More than a Contest: A Mission

By Jacqueline Kirkpatrick

More than a Contest: A Mission


He was a judge, professor, author and visionary. He advocated for civics education and initiated the “Justice for All: Courts and Community” project. For former Chief Second Circuit Judge Robert A. Katzmann, who died this year of pancreatic cancer at age 68, civics education was a mission.

The New York State Bar Association’s Commercial and Federal Litigation Section and the Justice for All Initiative of the Federal Courts of the Second Circuit wanted to find a way to continue the dialogue that Judge Katzmann so eloquently began during his lifetime. That’s why they are launching the Judge Robert A. Katzmann Memorial Essay Contest.

Civics for Judge Katzmann was not just essential to teach but to understand. The Justice for All Initiative was intended to “increase public understanding of the role and operations of the courts and bring courts closer to the community.” Educating the public, especially students, was a priority of the initiative and the essay contest serves that mission. Judge Katzmann served as a United States Circuit Court judge on the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit from 1999 through 2021 and was the court’s chief judge from 2013 to 2020. In January 2021, Katzmann assumed senior status, never missing an opportunity to share his wisdom, or his passion for civil law.

After his passing, his colleagues and friends remembered him in interviews and memorials worldwide as being humble, fair, patient, and deeply committed to justice and integrity in the profession of law. In his 22 years on the circuit, he authored hundreds of opinions that will no doubt inspire generations to come, including those who participate in the contest, which is open to high school students in New York. Students attending public, private, parochial, and charter schools, as well as home-schooled students of equivalent grade status, are all invited to participate.

In honor of Judge Katzmann’s commitment to the administration of justice and to educating students about the role of the courts in promoting justice for all, the theme for this year’s essay contest is “The Role of the Courts in Promoting Justice for All: The Equal Protection Clause.” Consistent with that theme, students are asked to consider how the federal courts have interpreted the meaning of the Equal Protection Clause in many different situations, and to think critically about how the Equal Protection Clause impacts individuals, communities, and American society.

May his words and ideas live on, be heard, put into service, and built upon.

For more information, entry rules and resources on the contest, please visit:

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