Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick




Associate Judge of the New York State Court of Appeals, 1994-2012


by Antonio E. Galvao

It is safe to say that the life experiences of Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick, the first Hispanic and the second woman to sit on the Court of Appeals, were quite unlike those of her predecessors on the Court. Her life story begins on the first day of 1942 in Manhattan’s Washington Heights, a narrow stretch of upper Manhattan inhabited primarily by European immigrants. Among the earliest Puerto Rican settlers in the Heights were two childhood sweethearts from the seaside town of Mayaguez, who had married and moved to New York City in 1929: Eduardo Beauchamp, the son of a merchant, and Patria Comas, the daughter of a local poet of some renown.

Mr. Beauchamp, a civil servant in the United States Army Corps of Engineers, and Mrs. Beauchamp, a housewife, had two daughters, Myrna and Carmen, separated by 12 years. Carmen grew up in a bilingual household and had a normal, happy childhood in Washington Heights, where she attended St. Elizabeth parochial school. The Beauchamps enjoyed entertaining a large circle of friends and Carmen recalls many childhood evenings and weekends filled with conversation and laughter, music, and dancing. Carmen inherited a great love of dancing from her father and took ballet lessons throughout her grade school years.

As a girl Carmen made friends easily and enjoyed playing all the typical City sidewalk games, from jump-rope to hopscotch, with scores of neighborhood children. She has preserved many of these friendships from her childhood and school days, and in 2005 attended the 50th anniversary reunion of her eighth grade class.

Carmen has fond memories of going to Radio City Music Hall with her mother every year, and of braving the cold and the long lines to see the big Christmas show. The aspiring young dancer was especially excited at the prospect of seeing the “Rockettes” in action. Mr. Beauchamp often took his daughters to the City’s museums or to nearby Fort Tryon Park. In the summer, the family would pack Mr. Beauchamp’s Studebaker and head for the shore, to the Rockaways or New Jersey’s Point Pleasant.

After graduating from George Washington High School, Carmen went on to attend the tuition-free, all-female Hunter College of the City University of New York, where she majored in History and Political Science and developed a strong interest in the law. She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in 1963 and decided to attend law school.

The Beauchamps, conservative and protective of their youngest daughter, initially were not enthusiastic about her desire to attend law school. Mrs. Beauchamp in particular had hoped that her daughter would settle down and marry, although Mr. Beauchamp quickly warmed to the notion that his daughter might become a lawyer. Carmen Beauchamp was accepted to St. John’s University School of Law in Brooklyn, which she attended at night. She worked her way through four years of law school by teaching social studies and physical education at Junior High School 136 in Central Harlem. The days were long and demanding, but she later recalled them as among the most satisfying and fulfilling of her life. She truly relished the opportunity to have a positive influence on the lives of countless young people, some of whom she remains in touch with to this very day; but at the same time, she loved the intellectual stimulation and challenges of studying law.

In 1963, women law students were a rare sight and St. John’s Law School was no exception. There were only eight women in Ms. Beauchamp’s entire class and only three in her night division. Coming directly from the all-female Hunter College, this was initially a bit overwhelming for the new law student. In the early 1960s, law schools had not yet adjusted to the presence of women. The various international legal fraternities of the day did not even admit women to their ranks. Carmen could join only Phi Delta Delta, an international legal society for women. Moreover, sensibilities were quite different then. Women could be singled out for treatment that would today be considered inappropriate. For example, in her torts class, the good professor once grilled the embarrassed law student at length on whether a lady’s evening gown was an inherently dangerous instrument. Nonetheless, Carmen never felt uncomfortable at St. John’s and found it a warm and welcoming place. She was, by all accounts, a bright and popular student who formed many enduring friendships. Yearbook pictures from 1967 show a tall, graceful, dark-haired beauty who found refuge in the company of her study group. Carmen’s positive experience at St. John’s is confirmed by her many years of close involvement with her alma mater, including long service on the law school’s Alumni Association Board of Directors.

