CCNY Fellowship Invites Chief Justice Robert Katzmann for Discussion by Anthony Viola

In the Trump era, it’s challenging to go anywhere and not hear about Stormy Daniels or a collusion with Russia. But with Chief Justice Robert Katzmann coming to the City College of New York, he made sure to avoid discussing it too deeply. Katzmann appeared to answer questions around ethics, and Daniels was one example of maintaining the judicial code he follows daily. At the seminar on April 17, Professor of Political Science Carlo Accetti guided the conversation into the hardest aspects of Justice Katzmann’s job. Students from various disciplines participated in the conversation to absorb the knowledge of this successful individual.

Throughout the discussion, Katzmann answered discussed ethics from the perspective of a judge. Katzmann was unable to speak on certain topics due to his role as a federal judge. He explained that he couldn’t comment on cases that he’s worked on in the past, or cases he may work on in the future. Accetti mentioned the Stormy Daniels case and student audience member inquired about President Trump generally. Katzmann spoke about general aspects of the job instead.

One of the facets of government he spoke freely about is the actual structure. Students asked questions ranging from diversity to elected judges. On the topic of diversity in the courts, Katzmann shared, “I am impressed really by the diversity of experience by my colleagues. It’s also true that you learn from your colleagues.” He continued, “I remember reading about Sandra Day O’Connor, and she said that having Thurgood Marshall on the Supreme Court was extraordinarily important to the court because of his experience. So when they’re dealing with these civil rights issue, having somebody on the court who has actually lived in it and knew it was important.”

While Justice Katzmann declined to speak thoroughly on the cases he worked on, he used those experiences to share his adjudication style. Having served on the federal court since 1999, he has levied decisions on several topics, including corruption on Wall Street and the “Deflategate” scandal with Tom Brady. Most recently, Katzmann mentioned his decision that it was unconstitutional to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. In the case named Zarda v. Altitude Express, the court reaffirmed that protections for LGBTQ individuals already exist under Title VII.

Members of the audience were captivated by the Justice’s insight. The audience consisted of 50 students and faculty members from various departments. Liz Moynihan, wife of previous U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, also attended the event. Her late husband graduated from the City College of New York and was a close mentor to Justice Katzmann.

It wasn’t just political science students who gained something from Justice Katzmann’s talk. Some students, like biochemical engineering major Raj Talukdar, were thrilled to obtain knowledge outside of their field. “He spoke very deeply about our judicial system and the checks and balances it provides.” He continues, “as well as certain personal queries about his experience serving on [the court].”

Justice Katzmann is the author of Judging Statutes. In his discussion, he’s shared that other justices have been asked in the Harvard Law Review how they learn to interpret certain statutes, and many share they “listen to Katzmann.” Like these other judges, many students were enthralled by the speaker overall. Sophomore Ana-Luisa Anaya couldn’t ignore his presence and charm. “He was easy to understand and he seemed noticeably pleased to have the chance to speak with us, which was nice,” she said. “I also liked his bowtie.”

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