Israel “Russ” Rubin, a jurist who spent 14 years on the Appellate Division, First Department and finished his legal career as co-chair of the national appellate practice group at Greenberg Traurig, died Friday at 87.
A 1950 graduate of St. John’s University School of Law, Rubin initially worked with Milton Mokotoff in Manhattan and later became a partner in Mokotoff, Rubin & Monshine. He left private practice in 1970 to become an assistant corporation counsel and, three years later, was elected to Supreme Court in the Bronx.
Rubin was appointed administrative judge of the Civil Court of the City of New York in 1982 and served briefly as an acting surrogate in Brooklyn until 1989, when Gov. Mario Cuomo promoted him to the First Department bench. He remained on the court until 2002, when he reached the mandatory retirement age of 70.
After leaving the bench, Rubin joined Greenberg Traurig and began serving as a special master to the First Department. He concentrated on appellate mediation and arbitration.
During his judicial career, Rubin served on the Committee on the Profession and the Courts of the New York State Bar Association, the National Conference of State Trial and Appellate Judges of the American Bar Association, Chief Judge Sol Wachtler’s Committee to Improve Availability of Legal Services and Chief Judge Judith Kaye’s Committee on the Profession and the Courts.
Rubin was also an adjunct professor at St. John’s, a frequent author and lecturer and the recipient of numerous awards, including the Distinguished Judicial Service Award from the New York County Lawyers’ Association, the Chief Justice Harlan Fiske Stone Memorial Award from the Association of Trial Lawyers of the City of New York and the Benjamin N. Cardozo Award from the Jewish Lawyers Guild. He received an honorary doctorate from St. John’s University School of Law in 1992.
Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick, former senior associate judge of the Court of Appeals, said “Russ was a judge’s judge” who helped recruit her to Greenberg Traurig, where she is of counsel.
“He generously shared his wisdom and keen legal insight with his colleagues on the bench and later at Greenberg Traurig,” Ciparick said. “He will be sorely missed by all those who had the pleasure of knowing him.”
Former First Department Justice Betty Weinberg Ellerin, now senior counsel at Alston & Bird, said Rubin was the “kindest, most generous person,” and an outstanding jurist.
“He was a wonderful judge, very knowledgeable about the law, but he applied the law in a way that reflected the human values of the case,” Ellerin said. “You never heard him say a bad word about anyone, and he was the kind of person who could bring about consensus among the most contentious people. He just enriched the world, and the world is a lesser place because he’s gone.”
Scott Mollen, a partner at Herrick, Feinstein, adjunct professor at St. John’s University School of Law and a Law Journal columnist, said Rubin was known for his “courteous and respectful” interaction with litigants and colleagues, and his ongoing commitment to students at his alma mater.
“As an appellate jurist, it was quite evident that he had carefully studied the record on appeal because he was known for asking very focused, material questions of the advocates during oral argument,” Mollen said. “You emerged from the argument with a view that whether Justice Rubin agreed with you or not, he certainly invested significant time in knowing the record as well as the advocates. He would always focus not only on legal wording of a statute or judicial precedent, but also on the equities and the practical ramifications of the issue before the court.”
Rubin is survived by his wife, Roslyn, three daughters and eight grandchildren. A funeral was held Sunday.