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Brooklyn’s legal community mourns the beloved judge Judith Kaye

January 7, 2016 By Rob Abruzzese Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Judge Judith Kaye passed away Wednesday and left behind a grieving Brooklyn legal community that remembers her as a compassionate and progressive judge who helped to change the state of New York. Eagle photo by Mario Belluomo
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The New York state legal community was rocked on Thursday morning by the news that former Chief Judge Judith Kaye passed away on Wednesday night at the age of 77. Judge Kaye is best known as the state’s first woman judge and chief judge in the Court of Appeals’ history and the court’s longest-serving chief judge.

“Judith Kaye was not only the longest serving chief judge in New York state history, and not only the first woman to hold the post, she was also one of the most respected judicial innovators of our time,” said former Mayor Michael Bloomberg in a statement. “Her early and strong support for problem-solving courts … helped clean up Times Square [and] played an important role in making New York a national leader in reducing crime and recidivism.”

Here in Brooklyn, Judge Kaye is remembered as a pioneer for women who helped transform that legal system, especially when it came to taking strong stances on drug abuse and domestic violence. She is also remembered as a dear friend to many who knew her.

“Honorable Judith Kaye was truly an innovator and pioneer who dedicated her life to improving our court system and to ensuring equal justice for all,” Brooklyn DA Kenneth Thompson said in a statement. “From the implementation of specialized courts to her push for a judicial bench that is a true reflection of New York’s diverse communities, Justice Kaye has left a legacy of outstanding public service. She was a friend and will truly be missed.”

“She is a legendary figure,” said Arthur Aidala, president of the Brooklyn Bar Association. “Before she ascended to the Court of Appeals, she was known as an outstanding attorney. Her meteoric rise to the level of chief judge was unprecedented and she will continue to be known for her good works after she stepped down from the bench.

“In addition to being an outstanding member of the legal community, she was a very sweet and warm individual who remembered everybody’s name,” Aidala continued. “She will be missed.”

“The entire KCCBA is saddened by the tragic loss of Judge Kaye,” said Michael Farkas, president of the Kings County Criminal Bar Association. “She was a giant on the bench who transformed the judiciary in New York state.”

“When Judge Judith Kaye entered a room, it was as if the room went still, as we would all clamor for a chance to exchange even the smallest of pleasantries,” said Marianne Bertuna, president of the Columbian Lawyers Association for the 1st Judicial Department. “Judge Kaye had such grace and elegance. She will remain a role model for all of us always. The legal community has incurred a great loss today.”

Helene Blank, president of the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association, said she remembers Kaye mostly as a trailblazer for women.

“She was a pioneering woman in the legal profession,” said Blank, who sat on a number of Office of Court Administration committees with Kaye. “She blazed trails for all of us, and she will be sorely and severely missed. It saddens all of us, women and men around the state, and we mourn her loss.”

Hon. Barry Kamins remembered Kaye for a thoughtful gift she gave him after her husband passed in 2006.

“I was so saddened by the news,” said Kamins. “She’s been one of the most progressive chief judges in the history of this state. We were very close; she put me on a lot of committees and taskforces. When her husband died years ago, she sent me one of his bowties that he used to always wear, as a gift. I always thought that was so gracious and kind. She was a very special person.”

The news hit close to home at the Brooklyn Eagle as well as for Charisma Troiano, former Eagle reporter and current spokesperson for District Attorney Ken Thompson’s office, who often used Kaye as a legal expert when writing articles.

“She was a great asset to the Eagle,” Troiano said. “She would always comment on how she truly wanted to be a journalist and found it great to see women apply their legal training to journalism. She was a force that will be dearly missed.”

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