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In Memoriam: Jack B. Weinstein '48

A legal lion, the legendary longtime federal judge, revered Columbia Law School professor and active alumnus, dies at the age of 99.

Jack B. Weinstein ’48 , a member of Columbia Law School for nearly 50 years, the longest-serving federal judge in U.S. history and an advocate of gun control, probation reform, and school desegregation, died on June 15, 2021. He was 99 years old.

In an extraordinary career as a practitioner, professor, scholar, and judge, Weinstein was a formidable and colorful personality who was never shy of her views. He was an authority on civil litigation, evidence, and civil practice for New York State, the jurisdiction and governance of which had a profound impact on the legal community for many decades.

Jack Weinstein was a unique lawyer, a humanist who embodied the highest ideals of Columbia Law School, said Gillian Lester, Dean and Lucy G. Moses professor of law. His relentless commitment to the fair administration of justice, the rule of law, and training law students to make a difference in the world inspired generations of Colombians. And his legacy is a reminder that the law is a noble profession and will be forever.

I am convinced that our country will balance, democratize and save with love and not with hate.
- Jack B. Weinstein

As a US district judge in the Eastern District of New York for 53 years, Weinstein directed tens of thousands of cases, including major litigation against tobacco companies and trials involving Vietnam War veterans alleged harm from use of the chemical defoliant Agent Orange . He revolutionized mass crime proceedings with innovative procedural tools, including the use of special masters to oversee complex multi-party lawsuits. In his writings and judgments on scientific evidence, Weinstein has paved the way for expert opinions in trials trial which is now commonplace.

Class photo of Jack B. Weinstein'48 published in the Columbia Law School student yearbook, the Kent Commentaries.

In his final judgment in January 2020, Weinstein wrote that the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) allow four African American firefighters with a rare skin condition to keep their beards , despite an FDNY rule that firefighters must be clean shaven.

When Weinstein stepped down from the bank and retired at the age of 98 in February 2020, he was the longest-serving federal judge in US history. His family had encouraged him to retire decades earlier. My kids want me to retire, Weinstein told The New York Times 1991 . But they don't realize how much fun I'm having.

Justice and Compassion for All

When he retired in 2020, Judge Jack B. Weinstein'48 was the longest-serving federal judge in US history.

Weinstein was known for his spirited judicial decisions and for his unpretentious, compassionate manner towards all parties in litigation. in the Bank attempts , he took a seat at a conference table with a lawyer; in jury trials he occasionally sat with a jury in the box; and in the course of judgments he sometimes held the hand of the defendants who appeared before him. He seldom got a chance to put on the black robe that went with a seat on the bench - except when his mother stopped by his courtroom. The marshals called and said to my secretary, 'Tell the judge his mother is coming,' Weinstein said the American Bar Association Litigation Magazine in 2013 . And I would have to put on my robe.

Weinstein was named a Judge in the Eastern District of New York in 1967 by President Lyndon B. Johnson on the recommendation of the New York Senate Robert F. Kennedy, for which he worked as a consultant . He served as Chief Judge from 1980 to 1988. After earning senior status in 1993, which allows a lawyer to reduce his case numbers, Weinstein continued to oversee a largely full file.

Weinstein was known for speaking out on controversial issues - including the disproportionate number of women in leading roles in court and other legal proceedings and too harsh sentences in drug and other criminal cases - and he often used his written comments as an advocate. ( The New Yorker said in 1993 that he swung the constitution like a saber .) He was a supporter of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, who led the founding of the Chabad Lubavitch-affiliated Aleph Institute, the leading Jewish organization that cares for the prisoners and their families.

But he was also influential behind the scenes. He appointed special masters to handle hundreds of lawsuits from thousands of Vietnam veterans who alleged defoliant Agent Orange caused cancer, birth defects, and other health problems. He negotiated what with the plaintiffs and chemical companies agreed to settle the lawsuit in 1984 for $ 180 million .

