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A Tribute to Judith Kaye by Hunter Alumna Carmen Ciparick ’63

The following remarks were delivered at the funeral of Judith Kaye, the longtime Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals:

Thank you, Rabbi.

Good morning,

Many have gathered today to pay tribute to our dear friend, and colleague the very Honorable Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye. I am Judge Carmen Ciparick and am here to speak to you on behalf of the Court and as a close friend of Judith’s as well.

I would like to begin by acknowledging the presence of some of our most distinguished guests and thank them for joining us today. From Washington, D.C. our esteemed Attorney General, the Honorable Loretta Lynch, former Governor Elliott Spitzer, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the other elected officials, Senator Schumer, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and others who have joined us today. I especially want to acknowledge our New York State Court of Appeals Judges, headed by Acting Chief Judge Eugene Pigott, seated alongside our former Chief Judges Jonathan Lippman and Sol Wachtler, the former Judges of the Court of Appeals, a very special club, to which Judith and I belonged, and also our Chief Judge nominee, Janet DiFiore, our Appellate Division Judges and most distinguished Presiding Justices, Tom, Eng, Peters and Whalen our Administrative Judges, headed by our Chief Administrative Judge, Lawrence Marks, our trial judges and all those wonderful former judges -- Judith would be so thrilled to have you all here.

Then, of course, Judith always saw fit to foster close familial ties with our Federal brethren, and they are all here. The Second Circuit Judges, headed by Chief Judge Robert Katzman, and Federal Southern District Court Judges headed by Chief Judge Loretta Preska and Eastern District Judges and Magistrates have also joined us. Thank you for your tremendous showing of respect and admiration for our beloved Judge Kaye.

Looking around this beautiful auditorium at the outpouring of so many friends and admirers who have joined us today, I see not only many of our judges, as I just indicated, but also our non-judicial employees of the Courts, who make everything work. Judge Kaye loved all of you and touched each one of you in a very special way. And to those elected officials and others who are here from the legislative and executive branches, you know that Judge Kaye was always a good partner in government. And then, of course, the private bar, who revered her, and her efforts on their behalf, the institutional lawyers, whose lives Judge Kaye sought to make better, her friends from the arts, from her many other organizations, her personal friends, neighbors, and of course her beloved law clerks and family, all coming together to celebrate Judith and wish her a fond farewell.

We have all been reading the tributes that have been pouring in over the last few days – newspaper articles, editorials, obituaries, testimonials from bar associations, law schools, law firms, and on and on – whose authors, at one time or another, have been recipients of Judge Kaye’s great kindness and generous spirit. But, I do not plan on repeating what has already been said so very eloquently by others, nor do I plan to catalogue Judge Kaye’s accomplishments, but rather, there is a string I wish to pull, ever so slightly, from all that has been written.

As you may know, Judith loved to write letters, she would write letters to friends and family, colleagues and employees, public officials and private citizens; she would write to anyone who bestowed a kindness upon her or upon the Court. She wrote many such letters and if you will indulge me, I will read my final farewell letter to Judith.

My Dearest Judith,

I first met you in 1983 when you were a newly-minted Court of Appeals Judge. I marveled at your great accomplishments, but I didn’t really get to know you well until ten years later, when I was fortunate enough to join your ranks. Then Governor Mario Cuomo had brought you a long-awaited baby sister. I took my place at the bench, at the end by the window, and around the conference table right next to you.

I have so many fond memories of my early days on the Court of Appeals. I remember the night I arrived at Court of Appeals Hall. It was January, it was cold, it was snowy, I had missed my exit and had ended up in, of all places, Guilderland, but you anticipated my arrival and you were there waiting with a bottle of champagne and a warm embrace. I was soon to learn that that was so you, so Judith. Never missed a birthday, in fact you insisted on celebrating mine just 10 days ago with a beautiful Magnolia Bakery birthday cake. I was so touched. I will always remember that final gesture of friendship. You celebrated all joyous occasions, but also stood by your friends in times of grief and mourning. You stood by me when my husband was sick and dying, comforting me with your words of wisdom, you, who just a few years earlier, had lost your beloved husband, Stephen. We often recalled those days, and marveled about how fortunate we were to have been married to such great husbands, how lucky we were to have wonderful children and grandchildren. For you, Judith, your family was always first and foremost, your wonderful children Luisa, Jonathan and Gordy, your seven spectacular grandchildren. Birthday parties, graduations, hockey games, trips, bar mitzvahs, bat mitzvahs. You did it all Judith, you gave all of yourself to them.

But you gave so much to the rest of us also, to your friends, to your colleagues, to the Court system, to the people of this great state. Your 25 years on the Court of Appeals was marked by life-changing decisions, from capital punishment, to education financing, from same sex marriage, to major court reforms. You instituted the problem solving courts. I remember how excited you were when you attended your first drug court graduation. You were beaming with pride. You were also so proud of your beloved Commercial Division, which you nurtured and watched mature and graduate to become one of the premiere commercial courts in the nation. You contributed so much, not just to the jurisprudence of this state, but also to the creation of a modern court system. And when you left the Court, Judith, you didn’t stop. You kept going, though attached to a prestigious law firm, you continued pursuing your passions. Your work with the Children’s Commission has yielded so much fruit and will continue to do so. You spearheaded the creation of the New York International Arbitration Center which has spawned a flurry of international arbitration activity in New York. New York is now a preferred arbitration venue, thanks to you, Judith. Your tireless work on the Commission on Judicial Nomination has given us such great appointments, and so much more. You just kept going Judith, in spite of your illness, and you will always keep going in our hearts and cherished memory. You literally left this world as you wanted to, with your boots on or, should I say wearing your red high-heeled shoes, and ready to get back to work. You were an inspiration, a mentor and a good friend Judith. I will miss our dinners, our shoe shopping forays, our occasional nights at the opera right across the plaza, just talking to you on the telephone, laughing with you, crying with you. I will miss you Judith and be forever grateful for your friendship. I thank your family for asking me to speak today. I hope my words bring some comfort to their heavy hearts. Judith, there is no more pain, you are now at rest. Sleep peacefully my dear friend.

With much love,

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