A Tribute to Judge Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick

By Keane, Mackenzie M. | Albany Law Review, Winter 2012 | Go to article overview

A Tribute to Judge Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick


Keane, Mackenzie M., Albany Law Review


The Albany Law Review is thrilled to dedicate this year's New York Appeals Issue to Judge Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick, in recognition of her profound influence on New York law.

Instead of taking her spot on the New York State Court of Appeals quietly, Judge Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick inadvertently joined New York State's highest court with a bang. Judge Ciparick had just authored a controversial abortion rights decision only a year and half before. (1) Judge Ciparick's decision in Hope v. Perales was affirmed by the Appellate Division, First Department. (2) Although Hope was ultimately reversed by the New York State Court of Appeals (3--a decision in which Judge Ciparick did not participate--her opinion did prove one thing: that Judge Ciparick would bring a liberal perspective to the Court of Appeals. (4)

Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick, the first Hispanic judge on the Court of Appeals, grew up in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, where her parents had settled after immigrating to the United States from Puerto Rico. (5) She graduated from George Washington High School, and went on to receive her bachelor's degree from Hunter College before attending St. John's University School of Law. (6) Judge Ciparick has candidly admitted that her initial decision to enter law school was not well-received by her parents. (7) To support her dream, she worked at the Junior High School of Central Harlem while attending night classes at St. John's. (8)

After graduating from law school in 1967, Judge Ciparick's first job was as a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society in the South Bronx. (9) Many of her disadvantaged clients, not accustomed to encountering female attorneys, would greet her with suspicion, often mistaking her for a secretary or Spanish interpreter. (10) Judge Ciparick's presence in the small office paved the way for "more women and more Spanish speaking attorneys." (11)

Judge Ciparick's last job before she began her career as a jurist--although she held a number of jobs in the judicial system along the way--was as counsel in the office of Judge David Ross, a New York City Administrative Judge. (12) Thereafter, in 1978, she was appointed as a judge in the New York City Criminal Court by Mayor Ed Koch, becoming the first Puerto Rican woman on the bench in New York. (13) Within four years, in 1982, she was elected to the New York State Supreme Court. (14)

When Governor Mario Cuomo nominated Judge Ciparick in 1993 to replace Associate Judge Stewart H. Hancock, it was a truly momentous occasion for Hispanics and women in New York. (15) Her confirmation as a judge on the Court of Appeals marked the first time that a Hispanic--and only the second time that a woman--had attained a spot on New York's highest court. (16) In naming Judge Ciparick as his nominee, Governor Cuomo spoke of her "collegiality" and the quality of her writing. (17) He also stressed the harmony between Judge Ciparick's high judicial qualities and the symbolism of gender and race equality her placement on the court represented, (18) Judge Ciparick's appointment represented not only a great judicial advocate, but also a beacon of hope for those supporting diversity in New York State's elected officials.

At the public hearing on Governor Cuomo's nomination of Judge Ciparick, Senator Joseph A. Galiber noted that she had "earned ... the right to be [t]here with [her] background." (19) While noting that she was "an absolutely outstanding lawyer [and] able administrator," Judge Richard J. Bartlett emphasized the energy, ability, and commitment that she would undoubtedly bring to the bench. (20) Justice Betty Weinberg Ellerin of the Appellate Division, First Department, posited that it was not long after meeting Judge Ciparick that she understood why she was so highly regarded among her colleagues: the breadth of her knowledge and understanding was "remarkable." (21) Justice Ellerin further noted that Judge Ciparick "had that all too rare ability to translate legal concepts into the pragmatic necessities of the actual courtroom. …

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