A Thanksgiving Luncheon to Remember

From the Editor

A Thanksgiving Luncheon to Remember

By Bennette D. Kramer

kramer    The Federal Bar Council Thanksgiving Luncheon this year had all the usual events: trumpet welcome; Pledge of Allegiance; welcome by David Kelley, the Luncheon’s chair; introduction of new officers, trustees, and directors by Nominating Chair Robert Fiske; and presentation of the Emory Buckner Medal to recipients by Council President Vilia Hayes.

    What was extraordinary about the rest of the proceedings was that there were two recipients of the Emory Buckner Medal: Chief Judge Carol Amon of the Eastern District and Chief Judge Loretta Preska of the Southern District of New York, both of whom are nearing the end of their terms.

    As Vilia Hayes explained, Judges Amon and Preska share many similarities.  They both took on chief judge responsibilities during the financial crisis that began in 2008 – Judge Preska in 2009 and Judge Amon in 2011 – and both have worked hard to maintain funding for 24-hour a day security in federal courthouses.  In addition, both dealt with the sequestration budget:  Judge Preska along with Chief Judge Gerald Rosen of the Eastern District of Michigan, mobilized 87 federal district chief judges to write a letter to Vice President Joseph Biden, and Judge Amon, through the efforts of her son Chris, met with then-Speaker of the House John Boehner and explained the disastrous effects of the sequestration on the courts.  As a result of these efforts, additional appropriations for the courts were included in a 2014 budget deal.

    Both judges sprang into action following Superstorm Sandy.  Judge Preska worked to plan for the storm and opened the courthouse for emergency hearings the day after the storm, despite a dark courthouse lacking heat and hot water.  Judge Amon gave office space in the Eastern District’s courthouse to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  

Judge Amon

    Hayes introduced Judge Amon as a transplant from Virginia who, after attending Catholic schools, obtained an undergraduate degree from William and Mary and a law degree from the University of Virginia.  Judge Amon served in the Office of General Counsel of the Communications Satellite Corporation and then as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of New York, where she was chief of the Frauds Unit, chief of General Crimes, and senior litigation counsel.  Judge Amon was a U.S. magistrate judge before she was appointed as a district judge in 1990.  

    As a district judge, Judge Amon has handled a wide range of cases involving organized crime, financial fraud, class actions, and the First Amendment.  She has been chair of the Judicial Conference’s Committee on the Codes of Conduct, becoming one of the nation’s leading authorities on judicial ethics.  As chief judge, one of her greatest achievements has been working with the General Services Administration and court administration to secure the perimeter of the Brooklyn courthouse.

    Judge Amon noted the family members who had come to cheer her on and remarked on the similarities between Judge Preska and herself.  She said that if you get into a battle with the GSA or need funds for the court, Judge Preska is the person you want by your side, fighting the same battle and giving encouragement.  

    Judge Amon reflected on Emory Buckner as a role model for public service and said that her father-in-law, Carl H. Amon, Jr., head of the litigation department at Hale & Dorr, was a similar role model for her.  Like Buckner, he was a mentor to many young lawyers, including Judge Amon.  They were both highly principled men, devoted to their families.  Judge Amon also pointed to inspiration on the court set by the five members of the great generation who are World War II veterans: Leo Glasser, Jack Weinstein, Arthur Spatt, Thomas Platt, and Leonard Wexler.

    Judge Amon has found great joy as chief judge.  She has gotten to know her colleagues, whom she jocularly described as a “motley crew” comprised of scholars and doers, idealists and pragmatists, kind hearts and “tough love”-givers.  She loves the varied backgrounds of the members of the court.  She also has loved celebrating the court’s 150th anniversary, learning about the Eastern District’s rich history including the establishment of the court under President Abraham Lincoln, the visit of President Theodore Roosevelt for a naturalization ceremony, and the espionage trials that became the subjects of films. The court has evolved from one established to handle admiralty cases to a court that handles some of the most varied and important cases today.  

    Judge Amon concluded by thanking the Council lawyers who supported the court in its quest for adequate funding and in celebrating the court’s 150th anniversary.  She also thanked the Council, Judge Preska, her judicial colleagues, her family, and her courtroom deputy for all of their support.   

Judge Preska

    Hayes introduced Judge Preska as a native of Delmar, New York.  She also attended Catholic schools and then attended the College of St. Rose, majoring in chemistry.  Judge Preska graduated from Fordham Law School, one of eight women in her class, going on to pursue a Master of Laws in trade regulation at New York University School of Law.  She participated in private practice at Cahill Gordon & Reindel and at Hertzog, Calamari & Gleason.  

    Judge Preska was appointed to the district court in 1992 and became chief judge in 2009.  Judge Preska has handled a variety of matters while on the bench, one of the most dramatic of which was the “Somali Pirate” case.  She is an enthusiastic supporter of Fordham Law School and is a former trustee of the university.  

    As chief judge, she has started a Congressional outreach plan, bringing Senators and members of the House to the courthouse to discuss the state of the judiciary and the Southern District.

    Judge Preska talked about the “Mother Court” – the first federal court in the country, with its first sitting on the first Tuesday of November 1789.  She said that the first judge – James Duane – was born in Manhattan and served as the first mayor of New York City.  She noted that the Eastern District was carved out of the Southern district in 1865.

    Judge Preska acknowledged and thanked Senators Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Alfonse D’Amato.  They were responsible for Judges Preska and Amon’s ascension to the bench, and their names adorn the two new courthouses in the districts – the Southern District Moynihan Courthouse at 500 Pearl Street in Manhattan, and the Eastern District’s Alfonse D’Amato Courthouse in Central Islip.  Senator D’Amato was present at the Thanksgiving Luncheon.

    Judge Preska described some of the travails that she and Judge Amon experienced as chief judges, including acting as supplicants on behalf of their courts to the Administrative Office in Washington and the Second Circuit.  Together they worked with chief judges nationwide to call attention to the devastating effects of the budget crisis on the federal courts.  Both succeeded in maintaining security in and around the courthouses 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  In addition, each chief judge has worked to achieve security construction priorities.  The Southern District is about to finish a security screen pavilion to ease entry into the Moynihan Courthouse, and the Eastern District has completed the project to secure the perimeter of the Brooklyn courthouse.  

    Judge Preska disclosed that the most gratifying part of the chief judge job has been working with her fellow judges on the court.  She also has enjoyed working with the people who make the court work – a devoted group of public servants – and her chambers staff, who have taken care of her and all the extra burdens brought on by her position as chief judge.  She gave a shout out to her husband and two children, who make her proud every day.  Finally, she thanked the lawyers who have supported her during her term as chief judge, and the Council, for honoring her with the Emory Buckner award.

    We who practice in the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York have been lucky to have such hard-working and dedicated chief judges.  As a result of Judges Amon and Preska’s efforts, the courthouses in both districts are safer and more financially secure.  We thank them both and wish them well in their post-chief judicial lives.

Have your say