Legal Community Surprised, Saddened by Judge’s Sudden Retirement

By Christian Nolan

March 24, 2021

Legal Community Surprised, Saddened by Judge’s Sudden Retirement


By Christian Nolan

The New York legal community was surprised and saddened by the sudden retirement yesterday of New York State Court of Appeals Associate Judge Paul G. Feinman for health reasons.

“The New York State Court of Appeals suffered a tremendous loss with the sudden and unexpected retirement of Judge Paul Feinman – an exceptional judge, magnificent human being, and a champion of the LGBTQ community,” said NYSBA President Scott M. Karson. “He has been a wonderful colleague to so many of us at the New York State Bar Association, and we are saddened that his tenure on the state’s highest court will be so brief. I join with his family, friends and admirers throughout the state in wishing him a speedy recovery.”

Feinman had joined the Court of Appeals as an associate judge on June 21, 2017 after the state Senate confirmed his appointment from the governor. His nomination was historic, as he was the first gay judge on the state Court of Appeals.

“The sudden retirement of Judge Paul Feinman is a loss for every New Yorker, as his work within the New York State Unified Court System is a testament to the importance of ensuring LGBTQ representation at all levels of our courts,” said Christopher R. Riano, chair of NYSBA’s LGBTQ Law Section. “Judge Feinman was a friend to so many of us in the legal community, and as the first openly gay judge on the New York Court of Appeals, I know I speak for every member of the LGBTQ Law Section when I note that we all are sad to hear of his sudden departure.”

Matthew J. Skinner, executive director of the Richard C. Failla LGBTQ Commission of the New York State Courts, was also saddened by the news of Feinman’s retirement.

“Judge Feinman has a huge place in New York State LGBTQ legal history for the trail he blazed on the bench. He has helped redefine what is possible for LGBTQ lawyers and judges,” said Skinner. “I know this was not an easy decision to retire, but his tenure will always be marked by his integrity and dedication to the rule of law.”

In addition to replacing Feinman, another seat on the Court of Appeals will be vacant later this year with the announced retirement of Judge Leslie Stein. A third judge, Eugene Fahey, will reach the mandatory retirement age this year, which would require him to step down at the end of 2021.

“As there are now multiple open seats on the New York Court of Appeals, I hope that Judge Feinman’s trailblazing career only serves to ensure future serious consideration of openly LGBTQ candidates by the Commission on Judicial Nomination,” said Riano.

‘Exceptional Judge’

Feinman, who had succeeded Associate Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam after she died in April 2017, also spent 20 years on the bench with the state Supreme Court, the Civil Court of New York City and as an associate justice of the Appellate Division, First Department. He also was principal law clerk to Appellate Division Associate Justice Angela Mazzarelli and a staff attorney for the Legal Aid Society.

“Judge Feinman is an exceptional judge and a magnificent human being who has made an extraordinary contribution to this institution during his tenure,” Chief Judge Janet DiFiore said in a statement. “He will be greatly missed.”

Prior to his nomination to the Court of Appeals, a 17-member committee of the State Bar Association found Feinman “well qualified,” its highest rating, after examining his “professional ability and experience, character, temperament, and possession of the special qualities necessary or desirable for the judicial office sought.”

Feinman has also been active in the New York State Bar Association. He was the presiding member of its Judicial Section in 2012-2013 and a member of its House of Delegates in 2013-14.

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