In a 1987 decision, as federal sentencing rules that limited the discretion of judges were about to take effect, he criticized people who, as he put it, wanted sentences to be imposed by “a mindless robot, automaton or computer.”
Kevin Thomas Duffy, who preferred using his full middle name, was born in the Bronx on Jan. 10, 1933, to Patrick and Mary (McGarrell) Duffy. His father was a carpenter, his mother a homemaker.
After earning bachelor’s and law degrees from Fordham University, he was an assistant United States attorney in Manhattan and a lawyer in private practice.
In September 1972, he was the administrator of the New York regional office of the Securities and Exchange Commission when President Richard M. Nixon nominated him to the United States Court for the Southern District of New York.
Judge Duffy married Irene Krumeich in 1957. She was a judge with the New York State Family Court and also served in the Criminal Court and the New York Supreme Court. She survives him, as do a daughter, Irene Moira Lueling; two sons, Kevin Jr. and Gavin; two sisters, Marie Heslin and Patricia McKeon; and eight grandchildren. His son Patrick died in 2017.
Judge Duffy also had a home in Southampton, N.Y.
One of the most drawn-out cases overseen by Judge Duffy was the 1970s battle involving New York City’s air quality. Environmental groups contended that the administrations of Gov. Hugh L. Carey and Mayor Abraham D. Beame had failed to enforce a pollution-reducing plan — including the imposition of tolls on East River bridges to discourage traffic — to which previous state and city administrations had agreed. Mayor Beame called the plan questionable and too costly.
In two early rulings in the case, Judge Duffy declined to order the city to comply with the plan. But after an appeals court directed him to issue enforcement orders, the case became one of seemingly endless strife. At one point, Judge Duffy threatened to hold Governor Carey in contempt if he failed to meet one of the judge’s deadlines. The case ended without contempt proceedings and with the toll provision scrapped.
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