January 7, 2016: New York State Bar Association Mourns Death of Former Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye

The New York State Bar Association is saddened by the passing of former New York State Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye.

“Chief Judge Kaye saw the Judiciary, in her own words, as ‘the guardian for the nation’s fundamental ideals.’ It is a vision that she honored every day during her 25 years on the bench,” said New York State Bar Association President David P. Miranda.  “A distinguished jurist, she was always warm, dignified and gracious—and often humorous.”

Judge Kaye, who met Miranda when he was a young lawyer, swore him in as president of the State Bar Association last June in a ceremony in Cooperstown.

“She was a judge who always remained engaged in the legal community and organized bar,” Miranda said, noting she had been a member of the Association since 1964.

Kaye was a frequent speaker at State Bar programs and events.  Prior to becoming a judge, she served as vice-chair of the Association’s Committee on Professional Ethics and as a member of the Judicial Selection Committee, as well as serving on many other State Bar sections and committees.

While on the bench, she served on the Board of Editors of the New York State Bar Association Journal and briefly in the Association’s House of Delegates.

After her retirement from the court, she chaired the Association’s Committee on Youth Courts and served on its Committee on Law, Youth and Citizenship. A member of the Dispute Resolution Section, she was a driving force in the creation of the New York International Arbitration Center.

Most recently, she agreed to serve on the Association’s Committee on the New York State Constitution and was scheduled to participate in a panel discussion on a possible constitutional convention at the Association’s Annual Meeting later this month. 

She was a Life Fellow of The New York Bar Foundation, which renamed its Youth Court Fund in honor of her, due to her efforts spearheading administrative reform and devoting much of her career to improving the lives of children and families.

Kaye was honored by the State Bar multiple times for her contributions to commercial law and litigation as well as her steadfast commitment and efforts to reform, reinvigorate and preserve the jury system in New York. She was the recipient of the State Bar’s highest honor, the Gold Medal Award, in 1997, and the International Section’s Distinction in New York International Law and Affairs Award in 2015.

In 1983, Kaye became the first woman to serve on the Court of Appeals. A decade later, she was named Chief Judge of the State of New York.  While on the state’s highest court, she wrote hundreds of decisions.

As head of the Judiciary’s vast bureaucracy, she oversaw 1,200 judges and 360 courthouses, reformed the court system to better protect children and their families and modernized the jury system. She developed a Commercial Division of the state Supreme Court to handle complicated commercial disputes and created innovative problem-solving courts to deal with situations involving drug use, domestic violence, homelessness and mental health.

The 74,000-member New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. It was founded in 1876. 

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Contact: Lise Bang-Jensen

Director of Media Services & Public Affairs
518/487-5530
lbang-jensen@nysba.org