Ellsworth Van Graafeiland
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The Honorable Ellsworth Alfred Van Graafeiland (May 11, 1915 – November 20, 2004) was a longtime United States federal judge.
Born in Rochester, New York, Judge Van Graafeiland received a A.B. from University of Rochester in 1937 and an LL.B. from Cornell Law School in 1940. He was a lawyer in private practice in Rochester from 1940 to 1974.
On December 11, 1974, Judge Van Graafeiland was nominated by President Gerald Ford to Seat 1 on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York City vacated by Henry Jacob Friendly. Ford's first Court of Appeals nominee, Judge Van Graafeiland was confirmed by the United States Senate on December 20, 1974, and received his commission on December 21, 1974.
Judge Van Graafeiland presided over several landmark cases in his thirty years on the bench. In the 1970s, he was among the first federal judges to challenge the constitutionality of affirmative action regulations that involved quotas. One of his judgments in 1976 reversed a court-ordered racial quota for school principals in New York City, opining that it was "constitutionally forbidden reverse discrimination."
In a 1978 case, Judge Van Graafeiland endorsed stringent narcotics laws adopted under Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller. That appeal reversed a decision by Judge Constance Baker Motley of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, who had previously ruled that New York State sentences of up to life in prison for the sale of small amounts of narcotics were unconstitutionally severe.
Judge Van Graafeiland held Seat 1 of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit until he assumed senior status on May 5, 1985, when he was succeeded by Judge Frank X. Altimari. After 1985, Judge Van Graafeiland continued hearing cases on a reduced schedule until his death in 2004, in Rochester. Judge Van Graafeiland was survived by his wife, Rosemary Vaeth Van Graafeiland, their five children (Gary, Suzanne V. Giunta, Joan V. Pack, Jack, and Anne), and nine grandchildren.
- New York Times Obituary for Hon. Ellsworth A. Van Graafeiland