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"The New York Times" featured Honorable Robert G.M. Keating in "Robert Keating, Judge Who Backed Jail Alternatives, Dies at 76"


"The New York Times" featured Honorable Robert G.M. Keating in "Robert Keating, Judge Who Backed Jail Alternatives, Dies at 76"

Robert G. M. Keating, a former judge who was instrumental in founding a community court in Manhattan that enlisted low-level offenders in neighborhood service programs instead of sending them to jail, died on Saturday in Stony Brook, N.Y. He was 76.

His death, in a hospital, was confirmed by his son Bobby. He did not specify the cause.

Justice Keating held several leadership roles in criminal justice agencies and the courts. But he left his most enduring legacy as chief administrative judge of New York City’s Criminal Court, the job in which he oversaw the establishment of the Midtown Community Court in 1993.

That court was, in a way, a back-to-the-future experiment in returning the swift, visible administration of justice to the communities where crimes had been committed — in this case, Times Square and the theater district. Most judicial proceedings had been centralized in each borough much earlier in the 20th century.

Prostitutes, graffiti vandals and other minor offenders were offered alternative sentences, including clearing litter and painting over defaced property, coupled with mental health and sexual abuse counseling and monitored drug treatment.

The goal was not only to reduce crime (by one count, an offender who completed a drug-treatment program was 71 percent less likely to be rearrested) but also to instill confidence within the community that the criminal justice system could function fairly and efficiently.

Similar courts were soon established elsewhere in the city and in, among other places, Britain, South Africa and Australia.

Herbert J. Sturz, Justice Keating’s predecessor as New York City’s criminal justice coordinator, said that when he suggested the establishment of the community court, Justice Keating immediately embraced the idea.

“He was experienced, he was a generous human being, he felt this was in the interests of the public and the court system, and he had enough confidence to say this made sense,” Mr. Sturz said in a telephone interview.

Justice Keating acknowledged that judicial systems are generally averse to innovation. But, he added, “It’s easier to change things if you’re replacing chaos.”

The experimental tribunal spawned the Center for Court Innovation, a public-private partnership between the state’s Unified Court System and the Fund for the City of New York.

As the chief assistant Brooklyn district attorney, Justice Keating had also begun a program to divert minor drug offenders to treatment instead of prison. He later instituted another program through which defendants received courthouse counseling about drug abuse, AIDS and tuberculosis.

Robert Gordon Michael Keating was born on Sept. 25, 1941, in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn to Edward Keating, a firefighter, who died of a heart attack when Bob was 5, and Mary (Gordon) Keating, a teacher.

After graduating from Xavier High School in Manhattan, he earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Georgetown University and a law degree from Duke University School of Law.

In addition to his son Bobby, he is survived by his wife, Mary Lou (DeMarco) Keating, and another son, Christopher. He and his wife lived in Bellport Village, N.Y., on Long Island.

Justice Keating was a Legal Aid lawyer before joining the Kings County district attorney’s office in 1979. In 1980, despite his opposition to capital punishment, he was named criminal justice coordinator by Mayor Edward I. Koch, a supporter of the death penalty.

He pressed prosecutors and the courts for tougher enforcement of gun laws and speedier trials. He was named administrative judge for the Criminal Court in 1984.

In 1987, Gov. Mario M. Cuomo appointed him to the Court of Claims. In 1995 he became administrative judge of the State Supreme Court for Brooklyn and Staten Island.

He left for private practice and an executive role with a medical management company in 1996. He later served under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg as vice chairman of the Advisory Committee on the Judiciary.

In 2002 he was named to lead the New York State Judicial Institute, a training and research partnership among the governor, the legislature, the court system and Pace University.

Justice Keating was named vice president for strategic initiatives at Pace in 2008 and served as senior adviser to the university’s president until he retired on June 30. His retirement party had been scheduled for this past Monday.

Read the article.