Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Former New York Court of Appeals Chief Judge Judith Ann Kaye [mini-presentation]

By Joseph Zeitler
Joseph Zeitler is a second-year student at Albany Law School where he is also a member of the Albany Law Review. Joseph has worked as both a law clerk at a local Albany law firm and as a legal intern at the New York State Attorney General’s Office.
Prior to attending law school, Joseph spent three years on the West coast working in the aerospace industry. In 2014, he graduated from Clarkson University where he majored in Supply Chain Management with a minor in Literature.
This summer, Joseph will be at the law firm of Whiteman, Osterman, & Hanna, LLP in Albany as a summer associate.
This presentation was prepared for Prof. Bonventre’s Court of Appeals Intensive seminar in the Spring of 2020.

Hailed as a great judge, Chief Judge Judith Ann Kaye certainly left her mark on New York’s justice system. Most of us know that she was the first female Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals, which is historic especially for women in the legal field. But she was so much more than that. As Judge Victoria Graffeo puts it, Judge Kay was a rock star in the legal community. And Judge Kaye certainly earned that reputation throughout her career. Simple searches made online lead to article after article from judges, lawyers, and law scholars heaping praise onto Judge Kaye. There has been a tremendous outpour of praise and gratitude for what Judge Kaye did for New York. Judge Kaye’s efforts during her time on the Court of Appeals led to reforms in the jury selection process, problem-solving justice, and family justice.

On the reforms made on the jury selection process, Judge Kaye stated, “Symbolically, it told the public that we all stand equal before the law, that no person, no group, is more powerful or privileged so as to be automatically excused from a fundamental obligation of citizenship.”

Judge Kaye helped implement problem-solving programs in New York’s justice system. These programs provided services such as drug counseling and job training. Instead of continuing the vicious cycle of imprisoning drug addicts, the justice system was working to break the cycle by providing services to reduce recidivism. These programs, while non-traditional and progressive at the time, had positive results, and New York State became a national leader in problem-solving justice.

During her career, Judge Kaye made significant progress in improving family justice, which was her passion. Her efforts helped to both improve the quality of life for children in foster care and increase adoption rates in New York. As Judge Kaye stated, “Every kid deserves to be valued, to have an opportunity at life. And every one of us can contribute to accomplishing that. My Purpose is to help make it happen.”

Judge Kaye’s life serves as a reminder to those of us in the legal field and beyond. She never lost sight of what she knew was important: protecting and serving the vulnerable populations of our communities.
To view Joseph Zeitler’s mini-presentation on Chief Judge Kaye, click HERE.