June 10, 2021
Contact: Toni Valenti
New York County Lawyers Association Issues Statement
on the Passing of Judge Robert A. Katzmann
The New York County Lawyers Association (NYCLA) today issued the following statement on the passing of Judge Robert A. Katzmann, former Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit from September 2013 to August 2020.
NYCLA and its officers, directors and members mourn the passing of Senior Second Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Robert A. Katzmann.
Vincent T. Chang, NYCLA President, stated “Judge Katzmann was a friend and an inspiration to so many of us. We will miss his decency, compassion, and intellect. In addition to his stewardship of the Second Circuit and the excellence of his work as a jurist, Judge Katzmann was a visionary and national thought leader in the areas of civic education and immigration. He brought squadrons of judges and lawyers into New York’s schools in a groundbreaking civics education initiative.”
The only federal judge with a PhD in government, Judge Katzmann was also a professor at Georgetown and a fellow at the Brookings Institution and was the author of several books – including a book about statutory interpretation that the late Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens described as “required reading for all lawyers confronting questions of statutory construction.”
Judge Katzmann generously gave his time and support to bar associations including NYCLA. In 2016 he received the Edward Weinfeld Award from NYCLA, and his acceptance remarks demonstrated both his sense of humor and his humility. He said that “being Chief Judge of the Second Circuit is like being the groundskeeper in a cemetery: there are a lot of people under you, but none of them are listening.”
Judge Katzmann’s powerful intellect was reflected in his jurisprudence, including the landmark en banc opinion in Zarda v. Altitude Express, which applied Title VII to employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. The Supreme Court adopted Judge Katzmann’s reasoning.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg emphasized two areas in a video tribute to Judge Katzmann: his work on immigration and civic education. In 2013, Judge Katzmann helped to found the Immigrant Justice Corps, a group that seeks to create a new generation of immigration lawyers dedicated to providing legal representation for immigrants facing deportation. This program was the country’s first fellowship program dedicated to meeting this need.
Judge Katzmann also launched a path breaking civic education initiative, Justice for All: Courts and the Community, which educates students on the basics of the court system and provides opportunities for students to visit courthouses and observe court proceedings, to have conversations with judges and court staff (and even lawyers), and to participate in moot courts and mock trials. The program received praise from Chief Justice John Roberts in his 2019 Year End Report on the Federal Judiciary. Just as important, the students themselves give the program tremendously positive feedback, some even vowing to become lawyers themselves.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor summarized Judge Katzmann’s work well. She said that he had an innate sense of justice, morality, and integrity. She added that he was a visionary who brings out the best in people and always “sows the seeds for things and inspires people to go along with him.”
Judge Katzmann is survived by his wife, Jennifer, a noted filmmaker and writer/editor. He is also survived by his brothers, Gary (a judge of the United States Court of International Trade) and Martin, by his sister, Susan, by in-laws Stacey and Neil, and by many nephews and nieces.
About the New York County Lawyers Association
The New York County Lawyers Association (www.nycla.org) was founded in 1908 as one of the first major bar associations in the country that admitted members without regard to race, ethnicity, religion, or gender. Since its inception, it has pioneered some of the most far-reaching and tangible reforms in American jurisprudence and has continuously played an active role in legal developments and public policy.