Communities for Just Schools Fund Tribute to Judge Judith S. Kaye

Communities for Just Schools Fund newsletter

Tribute to Judge Judith S. Kaye

On January 7, 2016 the world lost Former Chief Judge of the New York State Court of Appeals, Judith S. Kaye. Our nation is indebted to Judge Kaye not only for the many ways she championed fair and just court systems and schools, but also for her unflagging devotion to our children. Judge Kaye’s many accomplishments have been celebrated widely and here at the Communities for Just Schools Fund, we are most especially indebted to Judge Kaye for the national school discipline reform efforts she and her colleagues initiated through the New York State Permanent Judicial Commission on Justice for Children (PJCJC). Kesi Foster, Lead Organizer at CJSF grantee, Urban Youth Collaborative, said “Judge Kaye was a tireless champion for ensuring our schools treated all schoolchildren, especially Black, Latino, and students with disabilities fairly and with dignity and respect. Her efforts will have a lasting positive impact on schoolchildren from generations to come.”

In 2012, Judge Kaye and the PJCJC convened a national conference of cross-systems actors that included representatives from 46 states – including a number of the Fund’s grantees and many Chief Justices. When Judge Kaye said “come,” people showed up! Many major state-level efforts to coordinate meaningful school discipline and climate reforms emerged from that conference.

For an example of Judge Kaye’s leadership in demanding educational excellence for all children, see this tribute by Communities for Just Schools Fund grantee, Alliance for Quality Education:

AQE Joins All New Yorkers in Mourning the Loss of Judge Judith Kaye
Statement of the Alliance for Quality EducationJudgeKaye

It is with great sorrow that we learned today of the passing of Judith Kaye, former Chief Judge of the New York State Court of Appeals. Judge Kaye was a tremendous Chief Judge and champion of New York’s children and families. She was a major force in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit writing the majority decision in CFE I and the dissent in CFE II. In CFE the Court of Appeals found that New York State was failing to meet its constitutional obligation to provide all students with a “sound, basic education.” In her dissent she asserted that the amount of funding ordered by the court was not enough. 

She did not give up her commitment to justice when she retired from the bench, she continued to be a major voice for equity and justice as the Chair of the New York State Permanent Judicial Commission on Justice for Children. Most recently we were proud to collaborate with her on the introduction of legislation by Assembly Education Chair Cathy Nolan to reform school discipline practices statewide to dramatically reduce suspensions and school-based arrests, end the severe racial disparities in school discipline, and create positive and supportive school climates for students and educators. 

Chief Judge Judith Kaye made a lasting impact for the improvement of the lives of New York’s families and children. She was an indefatigable champion of justice and she did it all with grace, charm and a powerful intellect. The Alliance for Quality Education joins all New Yorkers in mourning the loss of one of our state’s true heroes. 

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