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Brennan Center Mourns Passing of Civil Rights Champion Judith Kaye

The Brennan Center mourns the passing of former New York Chief Judge Judith Kaye, whose storied career touched many at the Center and beyond.

January 8, 2016

Yesterday, former New York Chief Judge Judith Kaye passed away after a storied career in which she became the first woman ever appointed to the state’s Court of Appeals and the state’s first female Chief Judge.

At the Brennan Center’s 2012 Legacy Awards Dinner, which honored Judge Kaye, the late former New York Governor Mario Cuomo cited her “unfailing brilliance and goodness,” and said that Kaye “wrote notable decisions on a wide variety of issues, including rights for gay couples and the death penalty,” and “left her mark on New York’s courts as a creative reformer, streamlining New York’s jury system and establishing specialized courts to focus on issues such as drug addiction, domestic violence, and mental health.”

Members of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law who had the privilege of working with and knowing Kaye over the course of her groundbreaking life issued the following statements:

Frederick A.O “Fritz” Schwarz, Chief Counsel:

“I worked with Judge Kaye for almost 50 years, first in private practice, then on reform issues when she was a judge and when she was back in private practice (she married my wife and me). Judith always focused on the big issues of fairness. She was resolute, and also charming. She had a lovely marriage to Steve. She enjoyed life while helping people.”

Michael Waldman, President: “Judge Judith Kaye represented the best of the law. She was an inspiration to a generation of lawyers, including so many at the Brennan Center. Like Justice Brennan, she understood that at its best, the law must protect ‘human dignity.’”