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Former chief judge of U.S. 2nd Circuit Robert Katzmann dies at 68

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A view of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York November 17, 2009. REUTERS/Chip East

(Reuters) - Robert Katzmann, the former chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in New York, has died after a illness, the court announced on Thursday. He was 68.

Katzmann, who served as chief judge from 2013 to 2021 before taking senior status, played a monumental role in guiding the court through the COVID-19 pandemic and championed public education on the federal court system. During his time in the 2nd Circuit, Katzmann became a major feeder judge for the U.S. Supreme Court.

Chief Judge Debra Livingston, who succeeded Katzmann, wrote in a statement on behalf of the 2nd Circuit that Katzmann's "quiet confidence, determination, exceptional leadership, and strong sense of justice" was an inspiration and that he will be missed profoundly.

“Judge Katzmann led our Court through historic challenges, from budget sequester and governmental shutdowns, at the beginning of his tenure as Chief, to the pandemic which upended our Court’s operations only last spring," Livingston said.

"Throughout it all, Judge Katzmann provided sure and steady leadership. And more than this, Judge Katzmann, with his commitment to civic education, also had a vision for the Circuit – that the judiciary might lend a steadying hand to our democracy by helping to educate the citizenry about the rule of law and the role of judges.”

Katzmann gained notoriety for raising awareness on the legal representation of U.S. immigrants and launched the Study Group on Immigrant Representation in 2014. He also served as a special counsel in the 1993 confirmation of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Katzmann in January joined New York University Law as a professor of practice coinciding with his senior status. He'd been an adjunct professor at NYU Law teaching the administrative process since 2001, according to NYU's website.

Katmzmann received his bachelor's degree from Columbia College, his master's and PhD from Harvard, and his JD from Yale.

New York State Bar Association President Andrew Brown said in a statement on Katzmann's death that the judge was known for his "brilliant legal mind, dedication to the rule of law and devotion to the next generation."

"He was beloved in the New York legal community for the deep compassion he brought to every case that came before him during his many years of service to the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. As chief judge, he was a true leader, striving for the highest ideals in that unassuming manner that brought no attention to himself," Brown said in the statement.

"While he commanded rapt attention from any audience as would any superstar, he made time for young lawyers who wanted a word, students interested in civics education, universities seeking a professor and bar associations pursuing a speaker. I join the entire New York legal community in mourning his loss. He will be truly missed."

Katzmann is survived by his wife, siblings (including twin brother Gary Katzmann, who is a judge on the Court of International Trade), nieces and nephews.

Arriana McLymore reports on the business of law, including diversity in the profession, corporate practices, legal education and attorney career life cycles.

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