An Evening at the Second Circuit

By Quinn N. D’Isa

An Evening at the Second Circuit

On a rainy New York evening, members of NYSBA’s Commercial and Federal Litigation Section gathered for “An Evening at the Thurgood Marshall Courthouse” with the Second Circuit. In the annual event’s first return from being held remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, members of ComFed were treated to an engaging tour of Thurgood Marshall Courthouse, designed by architect Cass Gilbert prior to his design of the U.S. Supreme Court building. The tour began in the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Library on the 25th floor, which is not publicly accessible, and continued through multiple wood-paneled courtrooms and the learning center for the Justice for All: Courts and the Community initiative.

After the tour, attendees and judges mingled in the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Library over hors d’oeuvres and drinks. Later in the evening, attendees heard from two distinguished speakers: Chief Judge Debra Livingston of the Second Circuit and Judge P. Kevin Castel of the Southern District of New York. First to speak was Chief Judge Livingston, who opened her remarks on the topic of COVID-19 and its effects on the practice of law with a quote from Judge Learned Hand: “Life is made up of constant calls to action, and we seldom have time for more than hastily contrived answers.” In this spirit, Judge Livingston applauded the members of the Commercial and Federal Litigation Section for meeting the call to action of upholding their commitment to the wheels of justice even in the face of dire circumstances these past few years. Chief Judge Livingston further shared the Second Circuit’s pride in the Justice for All initiative, originally spearheaded by Chief Judge Robert A. Katzmann and Judge Victor Marrero, and encouraged participation in forthcoming events.

Next to speak was Judge Castel, who, the day before, was honored with the Stanley H. Fuld award by the Commercial and Federal Litigation Section. Judge Castel shared his reverence for the Thurgood Marshall Courthouse through tales of memorable celebrity encounters with George Harrison, Jack Dempsey, and Muhammad Ali (whose framed signature on a legal pad now adorns Judge Castel’s chambers) and a recounting of landmark cases argued at the courthouse. One such suit was a seemingly mundane tort case involving a train collision in the years soon after the courthouse opened – Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins. In his closing remarks, Judge Castel summed up his thoughts on the courthouse and its judicial milieu with the following sentiment: the stately stature of the building imparts an unequivocal impression that it is the site of consequential decision-making.

Quinn D’Isa is an associate in the litigation department of Foley & Lardner LLP. Quinn is based in the New York office, where his practice focuses on complex commercial litigation. He is a member of the business litigation and dispute resolution practice group.