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A life of hard work

Weinstein was born on August 10, 1921, in Wichita, Kansas, where his parents had moved to care for Weinstein's widowed aunt. When he was five years old, his father - who emigrated from Hungary as a child - and his Brooklyn-born mother and family moved back to Brooklyn. The family struggled during the Great Depression, and Weinstein often remembered how he had worked since childhood. Delivery of milk at 4:30 in the morning behind a horse-drawn carriage and later, while studying, Working on trucks and docks at night. After his father lost his job at the National Cash Register Company, Weinstein said the family ate food that fallen from a truck for a while.

Weinstein attended Brooklyn College at night and did his bachelor's degree 1943. He then joined the US Navy, where he served from 1943 to 1946, including on the USS Jallao (SS-368) Submarine in the Asia-Pacific Theater where it took part in the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

Jack B. Weinstein'48 in his office at Columbia Law School, where he taught for nearly 50 years.

Weinstein credited the military for teaching him to be a leader. I learned how to command, which served me a lot as a professor at Columbia and when I worked in the courtroom, he said in one US Courts Profile in 2014. I was and have been in full command of this courtroom ever since, just as I was when I was in the middle of the night watch at the command tower. The ship was mine, the courtroom was mine, the classroom was mine. I had to make decisions right away, and I knew they would be followed.

While in the Navy, Weinstein was trying to figure out what he wanted to do next in life. His mother, whom he described as an insatiable reader, sent him a copy of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. Das Common Law , and he decided law would be interesting to study .

Coined by Columbia law

Weinstein was unfamiliar with the law or attorneys when he began his free law degree at Columbia Law School, courtesy of the GI Act. Weinstein said at a reunion in 2014 that he had never seen an attorney before, and the first attorney I saw was Herbert Wexler, a 1931 Columbia Law graduate and longtime professor of constitutional law at the law school. There was Wexler using the Socratic method. After 10 minutes I was ready to go back to the war.

Jack B. Weinstein'48 led a class at Columbia Law School where he taught civil procedural law and evidence, among other things.

Weinstein's the first of three sons was born what during his first week at Columbia - between the lecture on the development of legal institutions from 9:00 am to 10:00 am and the lecture on civil practice from 11:00 am to 12:00 pm. He and his first wife Evelyn Horowitz Weinstein , a social worker who graduated from Columbia University with her Masters in 1944 and worked with WWII veterans, sharing childcare and switching when she went to work or school. (Evelyn died in 2012 at the age of 89.)

In 1949, Weinstein secured a legal clerkship at the New York State Court of Appeals Judge Stanley H. Voll '26 and a year later opened his own law firm in Manhattan - also because the anti-Semitism of the time made it difficult to find a job in a law firm. After graduating in 1948, he had served as a lecturer at Columbia Law School offered the opportunity to teach in 1952 , he took the chance.

(Left to right) Jack B. Weinstein '48, Judge Robert Sack '63, and Judge Miriam Cedarbaum '53 at a Columbia Law School panel discussion, Judging Without Trials, at the Waldorf Astoria in June 2013.

In 1956 he became a full professor and taught in this capacity until his appointment to the federal executive committee in 1967. He remained a member of the unscheduled faculty until 1998 and taught Evidence to Hundreds of law students including US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg ’59 . He also taught Judges Anita B. Brody '58 and Robert Sack '63 who joined him for the Judging Without Trials panel during the 2013 Columbia Law Reunion weekend. Sack remembered waking up early three days a week for Weinstein's Code of Civil Procedure. Had I known that at some point in my life I would be on a jury and sit next to Jack - on the same side of the table - I would have loved to do that at two in the morning seven days a week. he said.

Weinstein has written or co-written several books, including Federal Evidence: Commentary on the Rules of Evidence for the U.S. Courts which has become a leading case book on the subject; Elements of civil procedure: cases and materials ; Individual Justice in Mass Crime Disputes: The Impact of Class Actions, Consolidations, and Other Multiparty Instruments ; and Weinstein, Korn & Miller , a multi-volume treatise on New York civil practice.

