Photographs posted today on the Facebook page of 44th District Judge Carlos Cortez show Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj awarding Cortez the Medal of Friendship at the United Nations on Sept. 22. The honor stems from Cortez's ruling that helped stop the sale of a 70 million-year-old Tyrannosaurus skeleton, which a U.S. district court later ruled had been smuggled from Mongolia’s Gobi desert
On Oct. 19, the television channel AlJazeera America aired a news feature about the legal battle over the dinosaur bones, a battle that began in Cortez's courtroom.
“It is an honor to be recognized and truly humbling,” says Cortez about his experience of “putting on a suit and tie and going to the UN.”
Cortez issued an ex parte restraining order May 19, 2012, barring an auction of the bones. Eventually, the U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement agency pursued the importer of the bones, and the self-described "commercial paleontologist" pleaded guilty to participating in a scheme to smuggle bones and forfeited the Mongolian skeleton.
On Feb. 14, U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel of the Southern District of New York entered a judgment returning the skeleton to Mongolia.
-- Miriam Rozen