Judith S. Kaye in Her Own Words

Reflections on Life and the Law, with Selected Judicial Opinions and Articles

By Judith S. Kaye
Edited by Henry M. Greenberg, Luisa M. Kaye, Marilyn Marcus, and Albert M. Rosenblatt

Subjects: Legal Studies, Memoir, Biography, New York State Government, Women's Studies
Series: Excelsior Editions
Imprint: Excelsior Editions
Paperback : 9781438474809, 536 pages, June 2019
Hardcover : 9781438474793, 536 pages, June 2019

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Table of contents

Chief Judge Janet DiFiore

Editorial Preface
Honorable Albert M. Rosenblatt

Biographical Introduction
Susan N. Herman



A Note on the Text
Luisa M. Kaye


Part I. The Court Years (1983–2009)

1. The New York Court of Appeals

2. My Arrival on the Court of Appeals

3. Getting to Work

4. The Courts’ Dockets and Enduring Personal Lessons

5. My Transition to Chief Judge

6. The Best . . .

7. The Worst . . .

8.  . . . And Everything in Between

Part II. Return to the Real World

9. The Afterlife

Part III. Who I Am, from Day One

10. From Day One through Law School

11. My Years as a Lawyer

12. One Continuous Role: As a Woman

Citations to Cases and Other Materials
Photo galleries follow pages 76 and 90


Honorable Albert M. Rosenblatt

People v. Class, 63 NY2d 491 (1984), rev’d 475 US 106 (1986)

Tebbutt v. Virostek, 65 NY2d 931, 940 (1985)

O’Neill v. Oakgrove Constr., 71 NY2d 521 (1988)

Matter of Levandusky v. One Fifth Ave. Apt. Corp., 75 NY2d 530 (1990)

W.W.W. Assoc. v. Giancontieri, 77 NY2d 157 (1990)

Alison D. v. Virginia M., 77 NY2d 651 (1991)

Immuno AG v. Moor-Jankowski, 77 NY2d 235 (1991)

Hope v. Perales, 83 NY2d 563 (1994)

People v. Wesley, 83 NY2d 417 (1994)

Schulz v. State of New York, 84 NY2d 231 (1994)

Matter of Jacob, 86 NY2d 651 (1995)

Johnson v. Pataki, 91 NY2d 214 (1997)

Rust v. Reyer, 91 NY2d 355 (1998)

Karlin v. IVF Am., 93 NY2d 282 (1999)

Kihl v. Pfeffer, 94 NY2d 118 (1999)

532 Madison Ave. Gourmet Foods, Inc. v. Finlandia Ctr., 96 NY2d 280 (2001)

Levin v. Yeshiva Univ., 96 NY2d 484 (2001)

Matter of Brandon (Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co.), 97 NY2d 491 (2002)

Campaign for Fiscal Equity, Inc. v. State of New York, 100 NY2d 893 (2003)

First Financial Ins. Co. v. Jetco Contr. Corp., 1 NY3d 64 (2003)

Brill v. City of New York, 2 NY3d 648 (2004)

Nicholson v. Scoppetta, 3 NY3d 357 (2004)

People v. Gonzalez, 1 NY3d 464 (2004)

Maybee v. State of New York, 4 NY3d 415 (2005)

People v. Caban, 5 NY3d 143 (2005)

People v. Catu, 4 NY3d 242 (2005)

People v. Combest, 4 NY3d 341 (2005)

Deutsche Bank Sec., Inc. v. Montana Bd. of Invs., 7 NY3d 65 (2006)

Hernandez v. Robles, 7 NY3d 338 (2006)

People v. Hill, 9 NY3d 189 (2007)

Ross v. Louise Wise Servs., Inc., 8 NY3d 478 (2007)

Matter of Piel, 10 NY3d 163 (2008)


Henry M. Greenberg

A Lecture about Judge Benjamin Nathan Cardozo

Dual Constitutionalism in Practice and Principle

The Human Dimension in Appellate Judging: A Brief Reflection on a Timeless Concern

One Judge’s View of Academic Law Review Writing

Women in Law: The Law Can Change People

State Constitutional Common Law: The Common Law as a Full Partner in the Protection of Individual Rights

Law Is Pivotal in Advancing Women’s Rights

The Changing World of Children: The Responsibility of the Law and the Courts

State Courts at the Dawn of a New Century: Common-Law Courts Reading Statutes and Constitutions

In Memoriam: William J. Brennan, Jr.

Delivering Justice Today: A Problem-Solving Approach

The Best Oral Argument I (N)ever Made

My Life as Chief Judge: The on Juries

Appendix: Law Clerks of Judith S. Kaye
About the Editors
Index of Cases
General Index

A memoir and selected writings by the former Chief Judge of New York’s highest court, the Court of Appeals.


In 1983, Judith S. Kaye (1938–2016) became the first woman appointed to the Court of Appeals, New York's highest court. Ten years later, she became the first woman to be appointed chief judge of the xourt, and by the time she retired, in 2008, she was the longest-serving chief judge in the court's history. During her long career, she distinguished herself as a lawyer, jurist, reformer, mentor, and colleague, as well as a wife and mother. Bringing together Kaye's own autobiography, completed shortly before her death, as well as selected judicial opinions, articles, and speeches, Judith S. Kaye in Her Own Words makes clear why she left such an enduring mark upon the court, the nation, and all who knew her.

The first section of the book, Kaye's memoir, focuses primarily on her years on the Court of Appeals, the inner workings of the court, and the challenges she faced, as chief judge, in managing a court system populated by hundreds of judges and thousands of employees.

The second section, a carefully chosen selection of her written opinions (and occasional dissents), reveals how she guided the law in New York State for almost a quarter century with uncommon vision and humanity. Her decisions cover every facet of New York and federal law and have often been quoted and followed nationally.

The final section of the book includes selections from her numerous articles and speeches, which cover the field, from common law jurisprudence to commercial law to constitutional analysis, all with an eye to the future and, above all, how the law can best affect the everyday lives of people who come to court—willingly or unwillingly—including, not least, those most in need of the law.

"An extraordinary woman, jurist, and leader who had a striking impact on the law and the administration of justice in New York State and beyond. This collection is more than a simple record of a remarkable life. It is a treasure—not only for those of us who knew and admired Judith but for all who may seek to understand and appreciate the profound impact she had on the law, the legal profession, and the administration of justice." — from the Foreword by Honorable Janet DiFiore

Henry M. Greenberg is President of the New York State Bar Association and a shareholder with Greenberg Traurig LLP, in Albany, New York. Luisa M. Kaye is Judge Kaye's daughter. After practicing as a commercial litigator in New York for over twenty years, she started a new career, making pastry and baking bread, with plans to open a bakery in Denver, Colorado. Marilyn Marcus is an attorney and the executive director of the Historical Society of the New York Courts since 2004. As executive director, she developed a treasured working and personal relationship with Judge Kaye, who founded the organization in 2002 and remained closely involved with it for the rest of her life. The mission of the Society is to preserve, protect, and promote New York legal history. Albert M. Rosenblatt served with Judge Kaye on the New York State Court of Appeals from 1999 through 2006. His previous books include Opening Statements: Law, Jurisprudence, and the Legacy of Dutch New York (coedited with Julia C. Rosenblatt), also published by SUNY Press.


"Judith Kaye was one of the most admired judges in the nation—and a wonderful, real, often funny person as well. This collection captures the full range of the judge and the woman, and it serves as a great reminder of her enduring legacy." — Jeffrey Toobin