January 28, 2010


Judge Kaye recognized for leadership role in legal ethics reform

NEW YORK-Hon. Judith S. Kaye, retired chief judge of the State of New York, received the 2010 Sanford Levy Award from the New York State Bar Association during its Annual Meeting on January 27 at the Hilton New York in Manhattan. Sponsored by the Committee on Professional Ethics, the award is presented annually to an individual or institution that, in the opinion of the committee, has contributed most to understanding and advancement in the field of professional ethics.

The committee honored Judge Kaye for her invaluable contributions to legal ethics reform. Before her appointment to the Court of Appeals, Judge Kaye served as vice-chair of the State Bar's Committee on Professional Ethics from 1981 to 1983. During her term as chief judge, Judge Kaye took the historic step of establishing the Independent Judicial Election Qualifications Commissions, which in turn created the Judicial Campaign Ethics Center. The Center has provided a tremendous public service by helping the media, judicial candidates and the voting public understand ethical obligations of every candidate during the campaign. During Judge Kaye's time as leader of New York's Court System, trailblazing changes to judicial ethical rules were adopted that became a national model. The Center allowed New York to efficiently implement these changes and keep the state on the cutting edge of ethics reform.

"Through her vision and dedication, Judge Kaye led New York's courts to institute innovative and progressive ethics reforms that have made our system a national model, increasing the public's confidence in New York's legal system and ensuring that equal treatment under the law is provided for all," said State Bar President Michael E. Getnick of (Getnick Livingston Atkinson & Priore, LLP of Utica and of counsel to Getnick & Getnick of New York City). "I can think of no person more deserving of this honor, and I want to thank Judge Kaye for her extraordinary achievements in making sure that all New Yorkers, regardless of background and means, are treated fairly by our judiciary."

"Judge Kaye was extraordinary in her 25 years on the New York Court of Appeals - one of the most distinguished jurists in that court's long and storied history.  In her 15 years as Chief Judge of the State of New York, she had a profound and positive impact not only on the law but also on New York's court system.  New Yorkers seeking fair and impartial justice through the courts have benefited from her timely reforms, bold innovation and judicial intellect," said Committee Chair Prof. Roy D. Simon of Hempstead (Hofstra University School of Law), "We are proud to bestow this honor on Judge Kaye in recognition of her lifelong contributions to legal ethics and the practice of law."

Kaye is currently of counsel to Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. She retired as chief judge on December 31, 2008. She began her service as chief judge, after being appointed by then-Governor Mario M. Cuomo on February 22, 1993, confirmed by the State Senate on March 17, and sworn in on March 23, 1993. During her tenure, Judge Kaye instituted many other reforms that greatly improved the administration of justice, such as jury reform, the creation of the Commercial Division, and the problem-solving courts. Earlier, she became the first woman to serve on New York State's highest court when Governor Cuomo appointed her associate judge of the Court of Appeals on September 12, 1983.

Over the years, Judge Kaye has served as president of the Conference of Chief Justices and chair of the Board of Directors, National Center for State Courts (2002-03). She is the author of numerous publications-with a particular focus on legal process, state constitutional law, women in the law, professional ethics and problem-solving courts. She has already received many previous honors for her work from the State Bar, including its highest honor, the Gold Medal, as well as the Ruth G. Schapiro Award, the Stanley H. Fuld Award, the Vincent E. Doyle, Jr. Award for Outstanding Jurist.

Previous recipients of the Levy Award include: Prof. Stephen Gillers (New York University School of Law); Prof. Thomas D. Morgan (George Washington School of Law); Roger C. Cramton of Ithaca (Cornell University Law School); and the New York Professional Responsibility Report.

Founded in 1876, the 77,000-member New York State Bar Association is the official statewide organization of lawyers in New York and the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. The State Bar's programs and activities have continuously served the public and improved the justice system for more than 130 years.