Brooklyn Boro

U.S. Supreme Court Justice celebrates Brooklyn portrait unveiling

November 25, 2014 By Charisma L. Troiano, Esq. Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Sonia Sotomayor stands with Hon. Nicholas G. Garaufis at his portrait unveiling ceremony at the Federal Courthouse in Downtown Brooklyn on Friday. Photos by Rob Abruzzese.
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A packed Brooklyn federal courtroom welcomed an esteemed visitor as a new judicial portrait was unveiled for placement on the courthouse walls.

Friends, family and colleagues gathered this past Friday in the ceremonial courtroom of the Eastern District Courthouse in Brooklyn Heights to celebrate the portrait hanging of senior federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis. 

Garaufis, a member of the Brooklyn federal bench since 2000, began his senior status term in October 2014.

“We revere our seniors,” said Chief Judge Carol Amon, noting that other federal districts wait until the passing of a judge to memorialize him in painted portrait.  

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Not for Garaufis.

“He has had a distinguished career handling some of the most challenging cases in our district,” Amon added.

A friend to the Eastern District, U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor gave a few words to celebrate her “dear friend.”

Sotomayor was “delighted to be back at the Eastern District,” she noted, also saying that it was a “privilege to know [Hon. Garaufis] as a judge and as a man.”

“[Hon. Garaufis] does not hide his intelligence intentionally. Even as a judge, he never makes people feel like he’s above them,” she said.

The distinguished judge recounted the story of Vinny “Gorgeous” Basciano, where Garaufis is said to have given the accused mobster a spare shirt and tie to wear in court. 

“Judges cannot afford to worry what other people think of them,” Sotomayor said.

The gift of the painted portrait was from Garaufis’ former law clerks.

“Working for Hon. Garaufis, you partake in legal and engaging work,” said Michael Tremonte, one of Garaufis’ first law clerks. “He will bring you into his process … and you will learn what it means to apply the law with … courage.”

“This is like the bar mitzvah I never had,” the judge said of his unveiling ceremony. Garaufis took the time to send his appreciation to not only his family and his judicial colleagues, but also the staff that maintains Brooklyn’s “handsome courthouse” as well as the U.S. Marshals who provided “special protection for me and my family when security issues arose.” 

Reflecting on his role as judge, Garaufis noted, “Our work is often much more nuanced… [and] our mission is not formulaic or technical. The challenge is to do what is right. 

“It is easy to do justice, much more difficult to do right, but I will continue to do so.”

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