Carmen Beauchamp graduated from law school and was admitted to the New York State Bar in 1967, a year that portended the tumultuous times and great social change that were soon to follow. In 1967, 50,000 people gathered at the Lincoln Memorial to protest the Vietnam War, Muhammad Ali was stripped of his world heavyweight title for refusing to be drafted, Thurgood Marshall was sworn in as the first African American Supreme Court Justice, and the seeds of the feminist movement were being sown. Yet, the profession that Carmen Beauchamp was about to enter remained staid and conservative, seeming to change at a glacial pace while offering very limited opportunities for women lawyers. In the late 1960s only three percent of the nation’s lawyers were women.1 Most new women graduates from law school could hope for little more than positions as legal secretaries or as low-level associates with low pay, little prestige and no power.

Most of these issues were irrelevant to Carmen Beauchamp, for she knew precisely what she wanted to do with her new law degree. She applied for a single job: Staff Attorney with The Legal Aid Society in the South Bronx, a poor, predominately Spanish-speaking area. And she was hired. The novice attorney immediately applied her budding lawyering skills to the problems besetting the most disadvantaged New Yorkers, representing them in a broad range of civil matters: landlord-tenant disputes, divorces, adoptions, personal bankruptcies and various administrative proceedings. At first, her clients were suspicious. They were not used to women lawyers, much less women lawyers who spoke Spanish. She was repeatedly mistaken for a secretary or an interpreter. But, with her obvious competence, earnest concern for their interests and friendly demeanor, it never took Ms. Beauchamp long to win her clients’ trust and respect.

In 1969, Ms. Beauchamp joined the New York State Court System as an Assistant Counsel to the Judicial Conference of the State of New York, the precursor to the present day State Office of Court Administration. She replaced the only woman who had ever worked for that office. As she later remarked, in those days one woman at a time was considered adequate. In her capacity as Assistant Counsel she litigated in the state and federal courts, prepared briefs and presented oral arguments. Ms. Beauchamp additionally drafted legislation and court rules and served as Counsel to various official committees, including the State’s Family Court Rules Committee.

By 1972, Ms. Beauchamp had been appointed Chief Law Assistant for the Criminal Court of the City of New York and for the Supreme Court, Criminal Branch, New York County, a position of considerable responsibility involving the supervision of a pool of court attorneys who were engaged in rendering legal assistance to judges, performing legal research and preparing reports and memoranda of law. At its peak, the pool had 40 attorneys, with Ms. Beauchamp making every effort throughout her tenure to add minority and women lawyers. In addition to her role as Chief Law Assistant, she later served simultaneously as Counsel to the Hon. David Ross, Administrative Judge for the New York City Courts, who went on to serve as a distinguished Justice of the Appellate Division, First Department. As Counsel to Justice Ross, Carmen heard and ruled on union grievances and prosecuted employee disciplinary proceedings.

In April 1972, a reporter for the New York Post caught up with the dynamic 30-year-old, “the first woman to head the City Criminal Court’s law department,” and found her “[a]lmost hidden behind row upon row of law books and legal references in a rather cramped little office in the third floor of the Criminal Court building at 100 Centre Street.”2 The reporter noted that Ms. Beauchamp, “whose dark brown hair exactly matches her large eyes, has a quick smile, friendly manner, and carries her 5-foot-8-inch height with the easy grace of a dancer – which she is.”

Later that same year, Carmen Beauchamp married Joseph Damian Ciparick, a scholarly former Jesuit priest who had become a high school science teacher in the City’s public school system. They had a daughter, Roseanne, who was born in 1974. And so to her busy career as a lawyer Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick now added the equally challenging and rewarding duties of wife and mother. She has frequently noted her good fortune in having a highly supportive husband with a teacher’s schedule and able, loving parents who were available to help care for Roseanne, making it possible for Carmen to continue in her high level position with the courts.

