In Memoriam: Judge Robert Katzmann

Judge Robert A. Katzmann, professor of practice, passed away on June 9, 2021. “Judge Katzmann made a profound impact on those who worked with him, learned from him, and appeared before him. He was a visionary leader in the law, and he leaves an exceptional legacy of jurisprudence and advocacy for those most in need of quality legal services. He was also a beloved friend to many in the NYU Law community and beyond,” said Dean Trevor Morrison in an email announcement.

Robert Katzmann
Robert Katzmann

“Our community will mourn his passing deeply,” Morrison said. “We remember him with the greatest fondness, respect, and gratitude.”

Judge Katzmann joined NYU Law as a professor of practice in January, coinciding with his assumption of senior status on the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. He first began teaching at NYU Law in 2001 as an adjunct professor, leading the Administrative Process Seminar. In 2002, he began a long relationship with the Institute of Judicial Administration (IJA), first as a faculty member of its New Appellate Judges Seminar, and later as a member of the IJA advisory board. In 2011, he delivered NYU Law’s Madison Lecture. That lecture formed the basis for his acclaimed book, Judging Statutes. In 2018, the NYU Annual Survey of American Law dedicated its 75th volume to Judge Katzmann.

Judge Katzmann was nominated and confirmed to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in 1999, where he served as Chief Judge from 2013 until 2020. As Chief Judge, he led a civic education initiative to increase public understanding of the federal judiciary and to bring communities and courts closer together. “He was a widely admired jurist, whose contributions to the jurisprudence of the federal courts are immense,” Morrison noted.

Prior to his service as a jurist, Judge Katzmann taught at Georgetown University and served as a fellow at the Brookings Institution. He earned an undergraduate degree from Columbia University, a master’s degree and PhD in government from Harvard University, and a law degree from Yale Law School—making him, during his time on the bench, the only federal jurist to possess both a law degree and a doctorate in political science. After earning his law degree, he clerked for Judge Hugh H. Bownes of the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

Outside of his work as a judge, professor, and mentor, Judge Katzmann was a passionate advocate for increasing quality legal representation for immigrants at risk of deportation. The Immigrant Justice Corps and the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project were established from his work, the former focusing on recruiting top law school graduates to work in immigration law, and the latter the nation’s first public defender system for immigrants facing deportation.

NYU Law will continue to honor the legacy of Judge Katzmann's distinguished career and scholarship through the Robert A. Katzmann Annual Symposium Series, an endowed program established in February 2021.

Posted June 10, 2021