Two Court of Appeals Judges Retire
Judge Albert M. Rosenblatt
(Article on Judge George Bundy Smith)
Judge Albert M. Rosenblatt office is lined with reminders of things important to him - photos of his wife and daughter, busts of Sherlock Holmes, and a photo of him, wearing his black robe, skiing down the side of a mountain after marrying a couple at the peak.
Meet Albert M. Rosenblatt, Associate Judge of the New York Court of Appeals.
Judge Rosenblatt warmly greets me in his chambers and moves with the ease of an athlete. In fact, he is one - a nationally-ranked senior squash player and member of the1997 and 2001 U.S. (Master’s) Maccabiah Team, the quadrennial Jewish Olympics. A professional ski instructor, he initiated and taught in the ski program for the disabled at Mohawk Mountain, Conn., working primarily with young amputees.
Come Dec. 31, Judge Rosenblatt must retire from the Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court, because he has reached the mandatory retirement age of 70. Born in New York City, his term on the court began in December 1998.
While he is formally retiring from the court, he is far from retiring from the working world. Judge Rosenblatt has accepted a teaching position at New York University Law School. He is the editor of “The Judges of the New York Court of Appeals: A Biographical History,” due out next spring. And he will continue as president of the Historical Society of the Courts of the State of New York.
“Never has the word ‘retirement’ been more inapt or ill-fitting than in the case of Judge Albert M. Rosenblatt’s upcoming departure from the Court of Appeals,” said Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye at his retirement party in October. “Indeed, my colleagues and I have yet to encounter anyone more energetic, more enthusiastic, more vitally engaged in the work of the court.”
Dutchess County Court Judge Gerald Hayes calls Judge Rosenblatt “a brilliant man” whose “written opinions demonstrate that he is a legal scholar.”
“Al Rosenblatt is a man of absolute integrity, but despite his awesome personal and professional accomplishments, he is also a man of great humility and kindness.“
Thomas Dolan, Acting Supreme Court Justice, Dutchess County, who has known Rosenblatt for 34 years said: “Al Rosenblatt is a man of absolute integrity, but despite his awesome personal and professional accomplishments, he is also a man of great humility and kindness. We, his ‘old guys and girls,’ would not have enjoyed the success that we have, but for the help, guidance, training and support that we received over the years from our old friend.”
As he nears his last day, Judge Rosenblatt was asked if he recalled his first Court of Appeals case. He did. The case involved plaintiffs injured in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. “The plaintiffs said the World Trade Center was to blame because they didn’t provide
adequate security,” said Judge Rosenblatt. “The appeal involved discovery. The question was: should they get the security protocol of the World Trade Center to show that security was inadequate? We denied it, for the most part, unanimously.”
A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard Law School, Judge Rosenblatt was Dutchess County District Attorney from 1969 to 1975, and served as president of the State District Attorneys’ Association. He was a County Court judge (1976-1981); a justice of the state Supreme Court (1982-1987); Chief Administrative Judge of the New York State Courts (1987-1989); and an associate justice of the Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Second Department (1989-1998).
He is currently chair of the Council of State and Federal Judges in New York.
When asked what a day at the Court of Appeals is like, Judge Rosenblatt replied: “like a monastery.” He is usually at the courthouse reading by 6 or 7 a.m., followed by breakfast with one of the judges. At his retirement party, Chief Judge Kaye said that she and Judge Rosenblatt typically eat “a small bowl of dry, raw oatmeal ... a touch of skim milk, followed by a modest cup of coffee.” She went on to joke that, once he’s left the room, she follows their Spartan meal with a chocolate croissant and a venti caramel macchiato.
At 9:50 a.m. the bell rings, and the seven judges meet to conference cases, joined by two clerks of the court. The judges confer until noon, going through five or six cases with each judge presenting a case uninterrupted, followed by preliminary votes. At noon, the judges lunch with their respective law clerks, filling them in on the morning’s conference. From 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., oral arguments are heard. From 5 p.m. to 5:55 p.m. each day, Judge Rosenblatt plays squash. At 6 p.m. sharp, the judges have dinner together, returning to the courthouse to work until about midnight. ”
In the decision-making process, we like that people are open and don’t want to box each other into a corner,” said Judge Rosenblatt. “We want judges to say ‘my initial impression was X, but now I can appreciate this point.’ This is the appellate process, and it’s intellectually rigorous, but never hostile in my opinion. The chief judge brings out the best in people.”
Asked what it takes to make a good judge, Rosenblatt replied: “A judge must have confidence and fairness so the community feels they’re getting justice. But you can’t look at it [the law] in a completely cold and intellectual way; you have to look at its practical and human consequences.”
He added: “I’m sure going to miss my colleagues. I love them all. They are six of the best people I’ve ever met.”
Contents Second “Mega-Courthouse” Opens Justice Court Reforms Street Corners Renamed for Court Officers School in New Court Complex Mental Health Courts Domestic Violence Awareness Month Judge Smith Retires Judge Rosenblatt Retires Virtual Library Services Court Programs Broadcast Online Wi-Fi in the Courts Deputy Chief Support Magistrate Court Construction Update Marian Wright Edelman Addresses Conference Historic Courthouses and Trials Did You Know? Judicial Institute (JI) Program Highlights JI Legal Updates