A Legal Mind With No Quit in It

Constantine Katsoris in The New York Times, December 12, 2008

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A Legal Mind With No Quit in It
Suzanne DeChillo


Constantine Katsoris, 76, has been a Fordham University law professor for 45 years, and an arbitrator with the New York Stock Exchange and the National Association of Securities Dealers for more than 35 years. He has a Sandra Day O’Connor bobblehead doll and almost five decades of legal paperwork in his office.

Most yellowed cartoon on door: Two guys at a bar: “I’m not going to report my winnings to the I.R.S. Or the M.R.S. either.”

Why so long in the same seat? You get young kids, and they blossom into a beautiful thing. You’re a piece of it, a part of it. For as long as I have my health, I’ll never quit. Not until the Jesuits put a contract out on me.

Ticket through Fordham: My father had a wholesale food business, Greek cheese and olives. I was a salesman. I worked my way through law school selling cheese and olives.

On tax law and adrenaline: If you’re teaching tax, you’ve got a crazy Congress to keep an eye on, and you can quote that. It takes me, after all these years, 30 hours a week to prep, to bring the course up to date. I have to see what Congress has done, did they attach a tax bill in a farm bill or a trade bill. It’s like learning a play every week.

Worst nightmare come true: I live in fear. I’ve never been to class unprepared. But one Monday morning at 9:30, I had just lectured on a case, and a hand goes up. The student said, “That case was reversed,” and I said: “No kidding? When?” And he said: “Saturday at 4:30. It was in the Sunday papers in Boston.” You can be blindsided unbelievably like that.

Grand tour of office: There’s a StairMaster. I dust it once a week. There’s a microwave. There’s a refrigerator. I eat here many times. I have eggplant in a can from Europe, which is already cooked, and I put some mozzarella on top and melt it. I do it right here.

Job’s best feature: The freedom, to sit down with a piece of paper and write exactly what I wanted to say.

Preferred workplace: I love the beach. Every chance I get, I take my work out there, I go to the beach. I love the ocean and sea gulls. I talk to the sea gulls. It’s so restful and peaceful.

Claim to fame from 20 years of presenting Fordham alumni to be admitted to the Supreme Court: As the clerk said, “You’re one of the few undefeated lawyers here.” I’ve had 1,000 motions. It’s an awesome feeling at the court of last resort.

Notable claim about the 15,000 budding lawyers he has taught: None of my students has ever been indicted.

Next? I hope to do another five years, which would be 50 years, which I think is the longest of any law professor at Fordham. Then I’ll decide what I want to do with my life. I kid the owner of this Greek restaurant that I’ll buy his restaurant and take over his kitchen.