Esther Yang, a frequent visitor here, offered this heartfelt tribute to Roosevelt Islander Paul Feinman, a lawyer and New York State Court of Appeals Judge who died in March.
By Esther Yang
I met Paul Feinman when he was an attorney, and I was a struggling single mom of a two-year-old trying to understand the court system and being an advocate for NYS National Organization for Women.
Paul quickly moved up the social justice system and became a civil court judge, then a Supreme Court Justice, an Appellate Court Justice, and the first openly gay Justice in the Court of Appeals. Such high marks, credentials, and a forever list of accolades, I would joke with him, yet Paul was the humblest, unassuming, and kind spirited soul.
I remember making copies with Paul at Staples before the votes for his Supreme Court candidacy. We called every delegate, exchanged notes, left messages, and did it all over again and again. It should have been nerve-racking, counting those votes to get him to be NYS Supreme Court Justice, but we laughed and had fun. We gave each other the biggest hug when he got that nomination. We were so happy.
I became a Judicial Delegate to make sure judges elected on the bench have the temperament and wisdom to increase the public faith in our court system. In my role as a Judicial Delegate, I always keep Paul in mind as a model Justice and look for similar qualities – fairness, calm judicial temperament, and the list goes on.
Paul mentored other lawyers and judges. He always had time for everyone. When I was having lunch downtown, no matter who he was with, he managed to stop by my table, to check on my well-being and my daughter’s.
Paul always asked about my daughter Grace. “How she is doing, where she is going to college, what does she want to do with her life?” Sometimes, you are lucky to have someone as your #1 Fan; but when he is also your daughter’s #1 Fan, you wonder what stars have fallen to make you the luckiest person. Or maybe that’s just Paul being everyone’s #1 Fan. Paul was a true Guardian Angel in disguise on earth.
As a candidate for District Leader, I’ve been introducing myself to voters. I was looking forward to that moment when I could surprise Paul on the island. I know Paul, wearing his layers of masks, would have given me his big bear hug like a proud family member.
My deepest and sincerest condolences to his husband Robert and Paul’s neighbors, friends, and family. I am forever grateful to have known Paul’s brilliant mind, laughter, and sweetest demeanor.
I will miss Paul’s smile, his dry sense of humor, but mostly his kindness. Until we meet again, my friend. In the meantime, have fun in Heaven like you did on earth, and please watch over all of us.