Judith S. Kaye reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70 this week after a quarter-century on New York State’s highest court, the last 15 years as chief judge. The New York Times says Kaye pushed the court system to address societal problems by creating courts or assigning judges for specific issues like drug abuse, mental health and domestic violence – initiatives that other states followed.
Among her most notable changes was to overhaul the jury system. She eliminated automatic exemptions for lawyers and many others, and streamlined the system so that people would not be called back so often. Kaye set up “problem-solving” courts, which aim to move beyond simply punishing defendants. She set up a community court in Midtown Manhattan that sentences defendants to community service, rather than jail time, and offers drug treatment and job training.