Gerard E. Lynch was appointed to the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit by President Barack Obama in 2009. From 2000 through 2009 he served on the District Court for the Southern District of New York, to which he was appointed by President Bill Clinton. Before his appointment, Lynch was both an academic and a practitioner, teaching at the Columbia University School of Law and practicing criminal law as both a prosecutor and defense lawyer.
Judge Lynch is a life-long New Yorker. The son of an airline mechanic and a homemaker, he was born in Brooklyn and raised in Ridgewood, Queens. He graduated first in his class from Manhattan’s Regis High School, an all-scholarship Jesuit school where he was introduced to classical languages and literature, and majored in Greek and Latin at Columbia Colleges, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and was class valedictorian. Seeking greater engagement with social issues, he went on to Columbia Law School, again graduating first in his class. At Columbia, Lynch benefitted from the outstanding academic faculty, including such luminaries as Herbert Wechsler, E. Allan Farnsworth, and Willis Reese, but was also inspired by the pathbreaking litiga- tion of another of his teachers, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and was intrigued by a clinical course that introduced him to the practical skills and challenges of litigation.
After graduation, Lynch’s first job brought him to the Second Circuit, and to what is now the Thurgood Marshall United States Courthouse at Foley Square, as law clerk to one of the court’s greatest judges, Judge Wilfred Feinberg. The following year, he clerked for Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., at the Supreme Court. Better apprenticeships for a future judge would be hard to find.
In 1977, upon completing his clerkships, Lynch joined the faculty of Columbia Law School, where he has taught ever since, as assistant professor of law. Over the years, he rose through the academic ranks, being appointed full professor in 1986 and named the first Paul J. Kellner Professor of Law in 1996. From 1992 to 1997 he served as vice dean of the Law School, with responsibility for curriculum, adjunct faculty and student services. Lynch has taught a wide range of courses including constitutional law, criminal procedure, federal criminal law, criminal litigation, criminology,
sentencing, contracts, advanced civil procedure and appellate advocacy, but his
primary responsibility has been the first-year course in criminal law, which he
taught some 30 times from 1979 to 2015. He received the student-voted Willis
Reese Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1994, and in 1997 he became the first
member of the Faculty of Law to receive the university-wide President’s Award for Outstanding Teaching. Judge Lynch is the author of various academic and popular articles about criminal law and procedure, constitutional law, and legal ethics, most notably a book-length study of criminal RICO, an influential account of our de facto administrative process of criminal adjudication, and a number of articles about sentencing.
Lynch took a public service leave from Columbia in 1980, to become an Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York. He held that position until 1983, investigating and trying white-collar criminal cases and serving as deputy chief and later chief appellate attorney. After returning to Columbia, he served on a part-time basis as counsel to several commissions and independent counsel investigating allegations of misconduct in office, including the Iran/Contra investigation, in which he managed the motion practice in the prosecution of Oliver North and argued appeals in the Fourth and District of Columbia Circuits, including the appeal from North’s conviction. From 1990 to 1992, he returned to the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York as chief of the Criminal Division, where he supervised all of the office’s criminal litigation.
Upon returning to Columbia after that assignment, in addition to teaching he became counsel to the New York law firm Howard Darby & Levin (later named Howard Smith & Levin and eventually merging into Covington & Burling), where he represented individuals and corporations in criminal and regulatory investigations. His assignments also included appeals before the Second Circuit; among those appeals, he won reversal of the mail fraud conviction of the president of the nation’s largest aviation insurer, and successfully defended a malpractice judgment against a major New York law firm. On a pro bono basis, he has also briefed and argued cases in the Supreme Court and the Second Circuit.
Judge Lynch has received various awards, including the Wien Prize in Social Responsibility from Columbia Law School (2008), the Edward Weinfeld Award for Distinguished Contributions to the Administration of Justice from the New York County Lawyers’ Association (2009), and the Learned Hand Medal for Excellence in Federal Jurisprudence from the Federal Bar Council (2016).
He has been married for more than 40 years to Dr. Karen Marisak, a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst. He takes great pride and delight in his son, Chris, who is a lawyer, and his granddaughter, Olivia.