WESTSIDER OF THE YEAR Chief Judge Judith Kaye may be stepping down, but her mark on the state?s judicial system will likely endure for generations. After 25 years on the New York State Court of Appeals, Kaye must retire at age 70, as state law mandates. An Upper West Sider originally from Monticello, N.Y., Kaye recently looked back on her long and historic time spent on the court during her last State of the Judiciary speech. She delivered her self-described ?swan song? on Nov. 13 at the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts at New York University?her first State of the Judiciary speech given outside of Albany, where the Court of Appeals is located. Though she reminisced about court reform and accomplishments on the bench, the speech was a blueprint for the judiciary outlined for the state?s next chief justice. ?As I have watched the remaining days of my term dwindle, my thoughts have not been ?what next? but rather what more should be accomplished,? Kaye said in her introduction. The retiring justice highlighted a variety of measures she?d like to see accomplished during her final days on the court, as well as under the next justice?s tenure (Gov. David Paterson will name a replacement for Kaye, which the State Senate will have to confirm). Initiatives included everything from expanding divorce mediation in certain circumstances to consolidating some of the state?s town and village courts. Kaye started her legal career after she tried her hand at journalism as a reporter for a Union City, N.J. newspaper. She attended law school in hopes of getting better assignments but ended up sticking with her newfound career path. In 1983, Kaye, a commercial litigator, was tapped by Gov. Mario Cuomo for the state?s highest court. Ten years later, Cuomo selected her as chief judge. She rebuffed offers from President Bill Clinton to become both attorney general and a U.S. Supreme Court nominee, deciding her legal talent was most needed at the Court of Appeals in the wake of a scandal that sent her predecessor, Sol Wachtler, to jail. The first woman to hold the state?s highest judicial position, Kaye spent 15 years as chief judge and has changed the court system in many ways. One of her most high-profile reforms was altering the jury-selection process, which added more than a million New Yorkers to the juror rolls. Kaye?s peers on the Court of Appeals view her as a consensus builder who looks to compromise on contentious court decisions. ?She knows how to fashion language and force alliances and bring people in,? Associate Judge Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick told The Capitol last month. Her final year on court, however, will probably be remembered for her lawsuit to fight for a judicial pay raise. She called herself ?Chief Plaintiff? in that case during her State of the Judiciary Speech. Thought private about her plans for January after she steps down, it?s doubtful that New Yorkers have seen the last of Kaye. Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal called her forced retirement discriminatory. ?Age is a number. It doesn?t dictate what your capabilities are,? Rosenthal said. ?She could probably go on for years and years.?