Former Chief Judge of 2nd Circuit Robert Katzmann dead at 68

Former Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit Robert A. Katzmann, who served as special counsel on the confirmation of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and shared a friendship with the late justice, died Thursday after battling a long illness. He was 68.

Judge Katzmann was appointed to the Court of Appeals by President Bill Clinton. He was nominated to serve on the Second Circuit on March 9, 1999, and was confirmed by the Senate on July 16, 1999.

Born in Manhattan on April 22, 1953, Katzmann was the son of John Katzmann, a refugee of Nazi Germany and engineer, and Sylvia Katzmann, the daughter of Russian-born immigrants.

Before his time as a circuit court judge, Katzmann was the Walsh Professor of Government, Professor of Law and Professor of Public Policy at Georgetown University and a fellow of Governmental Studies Program at the Brookings Institution.

Katzmann was also the author of a number of books, including “Courts And Congress.”

In 1993, prior to his appointment to the circuit court, Katzmann was asked to act as special counsel to Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan during the confirmation of Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the Supreme Court.

“When President Clinton nominated me … Sen. Moynihan thought it would be useful for me to have a savvy, sympathique counselor as I made my way from one senator’s office to another’s. Bob Katzmann was that counselor,” Ginsburg said.

Afterword, Ginsburg and Katzmann would remain friends, and the Supreme Court Justice administered Judge Katzmann’s oath of office in 1999, saying at the time that the “insightful scholar of governance and interbranch relations” who had “studied federal courts closely for many years” would bring “an enormous store of knowledge to his new commission, along with intelligence and personal qualities important in sound judging: an inquiring mind, extraordinary diligence, patience, and a readiness to learn and listen.”

In a tribute to Katzmann, Justice Sonia Sotomayor — a friend of the late judge — noted: “Bob has opened the doors to the courthouse to students, teachers, and the broader community with the goal of increasing public understanding of the courts and bringing the courts closer to the community.”

Judge Katzmann served as Chief Judge of the Second Circuit from Sept. 1, 2013, to Aug. 31, 2020. He took senior status on Jan. 21, 2021.

Judge Katzmann is survived by his wife, Jennifer, a filmmaker, writer and editor. He is also survived by his brothers, Gary and Martin, by his sister, Susan, by in-laws Stacey and Neil, and by many nephews and nieces.

Zeke Hartner

Zeke Hartner is a digital writer/editor who has been with WTOP since 2017. He is a graduate of North Carolina State University’s Political Science program and an avid news junkie.

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