The Ciparicks made their home on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, in a modest but comfortable apartment overflowing with music and books. Their upright piano was in many respects the centerpiece of their home, providing a constant accompaniment for the musically gifted Roseanne, who played French horn and piano and eventually went on to become a voice major and professional singer. These gifts she apparently inherited from her mother, herself a talented amateur singer and dancer. A self-described “ham,” Carmen was for many years a regular member of the Village Light Opera Group of New York City, a longstanding amateur company well known for its productions of Gilbert & Sullivan operas. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the Village Light Opera Group was an integral part of Carmen’s life and her favorite away-from-work diversion. It provided many memorable opportunities for mother and daughter to share the same musical stage during the 1980s. Carmen was also a long-time member of the Entertainment Committee of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York and performed in many of the Association’s biennial “Twelfth Night” musicals roasting the leading judicial and legal luminaries of the day.

In 1978, after so many years of rendering behind-the-scenes assistance to high-level judges, Carmen graduated to the bench herself, breaking barriers and making history in the process. Mayor Edward I. Koch appointed Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick – then only 36 years old – to the Criminal Court of the City of New York, making her the first Puerto Rican woman to serve on the bench in New York State history and one of the youngest judges in the entire State. The new Judge was assigned to 120 Schermerhorn Street in Brooklyn, where she handled criminal arraignments and trials. She was eventually designated an Acting Justice of the Supreme Court and transferred to the Bronx to preside over felony matters in the Supreme Court’s Criminal Term. During her years in the Criminal Court, Judge Ciparick earned a reputation as a strong jurist known for her fairness, dedication and productivity.

Shortly after she began sitting in Brooklyn, Judge Ciparick presided over a trial in which the Assistant District Attorney and the defense lawyer both had Hispanic surnames, a rare coincidence in those days. Judge Ciparick asked them to approach the bench and inquired into their backgrounds. She was delighted to learn that they both were Puertoriquenos and speculated that they were almost certainly making history together as the first time in New York State history that the judge and the attorneys in a case were all of Puerto Rican descent. After the trial’s conclusion she invited them to have lunch with her at a Spanish American restaurant. The Assistant District Attorney, Jaime Rios, went on to become a Justice of the Supreme Court and sits on the Appellate Term.

Four years after her appointment to the Criminal Court, Judge Ciparick was one of five individuals who received the New York County Democratic Party’s nomination for Supreme Court. However, in an extraordinary blunder, party officials that year missed the deadline for filing the nominating certificates with the State Board of Elections, which resulted in the Democratic Party fielding no candidates for Supreme Court. Fortunately, however, Judge Ciparick had also secured the Liberal Party’s nomination and she was elected to the Supreme Court on that line.3

The new Supreme Court Justice continued sitting in the Bronx Criminal Term for a brief period before being transferred to Manhattan. In 1986, she moved over to the Civil Term of Supreme Court and began sitting in an Individual Assignment Part. In the ensuing years she handled a general civil caseload, including matrimonial matters, and sat briefly in a medical malpractice part. Those who recall Carmen Ciparick as a Justice of the Supreme Court describe an effective, productive and dedicated jurist who was always extremely conscientious and scrupulously fair. On the bench, presiding over her courtroom, she was particularly well served by her quick mind, unshakeable independence, ready humor and exceptional capacity for work. Her obvious appellate potential was on display in well-reasoned, elegantly written decisions that stood out from the mass of trial court decisions.

Those who knew her on Supreme Court also recall how much she loved being a judge. Nothing seemed to get her down: not the overwhelming volume of cases, not the difficult litigants and contentious lawyers, not even the fact that she presided over heart-wrenching matrimonial and custody disputes. Despite the wearing and stressful years spent in the IAS part, Carmen never lost her sense of joy, her compassion for the litigants or her own balance and humanity. This upbeat, personable woman was one of the most popular judges at the New York County Courthouse, particularly among the court attorneys and court staff, with whom she felt a strong kinship. Jurors, too, were captivated by her contagious effervescence. They truly appreciated the judge’s comfortable courtroom atmosphere and obvious concern for their well being. In fact, visitors to her Supreme Court chambers could not help but remark at all the admiring letters and sketches from jurors that festooned her office.

