Open main menu

Kevin Thomas Duffy (born January 10, 1933) is an American lawyer and former United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Kevin Thomas Duffy
Senior Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
In office
January 10, 1998 – September 30, 2016
Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
In office
October 17, 1972 – January 10, 1998
Appointed byRichard Nixon
Preceded byIrving Ben Cooper
Succeeded byRichard M. Berman
Personal details
Kevin Thomas Duffy

(1933-01-10) January 10, 1933 (age 86)
New York City, New York
EducationFordham University (A.B.)
Fordham University School of Law (LL.B.)


Education and careerEdit

Born on January 10, 1933, in New York City, New York,[1] Duffy received an Artium Baccalaureus degree from Fordham University in 1954 and a Bachelor of Laws from the Fordham University School of Law in 1958. He clerked for Judge J. Edward Lumbard at the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (1955–1958). Duffy served as an Assistant United States Attorney (1958–1959) and assistant chief of the Criminal Division (1959–1961) at the office of the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York before going into private practice as an associate with the New York City firm Whitman, Ransom & Coulson (1961–1966). He later became a partner with Gordon & Gordon (1966–1969). Duffy later appointed New York regional administrator of the Securities and Exchange Commission office (1969–1972).[2] His tenure as Regional Administrator of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission was in a time of turmoil in Wall Street.[3] He is viewed by many as having been the first proponent within the Commission of what eventually became Securities Investor Protection Corporation or SIPC.[citation needed]

Federal judicial serviceEdit

On September 25, 1972, Duffy was nominated by President Richard Nixon to a seat on the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York vacated by Judge Irving Ben Cooper. Duffy was confirmed by the United States Senate on October 12, 1972, and received his commission on October 17, 1972.[2] At that time, he became the youngest member of the federal judiciary.[4] He assumed senior status on January 10, 1998. He retired from active service on September 30, 2016.[5]

Important decisionsEdit

During his long tenure on the bench Judge Duffy has presided over a number of interesting and well known matters.

In 1973, as a new member of the Southern District, Judge Duffy was assigned one of the most complicated and difficult organized crime narcotics cases ever tried in Manhattan federal court. The case was United States v. Tramunti. Carmine Tramunti and thirty others were charged with a massive conspiracy to violate the federal narcotics laws in connection with many sales of heroin. Several defendants pleaded guilty; some cooperated and testified; three became fugitives prior to trial; one was murdered before trial; another, who was on bail, fell down a flight of stairs and fractured his skull during trial; and, an attorney for another of the defendants died suddenly during trial. With the exception of these events, it was a normal criminal trial. "Through it all, the young and relatively inexperienced Judge Duffy presided with poise, calm and good grace."[4]

In the fall of 1985, Judge Duffy began a complicated multi-defendant trial involving the then-alleged leader and other members of the Gambino organized crime family. In an insightful pre-trial decision, he severed many defendants in the case, pointing out that if trial were held on the original indictment, the case would have been much too unwieldy and cumbersome and would have lasted more than a year. But even with the severance, the Castellano trial was an extremely difficult case to manage and on December 16, 1985, Paul Castellano, the alleged Gambino leader, and his bodyguard were gunned down outside of Sparks Steak House on East Forty-Sixth Street in Manhattan. Headlines followed; mistrial motions ensued; and through it all, an older and more experienced Judge Duffy presided with the same poise, calm and good grace he exhibited with Tramunti.[4]

Duffy also presided over the trial and conviction of the four principal perpetrators of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. In a recent book about the trial, "Defending Mohammad: Justice on Trial," Robert E. Precht, a defense attorney for Mohammad Salameh (who rented the yellow Ryder van that carried the explosives), accuses Judge Duffy of bias and of "essentially convicting his client before the trial ended."[6] Other defense lawyers have applauded the Judge's fair handling of the case and after the trial the New York Post ran a headline calling him the "Avenger."

He also presided over the trial of Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of the Bojinka plot (the Manilla Bombing Conspiracy), to hijack planes bound for the west coast of the United States and fly them into the Pacific Ocean on a coordinated schedule. In the words of the Second Circuit, "Judge Duffy carefully, impartially, and commendably conducted the two lengthy and extraordinarily complex trials from which these appeals were taken. The fairness of the proceedings over which he presided is beyond doubt." United States v. Yousef, 327 F.3d 56, 173 (2d Cir. 2003).[7]

Duffy's work on the civil side has included important and difficult litigations, including presiding over the Iranian Assets Litigation, which followed from the attachment of Iranian government assets following the taking of American hostages.[8] He also presided over the tender offer battle in which Gulf & Western Industries, Inc. made a hostile tender offer for A&P.[9]

Duffy presided over the significant copyright case Grand Upright Music, Ltd. v. Warner Bros. Records Inc. 780 F. Supp. 182 (S.D.N.Y. 1991), in which Warner was sued over the use of the sampling of Raymond "Gilbert" O'Sullivan's "Alone Again (Naturally)" by rapper Biz Markie in his song "Alone Again". Judge Duffy has been criticized for his opinion in Grand Upright v. Warner, not because the decision was wrong, but because Judge Duffy begins his opinion with the biblical admonition - "thou shalt not steal" and later referred the defendant to the U.S. Attorney suggesting criminal charges. According to The Copyright Infringement Project of UCLA Law and Columbia Law School, Judge Duffy's opinion in Grand Upright v. Warner, "an iffy understanding on the part of this judge of the facts and issues before him in this case."[10]

