Remarks of Chief Judge Laura Taylor Swain on the Presentation of the Boris Kostelanetz President’s Medal to Magistrate Judges Barbara Moses and Stewart Aaron – NYCLA Annual Gala, March 14, 2023
I am proud and honored to have been asked by the President of NYCLA to confer the President’s Medal upon my Southern District colleagues Magistrate Judges Barbara Moses and Stewart Aaron. Their records of dedication and service make them true exemplars of the NYCLA members for whom the president’s medal was intended.
We are proud of both Judge Moses and Judge Aaron and their many contributions to the Southern District of New York.
And I note that NYCLA has a history of strong ties to the courts. Historically, many members of the judiciary have been part of NYCLA’s leadership, including Charles Evans Hughes, Alton B. Parker, Benjamin Cardozo, and Harold Baer. In fact, both Judge Baer, a former NYCLA President, and Judge Loretta Preska have been recipients of the President’s medal.
And now, for tonight’s medalists.
Let me start with Judge Aaron. Stewart’s last name lands him first on almost any alphabetical list. So, I’ll keep it traditional and start with him.
Judge Aaron has been with our Court since 2017.
Among his many accomplishments before joining the Court, Stewart served as NYCLA’s president and oversaw numerous NYCLA initiatives and programs. Under Stewart’s leadership, NYCLA expanded its Legal Counseling Project to help individuals affected by Superstorm Sandy.
And Stewart was stalwart in his support for the judiciary. As his current judicial colleagues, we salute his efforts before he took the bench.
Stewart established NYCLA’s Task Force on Judicial Budget Cuts, which led the charge for adequate funding of the federal and New York courts—and continues to do so today.
Stewart testified before the Commission on Judicial Compensation recommending “an immediate increase in judicial salaries” for our New York State judges.
He appointed a Working Group on gun control reform, which issued a groundbreaking report, a report that was quoted by the Attorney General of the United States.
While he was President of NYCLA, Stewart served as Managing Partner of the New York office of Arnold & Porter. Stewart was not just a Super Lawyer but a Top 100 Super Lawyer. And Stewart was listed in Above the Law as one of the best BigLaw partners to work for in New York. The article quoted one of the survey respondents as saying that Stewart “set[s] the example of the kind of lawyer I want to be.”
But perhaps most significant were Stewart’s musical and performance contributions to NYCLA. He performed in our musical shows honoring Judge Ellerin and Judge Preska. (I should note that I also was called upon by Judge Aaron and his colleagues to perform in the show honoring Judge Preska.) He wrote the lyrics for and performed at many NYCLA events over the years. His multifaceted musical talents are not currently being tapped by the Court. We’ll have to think about that ….
Stewart has handled many cases in the time since he joined the Court. But tonight I’ll focus on one case in particular that comports with his performance ability. Stewart presided, along with Judge Torres, over litigation relating to To Kill a Mockingbird. Judge Aaron handled the case with his usual excellence.
The executrix of the estate of Harper Lee, who wrote the novel, complained that the Broadway adaptation was not similar enough to the book. To disprove these allegations, the producers offered to put on a courthouse performance. The case settled before the show could be performed. But fortunately, Stewart was able to go to opening day of To Kill a Mockingbird when it opened on Broadway, and his attendance was covered by celebrity watchers at the New York Post. Clearly, they know a star when they see one.,
The other recipient of the President’s Medal is equally deserving. Judge Moses joined our Court in 2015, a couple of years before Judge Aaron.
I am pleased to say that Judge Moses was a law school classmate of mine at Harvard, along with Judge Elizabeth Stong of the EDNY Bankruptcy Court. Barbara came to Harvard Law after graduating from college and working as a morning radio news anchor and reporter in Maine, where she honed communication skills that have stood her in good stead ever since. She was, fortunately for us, laid off from that job just in time to accept Harvard’s offer of admission. And the rest is history.
Like Stewart, Judge Moses was a top litigator, working for Orrick Herrington and Morvillo Abramowitz. She built her early practice, in Orrick’s San Francisco office, around securities and cellular telephone licensing litigation. She moved to Orrick’s New York office and focused on securities litigation and other business disputes. At Morvillo, she continued to work on complex securities and business litigation, and then branched out into law school teaching.
In 2009, Judge Moses became a Lawyering Professor at NYU Law School, and in 2011 she became the director of Seton Hall’s civil rights litigation clinic. Third-year law students under her supervision represented indigent clients, at no charge, in a variety of civil rights-oriented litigation. Her cases involved, for example, citizens’ rights to videotape the police in public places – something we now take for granted – probable cause for home raids by ICE, and the constitutionality of indefinite civil detention for sex offenders.
Like Judge Aaron, Judge Moses’ first work at NYCLA was with its Federal Courts Committee, a committee that I have had the privilege of speaking to several times.
Judge Moses then also served as NYCLA’s president. She continued the work that Stewart had begun on addressing the judicial budget cuts.
During her tenure, NYCLA rolled out two new pro bono projects: a project to assist military service members with post-traumatic stress disorder who were discharged before their illnesses were diagnosed, and legal advisory seminars for small-business owners.
And she continued NYCLA’s work on its rapid response task force, responding to the media when judges were attacked and could not defend themselves. In particular, she defended Judge Scheindlin from attacks from then Mayor Bloomberg over Judge Scheindlin’s handling of the case involving the NYPD’s stop and frisk policies.
Little did Barbara know that she would later become a judge herself. So far, I’m told, NYCLA has not had to defend Judge Moses from any unfair media attacks. Hopefully, that record will continue to stand.
As a judge, like Stewart, Judge Moses has handled many cases in many different areas of the law. Her judicial record is too voluminous to recite here, but let me point out one recent case that might be of interest to those of you who are football fans. In a recent case accusing the New York Jets and the New York Giants of false advertising and fraud – because their stadium is in New Jersey – Judge Moses recommended dismissal, explaining that it would be impossible for a reasonable consumer to get to a game at MetLife stadium without noticing that they were, in fact, in New Jersey. The plaintiffs then dismissed their claims. For those of you who were hoping that the court would order the Jets and the Giants to play within New York City limits, the outcome of the case may be a disappointment. I’ll leave you with the immortal words of those famous legal scholars, the Rolling Stones – “You can’t always get what you want.”
Congratulations, Barbara and Stewart, on this singular recognition of your work and talents. I present to each of you the Boris Kostelanetz President’s Medal.