A Simple Hug

I have written about Jonathan Lippman before (see here for example), but it is always good to have another opportunity to give credit where credit is due.  At the Center for Court Innovation's 25th anniversary celebration earlier this week, Judge Lippman was honored with a well-deserved lifetime achievement award. Asked to give a short introduction, this is what I said:

What is there to say about Jonathan Lippman that hasn’t already been said? 


You don’t need me to tell you about the decades of public service.  And you don’t need me to tell you about all of the important causes he has championed, often before they were fashionable: problem-solving justice, bail reform, tax fairness, and so many more.  


Instead of talking about Judge Lippman’s grand, public achievements tonight, I want to talk about something small and personal.  


You almost certainly won’t remember this judge, but at the end of the long and arduous selection process when I was applying to be the executive director of the Center for Court Innovation back in 2001, after my final interview, you gave me a hug.  I was 34 years old at the time.  I don’t think a judge had ever hugged me before. But I really needed that hug.  I was facing the daunting prospect of following in the footsteps of the great John Feinblatt.  I felt like I was in way over my head.  

That simple gesture, that single hug, meant the world to me.  It told me that you knew of my trepidation, that you had confidence in me, and that you would have my back going forward. 


Whenever people ask me about the secret of Judge Lippman’s success, I remember that hug.  I think it speaks to two of his greatest qualities: the personal touch he brings to everything he does and his willingness to take a calculated risk every now and then.  


Judge Lippman, speaking on behalf of all the people who, over the years, have been on the receiving end of a hug from you, whether real or metaphorical, I thank you for all that you have given to us, to the city and state of New York, and to the pursuit of justice in this country.  


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