Because the loss of life of Choose Jack B. Weinstein on June 15 at age 99, his legendary life and authorized profession have been celebrated by fellow judges, who hailed him as a task mannequin and champion of justice, and others of extra humble standing who bear in mind him as an “extremely considerate” gentleman who stood up for “little guys.”
By any measure, Weinstein was an enormous within the authorized occupation. A member of Thurgood Marshall’s authorized group that ready the landmark Brown v. Board of Training case, he was appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson to the Japanese District of New York in 1967. In 53 years, till his retirement in 2020, he reinvented how courts deal with mass tort litigation, significantly upgraded the position of U.S. Justice of the Peace judges, and carried out himself in an egalitarian method, carrying enterprise fits as a substitute of a gown within the courtroom and infrequently sitting at a desk with defendants as he sentenced them.
“The Judiciary has misplaced a nationwide treasure,” mentioned Chief Choose Margo Okay. Brodie in a statement. She added that in his tenure as chief decide of the Japanese District, Weinstein “helped rework the Courtroom into what it’s right now — a courtroom that has served and continues to function a mannequin of innovation within the administration of justice for the federal courts nationally.”
In a tribute within the New York Legislation Journal, lawyer Darryl M. Vernon recalled visiting a mob trial in Weinstein’s courtroom whereas attending regulation college. Weinstein acknowledged that Vernon and a pal had been regulation college students and invited them as much as the bench, even letting them take heed to sidebar conversations through the trial.
“It was an unimaginable expertise and Choose Weinstein made it so,” mentioned Vernon, who obtained his regulation diploma from Yeshiva College in 1981. “He went out of his method to deal with two regulation college students that he didn’t know with the utmost dignity, consideration and thoughtfulness about how we’d be taught extra earlier than we turned attorneys.”
Born in Wichita, Kansas, Weinstein moved together with his household to Brooklyn as a baby. He appeared as a younger actor in a Broadway play and helped pay his method by Brooklyn School by engaged on the docks. In 1943, he joined the Navy and served within the Pacific on a submarine. Even in wartime, his sense of justice was evident.
Whereas Weinstein remained pleased with serving in “an awesome battle for freedom,” he additionally harbored guilt, seven a long time after the very fact, for his submarine’s position in torpedoing and sinking a Japanese cruiser. “It had a couple of thousand Japanese sailors aboard. I’ve since thought of these males and their deaths, and regretted it, as I remorse battle typically,” Weinstein mentioned in a 2014 video interview.
Weinstein graduated from Columbia Legislation College in 1948 and have become a regulation professor there within the Nineteen Fifties. Future Supreme Courtroom Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was amongst his college students, and a New York Times obituary of Weinstein famous that at a 2015 occasion, she “approvingly referred to him as ‘indomitable.’”
Whereas educating at Columbia, Weinstein assisted in researching and drafting the NAACP’s authorized transient in Brown v. Board of Training. “My position was of probably the most minor diploma,” he recalled with attribute humility.
Serving within the Japanese District of New York’s Brooklyn courthouse, Weinstein turned a acknowledged writer in courtroom process. Beginning in 1979, whereas presiding over a class-action lawsuit filed by Vietnam veterans uncovered to the defoliant Agent Orange, he primarily rewrote the guide on how federal courts handle mass litigation.
As recalled in a 2017 Moments in History video, video, Weinstein traveled across the nation gathering testimony on the impression of Agent Orange, after which pioneered using court-appointed particular masters to listen to testimony from litigants. In 1984, because the case was nearing trial, the chemical firms settled by making a $180 million reparations fund.
“The veterans had been handled dreadfully at the moment,” Weinstein mentioned in an interview. “I as a veteran had quite a lot of empathy for them.”
Whereas some critics painted Weinstein as overreaching in his method to mass tort litigation, his course of was replicated in federal courts across the nation. Weinstein personally presided over mass torts instances involving producers of asbestos, the anti-miscarriage drug DES (diethylstilbestrol), tobacco merchandise, and handguns.
“The issues that Choose Weinstein has executed on the planet of mass torts has had implications far past his courtroom,” mentioned Les Fagen, who served as a regulation clerk for Weinstein. “He developed a physique of regulation for tips on how to settle and resolve mass torts which different courts and different litigants are following.”
Weinstein’s administration of the Agent Orange case had a extra private impression for Phillip Case, a Vietnam veteran. “Thank God for folks like Choose Weinstein,” he mentioned in 2017, “as a result of little guys like us didn’t stand an opportunity.”
A statement from the Eastern District of New York, the place Weinstein served as chief decide from 1980 to 1988, supplied a protracted checklist of his improvements.
“He reworked the way in which during which Justice of the Peace judges had been utilized in case administration, elevating their expertise, profile, and visibility in ways in which attracted more and more certified people, a pattern replicated nationally,” Chief Choose Brodie wrote.
“He oversaw the implementation of a court-annexed arbitration and mediation program, a novelty on the time that has change into a mannequin for the remainder of the nation and, certainly, the world; he created the Japanese District Professional Bono Panel and the Japanese District Civil Litigation Fund to assist professional bono illustration of civil litigants, one other innovation that was quickly copied in different federal and state courts; and, consistent with his concern that indigent individuals be correctly represented, he created the Felony Justice Act Committee to make sure that the Constitutional assure of a proper to illustration in felony instances is meaningfully afforded to indigent defendants.”
Weinstein additionally was a prolific scholar who wrote a number of books, together with such authorized occupation requirements because the multivolume New York Civil Apply and Weinstein’s Federal Proof.
Out and in of courtroom, Weinstein embraced an everyman informality aimed toward placing folks relaxed in a courtroom. He wore a go well with into courtroom and generally stepped away from the bench in order that he might see proceedings from the viewpoints of others.
At a June 18 memorial service, Weinstein’s oldest son, Seth, recalled that “he sentenced folks sitting not from the excessive bench however throughout the desk. Explaining to them what the sentence was, what it was for, and the way they may redeem their lives.”
In 2017, the Japanese District devoted its ceremonial courtroom in Brooklyn in Weinstein’s title, and in 2020, on the age of 98, he retired as a decide.
“I wish to be remembered for attempting to work with people to assist them keep away from the life-killing setting of prisons,” he told the New York Times, “and to save lots of them for a life with family and buddies, with a job, and with the chance to steer a lawful life.”
Weinstein’s spouse of 66 years, the previous Evelyn Horowitz, died in 2012. Two years later, he married Susan Berk. Along with his spouse, survivors embody three sons from his first marriage, Seth, Michael, and Howard Weinstein; two stepchildren, Ronnie Rosenberg and Stephanie Berlin; and two grandchildren.