Statement by President Travis on the Passing of Judge Judith Kaye

Statement by President Travis on the Passing of Judge Judith Kaye

Statement by President Travis on the Passing of Judge Judith Kaye

January 8, 2016

The John Jay College community mourns the passing of our good friend, Judith Kaye, former Chief Judge of the New York State Court of Appeals.  In so many ways, Judge Kaye was an honorary member of the John Jay family.  She was a staunch supporter of the Pre Law Institute, giving the Samuel and Ann Jacobs Foundation Lecture on Law Day in 2008, and presiding over the opening of the Moot Court in a special tribute to our partners in the legal profession in 2013.  She was the first recipient of the John Jay Medal and has participated in the Justice Awards ceremony as that medal has been presented to other champions of justice.  She was an honored guest at the unveiling of our statue of John Jay, a fitting reminder that she and John Jay both held the same position, Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals.  In fact she has written extensively on the legacy of John Jay as one of our nation’s founding fathers, pioneering jurists, advocate for the abolition of slavery and foreign affairs minister. 

Judge Kaye was also honored by our College when she received an honorary Doctor of Laws in 2011, at the same ceremony when the playwright Tony Kushner, another honorary doctorate recipient, highlighted Judge Kaye’s eloquent dissenting opinion promoting marriage equality, a vision of justice now recognized across the country.  In tribute to Judge Kaye, Mr. Kushner made a generous gift to the College to create the Judge Judith S. Kaye Pioneer of Justice Scholarship, awarded to students who have made a significant impact on social justice through community service.  Judith Kaye has also honored us by hosting several forums at John Jay to promote her youth justice agenda.  In particular we recall that she came to John Jay to release the report of her NYC School-Justice Partnership Task Force calling for fundamental changes in school discipline policies so that fewer young people would enter the juvenile justice system. 

Beyond her close connection with John Jay College, we pay tribute to Judge Kaye’s clear-eyed and elegant judicial opinions in which she cut back on the death penalty, supported gender equality and promoted juvenile justice. We applaud her leadership in creating a national movement supporting problem-solving courts.  In fact, the Center for Court Innovation, which she launched as a vehicle for these courts, in now a significant employer of John Jay alumni and students who are attracted to this vision of justice.  Her reforms of the jury system in New York State speak to her understanding of the need for public confidence in the courts and the role of the courts in promoting an inclusive and participatory democracy. 

Our College has been fortunate to count Judith Kaye among our strongest supporters.  She loved our students and was always in awe of their intelligence and motivation.  She aligned herself with our justice mission and our commitment to the rule of law.  She delighted in those opportunities for common purpose with John Jay.  She was, in so many ways, one of us.  We will miss her.

Campus Photo Gallery

Interview with Judge Kaye on Criminal Justice Matters