A Golden Gavel For Cahill

She will hang up the robe after 20 years
Former East Hampton Town Justice James R. Ketcham and Justice Lisa R. Rana joined in honoring Justice Catherine A. Cahill at her retirement dinner on Sunday. T.E. McMorrow

       A who’s who of local attorneys, judges, and court personnel gathered Sunday night at Michaels’ restaurant Maidstone in Springs to honor the outgoing East Hampton Justice Catherine A. Cahill, who is retiring after 20 years on the bench.

       Justice Lisa Rana, who has been on the bench herself for 10 years, recalled in informal remarks that when she first joined the court it was Justice Cahill who had a decade of tenure.

       “Over the past 10 years, we have stood shoulder to shoulder,” Justice Rana said. “Through it all, Justice Cahill has been my close personal friend.”

       “Let’s be honest,” Justice Cahill told the group. “All you lawyers are here to make sure that I am handing the gavel over.”

       Addressing incoming Justice Steven Tekulsky, who won the seat by a large margin earlier this month, she predicted he would quickly find Justice Rana an important ally, “a supportive co-justice who will fast become the person you call to say, ‘You can’t make this up.’ ”

       Another whom he will find indispensable, she told Mr. Tekulsky, is the long-time court clerk Jennifer Anderson.             “People always thought that I have been the buster, the tough one. Actually, it’s Jen,” Justice Cahill said. She warned Mr. Tekulsky, smiling broadly, to expect “a kick in the shin” if he makes any judicial missteps while Ms. Anderson is sitting next to him on the bench.

       Ms. Anderson said that Justice Cahill had “been my boss on one hand, but has become a close friend, someone that I admire and look up to.”

       The entire staff of court clerks was on hand. To a woman, they spoke in glowing terms of Justice Cahill and of her importance in creating a positive work environment, especially for women.

       “She has a complex personality,” said Tamara Palmer. “She can go from being the toughest person on the bench to the sweetest person behind the scene.”

       “We’re sorry to see her go,” said Brian DeSessa, an attorney with Edward Burke Jr. and Associates. “She has been great for both sides.”

       Justice Rana presented her departing colleague with a gold charm necklace from which hung a golden gavel, purchased with donations from co-workers and friends. Justice Cahill appeared strongly moved as she accepted the gift.

       Former East Hampton Justice James R. Ketcham also gave some informal remarks. In an interview in April, soon after announcing that she would not seek another term on the bench, Justice Cahill said that Mr. Ketcham had been her mentor. In encouraging her to run for the position, she remembered, he told her, “You have standards. You don’t just give in.”

       He repeated those words on Sunday.

       Justice-elect Tekulsky has been preparing for his new job by sitting in daily on court proceedings beside both justices. He has been fitted for his black robe.

       “It is an honor to be taking the seat that has been held the past 20 years by Justice Cahill,” said the incoming justice. “She has set a standard of excellence and professionalism that she can be very proud of.”

       Justice Cahill said in April that she sees herself spending more time now with her family, and in the garden behind her house in Springs as well as in her New York apartment. She also plans to do some traveling.

       The speaking done on Sunday night, she said happily, “Now I can have a glass of wine.” Somebody gave her one, but she never did get to drink it. There were too many people to thank and embrace.