Judge Ciparick’s best-known Supreme Court case is Mercury Bay Boating Club Inc. v. San Diego Yacht Club, a trilogy of unreported decisions which in 1988 nonetheless brought her unprecedented international attention.4 When the case later arrived at the Court of Appeals, Chief Judge Wachtler described it as implicating grand principles of sportsmanship and tradition “pitted against the greed, commercialism and zealotry that threaten to vulgarize sport.”5 The dispute arose when San Diego decided to defend the America’s Cup by racing a 60-foot wing-sailed catamaran against Mercury Bay”s 133-foot monohull yacht. It was a mismatch on the water as San Diego’s Stars & Stripes easily defeated the challenger New Zealand in two matches. On shore, however, the lawyers relieved the sailors and the match continued before Judge Ciparick, who disqualified the Stars and Stripes and awarded the America’s Cup to the New Zealand:

San Diego was well aware of the risk it ran when it chose to follow the unprecedented course of defending in a catamaran. Barely paying lip service to the significance of competition, its clear goal was to retain the Cup at all costs. …6

The dispute captured the public’s imagination and stirred passions all around the world. The London Times deemed the judge a “heroine” and she was deluged with congratulatory mail from homemakers in New Zealand and farmers in Australia, as well as less flattering mail from many unhappy Americans, including a passionate sailor from California who went so far as to prophesy that the name of Ciparick would live on, “synonymous with Benedict Arnold in drag.”

A divided Appellate Division reversed and declared that San Diego was the rightful holder of the Cup. The dispute floated into a fractured Court of Appeals where Judge Fritz Alexander, writing for a five-judge majority, noted that questions of whether San Diego’s conduct was “fair” or “sporstmanlike” were not suitable for judicial resolution and, according to the terms of the deed of gift governing the America’s Cup, were to be resolved by the yachting community rather than the courts. Judge Hancock issued a lengthy and passionate dissent in which he agreed wholeheartedly with Judge Ciparick.

In 1991, Judge Ciparick decided an equally controversial case of far greater legal import, Hope v. Perales (150 Misc2d 985), which involved a challenge to the constitutionality of the State’s Prenatal Care Assistance Program (PCAP) on the ground that it failed to provide reimbursement to health care providers performing medically necessary abortions on low-income women. Judge Ciparick ruled that PCAP violated the due process clause of the New York State Constitution because it Aimpermissibly pressures an eligible indigent woman toward childbirth, “bridging a constitutionally protected right” (Id. at 995). The Appellate Division affirmed, with one Justice dissenting, and the Court of Appeals heard the appeal only a few months after Judge Ciparick’s arrival on the Court. The Court of Appeals reversed, with Judge Ciparick taking no part. The Court concluded that PCAP was not so coercive as to impermissibly infringe on the fundamental right of choice. According to the Court, this was not a case involving indigent women who lacked the financial wherewithal to opt for an abortion but, rather, working poor PCAP-eligible women, who presumptively were able to afford abortions on their own. The Court emphasized that “no showing has been made that such a woman would be influenced by PCAP to carry a child to term” (83 NY2d 563, 577).

As her decisions in high profile cases like Hope and Mercury Bay suggest, this was not a timid Judge who shied away from issuing definitive rulings on the most difficult and controversial legal issues. Indeed, colleagues and attorneys who practiced before her invariably used these adjectives: “courageous,” “independent” and “fearless.”7 One lawyer who litigated the America’s Cup matter before her was struck by her grace under pressure. The case had sparked an intense outburst of national patriotism and all the parties labored in a pressure cooker atmosphere – further heightened by the daily presence of San Diego’s Mayor in the courtroom’s first row. Justice Ciparick not only extended the Mayor every courtesy but, in a characteristically gracious gesture, invited her to chambers for an exchange of pleasantries. Ultimately, however, she ruled against the good Mayor.8

On December 1, 1993, Governor Mario M. Cuomo, filling a vacancy created by the age-based mandatory retirement of Associate Judge Stewart F. Hancock, Jr., made history by nominating Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick to the Court of Appeals, making her the first Hispanic and only the second woman to serve on the State’s highest court. At the press conference, Judge Ciparick was visibly moved by the symbolic significance of her appointment: “It’s very heartrending to me to think that as a youngster growing up in Manhattan, the female child of a Puerto Rican family in Washington Heights, that I could ever be in this position.”9 Her nomination inspired congratulatory calls and messages from many proud and elated friends and colleagues. One message was typical: “Carmen, by your life and your career, you have fulfilled all of our collective dreams.” As she stated at her swearing-in ceremony at the Court of Appeals, “I knew I had dreams of promotion and success; I was not aware that so many people had these dreams for me.” There was no denying that the appointment of Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick to the nationally renowned New York Court of Appeals was one more important proof that Hispanic Americans had truly arrived as a vital force in the affairs of our state and country.

