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Hon. Dora Irizarry takes over as Chief Judge in Brooklyn Federal Court

April 19, 2016 By Rob Abruzzese Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Chief Judge Carol Bagley Amon (center) officially passed the torch to Hon. Dora Irizarry, who will take over as the next chief judge of the Eastern District of New York, during a special ceremony at Brooklyn Federal Court on Friday. Eagle photos by Rob Abruzzese

The Federal Bar Association, Eastern District of New York Chapter and the Federal Litigation Section held a special ceremony at the federal courthouse in Downtown Brooklyn last Friday to mark the passing of the torch from Chief Judge Carol Bagley Amon to Hon. Dora Irizarry, who will replace Bagley Amon as chief judge for the Eastern District.

The first thing Irizarry did as chief judge was offer a warning to those who are used to dealing with Hon. Carol Bagley Amon’s humor: “I have to start with a caveat in the form of open disclosure — I simply am not funny,” Irizarry said, drawing laughter and applause. “So don’t expect the charming wit of Chief Judge Amon, or Judge Dearie or Judge Gleason. It’s just not happening.”

The ritual, which was the first of its kind, packed the federal court’s ceremonial courtroom with more than 300 dignitaries, including judges, court employees and friends and family. It included speeches from Dina Miller, president of the Federal Bar Association, Eastern District of New York Chapter; Mark K. Vincent and Ernest T. Bartol, the president and vice president, respectively, of the Federal Bar Association; former Chief Judge Edward Korman; Hon. Joanna Seybert; Hon. Jose Cabranes; and a video message from U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

As part of the event, Seybert presented Bagley Amon with a ceremonial torch that she handed off to the new chief judge.

“It’s my honor to present the original torch to Carol Bagley Amon,” Seybert said. “I know what the requirements are to be a chief — it’s sort of a cross between a drill sergeant and a den mother. Outgoing chief [Bagley Amon] has certainly accomplished all of those items.”

“I didn’t know there was going to be a real torch, so I tried to dress the part,” Bagley Amon joked.

During Bagley Amon’s remarks, she spoke about her tenure as chief judge and what a fantastic job she thinks Irizarry will do at the helm. In classic Bagley Amon fashion, she offered some hilarious advice for the court’s new boss.

“First is that the chief judge cannot send out more than four emails in a single day,” Bagley Amon said. “I can’t tell you how many times I waited until after midnight to avoid breaking that rule. Second, I explained the powers of the chief judge over the other judges — none. In lieu of no power, I told her what to do to get other judges what you want them to do — flattery, groveling, begging and, only on rare occasions, extortion.”

Finally, the new chief judge had the chance to speak, and after fighting back some tears, she recalled the unlikely events that led to her becoming the first Hispanic chief judge of the Eastern District of New York — the day Judge John Gleeson, long assumed to be the next chief judge, called her to tell her that he was going into private practice.

“As he proceeded to tell me about his decision, I started to think what a loss this was to our court,” Irizarry recalled. “But the true importance of what was telling me was going right over my head. And it must have been apparent to him, because he said, ‘You know this means that you will be the chief judge.’ Then it hit me. Instant panic.

“I started trying to talk Judge Gleeson out of his decision, and then I realized that this means that I will sit at the dias at countless bar association events with no escape whatsoever. When I called Carol, she put me at ease, she gave me advice, she invited me to meetings, but her first words of advice were, ‘We need to go shopping, because there are lots of social events to attend.’”

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