Remembering Judge Hugh R. Jones: A Professional and Personal Inspiration

Article excerpt

In January 1973 Hugh R. Jones began his tenure as an Associate Judge on the New York Court of Appeals and accorded me the honor and privilege of serving as his first law clerk. Professor Robert J. Rabin of the Syracuse University College of Law served as "correspondent" law clerk and Martha Wilmot as the judge's secretary, traveling between Albany and Utica--through his December 1984 term--to meet the stenographic and clerical demands of the Court's work in two locations.

With no judicial experience before 1973, the immediate challenge Judge Jones faced deciding appeals and motions in civil and criminal matters (of statewide and often national significance) was daunting.

Judge Jones's pre-judicial background as New York State Bar President, State University of New York Trustee, State Social Welfare Board Chairman, Episcopal Diocese of Central New York Chancellor, and New York State Select Committee on Correctional Institutions and Programs Chairman required organizational and human relations skills, motivation, and dedication to public service which he immediately applied to his judicial duties with zeal and enthusiasm.

Judge Jones motivated his staff by example. His attention to detail resulted in his reading and analyzing the record in most of the appeals he heard. He treated his clerks, the Court's staff, and those appearing before the Court with a warmth, respect, and collegiality equaled in my experience only by former New York Court of Appeals Chief Judge Stanley H. Fuld. (1)

Judge Jones took great care to use plain language in drafting and editing judicial decisions. By writing drafts initially and reviewing them later, he strove to reduce adverse influences which differences in mood, strength, or temporal events might have on the finished product. Legal scholars who study Judge Jones's opinions will find them an enduring example of clear and concise writing. If he disagreed with the reasoning or result suggested in a clerk's report he would discuss the case with the clerk before arriving at a final decision. His egalitarian treatment of law clerks is special and remarkable evidence of the respect he had for others.

During his memorial service at the Hamilton College Chapel each person who remembered him--including children, grandchildren, in-laws, attorneys, judges, clergy, friends and neighbors--recalled unique, individual acts of kindness, consideration, caring, and humor they experienced with Judge Jones. …