Rose Rubin in the 1980s
Rose Rubin in the 1980s ()

Rose Rubin, a retired state Supreme Court judge and former chief judge of New York City’s Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH) who blazed a trail for women in the legal profession, died Thursday. She was 99.

Rubin was born in Brooklyn and spent her life in New York City. She was one of three women in New York University School of Law’s class of 1942, which was composed of about 120 students.

While still in law school, Rubin married Herbert Rubin, who worked alongside her on the NYU Law Review, in 1941.

Herbert Rubin, who is 98 and still a practicing attorney, said his wife faced “all kinds of opposition” to her desire to work in law, including from her family.

“Certainly that was a period of exclusion for women,” said Herbert Rubin, a founding member of Herzfeld & Rubin and a member of the Law Journal’s board.

He said that, around the time the two of them graduated from law school, it was “just about impossible” for women to find jobs in private practice. So Rose Rubin gravitated toward public service, taking a job with the State Labor Relations Board, then moving on to take a job at the Judge Advocate’s Office at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey.

For most of the time between 1952 to 1973, Rose Rubin worked as an attorney for Herzfeld & Rubin, but left periodically for government jobs. In 1966, she worked with the Queens District Attorney’s Office and, in 1967, she began working with New York City’s Law Department.

In 1973, Gov. Nelson Rockefeller appointed Rubin to the Court of Claims bench and as an acting state Supreme Court justice.

At that time, Herbert Rubin said, about 25 of the more than 1,000 judges in New York were women. Even on the bench, he said, his wife endured indignities such as lawyers in her court calling her “sweetie.”

“It took a little while to become accustomed to the idea that a woman judge is a judge,” Herbert Rubin said. “That didn’t happen overnight.”

In 1982, Rose Rubin was elected to the state Supreme Court in Manhattan and served there until 1992, when she reached the mandatory retirement age.

The following year, then newly-elected Mayor Rudolph Giuliani asked her to serve as chief judge of OATH, a position she held until 2000. During that time, Herbert Rubin said, Rose Rubin worked to improve the status and salaries of the OATH judges and also expanded their jurisdiction to encompass administrative law hearings on questions of personnel, issues regarding city contracts and artists’ tenancy rights.

Since his wife became a judge, he noted, the ranks of women in the judiciary have swelled; nine of the 17 justices of the Appellate Division, First Department are women, as are four of the seven judges on the state’s Court of Appeals.

In addition to her husband, Rose Rubin is survived by their three children, Barbara Brown Cooper, Caroline Temlock Teichman and Donald Rubin; and eight grandchildren. Her funeral was held Sunday.