Nicholas Garaufis

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Nicholas Garaufis
Nicholas Garaufis.jpg
Senior Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York
Assumed office
October 1, 2014
Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York
In office
May 25, 2000 – October 1, 2014
Appointed byBill Clinton
Preceded byCharles P. Sifton
Succeeded byLaShann Moutique DeArcy Hall
Personal details
Nicholas George Garaufis

1948 (age 70–71)
Paterson, New Jersey
EducationColumbia University (B.A.)
Columbia Law School (J.D.)

Nicholas George Garaufis (born 1948) is a Senior United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York.


Born in Paterson, New Jersey, Garaufis graduated from Columbia College of Columbia University in 1969 with a Bachelor of Arts degree and received his Juris Doctor from Columbia Law School in 1974. He taught in the New York City public schools prior to receiving his Juris Doctor.


Garaufis began his legal career in 1974 as an associate of Chadbourne & Parke. He also served as an Assistant Attorney General in the Litigation Bureau of the New York State Attorney General’s office under Attorney General Louis J. Lefkowitz and has practiced law privately in Queens County, New York. Garaufis served for more than five years as the Chief Counsel of the Federal Aviation Administration in Washington, D.C., overseeing a staff of 200 attorneys. Prior to his appointment to the Clinton Administration in June, 1995, Garaufis served for nine years as counsel to Queens Borough President Claire Shulman in New York City.

Federal judicial service[edit]

Upon the recommendation of United States Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Garaufis was nominated by President Clinton on February 28, 2000, to a seat on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York vacated by Charles P. Sifton and confirmed by unanimous consent by the United States Senate on May 24, 2000. Garaufis received his commission on May 25, 2000 and entered service on August 28, 2000. Garaufis took senior status on October 1, 2014.

New York Fire Department hiring case[edit]

In 2007, the United States Department of Justice, joined by the Vulcan Society, an organization of black firefighters, and three individual applicants, filed a lawsuit against New York City alleging that the city’s written firefighter entrance exam excluded a disproportionate number of black and Hispanic applicants.[1][2] At that time, just three percent of the department’s 11,000 firefighters were black and 4.5 percent were Hispanic despite the fact that over half the population of New York City was black or Hispanic.[3] On October 5, 2011, Garaufis ruled that a court-appointed monitor would be installed to oversee the New York City Fire Department’s efforts to hire and retain more minorities.[4] While the ruling did not impose racial quotas, it explained that a systemic effort by the Fire Department was required.[4] Garaufis charged the independent monitor with helping to oversee the writing and administration of firefighter entrance exams, which were previously deemed to discriminate against minority candidates; auditing and investigating the department’s hiring practices; and guiding the city in overhauling its policies to prevent acts of discrimination or racially motivated retaliation.[4] On September 28, 2012, Garaufis approved a new entrance exam for firefighters after the city submitted data showing that the test did not discriminate.[5] Garaufis also required the department to give a second chance to some minority recruits, including some who had failed exams that were found to be biased.[6] For those recruits, the department was required to waive the maximum age of 29 for taking the entry exam.[6] As a result, the first class of recruits after the ruling included some recruits that were older than had been typical of previous classes.[6] Injuries in that class were higher and the dropout rate, usually 10 percent, was 24 percent for that class.[6]

On May 14, 2013, an appeals court disagreed with Garaufis’s finding that the discrimination was intentional.[7] The appeals court determined that the question of intentionality, which was relevant to the amount of damages the city might have to pay, should go to trial under a different judge.[7] The appeals court left in place many of Garaufis’s orders, however, including a finding that previous tests used to screen applicants were biased against minorities, the appointment of a court monitor to track progress in hiring black and Hispanic firefighters, and the awarding of retroactive pay to applicants who had been unfairly screened out in the past.[7] After the appeals court’s ruling, the parties settled the remaining claims in the case, and the entire case was referred to Garaufis for oversight of the settlement.[8]

As of October 2013, there were 1,230 minority firefighters in the department, double the number in 2002.[6] In June 28, 2018, the Fire Department reported that forty-three percent of the nearly 2,300 top scorers on its most recent entrance exam were black or Hispanic.[9] In October 2018, people of color comprised more than 40 percent of the class graduating from the training academy.[10]

Bryant Neal Vinas terrorism case[edit]

On May 11, 2017, Garaufis sentenced Bryant Neal Vinas to time served for providing material support for terrorism, giving the highly cooperative informant three months more in prison before beginning a life on probation.[11]

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals[edit]

In 2017, Garaufis heard a case brought by the National Immigration Law Center, among others, on behalf of several illegal aliens who were brought to the United States as children, challenging the Trump administration's decision to suspend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. He pointedly commented to lawyers arguing on behalf of the Government: "You can't come into court to espouse a position that is heartless."[12] Responding to United States Department of Justice lawyers who declined to extend an October 5, 2017 deadline for DACA recipients to reapply, Garaufis responded in what The New York Times called a sarcastic statement: "I’m just glad I was born in Paterson, N.J., not Mexico City."[13]

On February 12, 2018, Garaufis issued an injunction ordering the Trump administration to keep DACA, in agreement with the plaintiffs' argument that Trump's decision to rescind DACA was "arbitrary and capricious."[14]


  1. ^ Newman, Andy (May 22, 2007). "Justice Dept. Sues New York City, Citing Bias in Hiring Firefighters". New York Times.
  2. ^ Eligon, John; Cardwell, Diane (November 28, 2007). "Black and Hispanic Firefighter Applicants Have Doubled". New York Times.
  3. ^ Newman, Andy (May 22, 2007). "Justice Dept. Sues New York City, Citing Bias in Hiring Firefighters". The New York Times.
  4. ^ a b c Feuer, Alan (October 5, 2011). "Monitor Must Oversee Fire Dept. Hiring Practices, Judge Rules". The New York Times.
  5. ^ Secret, Mosi (September 28, 2011). "Judge Approves New Entrance Exam for City Firefighters". New York Times.
  6. ^ a b c d e Schwirtz, Michael (December 4, 2013). ", For New York City Fire Department, More Diversity Amid Tension". New York Times.
  7. ^ a b c Secret, Mosi; Weiser, Benjamin (May 14, 2013). "Appeals Court Says Judge Went Too Far in Forcing Fire Dept. to Revamp Its Hiring". New York Times.
  8. ^ Santora, Marc; Schwirtz, Michael (March 18, 2014). "New York City Settles Lawsuit Accusing Fire Dept. of Racial Bias". New York Times.
  9. ^ Farinacci, Amanda (June 28, 2018). "FDNY reports progress in diversity recruitment efforts". Spectrum News NY1.
  10. ^ "FDNY Graduates Diverse Class of Firefighters". Spectrum News NY1. October 19, 2018.
  11. ^ Hays, Tom (May 11, 2017). "Al-Qaida member who flipped and helped US gets time served". Associated Press. Retrieved February 17, 2018.
  12. ^ Keshner, Andrew (2017-09-26). "Brooklyn judge blasts feds as 'heartless' over refusal to change DACA deadline". New York Daily News. Retrieved 27 September 2017.
  13. ^ Feuer, Alan (October 12, 2017). "As DACA Negotiations Drag On, a Judge in Brooklyn Could Intervene". The New York Times. Retrieved February 17, 2018.
  14. ^ Feuer, Alan (February 13, 2018). "Second Federal Judge Issues Injunction to Keep DACA in Place". The New York Times. Retrieved February 17, 2018.

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Charles P. Sifton
Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York
Succeeded by
LaShann Moutique DeArcy Hall