Thomas P. Griesa

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Thomas P. Griesa
Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
In office
Preceded by Charles L. Brieant
Succeeded by Michael Mukasey
Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
In office
June 30, 1972 – March 13, 2000
Appointed by Richard Nixon
Preceded by Seat established
Succeeded by Laura Swain
Personal details
Born Thomas Poole Griesa
(1930-10-11) October 11, 1930 (age 86)
Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.
Alma mater Harvard University
Stanford University

Thomas Poole Griesa (born October 11, 1930) is a federal judge for the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Life and career[edit]

Born in Kansas City, Missouri,[1] Griesa received a A.B. from Harvard University in 1952 and served in the U.S. Coast Guard from 1952 to 1954, thereafter receiving an LL.B. from Stanford Law School in 1958. He was an attorney with the Admiralty and Shipping Section of the U.S. Department of Justice from 1958 to 1960, and was then in private practice in New York City from 1960 to 1972.

He was nominated to the court by Richard M. Nixon on June 15, 1972, to a new seat created by 84 Stat. 294, confirmed by the United States Senate on June 28, 1972, and received his commission on June 30, 1972. He served as chief judge from 1993 to 2000 and assumed senior status on March 13, 2000.

Judicial record[edit]

Griffin Bell contempt holding[edit]

In 1978, Griesa issued an order holding United States Attorney General Griffin Bell in contempt of court for Bell's refusal to turn over FBI records about eighteen "informants" in the Socialist Workers Party. This was the first time that a U.S. Attorney General had been held in contempt for conduct during pretrial proceedings. Although Griesa declined a request to immediately jail Bell for contempt, he did indicate that if Bell failed to comply with the order within a one-week deadline, Griesa would "entertain a motion for more drastic sanctions".[2] Bell indeed refused to comply, and was held in contempt, although this order was stayed pending appellate review.[3] On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that "it was clearly erroneous for the district court to determine that the files are so central to the plaintiffs' case that contempt is the only appropriate sanction for the Government's failure to disclose them", and ordered Griesa to consider alternative sanctions.[4]

WestWay construction permit holding[edit]

In 1982, Griesa blocked the permit for the construction of the WestWay, saying the road would harm striped bass. His order was affirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.[5]

Argentina's debt restructuring[edit]

In 2014, Griesa presided over the Argentine debt restructuring, on remand following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to permit vulture funds, who in the period June 2001 to November 2003 (that is from half a year before the Argentine default) bought bonds, which are negotiable instruments and therefore, like bond owners all over the world, never drew any pay from the issuing country, to access potentially an array of bank records to locate financial assets overseas in seeking compensation.[6] negotiable instruments like bonds are bought and sold like commodities at the price seller and buyer agree upon. Paul Singer's Cayman Islands-based hedge fund NML Capital Limited is the principal litigant in this dispute, having paid considerably more than US$90 million in the secondary market for bonds with a face value of US$832 million by 2014. With interest accrued, "NML’s share of the bounty, according to government figures, is $832 million from assets it purchased for $48.7 million — representing a return of 1,608 percent."[7]

Through an official press release published on Friday afternoon, June 27, 2014, the Argentine government stated that Griesa attempted to “block the payment for bondholders,” and committed an abuse of authority, after cancelling the deposit made on Thursday into a Bank of New York account. The text specified “the deposited amounts are fiduciary property of the holders” and it is the duty of the fiduciary agent to “hold them on behalf of the holders’ benefit.”[8]

Judge Griesa's ruling was upheld by the full United States Court of Appeals, and the United States Supreme Court found no reason to revise Griesa's ruling.


The reliability of the Argentine claim ("We are not in default") can be judged by

1. Definition of default in the original prospectus for Argentina’s 2005 debt exchange:

"Notwithstanding the foregoing, Argentina's obligations to make payments of principal and interest on the New Securities shall not have been satisfied until such payments are received by registered holders of the New Securities."

2. Similar in the original prospectus for Argentina’s 2010 debt exchange.

3. all the major rating agencies has declared Argentina to be in default: 3.1. Argentina Put Into Selective Default by Standard & Poor's 3.2. Moody's changes Argentina's outlook to negative as default will hasten economic decline 3.3. Fitch downgrades Argentina to ‘restricted default’ 3.4. China's Dagong Global Credit Rating Co. Cuts Argentina to Default 3.5. The International Swaps and Derivatives Association (ISDA) declares Argentina in default, bonds extend losses.

According to American economist and recipient of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, Joseph Stiglitz, with Griesa's decision "America is throwing a bomb into the global economic system".[9]

Mauricio Macri[edit]

Griesa sees the elevation of Mauricio Macri to the office of President of Argentina as a key development that, in his words, "changes everything" and may lead to a final resolution of the disputes arising from the default.[10]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Griffin Bell Held in Contempt of Federal Court" Spartanburg Herald-Journal (July 1, 1978), Vol. 48, No. 53, p. A1.
  3. ^ "Civil Contempt Decree Placed on Griffin Bell" The Bulletin (July 6, 1978), No. 183, p. 1.
  4. ^ In re Attorney General of the United States, 596 F.2d 58, 67 (2nd Cir. 1979).
  5. ^ "Sierra Club v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers". Retrieved April 9, 2011. 
  6. ^ Benson, Drew (4 October 2012). "Bond Vigilantes' Ghana Ambush Proves Default Hex Unbroken". Bloomberg Businessweek. 
  7. ^ Oakford, Samuel (June 18, 2014), "Talons Out: Argentina Desperately Fighting 'Vulture Funds' Over Debt", Vice News, retrieved 1 April 2016 
  8. ^ Eavis, Peter (28 June 2014). "Argentina claims Judge Griesa "blocked the payment to bondholders"". MercoPress. 
  9. ^ "Argentina Finds Relentless Foe in Paul Singer's Hedge Fund". The New York Times. 31 July 2014. .
  10. ^ "Argentina Bonds: Judge says he will lift injunctions on debt". Bloomberg. 19 February 2016. Retrieved 1 April 2016. 

External links[edit]

Legal offices
New seat Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
Succeeded by
Laura Swain
Preceded by
Charles LaMonte Brieant, Jr.
Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
Succeeded by
Michael Bernard Mukasey