Judge Kaye and Lawyers Assistance – by Eileen Travis

Many of us involved with the City Bar’s Lawyer Assistance Program (LAP) and Lawyer Assistance Committee had the great honor of knowing Judge Judith S. Kaye as an advocate, supporter and friend. I first met then-Chief Judge Kaye in Cooperstown in May of 1999 at a Lawyers Retreat, where she participated in a program sponsored by the New York State Bar LAP. That evening, many of the retreat participants planned to attend an AA meeting, and the Judge asked if she could sit in. It was a turning point for her, and the beginning of her unwavering commitment to the Lawyer Assistance Program’s mission. Listening to two dozen or so lawyers and judges share their personal struggles with alcoholism and drug abuse helped to change what Judge Kaye would call her “benign indifference to the determination to convene a high-level Judicial Branch Commission” charged with developing a comprehensive and statewide plan to address the acute and complex problems stemming from alcohol and substance dependency in the profession. In September of that year, the Commission on Alcohol and Substance Abuse in the Legal Profession was established; and on January 22, 2001, the Commission presented an Action Plan to Judge Kaye at a convocation held at the City Bar. The primary recommendation of the Plan was the creation of a Lawyer Assistance Trust, “for the purpose of funding lawyer assistance programs…while preserving and invigorating their proven records of effectiveness.” The Trust was established that same year with funding provided through the New York State Office of Court Administration. Michael A. Cooper, who established LAP when he was president of the City Bar and was Chair of the Trust’s Board, recalls, “I have never served on a board of any kind that was as committed to its work as the Board of the New York State Lawyer Assistance Trust. Many of the Board members were attorneys and judges themselves in recovery.” Since Judge Kaye’s passing, I’ve heard from so many people who were close to her, and to our program, who wanted to share their memories, gratitude, and praise, including past Lap Committee chairs and Board Trustees William Hammond, Avrom Robin, and Gary Reing. Gary captured Judge Kaye’s character perfectly in describing how she “showed us her humility by not accepting any awards for her work until she retired. When she graced us with her presence at a dinner in her honor, she exhibited grace, dignity, and true appreciation for the work we do.” Eileen Travis is Director of the Lawyer Assistance Program at the City Bar