George Bundy Smith

, New York Law Journal


Photo by Rick Kopstein/NYLJ

Few judges in New York's history have received as many accolades as George Bundy Smith, former associate judge of the Court of Appeals. George Bundy Smith has forever changed America's legal landscape and inspired a generation of lawyers. He served as a judge for over 30 years, and as a law professor for over 25 years. He has spent his entire life as a champion of civil rights. While he has received nearly every award there is, his humility and willingness to help those around him is what sets him apart.

As a former clerk, I have a unique perspective on this man who personifies grace, humor, intelligence and calm. A tireless champion for the underprivileged and underserved, I saw him drive through the night to teach criminal law to first year law students at Fordham Law School, only to appear on the bench the following morning in Albany deciding the most difficult cases before our state's highest court. He also gave his time to organizations such as the Metropolitan Black Bar Association and Judicial Friends, providing leadership and guidance through the years. He mentored many of our state's most promising jurists, always encouraging young judges to believe that they could achieve the impossible.

Even now Judge Smith's energy is inexhaustible. Without question, he is the hardest working man I have ever known. Along with his brilliant legal mind he has brought unyielding efforts to bring diversity to the judiciary, and has always asked law students, law clerks, lawyers and judges what we consider the future and the role we would like to play in making this country a more perfect union. Many of his former clerks will also testify that he has been there for us at our lowest moments, in times of personal and professional hardship, ever reminding us to believe in ourselves and to believe that God is in control.

Greater than his work on the bench, his mentoring judges and young attorneys, and his support for organizations committed to promoting social equality, has been Judge Smith's unwavering dedication to his family. Judge Smith, his wife Alene, and their children, Beth and George Jr., are as loving a family as I have ever known and the greatest testament to Judge Smith as a man.

From his time at Yale Law School, where he and his sister Judge Inez Smith Reid were the only African American students, through the end of his tenure on New York's highest court and continuing today, George Bundy Smith has exemplified the highest level of commitment to community, justice and equality. He has labored for over 50 years to make this country, state, its courts and his family succeed. He is fair, honest, kind, funny, modest, and deserving of every honor we can dream up as human beings. He is the best person I have ever known and I am so grateful that I have this opportunity to tell him so.

Dionne Fraser is the vice president and assistant general counsel at JPMorgan Chase Bank.


JAMS, Chadbourne & Parke

LL.B., Yale Law School

LL.M., University of Virginia School of Law

Served 14 years on the New York Court of Appeals

• Administrator of Model Cities for New York City.

• Judge of the Civil Court of New York City.

• Associate justice of the Supreme Court of New York.

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