Judith Kaye, Former Chief Judge of NYS Court of Appeals, Dies at 77


Former Chief Judge Judith Kaye, the first woman appointed to New York’s top court, died Wednesday. She was 77.

Kaye, who lived in Manhattan, was first appointed to the bench in 1983 and was named chief judge of the Court of Appeals by Democratic Gov. Mario Cuomo a decade later. She was chief judge until her mandatory retirement at age 70 in 2008.

Born in the Sullivan County town of Monticello on Aug. 4, 1938, Kaye was the daughter of Jewish parents who emigrated from Poland.

Her judicial career began after Cuomo’s campaign promise to appoint the first woman to the Court of Appeals. After a tumultuous selection process, she was nominated by the governor and unanimously confirmed by the Senate in 1983.

Jewish groups such as Agudath Israel of America recall with gratitude her vote in 1985 affirming the rights of religious groups to be able to hire based on their beliefs.

Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, Agudah’s executive vice president, told Hamodia that Kaye, at the time an associate justice of the Court of Appeals voted with the majority in favor of Agudath Israel and two other groups.

The groups had challenged Mayor Ed Koch’s Executive Order 50 requiring any entity with a contractual relationship with the city, including religious organizations, to have in place a comprehensive non-discrimination policy. “The plaintiffs argued that the mayor had no authority to promulgate such an order,” Rabbi Zwiebel said. “At stake for Agudath Israel was a series of contracts we had with NYC totaling around $1.5 million which enabled us to carry out a host of chesed projects. We won in the lower court, lost in the intermediate court, and then won in the highest court thanks in part to Judge Kaye’s vote.”

Cuomo said flags at state government buildings will fly at half-staff Friday to honor Kaye. Mayor Bill de Blasio also ordered flags on city buildings at half-staff on Friday.

With reporting by The Associated Press.