Judge Duffy ruled on post-trial motions of the defendant Wadih El-Hage (bin Laden's personal secretary) who had been convicted of conspiracy to kill Americans. El-Hage was jointly tried with those who coordinated bombings of U.S. Embassies in East Africa and later moved for a new trial asserting that the Government's failed to make timely disclosure of the videotapes and transcripts of twenty-eight hours of interviews between prosecutors, FBI agents and a government witness. In an opinion spanning 54 pages of the Federal Supplement, Judge Duffy denied a motion for a new trial, after an evidentiary hearing. United States . v. Bin Laden, 397 F.Supp.2d 465 (S.D.N.Y. 2005). The Second Circuit affirmed "for the reasons stated by the District Court in its comprehensive Memorandum & Order. . . ." In re Terrorist Bombings of U.S. Embassies in East Africa, 2011 WL 222386 (2d Cir. Jan 26, 2011).[citation needed]

In recent years, Judge Duffy has sat by designation on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.[9] He has authored six majority published opinions for that court.[citation needed]

Praise and criticismEdit

According to The Almanac of the Federal Judiciary (2004), lawyers who have appeared before Judge Duffy describe him as an unpleasant and difficult judge to appear before, quoting one lawyer as stating: "He's mercurial. He can be a brute."[11][12] Others, however, note that "during his twenty years as a member of the federal judiciary, Judge Duffy has impressed litigants, lawyers, jurors and his colleagues as a jurist of rare legal acumen who gets right to the core of a case, a human being of unusual common sense, humor and humility." [4] According to The Copyright Infringement Project of UCLA Law and Columbia Law School, Judge Duffy is "one of the most often reversed judges in the Second Circuit, he was rebuked by a Circuit panel in 1996 for mistreatment of a lawyer appearing before him."[10]

Among the many honors Judge Duffy has received is the William O. Douglas Lifetime Achievement Award from the Securities Exchange Commission Alumni (1995), Dean's Medal from Fordham Law School (1997), Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the College of New Rochelle and the Federal Bar Council's Emory Buckner Award (2003).[citation needed]

Other activitiesEdit

Duffy has served as an adjunct professor for several different universities, including Brooklyn Law School (1975–1980, securities), York University Law School (1983–1984, trial advocacy), Pace University School of Law (1984–1986, trial advocacy), and Fordham University School of Law (1993–present, trial advocacy).[13]


Duffy is married to his wife Irene.[citation needed] They have four children.[citation needed] Because of his work in presiding over terrorism cases, for ten years Judge Duffy was under 24/7 protection by the United States Marshal Service.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Dornette, W. Stuart; Cross, Robert R. (8 August 1986). "Federal Judiciary Almanac". Wiley – via Google Books.
  2. ^ a b Kevin Thomas Duffy at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a public domain publication of the Federal Judicial Center.
  3. ^ Katsoris, Constantine (2007). "A Tribute to the Fordham Judiciary: A Century of Service". Fordham Law Review. 75: 2303–2371 – via Fordham University Department of Law.
  4. ^ a b c d Keenan, John (1992). "Some Thoughts on Judge Kevin Thomas Duffy". Fordham Intellectual Property, Media and Entertainment Law Journal. 3 (1).
  5. ^ Weiser, Benjamin (2016-10-10). "After Nearly 44 Years, and 3 Major Terrorism Trials, a Judge Leaves the Bench". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 October 2016.
  6. ^ Weiser, Benjamin (July 5, 2003). "Defense Lawyer Revisits Terrorism Trial With a Critical Eye". New York Times.
  7. ^ Circuit., United States Court of Appeals, Second (2002). "327 F3d 56 United States v. Yousef a". F3d (327): 56.
  8. ^ Gordon, Edward (Fall 1980). "Trends: The Blocking of Iranian Assets". The International Lawyer. 14 (4): 659–688. JSTOR 40706251 – via HeinOnline.
  9. ^ a b Casey, Timothy (2004). "President Nixon's Prescience: The Honorable Kevin Thomas Duffy". The Catholic Lawyer. 43: 443–465 – via St John's University, School of Law.
  10. ^ a b The Copyright Infringement Project: Grand Upright v. Warner Archived 2011-10-04 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ Cronin, C. (1998). Concepts of melodic similarity in music-copyright infringement suits. In Hewlett, W.B. & Selfridge-Field, E. (eds), Melodic similarity. Concepts, procedures, and applications. Computing in Musicology 11. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 187-209.
  12. ^ Müllensiefen, Daniel; Pendzich, Marc (2009). "Court Decisions on Music Plagiarism and the Predictive Value of Similarity Algorithms" (PDF). Musicae Scientiae. 13 (1 Suppl): 257–295. doi:10.1177/102986490901300111.
  13. ^ "Hon. Kevin Thomas Duffy". Fordham Law. 2016-03-15. Retrieved 2018-09-01.

External linksEdit