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Students loved him, said Columbia law professor John C. Coffee Jr., who co-taught classes with Weinstein and was named special master by Weinstein in a comprehensive lawsuit against Big Tobacco. The man is both a brilliant lawyer and a person with extraordinary empathy, he said in one Interview with NY1 News in February 2020.

While teaching at Columbia Law School, Weinstein assisted the NAACP's attorneys at Brown versus Education Committee at the suggestion of Professor Walter Gellhorn'31, although Weinstein always maintained that his own role was subordinate.

I was able to help in ways that I didn't think was important. . . doing the kind of work a young employee would do: preparing letters and research, he said. Thurgood Marshall was very kind to put my name on the briefs im in brown Case. Something I didn't deserve, but I spent a lot of time there working with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund team while teaching.

Jack B. Weinstein'48 proudly wears the Alumni Medal for Distinguished Service presented to him by the Columbia Alumni Association during the University's inaugural practice in 2013.

Once on the bench, Weinstein quickly built a reputation for willingness to try new things in search of justice. In addition to his role in the Agent Orange case, he ordered New York officials to be desegregated at Mark Twain Junior High School in the 1970s (the order stayed until 2008 ) and restructured a trust set up by Manville Corporation to reorganize Compensate workers for asbestos-related injuries .

Weinstein never seemed afraid to go his own way: 1993 he decided not to preside over drug cases anymore to protest against the condemnation policy. When he started accepting her again, he still made headlines: 2018 he has issued a judgment He said he would no longer send people back to prison for marijuana violations who were released under supervision. But his creativity also meant that he was often turned around. In 2002 he did certified the first nationwide lawsuit for punitive damages in proceedings against tobacco companies ; three years later, a unanimous panel of the second US appeals court overturned that decision.

A man with many parts

Weinstein had many incarnations - teachers, scholars, judges, said US Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, all rolled into one 1997 edition of the Columbia Law Review Dedicated to Weinstein. He has served with distinction in every role, wrote Breyer. All along he has been incessantly committed to the common citizen. He has not lost the feeling of being connected to the people our justice system serves.

A dedicated member of the Columbia Law School community, Weinstein made regular returns to campus. He presented, moderated and spoke at countless events and panel discussions and was happy about the contact with lecturers and students. He hired, trained, and mentored more than a dozen law school graduates who would later become successful lawyers and leaders in the profession.

Dean David Schizer (center) presents the 2011 Vienna Prize for Social Responsibility from Columbia Law School to Jack B. Weinstein ’48 (right) and Preet Bharara ’93, the US prosecutor for the southern district of New York (left).

Weinstein received the Columbia Law School Medal for Excellence in 1990. In 2008 he received the Association of American Law Schools inaugural section for the Evidence Wigmore Award . In 2013 he was awarded the Law School's Lawrence A. Wien Prize for Social Responsibility and the Columbia Alumni Association's Alumni Medal for his services to the university. In 2017, to celebrate Weinstein's half century on the bench, the Eastern District named its ceremonial courtroom after the judge . Most recently he was with the 2021 Prosser Award of the AALS section for unauthorized acts and compensation systems .

When he retired and retired in February 2020, he said Die New York Times that despite increasing political polarization, he remained optimistic about the future of the United States. I am convinced that our country must balance, democratize and save with love and not with hate, he said . We have come so far in the direction of equalization. The country has changed so tremendously for the better. Well, it's going downhill. But I am convinced that we will come together. It is essentially a good country made up of people fighting for what is right.

Weinstein leaves behind his wife Susan Berk, his three sons Seth, Michael and Howard and two grandchildren.

A recipient of the Columbia Alumni Association Medal for Distinguished Service 2013, Jack B. Weinstein'48 gave an interview in Columbia's Kent Hall - where he attended law school during his studies - about how Columbia Law shaped his life and career.

About this story

Faculty member
15. June 2021


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