kaye, First Woman to Serve as New York's Chief Judge, Dies at 77". The New York Times. Retrieved November 9, 2016.
  14. ^ Peter J. Galie & Christopher Bopst, The New York State Constitution (2d ed.: Oxford University Press, 2012), p. 56.
  15. ^ In re Robert T. Johnson, 91 N.Y.2d 214, 691 N.E.2d 1002, 668 N.Y.S.2d 978 (1997).
  16. ^ Jay C. Carlisle, "Kaye, Judith Smith (1938-)" in The Yale Biographical Dictionary of American Law (ed. Roger K. Newman), pp. 309-10.
  17. ^ Anemona Hartocollis, New York Judges Reject Any Right to Gay Marriage, The New York Times (July 7, 2006).
  18. ^ a b James Barron, State’s Top Judge, Now 70, Gives Her Farewell Speech, The New York Times (November 12, 2008).
  19. ^ Joel Stashenko, Mandatory Retirement for State Judges: A 'Waste of Accumulated Wisdom' or a 'Good Thing'?, New York Law Journal (December 30, 2008).
  20. ^ a b "Lippman sworn in as state's new chief judge". February 25, 2009. Retrieved December 31, 2016.
  21. ^ Jonathan D. Glater, Kaye, Ex-Chief Judge in New York, Joins Skadden, Arps, The New York Times (February 17, 2009).
  22. ^ Clancy, Michael. "Cuomo Removes Himself from Paterson Probe". NBC New York. Retrieved March 16, 2010.
  23. ^ Andy Gets Off Dave's Case[permanent dead link], New York Post (March 12, 2010).
  24. ^ David Paterson Gets an All-Clear from Judith Kaye. David Johnson, Not., Village Voice Blogs, By Tom Robbins Wed., Jul. 28 2010 at 3:19 PM Archived April 21, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
  25. ^ Dan Amira, Report Won't Recommend Charges Against Governor Paterson, New York (July 28, 2010).
  26. ^ "Press release : The Commissioners of the New York State Commission on Judicial Nomination have elected former Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals Judith S. Kaye to be the Commission's new chairperson" (PDF). Retrieved December 31, 2016.
  27. ^ Claire Hughes, Lung cancer isn't limited to smokers: Death of former chief judge Judith Kaye is a reminder of disease's reach, Times Union (January 11, 2016).
  28. ^ Associated Press, Stephen R. Kaye, 75, Litigation Lawyer, Dies, The New York Times, November 3, 2006.
  29. ^ a b The Honorable Judith S. Kaye '58, Barnard 125th Anniversary (2014).
  30. ^ Profile: Judith S. Kaye Archived March 4, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.

External links

Legal offices
Preceded by
Richard D. Simons
Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals
Succeeded by
Jonathan Lippman
This page was last edited on 11 May 2019, at 02:39
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