“Ignoring such guidance increases the probability that a judge will construe a law at odds with legislative meaning, and potentially more in line with the judge’s own intuitions and policy preferences,” he wrote in the Harvard Law Review in 2016, in response to a review of his book by Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, who now sits on the Supreme Court.
“A judge’s work takes place not on the lofty plane of grand, unified theory, but on the ground of commonsense inquiry,” he asserted.
In 2018, Justice Katzmann wrote the Second Circuit court’s majority opinion in Zarda v. Altitude Express that the 1964 Civil Rights Act barred employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
The next year, writing for a unanimous three-judge panel, he held in Trump v. Vance that the president of the United States was not immune from a state grand jury subpoena that directs a third party to produce nonprivileged material in its investigation of potential crimes.
The case concerned a subpoena to Mr. Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA, from the office of the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr. The appeals court rejected Mr. Trump’s request to block the subpoena, which sought eight years of his personal and corporate tax returns.
Both the Zarda and Trump rulings were affirmed by the United States Supreme Court.
In 2017, Judge Katzmann, a consensus builder, issued a rare dissent when the Second Circuit court, overruling a District Court judge, said in Watson v. United States that a U.S. citizen who had been wrongfully detained for 1,273 days was not entitled to sue the government for damages because he had not filed his claim in a timely manner.
Even as a boy he sought to engage himself in civic affairs. When he was 9 he wrote to President John F. Kennedy on behalf of members of the Seneca tribe who had lost their territory to a flood control project. As a second-grader, in a letter to Mayor Robert F. Wagner Jr., he complained about a problematic traffic light in his Queens neighborhood.