Chief Judge Carol Bagley Amon forever enshrined in Brooklyn Federal Court
Carol Bagley Amon, immediate past chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, was honored on Friday with a ceremonial portrait hanging in the ceremonial courtroom in Downtown Brooklyn.
The ceremony is a tradition in the court that takes place after a judge reaches senior status. Bagley Amon’s portrait, which was painted by artist David Michalek, now hangs on the top row next to the other chief judges in the ceremonial courtroom, which is used during citizenship oaths and other special events.
“We respect and revere our senior judges in the Eastern District,” said current Chief Judge Dora Irizarry. “They are among our greatest resources. They actively participate in the administration of the court and are ready to assist their colleagues in whatever way necessary. They are friends, mentors, teachers, historians and a valuable member of our society.”
The event took place in front of more than 150 of the judge’s family, friends, colleagues and mentors. Dozens of her former law clerks sat in the first few rows behind speakers Dana Seshens and former U.S. Sen. Alfonse M. D’Amato. Hon. Reena Raggi also spoke during the ceremony.
“I am so honored that my dear friend has invited me to speak on this, the solemn occasion of her hanging,” Raggi joked.
Raggi set the tone of the event by making many jokes at her long-time colleague’s expense. She playfully remarked how the judge only drew such a large attendance as she made it a requirement for the supervised release program. She also observed that it was at least the fourth time she has made similar remarks about Bagley Amon and wondered if she would have to keep doing it until she got it right.
Through all of the jokes, Raggi was able to point out some things that might not have been on Bagley Amon’s resume that made her a great chief judge — she mentioned her response to Hurricane Sandy, when she lent the courthouse to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to use; her work during the government shutdown of 2013, when she personally met with U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner; and her work during the celebration of the court’s 150th anniversary.
“It is no exaggeration — Carol’s service as chief judge was marked by complete dedication to this court,” Raggi said. “She was its biggest cheerleader.”
Former Sen. D’Amato explained how he was in awe of Bagley Amon, as she was able to make it in Brooklyn despite coming in as a soft-spoken Virginian.
“Imagine what she had to deal with — a whole different dialect and some pretty tough competition,” Sen. D’Amato said. “Because of her intellect and her diligence it became obvious that she was a superstar in the Eastern District.”
Eventually, Bagley Amon took to the podium and thanked her many family members, friends and colleagues who were in attendance. She also reflected back on her career that started in 1974 when she became an assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District back when there were not many women doing the job.
She said that it was just her and Raggi on the bench by the time she became a magistrate judge in 1986. She went on to become a district judge after she was nominated by former President George H.W. Bush in 1990 and became chief judge in 2011.
“The overwhelming emotion I have today is gratitude,” Bagley Amon said. “I am so grateful to have been given the responsibility to serve the country as a federal judge, a unique position where lifetime tenure gives you the ability to do as you feel the law and Constitution require without fear of political reprisal. After 26 years, I still look forward into walking into the courthouse.”
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