Judith S. Kaye joined Skadden in 2009 and focuses her practice on appellate litigation and arbitration. Before joining the firm, she served as chief judge of the State of New York and chief judge of the Court of Appeals for 15 years, until her retirement in 2008. She was appointed to the court in 1983 by Governor Mario Cuomo, becoming the first woman ever to serve on New York’s highest court.
Judge Kaye gained a national reputation for both her groundbreaking decisions and her innovative reforms of the New York court system. She wrote notable decisions on a wide variety of statutory, constitutional and common law issues, including rights for gay couples and the death penalty. Judge Kaye also left her mark on New York’s courts as a creative reformer, streamlining New York’s jury system and establishing specialized courts to focus on issues such as drug addiction, domestic violence and mental health issues. In addition, she created the Adoption Now program that has produced more effective procedures for children in foster care and their families. Her reforms have been implemented by many other state courts. Before her appointment to the bench, she practiced law at Sullivan & Cromwell, IBM and Olwine, Connelly, Chase, O’Donnell & Weyher, where she became that firm’s first female partner.
Judge Kaye is the author of more than 200 publications, including articles on legal process, state constitutional law, women in law, juvenile justice, professional ethics and problem-solving courts. She frequently speaks on these topics, as well as those that pertain to international arbitration. She has acted as an arbitrator or panel chair in a broad spectrum of international and U.S. commercial disputes.
She has received numerous awards recognizing her judicial and scholarly accomplishments, such as the New York State Bar Association’s inaugural Distinguished Jurist Award, New York State Bar Association’s Gold Medal, the ABA Justice Center John Marshall Award, the National Center for State Courts’ William H. Rehnquist Award for Judicial Excellence, the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession’s Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Adoption Excellence Award, the New York Law Journal’s Lifetime Achievement Award and the New York University School of Law’s Judge Edward Weinfeld Award. In 2014, Judge Kaye also was selected by Harvard Law School as an honoree for its inaugural International Women’s Day Exhibition. She also was selected for inclusion in Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business 2015.
LL.B., New York University, 1962 (cum laude)
B.A., Barnard College, 1958
Chair, New York International Arbitration Center
Chair, Permanent Judicial Commission on Justice for Children
Chair, Judicial Nomination Commission
Founding Member and Honorary Chair, Judges and Lawyers Breast Cancer Alert
Member of the Lincoln Center Board of Directors
Former President, Conference of Chief Justices and Chair of the Board of Directors, National Center for State Courts
Member of the Board of Directors of the Museum of Jewish Heritage
Member of the Board of Directors of The International Institute for Conflict Prevention and Resolution
Member of the Board of Directors of Volunteers of Legal Services
Member of the Board of Directors of the American Arbitration Association