Judge Paul G. Feinman (1960-2021) was the trailblazing first openly gay judge on the state’s highest court and a founding member of the Richard C. Failla LGBTQ Commission.
Paul G. Feinman was born in 1960 in Hempstead, New York, the third of five children. He was raised in Merrick, where he attended public schools. Judge Feinman graduated from Columbia College, Columbia University (A.B. 1981) and the University of Minnesota Law School (J.D. 1985), attending both on scholarship. He also studied at the Université de Paris VII (Jussieu),the Université de Paris II (Assas) and the Université de Lyon III.
He began his legal career as a Staff Attorney for the Appeals Bureau of the Legal Aid Society of Nassau County and then worked for the Legal Aid Society, Criminal Defense Division in Manhattan. From 1989 to 1996, he clerked for Justice Angela M. Mazzarelli in Supreme Court, Criminal and Civil Branches, and in the Appellate Division, First Department.
In November 1996, Judge Feinman was elected to the Civil Court of the City of New York; he was re-elected in 2006. From 1997 - 2001, he was assigned to the Criminal Court. He was designated an Acting Supreme Court Justice in Manhattan in 2004 and elected a Justice of the Supreme Court in 2007. Governor Andrew M. Cuomo appointed him to the Appellate Division, First Department in October 2012.
Governor Cuomo nominated Judge Feinman to the Court of Appeals on June 16, 2017. The State Senate unanimously confirmed his nomination on June 21, 2017.
He previously served as President of the Association of Supreme Court Justices of the State of New York, Inc. (2013), President of the International Association of LGBTQ+ Judges (2008 - 2011), Presiding Member of the Judicial Section of the New York State Bar Association (2012 -2013), and President of LeGaL, the LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York (1996).
He resided in New York City with his husband, Robert Ostergaard.
- Watch his October 2017 investiture ceremony at the New York Court of Appeals
- Watch a 2018 oral history interview with Judge Feinman
- Watch our June 2021 tribute to Judge Feinman
- Watch the unveiling of his portrait at the New York Court of Appeals in April 2022
In June 2021, in honor of Judge Feinman’s many great achievements and his unfailing generosity of spirit, the Failla Commission announced the establishment of an annual award for an individual who best exemplifies his values, his kindness, and his willingness to lift up members of the LGBTQ community in the courts and in the law. We hope this recognition will continue to inspire everyone in our court system, and the broader legal community, to recognize and honor the many important contributions of members of the LGBTQ community in the courts and in the law, just as Judge Feinman did everyday he was with us.
- Inaugural Judge Paul G. Feinman Award Ceremony honoring Justice Adam Silvera in Manhattan (June 2022)
- Second Annual Judge Paul G. Feinman Award Ceremony honoring Bill Gardner, Esq. in Buffalo (June 2023)