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.
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 rules.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 H.
"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 Attorney.
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 generation."
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.