The new Associate Judge immediately delved into the work of the Court, authoring a number of significant opinions in her first year clarifying the standards governing the availability of punitive damages in the insurance contract context;10 concluding that recovering alcoholics could not be terminated for past alcohol-related absenteeism under the State Human Rights Law where they had undergone rehabilitation and were performing satisfactorily;11 and holding that the statute of limitations for malpractice against an accountant begins to run on the date the accountant’s work product is received by the client.12

In 1995, she wrote for a majority of the Court in the landmark case of Campaign for Fiscal Equity v. City of New York (86 NY2d 307 [1995]), which upheld the plaintiffs’ right to pursue a constitutional challenge to the state’s public school financing system and determined that the Education Article of the State Constitution requires New York to offer all children the opportunity of a “sound basic education” consisting of the basic literacy, calculating, and verbal skills necessary to enable children to eventually function productively as civic participants capable of voting and serving on a jury.

Judge Ciparick also wrote for the Court in Dawson v. White & Case (88 NY2d 666 [1996]), which departed from longstanding precedent and, in recognition of the changing economic realities of law practice, held that a law firm can possess goodwill distributable upon the firm’s dissolution. Matter of Sayeh R. (91 NY2d 306 [1997]) was an important family law case holding that the Federal Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act did not preempt New York’s Family Court from hearing a child protective matter for neglect. The standards governing navigability and public easements over rivers and waterways were addressed in Adirondack League Club v. Sierra Club (92 NY2d 591 [1998]), which held through Judge Ciparick that recreational use should be added to the traditional analysis of a river’s navigability for public easement purposes.

On behalf of the Court, Judge Ciparick made clear in the 1999 case of Engel v. CBS, Inc. (93 NY2d 195 [1999]), which presented a certified question from the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, that the elements of a common law action for malicious prosecution in New York require a special injury or concrete harm beyond the physical, psychological or financial demands of defending a lawsuit. A convicted sex offender’s constitutional due process right to notice and opportunity to be heard before being classified as a sexually violent predator under the State’s Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA) was confirmed and clarified in People v. David W. (95 NY2d 130), where Judge Ciparick, writing for the court, found SORA’s notice and review procedures constitutionally inadequate. Judge Ciparick also spoke for the Court in Chapman, et al v. Silber (97 NY2d 9 [2001]), a significant case involving the liability of landlords for lead paint poisoning. Her opinion laid aside the traditional standard that a landlord must actually be aware of the presence of lead paint for liability to attach – a nearly impossible standard for most plaintiffs – and instead reintroduced the concept of constructive notice into such cases.13 Henceforth, when a landlord is aware of certain enumerated factors that usually accompany hazardous lead paint conditions, a jury may conclude that the landlord was on notice.

In Levin v. Yeshiva University (96 NY2d 484 [2001]), lesbian medical students brought an action under the State and New York City Human Rights Law challenging the university’s housing policy, which gave married couples preference in residential university-owned housing. Plaintiffs alleged that the policy discriminated on the basis of marital status and had a disparate impact on lesbians and gay men. After analyzing United States Supreme Court case law articulating the disparate impact doctrine, Judge Ciparick concluded that plaintiffs had pleaded a prima facie case for disparate impact under the City’s Human Rights Law, which prohibited housing polices or practices that have a disparate impact on the basis of sexual orientation. This cause of action was reinstated and remitted to Supreme Court for further proceedings.

