New York Times article on Charles P. Sifton
I also copied and paste the article below fearing it might not be available later.
Charles P. Sifton, Judge in City Case on Term Limits, Dies at 74
Charles P. Sifton, a federal judge in Brooklyn whose rulings paved the way for women to join the New York Fire Department and for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to run for a third term, died Monday at his home in Brooklyn. He was 74.
The cause was complications of sarcoidosis, a lung disease, his son Sam said.
Judge Sifton handled many major cases in more than 30 years on the bench, many of them as chief judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
He presided over civil-rights and school desegregation cases as well as trials of Mafia chieftains, Irish terrorists and Joseph M. Margiotta, the Nassau County Republican leader convicted in 1983 of mail fraud.
The judge’s term-limit ruling, in January, stands out for its impact on recent New York City politics, with the mayor’s re-election last week.
Judge Sifton’s decision upheld a law passed last fall by the City Council to allow incumbents to run for a third term. The Council had followed the wishes of the mayor and some of its members in overturning a two-term limit endorsed by voters in two referendums in the 1990s.
Judge Sifton rejected arguments by Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr., who became the Democratic mayoral candidate, and others who filed suit to reverse the Council’s action. They contended that only another referendum could overturn the limit and that voters’ constitutional rights to free speech and due process had been violated.
Judge Sifton ruled that officials elected by voters are entitled to reverse direct referendums.
“To hold that overturning a law enacted by referendum infringed on First Amendment rights would effectively bar repeal, amendment or revision of all laws initiated by the people,” he wrote in his 64-page opinion.
In 1982, Judge Sifton ruled that a Fire Department test of physical strength and speed discriminated against women. He ordered that a new test be developed and that 45 women who had sued the city be hired. The women had to pass an interim test that emphasized agility and stamina over strength and speed.
Judge Sifton also ordered that a new, nondiscriminatory test be prepared. The city appealed the order to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. That court approved the new test, and in 1987 the United States Supreme Court refused to hear arguments on the appeals court’s decisions, allowing the test developed under Judge Sifton’s order to take effect.
In 1992, a decision by Judge Sifton put him in the middle of a controversy over a pill, banned in the United States, that induces abortion. He said the United States had acted illegally when it seized pills containing mifepristone, sold under the name RU-486, from a pregnant woman who had bought them in France, where the drug was legal.
The Supreme Court reversed his decision. But the publicity the case generated was seen as helping to build support for the eventual approval of the drug in the United States in 2000.
Charles Proctor Sifton was born in Manhattan on March 18, 1935, and graduated from Harvard in 1957. He was a Fulbright scholar in Germany, and graduated from Columbia Law School.
He worked on the staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and in the office of the United States attorney in Manhattan, where his last position was chief appellate lawyer. He then worked in private practice.
President Jimmy Carter appointed him a federal judge in 1977. Unlike many federal judges, he had never belonged to a political organization.
Judge Sifton’s marriage to Elisabeth Sifton, a prominent book editor and author and the daughter of the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, ended in divorce.
Besides his son Sam, the restaurant critic of The New York Times, Judge Sifton is survived by his wife, the artist Susan Rowland; two other sons, Toby and John; and three grandchildren.