Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Judge Winter ’60 Awarded Federal Judiciary’s Highest Honor

(from left) U.S. Supreme Court Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor '79, Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Clarence Thomas '74 all gave tributes to Judge Ralph K. Winter '60 (center, right) at a special ceremony in September

The Dwight D. Opperman Foundation presented the 33nd annual Edward J. Devitt Distinguished Service to Justice Award to Senior Judge Ralph K. Winter '60 of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. This year, five of the Supreme Court justices traveled to New York to the Thurgood Marshall United States Courthouse in September 2017 to honor Judge Winter.

The Devitt Award is the American judiciary's highest honor that is bestowed upon an Article III federal judge. It was created by the late Dwight D. Opperman, when he served as president and chairman of the West Publishing Company.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy made the opening remarks on behalf of Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., who was unable to attend this year, followed by Dwight D. Opperman Foundation's chairman Julie C. Opperman, Justice Clarence Thomas '74, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Justice Sonia Sotomayor '79, and Justice Elena Kagan, as well as Judge Robert A. Katzmann '80, Chief United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. More than 200 guests attended the ceremony.

Supreme Court Associate Justice Elena Kagan headed the Devitt Selection Committee. She was joined by Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh '90 of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and by Judge Gary Feinerman of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

Judge Winter commented, "I am deeply honored by having been chosen to receive the Devitt Award, named after a most distinguished jurist and sponsored by the Opperman Foundation, which has played a central role in enhancing American jurisprudence. My thanks to the Selection Committee for this most humbling award."

Judge Winter was appointed United States Circuit Judge for the Second Circuit on December 10, 1981. He received a B.A. degree from Yale College in 1957 and an LL.B. degree from Yale Law School in 1960. He served as a law clerk to Judge Caleb M. Wright, Chief Judge, U.S. District Court, Delaware, 1960-61, and to Judge Thurgood Marshall, U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, 1961-62. Judge Winter was a full-time member of the Yale Law School faculty from 1962 until entering judicial service, and he continued to teach at the Law School until 2015.

Judge Winter has received the Connecticut Law Review Award, Honorary Doctors of Law from Brooklyn Law School and New York Law School, the Federal Bar Council's Learned Hand Award for Excellence in Federal Jurisprudence, and the Yale Law School Alumni Association's Award of Merit. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Winter also has a lecture fund at Yale Law School, which was established by former law clerks to discuss issues surrounding corporate law and governance. The law school also created a Judge Ralph Winter Prize, which is awarded annually to the Yale Law student who has written the best paper in law and economics.

The Devitt Award honors an Article III judge who has made significant contributions to the administration of justice, the advancement of the rule of law, and the improvement of society as a whole. It is named for the late Edward J. Devitt, the longtime chief judge of the U.S. District Court of Minnesota. Learn more information on the Devitt Award.