In a question of first impressionCwhether the judge presiding over a criminal trial could call a witness to testify when neither the defense nor the prosecution chose to call that witnessCthe Court of Appeals in People v. Arnold (98 NY2d 63 [2002]), through Judge Ciparick, relied on the fundamental premise that a court’s function is to protect rather than make the record at trial, to hold that it was error for the trial court to call its own witness without explaining why and inviting the parties’ commentary to consider what it aimed to gain against any possible claim of prejudice as well as to provide a basis for appellate review.

The question whether defense counsel’s erroneous advice as to deportation consequences could constitute ineffective assistance of counsel under the Federal Constitution was answered in the affirmative by Judge Ciparick, writing for the Court in People v. McDonald (1 NY3d 109 [2003]). Also answered in the affirmative was the question posed by Matter of Alijah C. (1 NY3d 375 [2004]): whether a deceased child could be the subject of a Family Court Act article 10 abuse petition. The Family Court Act was silent on this question, which the courts below answered in the negative, but the Court of Appeals, through Judge Ciparick, concluded that the Legislature intended to create a child protective system wherein an adjudication that a deceased child was abused would be relevant in a proceeding to terminate parental rights as to surviving children.

In 2005, Judge Ciparick authored a pair of significant opinions on behalf of the Court. In a decision which significantly expanded gambling in New York State, the Court of Appeals in Dalton v. Pataki found that the general prohibition against gambling in the State Constitution’s Bill of Rights did not foreclose the establishment of casinos on Indian lands, the State’s lottery, installation of video lottery terminals at racetracks, or the State’s entry into a multistate lottery.14 Judge Ciparick concluded that the Federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act preempted New York law. Under the Act, a state cannot prohibit gambling on Indian lands if it permits the same sort of gaming elsewhere, and New York already permitted some forms of gambling for charitable and other special purposes. Legislation permitting installation of video lottery terminals in racetracks was also upheld, even though not all of the proceeds were dedicated to the support of education, because the Legislature had latitude to determine what portion of the proceeds would constitute a reasonable vendor’s fee necessary to promote the game and, therefore, what remaining portion constituted “net proceeds” that had to be allocated to education. Finally, New York could participate in a multistate lottery since it retained “sufficient control” over the operation of that lottery and did not entirely cede responsibility to other states. Regarding the advisability of expanding gambling, Judge Ciparick wrote: “Although some may argue the wisdom of the policy choice, the Legislature has made a valid legislative judgment.”15

In EBC I, Inc. v. Goldman Sachs & Co. (5 NY3d 11), the Court through Judge Ciparick explored issues surrounding the investment banking community’s role as underwriters of initial public offerings (IPOs). More specifically, plaintiff internet retailers alleged that Goldman, as underwriter, had breached its fiduciary duty to an internet retailer by underpricing the IPO, resulting in higher profits to Goldman’s favored customers–profits in which Goldman ultimately shared. The Court found that a claim of breach of fiduciary duty was sufficiently alleged to allow the case to go forward. Although an underwriter-issuer relationship is ordinarily an arm’s length commercial one that does not require the underwriter’s disclosure of conflicts that could affect its advice to the issuer, a relationship of higher trust, with attendant fiduciary duties, may nonetheless arise based on the peculiar circumstances of the relationship.

Efforts to characterize Judge Ciparick’s jurisprudence on the Court of Appeals would be premature at this point in her career, inasmuch as her term does not expire until January 2008, at which time she is eligible for reappointment for a term ending in 2012, the year in which she turns 70. However, a few aspects of Judge Ciparick’s approach to the law are clear to those who have followed her tenure on the Court of Appeals.

Judge Ciparick cares deeply about deciding cases justly and is guided always by her strong innate sense of fairness, decency and compassion. Her first and final questions when discussing a case with her law clerks are frequently the same: “Is this the right result?” Her law clerks learn very quickly that the “right result” means the fair and just result. On the bench, Judge Ciparick exudes an inner reserve of calm, but her even-keeled temperament belies a passionate commitment to the Constitution and to defending individual rights. Her opinions are well reasoned and well written, demonstrating a great insightfulness and ability to distill issues and cut to the heart of the case, but even the most elegant writing and skillful legal reasoning are hollow to her if they do not further the cause of fairness.

