James M. Flavin Centenary Program

Remarks of Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye

Court of Appeals Hall

Albany, New York

May 30, 2008

On behalf of my Court of Appeals colleagues, Judges Ciparick, Graffeo, Read, Smith, Pigott and Jones, I join wholeheartedly in welcoming all of you to this great celebration. And thank you, Gary, for that really wonderful portrait of James M. Flavin, in your remarks today and in your State Bar Journal article. A really wonderful portrait of an extraordinary gentleman by an extraordinary gentleman.

I am especially pleased to have this opportunity to join in expressing the gratitude of James Flavin's Court of Appeals family to his grandchildren, to his great-granddaughter Juliana, to his secretaries Therese Landry and Gayle Palmer, and to our friends in the audience, including the Appellate Division Clerks and Deputy Clerks statewide—on this celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of James Flavin, on March 13, 2008. And what better day for remembering than May 30, the original Memorial Day.

Mindful that Gary Spivey has so thoroughly and articulately presented "the facts," and that several speakers will follow me on the program, I want to build briefly on the facts by touching on just two of James Flavin's many remarkable qualities. It's a familiar format—sort of like following the "Facts" section of an opinion with the "Analysis" or "Discussion" section.

First, you've heard from Gary that James Flavin was a great innovator, literally changing the world--no the universe--of legal research and reporting. What an incredible insight James Flavin had back more than 40 years ago--imagine, that was even before Wite-Out ! But as I can attest from now 15 mostly-glorious years as Chief Judge, it's one thing to have good ideas; it's quite another to implement them. And in order to "change the world" in any respect, you have to be a positive genius. Plainly, James Flavin was a positive genius.

It strikes me that great as his skill was in envisioning the possibilities for computers in legal research, in the editing process and in transmission of opinions via telephone lines to computerized typesetting systems, he was a positive genius in bringing together all of the many players required to make that change actually happen. Gary Spivey in his article identifies James Flavin as the "father of electronic research in New York," but he recruited a great ally in the person of then-Associate Judge, later Chief Judge, Stanley Fuld, whom Gary identifies as the "godfather of electronic research in New York."

But things really started falling into place when James Flavin became Chair of the pioneering New York State Bar Association Committee on Electronic Research. One of his first acts was to bring people together "to do something about putting New York cases on the computer." That was 1969. Not long after, the State Bar actually made it happen.

And it didn't hurt one bit that James Flavin became Chair of the American Bar Association Committee on Technology and the Courts, and the Chapter President and District Governor of the Rotary Club, and the Syracuse University Alumni Association president.

Plainly, James Flavin was a positive genius when it came to convening the people required to make a great idea into a great reality.

The second quality I want to highlight is the incredible esteem James Flavin earned from the Court--beginning with his service as a Law Clerk to Judge Irving G. Hobbs in 1937, and ending 40 years later with a brilliant tenure as State Reporter.

I have read many terrific tributes, several of them in what we call "the green books"—our Official Reports—but few match the Court's Order of Salutation on the occasion of James Flavin's retirement, which opens Volume 38 New York Second (NY2d). And here it is:

"James M. Flavin, A.B., J.D., ΦBK (and otherwise alphabetically distinguished), having been servant of the courts and the people of the State of New York for 40 years; man Friday and legal ferret for two Judges of this court; staunch clerk of the court in turbulent transition; eminent Reporter for the courts of the State of New York and bookkeeper par excellence;

"At all times respecter of fine tradition; meticulous; semanticist, lexicologist, above all, philologist; prowler in English and Japanese; scatterer of quiet humor; loyal friend.

"It is ordered that the Honorable James M. Flavin be saluted and celebrated, and further be permanently enjoined to take note of the affectionate gratitude of the members of this court."

Then came the signatures of Chief Judge Charles D. Breitel and Judges Matthew J. Jasen, Domenick L. Gabrielli, Hugh R. Jones, Sol Wachtler, Jacob D. Fuchsberg and Lawrence H. Cooke.

We really do love our State Reporters. We really do love the Law Reporting Bureau.

And on that I rest my case. In short, James Flavin was a positive genius, and we are so proud to celebrate and honor him today.