U.S. Magistrate Judge Henry Pitman.
Photo: Rick Kopstein

U.S. Magistrate Judge Henry Pitman of the Southern District of New York told the New York Law Journal he plans to step down from the bench at the end of September 2019.

Pitman, whose term is set to expire in 2020, said the timing was right given what would be a shortened clerkship situation, and his desire to spend more time with loved ones and pursue volunteer work.

“I turned 65 this year,” he said. “Apart from spending more time with my wife and family, I don’t have any specific plans.”

A New York City native, Pitman graduated cum laude from Fordham University School of Law in 1978. He served in the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York during the late 1980s, before returning to private practice. He was hired as a magistrate in 1996, where he’s served ever since.

Chief Magistrate Judge Gabriel Gorenstein called Pitman’s departure a great loss to him personally and also to the court.

“Henry Pitman is truly a judge’s judge,” Gorenstein said. “When I do research I am always thankful when an opinion of his turns up because I know it will be meticulously written and will probe the nuances of the issue he’s writing about. When it’s late and I want to discuss a legal issue, the odds are Judge Pitman will be in his chambers, answering his own phone, and ready to be generous with his time. It’s a cliché to say he’s irreplaceable but we are truly going to miss the breadth of his knowledge, his helpfulness, and his easygoing manner.”

Gorenstein went on to credit Pitman’s background in both civil and criminal law for making him a go-to resource on “virtually any subject.”

“He really keeps track of precedent,” the chief judge continued. “In a conversation, he can pull a case name out of the air, no matter how obscure, to bolster a point under discussion. He usually hedges by saying ‘I think’ a particular case is the one on point. And when I go back to Chambers to look it up, it invariably turns out that he’s correctly remembered it.”

On the bench, Pitman handled a variety of cases. In IKB International v. Bank of America, Pitman’s dismissal recommendation in the residential mortgage-backed securities fraud action was adopted by U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan and upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Pitman also handled the voluminous discovery process in the litigation against the Knoedler art gallery, which was accused of selling counterfeit paintings by famed abstract expressionist artists.

The Southern District of New York is currently accepting applications to fill Pitman’s position. The application information is posted on the court’s website and the deadline for applications is Jan. 31, 2019.