President’s Report on the Second Circuit Judicial Conference

Published: July 23, 2018

By Mitchell J. Katz, NDNY-FCBA President

I was honored to be invited to attend the 2018 Second Circuit Judicial Conference in Saratoga Springs. Held from June 13 to 15, the Conference was convened by the Chief Judge of the Second Circuit and conducted like a big firm “retreat” – with court business, education, idea exchange and socializing. With more than 750 attendees, including judges and court employees from New York, Vermont and Connecticut, it was an impressive gathering.

This year’s Conference theme explored the administrative state. There were several CLE programs presented by national experts including law professors, a former member of Congress, former Cabinet-level appointees and a former White House Chief of Staff. In addition to Judges from all over the Second Circuit, there was a guided discussion with Chief Justice John Roberts (a “surprise” guest) and Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who serves as Circuit Justice for the Second Circuit.

As a “civilian” attendee, I found the Conference to be very much like the legal version of walking around an international film festival, looking around to meet the “stars” of our profession and judiciary. Name tags provided names only, which made casual exchanges very interesting!

One of the many highlights of the Conference was the musical comedy presentation written by District Judge Jed Rakoff and ably performed by local singing talent and (not so talented) Chief Judge Robert Katzmann, who by his own reckoning, is much better suited to be a Judge than a vocalist. The conclusion to this program was the singing of “Happy Birthday” to our own Chief Judge Glenn Suddaby. Chief Judge Katzmann also called out for recognition NDNY Clerk Lawrence Baerman and NDNY Bankruptcy Clerk Kim Lefebvre, each of whom will be retiring this year.

There was also a screening of the documentary RBG (about Associate Justice Ginsburg), local tours and activities, and plenty of time to socialize before, during and after the dinner programs.

Not surprisingly, the Judges of the NDNY made all of us local “civilian” guests feel very welcome.

During his “State of the Circuit” presentation, Chief Judge Katzmann noted in his remarks that the NDNY has an open District Court seat and will, upon Chief Magistrate Judge Dave Peebles’s retirement in 2019, have a Magistrate Judge position open in Binghamton. He also highlighted the Second Circuit’s Justice For All (“JFA”) Program for civic engagement (

I was proud to see that the JFA Annual Report features a picture from the NDNY’s Susan B. Anthony reenactment held in Syracuse earlier this year. As the president of the NDNY-FCBA, I can assure Chief Judge Katzmann that the NDNY-FCBA looks forward to working with the NDNY in presenting more JFA programs.