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Department of Justice
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Thursday, June 10, 2021

Statement of Attorney General Merrick B. Garland on the Life of Judge Robert Katzmann

U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland made the following statement on the passing of Judge Robert Katzmann:

“We lost a giant yesterday with the passing of Judge Robert Katzmann. Humble and modest in demeanor, he leaves behind a legion of family, friends, and colleagues who will feel his loss because he enriched our lives through our relationship to him. But that number pales in comparison to the lives he touched through his work – people who will never know the name of the man who helped make their lives better.

“Bob had extraordinary intellectual gifts, a profound commitment to the law, and a deep devotion to public service. He was a distinguished federal judge on the Second Circuit, a creative legal thinker, and a gifted teacher. He saw everyone as a person, not merely a litigant or a defendant, and was deeply conscious of the impact that his legal rulings would have on the lives of those affected by his decisions.

“A PhD political scientist as well as a lawyer, Bob had an unparalleled understanding about how Congress viewed the laws it passed and the means by which those laws should be interpreted by the judiciary. He authored several books; the most recent, Judging Statutes, is widely taught in law schools to help students understand statutory interpretation, the basis for so many legal questions that come before the courts.

“His influential decisions are too many to mention. One that stands out is his opinion writing for the full 2nd Circuit that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. That decision was later affirmed by the Supreme Court in Bostock v. Clayton County.

“Bob was the rare jurist whose achievements outside the courtroom are as monumental as his work as a judge. His deep belief that the justice system cannot work unless people have access to representation led him to found the Immigrant Justice Corps, a fellowship program through which recent law school and college graduates provide high quality legal assistance to tens of thousands of immigrants on a range of life-altering legal matters.

“Bob understood that public confidence in the judicial system requires an understanding of the role of courts and bringing courts closer to the community. He launched a circuit-wide civic education initiative, Justice for All: Courts and the Community, in which judges, court personnel, attorneys and educators work together to help ensure that courts are accessible and effective public institutions.

“The rule of law and the search for equal justice have lost one of their most effective advocates. Bob elevated our profession and inspired countless young law students and lawyers. He brought enormous and edifying humanity to every interaction he had.

“Bob was my friend. While serving together for many years on committees of the Judicial Conference of the United States, I saw firsthand his decency, compassion and humility. His wife, Jennifer, his mother Sylvia, and his brothers and sister, Gary, Martin and Susan, have my deepest sympathy. He will be sorely missed.”

Press Release Number: 
Updated June 10, 2021