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05-13-2001

New York State Chief Judge Judith Kaye Awarded Clarkson University Honorary Degree

For example, one of her most ambitious and successful court reform initiatives has been streamlining New York's antiquated jury system. Here she has overseen a virtual overhaul of the system. In making the state a model of jury reform, her major achievements include eliminating all automatic exemptions from jury service, expanding and updating the master source list, halving terms of service, and increasing juror pay.

The degree was awarded "for her pioneering leadership in streamlining the delivery of justice through jury reform and as a forceful champion of pragmatic, innovative improvements across New York State's judicial system."

In addressing the graduates Judge Kaye said, in part, "… perhaps my most crushing disappointment came at [my college] graduation. I was unable, utterly unable, to get a job in the career that I saw as my destiny: journalism… I still think of myself and describe myself as a failed journalist. But the truth is, it isn't half bad having had to settle for being Chief Judge of the State of New York instead of a media mogul. In fact, I have two titles. I am the Chief Judge of the State of New York and I am the Chief Judge of New York State's highest court. I love both of my jobs. I am convinced that I hold the two greatest jobs on earth.

So my message… today is about life's zigs and zags-about finding silver linings and blessings in disguise-about making sure that what you are doing challenges you and excites you, rather than just committing yourself to some preconceived life plan… Life is just too short and too precious-your education is just too valuable-your opportunities too great, to squander on things that are meaningless to you and give you no real happiness.

Judith S. Kaye was appointed New York's chief judge in 1993 by Governor Mario M. Cuomo and is the first woman to occupy that post. She was also the first woman to serve on the state's highest court, the Court of Appeals, which she joined in 1983 after 21 years as a practicing lawyer in New York City.

Judge Kaye's emphasis on problem solving has characterized her approach to delivering justice. Her willingness to rethink the traditional role of courts and lawyers has spawned a host of scholarly writings and court initiatives in areas such as drug treatment, domestic violence, and neighborhood safety. From creating specialized commercial courts for cost-effective resolution of business disputes, to establishing a statewide network of childcare centers for litigants, she has championed innovative improvements in every corner of the state's judicial system.

Chief Judge Kaye began her formal education in a one-room schoolhouse in the rural community of Maplewood, N.Y. She graduated from Barnard College and New York University Law School. She and her husband Stephen, a practicing lawyer, are the parents of three children and three grandchildren.

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or aharrison@clarkson.edu.]

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