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First Time In 40 Years:
Queens Man Sworn-In As Federal Court Judge

by DAVID OATS, Queens Courier Editor-in-Chief

Nicholas G. Garaufis, a well-liked, long-time civic leader, attorney and government official from Bayside was officially inducted as a federal judge on Monday — the first time in 40 years that a Queens person received this honor.
Garaufis’ official position is called Judge of the United States District Court, Eastern District of New York. His induction, which took place in the United States Courthouse in Brooklyn, was attended by scores of people from government, the courts and the legal profession. But the heartfelt nature of the ceremony was reflected by the many friends from Queens who have worked with Garaufis over the years, some of them remembering him from his boyhood growing up in Bayside.

After opening remarks by Chief Judge Edward Korman of the U.S. District Court, there was a reading of the Presidential Commission by Robert C. Heinenmann, Clerk of the Court. Garaufis was appointed by President Clinton last year and was approved by the Congress.

A family-like atmosphere prevailed especially when the official robing of the judge was performed by his parents, George N. Garaufis and Demetria G. Garaufis. When the Oath of Office was administered by U.S. District Judge David Treager, Garaufis’ young sons, James and Matthew, held the family bible.

Garaufis thanked many of the people in the chamber for their love and faith and help over the years as his career went from civic leader to the federal bench. Borough President Claire Shulman recalled Garaufis’ years of service when he was her counsel at Borough Hall. She told of his many accomplishments, handling critical issues in the area of aviation in a borough in which 650 million people travel through Queens’ two airports every year.

That expertise led to his appointment by President Clinton in 1995 to be the counsel to the Federal Aviation Administration — the highest Queens federal appointment in the current administration. Garaufis took note of some of those who he has admired and worked with over the years such as former Board of Education President Carol Gresser, former Congressman Tom Manton and former Senator Al D’Amato and Queens D.A. Richard Brown for inspiring and encouraging him to pursue a judicial career. Garaufis particularly thanked D’Amato — who attended the installation — and Senator Charles Schumer for passing his appointment to the federal branch promptly and without dissent.

Garaufis’ early career included serving as an assistant to Attorney General Louis Lefkowitz, as an assistant to Congressman James Scheuer and legal counsel to Congressman Gary Ackerman. But he became well known and respected for his pro-bono legal services for local charities and community groups when he had a small law office on Bell Blvd. In addition to serving many years on both Community Board 11 and School Board 26, he formed a community organization to save the grounds of historic Fort Totten and convert it to community use. This work in the late 1970’s is widely credited with the ultimate success of the preservation efforts at Fort Totten that are coming to fruition today.

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Last modified: May 01, 2008