Judge Ciparick has employed more than a dozen law clerks to date at the Court of Appeals – people from all walks of life who are particularly well suited to comment on the Judge’s true personal and professional qualities, having worked closely and shared countless hours with her at close quarters. Judge Ciparick’s law clerks are her most ardent admirers. They speak of her with a fondness that is as discernible as it is deep.

Along with Christine Carro, her outstanding secretary and a mainstay of her chambers throughout her Court of Appeals years, Judge Ciparick cultivates a warm family atmosphere in chambers. Every birthday and anniversary – and many lesser events – is cause for celebration. Thanks to her optimism, upbeat personality, wonderful sense of humor and love of a good joke, Judge Ciparick’s chambers are a frequently visited destination for other law clerks seeking a good laugh or to lighten their mood. Judge Ciparick is well known for running an informal chambers and, unless the Court is in session in Albany, she does not insist that her clerks dress formally or keep rigid schedules.

On quality of life issues, Ciparick clerks are the envy of their colleagues in other chambers. The Judge’s former law clerks look back gratefully on her tolerant, understanding attitude and her solicitous, almost motherly attention to their well-being. She is an approachable and compassionate boss who takes a genuine personal interest in the lives and careers of her law clerks. She continues to mentor and support them well after they depart, most having gone on to careers in public service. Her law clerks remain in close touch with her and she gathers them all together annually – along with their families and friends – at her end of year holiday parties. She remembers their birthdays and anniversaries with cards and notes, and her desk and office are adorned with many pictures of her law clerks’ children, who are wont to receive birthday gifts in the mail from the woman they know as “Grandma Judge.”

Judge Ciparick’s law clerks at the Court of Appeals have not been cut from the traditional cloth. She gravitates toward individuals with unconventional backgrounds, including artists, musicians and people from immigrant and working-class origins. Some of her law clerks, frankly surprised to be hired, subsequently have worked doubly hard to justify her faith in them.

Her law clerks also recall that, no matter the stresses of the Court’s work or the pressures of deadlines, which were very considerable at times, Judge Ciparick was never one to raise her voice or berate her staff. There were no harsh words of rebuke, no losses of temper, never a crack in her civility. This is not to say that she is not demanding. Judge Ciparick sets high standards for her law clerks and is both explicit and persistent in pointing out how she likes and wants things done. She will not accept less, and she has the habit of following up. Her displeasure and criticism are expressed in civil but firm and unadulterated terms, so that her law clerks know exactly where they stand. They find her disapprobation a heavy burden to bear, take careful pains to avoid it and work extremely hard to meet her high expectations. Finally, there is never the slightest doubt of who is in charge. Judge Ciparick listens to her clerks, values their views, and can often be persuaded by them, but her ultimate authority is never in question.

Judge Ciparick has taught her law clerks lessons in humility. She has also taught them how they can preserve and express their passions about issues of social and racial justice in principled and appropriate ways that are consistent with the dignity and restraint inherent in the judicial role. She has taught them lessons in dedication and diligence, arriving every morning well before her staff and frequently dismissing them for the evening while she labors on. She takes few holidays and limits her vacations to a few days a year, and she is seemingly always at the office, reading every last brief and memo, answering every letter appropriately, and never hesitating to pick up the phone herself.

Judge Ciparick has been a wonderful ambassador for the courts throughout her career. Some of her more notable professional and civic activities include service on the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct from 1985 to 1993, and ongoing membership on the Chief Judge’s Institute on Professionalism in the Law. She has been a long-time member of the New York State Bar Association and the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, including Vice-President and Executive Committee Member of the latter. Judge Ciparick has been closely involved with the Puerto Rican Bar Association and has served as its Vice-President, Secretary, and a Member of its Board of Directors. The Judge is also on the Board of Trustees of Boricua College and previously served on the Board of Directors of Project Green Hope Services for Women, a residential program for female offenders. She has received honorary doctorates from her alma mater, St. John’s School of Law, and from the City University of New York School of Law. She is a member of the Hunter College Hall of Fame.

Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick’s legacy remains very much a work in progress, yet we already know that she has been one of the country’s most important pioneers for Latin-American lawyers and judges. We know that, year by year, she is leaving her indelible and lasting imprint on the law and life of our State. We know that she is a highly competent judge and collegial presence on the Court whose warm persona enables her to help forge consensus and bridge differences among her colleagues. We know that her approach to the law is tempered by her compassion and common sense. We know that she has the courage to stand up for her beliefs and the uncommon ability to do so graciously. We know that in every area of the law her opinions sparkle with her consummate humanity and commitment to justice. We know that throughout her life, both in and out of the law, she has touched in a positive way the lives of countless people, many of them young and impressionable. And we know that her motivations are simple: she loves the law, and the Court of Appeals as an institution, and desires to promote their greater good.

Despite her many significant achievements, Judge Ciparick is unassuming, modest and self-effacing to a fault, deflecting praise and attention with a signature smile and quick rolling of the eyes. Yet her accomplishments are firmly rooted in her considerable skills and talents, and in her remarkable personal qualities. She is a warm, ebullient, highly intelligent woman of gracious manners, unassailable integrity and sound judgment, and a loving, devoted and supportive wife and mother. She is greatly respected by the members of the Bench and Bar, and cherished by her law clerks, friends, and above all, her family.


Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick and her husband, Joseph Damian Ciparick, have one daughter, Roseanne Ciparick (born 1974). Roseanne Ciparick resides in Manhattan and is a professional singer.


This biography appears in The Judges of the New York Court of Appeals: A Biographical History, ed. Hon. Albert M. Rosenblatt (New York: Fordham University Press, 2007). It has not been updated since publication.


Sources Consulted

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Reed, Go-Ahead for a Strange Duel, Time (Aug. 8, 1988).

Spencer, America’s Cup Awarded to San Diego Club, NYLJ (April 27, 1990).

Spencer, Ciparick Named to Court of Appeals: Supreme Court Justice is First Hispanic Nominee, NYLJ (Dec. 2, 1993).

Symposium: State Constitutional Jurisprudence: Decision Making at the New York Court of Appeals, 13 TOURO L. REV. 3 (1996).

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  1. Cynthia Fuchs Epstein, Women in Law, University of Illinois Press, 1993
  2. Hope MacLeod, Daily Closeup, New York Post, April 10, 1972.
  3. Two Civil Court Judges, Ira Gammerman and Budd G. Goodman, were not so fortunate and had to defer their elevation to the Supreme Court. See Gammerman v. Board of Elections, 115 Misc. 2d 1055, rev’d 90 AD2d 461, aff’d 57 NY2d 880. Civil Court Judges Bruce M. Wright and Felice K. Shea were also elected to the Supreme Court on the Liberal line, as was Harold Baer, Jr. and Court of Claims Judge Rose Rubin.
  4. Mercury Bay Boating Club Inc. v. San Diego Yacht Club, (Index No. 21299/87 [March 31, 1989; July 28, 1988; December 4, 1987]).
  5. 76 NY2d 256, 272 (1990) (Wachtler, C.J., concurring).
  6. Mercury Bay, id. March 31, 1989.
  7. See e.g., Daniel Wise, Described as Personable, Principled, New York Law Journal, Dec. 2, 1993, p1 col 3; Gary Spencer, Ciparick Named to Court of Appeals: Supreme Court Justice is First Hispanic Nominee, New York Law Journal, Dec. 2, 1993, p1, col 3.
  8. Wise, supra n. 7
  9. Spencer, supra n. 7
  10. Rocanova v. Equitable Life (83 NY2d 603 [1994]).
  11. Matter of McEniry v. Landi, et al. (84(NY2d 554 [1994]).
  12. Ackerman, et al. v. Price Waterhouse (84 NY2d 535 [1994]).
  13. (97 NY2d 9 [2001]).
  14. 2005 WL 1017641; 2005 N.Y. Lexis 1059; _ NY2d _ (May 3, 2005).
  15. Id.
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