Remarks of Acting Chief Judge of the State of New York, Hon. Anthony Cannataro on the Presentation of the William Nelson Cromwell Award to Hon. Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick – NYCLA Annual Gala, March 14, 2023
[Thank you for that very kind introduction.] I would like to first acknowledge and congratulate all the newly elected and appointed judges – and the not-so-newly elected and appointed judges – especially those who have joined our New York State Unified Court System. I would also like to thank Bob Haig for inviting me to be here tonight, which was a touch and go proposition in light of the weather conditions in Albany. Also, I would like to thank President Vince Chang and NYCLA which, under Vince’s leadership, has truly become, in my estimation, the epitome of how a bar association should serve, not only as a resource for the bar and the bench, but for the community at large. Thank you, Vince.
I have the distinct honor of presenting the 2023 William Nelson Cromwell award to my dear friend and mentor, the Honorable Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick. Tonight’s award is named after William Nelson Cromwell—not to be confused with Oliver Cromwell, the man famous for orchestrating the execution of King Charles the First. The Cromwell behind Sullivan & Cromwell, William is perhaps best known for his work promoting development of the Panama Canal, which earned him what was reported to be the highest attorney fee ever paid at the time. Throughout his life, William demonstrated a deep commitment to the welfare and improvement of the legal profession, particularly legal education. Tonight’s namesake award honors similar “unselfish service to the profession and community.”
It is difficult for me to imagine anyone more worthy of recognition for “unselfish public service” to the law and to New York’s legal community than Judge Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick.
A New Yorker through and through, Judge Ciparick grew up in Washington Heights and is a proud graduate of Hunter College and St. John’s University School of Law. She began her career in public service as a staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society, before assuming a series of roles within the New York City court system. In 1978, Judge Ciparick was appointed by Mayor Edward Koch to the Criminal Court of the City of New York and, just four years later, the people elected her to the state Supreme Court. In 1993, the governor appointed Judge Ciparick to the Court of Appeals, where she served for the next 19 years.
In total, Judge Ciparick spent 34 years on the bench. As the first Hispanic woman to sit in a New York court of record, the first Puerto Rican woman to serve on this State’s bench, and the first Hispanic Judge of the Court of Appeals, Carmen Ciparick and her trailblazing career have inspired many young attorneys of diverse backgrounds to pursue judicial office and other leadership positions.
During her tenure on New York’s high court, Judge Ciparick advanced the law and honored the legal profession in literally thousands of thoughtful, thorough, empathetic, and fair decisions. She authored some of the Court’s most significant opinions, impacting issues such as school funding, the separation of church and state, and the death penalty. And, although she most often found herself among the majority, the decisions in which Judge Ciparick joined or penned a dissent have often proved ahead of their time, particularly with respect to LGBTQ rights.
More than 20 years ago, Judge Ciparick hired me to serve as a law clerk. To this day, I still consider my three years in her Chambers at the Court of Appeals as among the best of my career. Judge Ciparick was simply the best boss a young attorney could hope for. Not only was she a model jurist who approached each case with care, an open mind, and respect for the law and litigants, she was also an ardent advocate of her law clerks’ development and advancement in the legal profession. I can never thank her enough for the lessons she has taught me, both in career and life.
Judge Ciparick retired from the bench in 2012. But instead of taking a much-deserved break, her service to the legal community only increased in pace and scope.
Over the last decade, Judge Ciparick has been a member of an absolutely mind-boggling number of boards and commissions tasked with overseeing or reviewing the quality and integrity of the legal practice, including the Commission on Statewide Attorney Discipline, the New York Justice Task Force, the Mayor’s Advisory Committee on the Judiciary, the Permanent Commission on Access to Justice, the City Bar Justice Center, and the Office of the Appellate Defender. And in 2020, Judge Ciparick was appointed Chair of the State Board of Law Examiners, taking leadership just as the Board was preparing to conduct its first ever remote bar examination during one of the most difficult periods in our recent history.
Indeed, not even a global pandemic can slow the inimitable Judge Ciparick, current Co-Chair of the National Appeals & Legal Issues Group at Greenberg Traurig — one of the country’s largest law firms. As early as Summer 2020, while many of us were still huddled in our homes Clorox-wiping Amazon packages, Judge Ciparick boarded the bus each day to her Grand Central office, arriving as cheerful and optimistic as ever to provide her clients and junior attorneys with sage legal advice and supportive guidance through a time of great uncertainty.
Without her mentorship and support, neither I, nor many other attorneys, would be where we are today. It is my great pleasure to present the William Nelson Cromwell award to Judge Ciparick tonight and to congratulate her on a phenomenal career and outstanding contribution to the legal community.