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Clerks of the Court (Historical)


Hyman W. Gamso

Hyman W. Gamso
Clerk of Court: 1965 – 1976
Born: February 8, 1906
Died: October 18, 1986

As he described it, Hyman W. Gamso spent 39 “happy years” in the New York Court system, his last 11½ years as the Clerk of the Court of the Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department.
Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1906, Mr. Gamso attended Brooklyn Law School at night, earning his degree in 1927. He was admitted to the New York State Bar the following year, and for the next ten years practiced with the law firms of Watson, Godley, Sheppard & Willgus and later as a partner of Willgus, Blum & Gamso.

While engaging in the practice of law by day, in 1932, he joined the staff of the New York Law Journal as Assistant to the Editor Archibald R. Watson working at the newspaper mostly at night. In time, he became Associate Editor.

In 1938, a month before his 32nd birthday, Mr. Gamso was appointed Deputy County Clerk of New York County, at a salary of $5,000 a year, by Archibald R. Watson who was then County Clerk of New York County. A member of the law firm of Willguss, Blum & Gamso, Mr. Gamso had never held public office before. However, he had been associated with Mr. Watson for more than ten years and was active in the work of several bar association committees.

As Deputy County Clerk of New York County, Mr. Gamso drafted more than fifty legislative enactments designed to simplify the practice of law. He left the New York Law Journal and the New York County Clerk’s office in 1965 when he was appointed Clerk of the Court of the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department.

Mr. Gamso’s tenure as the Clerk of the Court of the Appellate Division coincided with a number of major administrative and logistical improvements including the preparation of the first manual on policy and procedure in the appellate court and the keeping of minutes at the court’s administrative and policy conferences. As the Clerk of the Court, Mr. Gamso was unique in that he made himself easily available for advice and information. He did not shield himself from the everyday problems of a busy appellate court by hiding away in his office. Instead, people wishing to speak directly with him rarely had to worry about interceding third persons. Simply by dialing the First Department main phone number and asking for Mr. Gamso would, the caller be greeted by the Clerk himself with the familiar introduction, “Gamso here.” In a 1976 interview, Gamso explained he followed the practice “to keep in touch with what’s going on. I just instinctively pick up the phone.”

In October, 1976, Mr. Gamso announced his retirement having reached the mandatory retirement age of 70. Then-Presiding Justice Stevens described Gamso’s contributions to the Appellate Division as “years of innovation, progress and change.” In his letter formally accepting Mr. Gamso’s retirement, he observed, “It is good to know that we may call upon you from time to time and benefit from that wealth of experience you have garnered over the years.”

Although he retired after working 39 years in the New York State Court system, Gamso did not stop contributing his time to the court. Rather, he commenced performing uncompensated services including: Administrator of the Assigned Counsel Plan for Indigent Defendants in the First Department; Executive Secretary of the Judiciary Relations Committee of the First Department; member of the Character and Fitness Committee of the First Department; member of the Committee to Advise and Consult with the Judicial Conference on the CPLR; member of the Office of Court Administration’s Committee to Regularize Bar Admission Procedures; member of the Office of Court Administration’s Committee on Legal Representation of the Indigent; and Secretary of the Bernard Botein Medal Committee.

He was given the William Nelson Cromwell Award of the New York County Lawyer’s Association in 1974 for outstanding service to the legal profession and community, the Botein Medal for outstanding contributions to the administration of justice, and City Bar’s 50th Anniversary Medal for conspicuous service.

He was also active in a wide range of professional and community organizations including the New York State Bar Association, the National Conference of Appellate Court Clerks, of which he was a past president, the State Association of Commissioners of Jurors, the Masons, the American Judicature Society, the Institute of Judicial Administration, and the Brooklyn Law School Alumni Association.

Mr. Gamso also served as President of Congregation Shaaray Tifila on the Upper East Side of Manhattan for four terms.

He passed away at age 80 on October 18, 1986. He was survived by his wife Blanche Kaye Gamso, daughter Marjorie, son Jeffrey, sister Augusta Rupersmidt, and two grandchildren.

Sources:

Letter from Hyman W. Gamso to Presiding Justice Harold A. Stevens dated October 14, 1976.

“Two Aides Are Named By New County Clerk, ”New York Times, January 19, 1938, pg. 24.

“Temple Re-elects Head,” The New York Times, January 3, 1968, p. 54.

Obituary of Hyman W. Gamso, New York Law Journal, October 21, 1986 p. 2.

Obituary of Hyman W. Gamso, The New York Times, October 22, 1986 p. A29.

* This biography was written by Abigail Butcher and Leslie Guevara.