By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
In spite of a slew of high
profile cases that have been before U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas
Garaufis, the one that he settled last week was music to the ears of this
writer, the judge’s old friend. ("Old friends" is starting to
have meaning — some of them go back more years than I can count on my
fingers and toes together. So it is with Nick and me).
When Nick Became Judge Garaufis
On Aug. 28, 2000 at Brooklyn’s Federal Courthouse (left, top to bottom): Judge David Trager to Nicholas Garaufis, the Eastern District’s newest judge. Nick’s dad helps him with his new robes. Proud Queens Beep Claire Shulman addresses the crowd. Nick expresses gratitude. Old friends Congressman Gary Ackerman, Trib Publisher Mike Schenkler and Judge Jeremy Weinstein were there to celebrate with Nick. Former Senator Al D’Amato, Court of Claim Judge Al Waldon and Garaufis. Nick with sons Jamie and Matthew and grandpa Prescott.
After handling organized
crime, tobacco racketeering and other major cases that have captured the
attention of news watchers, Queens jurist Nick Garaufis presided over the
short-lived lawsuit by the estate of late Beatle George Harrison against a
doctor accused of coercing the dying ex-Beatle into signing the doctor’s
son’s guitar. Harrison, who died of cancer in 2001, was being treated by
Dr. Gilbert Lederman at New York’s Staten Island University Hospital
when the incident occurred.
"The reputation, the
dignity of all concerned is best preserved" by trying to reach a
settlement, Garaufis said prior to meeting with lawyers for Harrison’s
estate and Dr. Lederman at the Brooklyn Cadmen Plaza Federal courthouse,
which is Nick’s home away from home.
The guitar "will be
disposed of privately," Dr. Lederman’s son will be given a new
guitar, and the estate agreed to drop the $10 million lawsuit. The case
No surprise. I know Nick as a
person of wisdom.
Seriously, if you told me to
choose from all the people I know, the one that would serve most
effectively as a judge filled with compassion and wisdom, I’d likely
pick Nick Garaufis. Now that’s not political hoohah. Nick has the job
for life — gee, that’s a long time. And I don’t ever intend on
needing help ion Federal Court — not that Nick would ever bend the
Nick is just one nice guy who
is not only very smart, he is acutely wise. His wisdom is almost impish in
its clever twists and cute manifestation on Nick’s face. The guy has my
type of sense of humor and he’s this big time Federal Judge.
A couple of years back we
reported that Nick presided over the highly publicized sexual harassment
suit that bodybuilder Nicole Bass filed against World Wrestling
[Federation] Entertainment — a case that saw some of the most popular
faces in professional wrestling called to the stand.
The 6’2’, 220-pound Bass
alleged she was subjected to numerous sexual indignities while working as
a female wrestler for the World Wrestling Federation in 1999.
However, a Brooklyn jury
body-slammed the lawsuit, thanks partly to the testimonies of Lisa Moretti
and Paul Levesque, better known among wrestling fans as Ivory and Triple
"I want to thank you for
a most entertaining experience," we quoted Garaufis as saying after
the decision was handed down. "Let’s hope it was a
once-in-a-lifetime experience for the court."
I mean, Nick still knows how
to laugh, have a good time and be himself. This guy is as unpretentious as
they get. But he is still one damn good judge — maybe even better.
I’m not going to belabor the
real serious trials over which Nick has presided. There are many and they
are impressive. Another close friend of mine who practices before the
Federal bench continually remarks about the respect Nick has earned in the
legal community. I’m always impressed and very proud.
I first met Nick in the late
70’s. He had recently entered private practice after a three year stint
as a New York State Assistant Attorney General and I had just started
running the Trib. Soon he was the Queens Tribune
Did he have an ear for music back then? Future Federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis at the dedication of the Aaron Copeland School of Music at Queens College with composers Copeland (left) and Milton Gould (right).
He served on Community School
Board 26, ran for State Senate, and in 1986 signed with Claire Shulman to
serve as Chief Counsel to the Borough President. In 1995, after
representing the borough over the myriad of entanglements with its
airports, Nick was asked to serve as Chief Counsel to the Federal Aviation
Administration. It was off to Washington and Nick became a commuter dad.
In 2000 at the recommendation of Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Nick
Garaufis was nominated by President Bill Clinton to serve as judge of U.
S. District Court, Eastern District of New York; he was confirmed by the
U.S. Senate in May and installed on Aug. 28, 2000. I was there, at the
Cadmen Square Courthouse, along with an army of Nick supporters.
Lil and I were at the Queens
Museum, not all that long ago, when Nick and Betsy Seidman who – he met
when she served on the Moynihan judicial search committee, were wed. Nick
had been with us, a hundred years earlier, when Lil and I were married.
And now, Nick, the first
Federal judge from our borough since Jacob Mishler was appointed in 1964,
resides with his family in Bayside — where he has resided ever since I
met him way back when.
Announcing the agreement
between the Harrison estate and Dr. Lederman, Judge Nick Garaufis said,
"George Harrison’s music spoke to the heart and soul of my
And it once again became
apparent to me that those people who sit in positions of power today are
of my generation. They are not very different from many of you or me. And
in spite of all the criticism this column has for the government and the
process, things are still pretty good and although we may complain, we
still live in the best place on earth.
And when we see people like
Nick Garaufis calling the shots, we understand why the system works.
Not4Publication.com by Dom Nunziato
Michael Schenkler can be