Kaye, Judith S.

views updated


KAYE, JUDITH S. (1938– ), first woman to serve as chief judge of the State of New York. Kaye was born in Monticello, n.y., to Lena and Benjamin Smith. She attended Barnard College (B.A., 1958) and New York Law School (LL.B., 1962) and married attorney Stephen Rackow Kaye. Kaye and her family were long-time members of Sephardi Congregation Shearith Israel in New York City. Her meteoric career began as a litigation associate at the New York law firm of Olwine, Connelly, Chase, O'Donnell, and Weyher (1969–83), where she became the firm's first woman partner. Recognizing Kaye's accomplishments as a trial lawyer and her efforts on behalf of the Bar Association, and looking to diversify the court system, Governor Mario Cuomo appointed her as the first female associate judge of the New York State Court of Appeals in 1983, and chief judge in 1993, a position that makes her head of the state judiciary as well as of the Court of Appeals. As chief judge she promoted jury reform and streamlined the court system by creating special courts throughout the state to deal with drug abuse, domestic violence, and family dysfunction. Her reanalysis of traditional legal roles and partnering of specialized courts with outside agencies led to improved results and more public trust and became a model for other U.S. states. Kaye was also active in improving the status of women and children and in addressing domestic violence; in 1993, she convened the state's first Matrimonial Commission to reform New York's divorce custody system, and in 2004 she created a new 32-member panel State Matrimonial Commission to examine excessive costs in child custody divorce battles. She was a founding member and honorary chair of the Judges and Lawyers Breast Cancer Alert, co-chair of the Permanent Judicial Commission on Justice for Children, and a member of the American Bar Association Commission on Domestic Violence. Her publications address domestic issues and legal process, state constitutional law, women in law, professional ethics, and problem solving. Kaye's many honors include the American Bar Association Commission on Women in the Profession's Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award, the National Center for State Courts' William H. Rehnquist Award for Judicial Excellence, New York University Law School's Vanderbilt Medal, and the Barnard Medal of Distinction.


J.F. Rosen, "Kaye, Judith S.," in: Jewish Women in American: An Historical Encyclopedia (P.E. Hyman and D.D. Moore, eds.), Vol. 1 (1997), 733–34.

[Judith Friedman Rosen (2nd ed.)]