Michael Juviler ()
In 1967, as a rookie lawyer of six months in the Queens DA’s office, I argued my first case in the NY Court of Appeals. As I waited for my case to be called, I witnessed Michael Juviler, a 32-year-young chief of the Manhattan District Attorney’s appeals bureau, argue a high-profile case. His presentation was brilliant, just like his performance in every significant position he held thereafter; including his roles as a dad, a grandpa and as a husband to his beloved Barbara. I later heard his praises sung repeatedly by his dear friend and admirer, retired Court of Appeals Judge Albert Rosenblatt, my friend and mentor of over four decades.
Fast forward to 1999: a vacancy arose on the New York State Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics which I co-chair. Then Chief Administrative Judge Jonathan Lippman called to ask my opinion about a judge he was considering for that vacancy—a question I had never before been asked. I knew the proposed judge’s name only; so I offered to quickly and discretely check him out. A busy Judge Lippman promptly rejected that offer as he wanted the vacancy filled ASAP. He then asked me, “Well, whom would you like me to name?” In a nanosecond I blurted: “Judge Michael Juviler!” After a very pregnant pause, Judge Lippman slowly uttered, “That’s a great idea!” He then added, “I’ll tell you what—I’ll appoint them both; how’s that?” I responded, “if you give us Judge Juviler I will be delighted to have them both.” As it turned out, Judges Michael Juviler and Joseph Fisch were both wonderful members.
Judge Juviler served on the committee for 17 years until he resigned in December 2016, after tragically being diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer. He served with the greatest distinction, seamlessly earning the respect, confidence, admiration and affection of the nearly three dozen fellow members who served alongside him during all or some of those years.
When our entire committee and legal staff were notified of Michael’s passing (NYLJ, Jan. 25), we and his wife, Barbara Davis, received the most heartfelt messages from our judges and legal staff. His family, friends and I were honored to eulogize him; and two New York judges flew down just to attend his memorial service in Boca Raton, Florida.
At our meetings, he consistently demonstrated impeccable integrity, patience, wisdom, keen insight and thorough decency when he spoke. Some discussions concerning controversial issues were “lively” to say the least. But, when Michael had something to add, he would quietly raise his hand, and with exquisite patience, he would wait for me to call on him. As soon as he uttered his first words, the room would fall silent enough to hear a pin drop as we all digested the logical, informed input he offered. Rarely did his views fail to carry a majority or unanimous vote; and no one challenged his wise comments with anything but thorough respect and politeness. Did I mention his great sense of humor?
In addition to the approximately 200 formal written ethics inquiries we address annually, two of our subcommittees also respond by phone to over 1,000 informal judicial ethics questions from judges. Whenever I would be asked the toughest ethics questions, I would virtually always call Michael first for his consistently sagacious and reliable input.
We all have friends we respect, whose company we enjoy, and on whom we can rely. However, I suspect among them we all have significantly fewer, but especially close, cherished friends we fully trust, whose company we always enjoy, who will always keep safe our confidences, who freely laugh with and about each of us, and whom we love.
My close friendship with Michael will always live in that special place.
The writer, a retired Appellate Division, First Department justice,
is co-chair of the state Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics