Paul Feinman, Pioneering Gay New York Judge, Retires

Out gay Judge Paul Feinman passed away a week after he retired.
Paul Feinman

Judge Paul Feinman, the first out gay man appointed to the New York State Court of Appeals, has retired.

Citing health issues, the 61-year-old judge immediately retired from his position on the state’s highest bench March 23, according to an announcement.

“Judge Feinman is an exceptional judge and a magnificent human being who has made an extraordinary contribution to this institution during his tenure,” Chief Judge Janet DiFiore said in a statement.

In 1996, Feinman landed a seat on the Civil Court in the First Municipal District in Lower Manhattan. He was re-elected after a decade, but in 2004, he rose to become an acting justice of the Supreme Court in New York County. Three years later, he was elected to that bench, where he handled contract and personal injury cases, commercial disputes, and malpractice actions.

Governor Andrew Cuomo then appointed him to the state’s Appellate Division in 2012, making him the first out gay man to hold such a post. Three years earlier, a pair of LGBTQ women made history when Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Rosalyn Richter was appointed to the First Department Bench and Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth A. Garry was appointed to the Third Department appellate court in Albany.

In 2017, he was nominated by Cuomo to the Court of Appeals and became the court’s first out gay judge.

Upon his appointment in 2012, Feinman wrote in an email to Gay City News that he was “grateful” for an “opportunity to serve the public of the Empire State in this new way.”

In a statement on Twitter, the LGBT Bar of New York sent their support for the outgoing Judge, noting that he “broke barriers” for other LGBTQ lawyers.

“We know that this decision to retire was very difficult. Judge Feinman loved serving the people of New York as a member of the judiciary,” the group Tweeted. “As one of the oldest LGBTQ+ bar associations in the country, our members remember a time when being openly LGBTQ+ could mean a denial of admission to the profession or being disbarred.”

Feinman currently lives in New York City with his husband, Robert Ostergaard, who he married in 2013. 

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