Judge Jack Weinstein, a Great Neck resident who is the nation’s longest-serving federal judge and the last current judge appointed by President Lyndon Johnson, retired Monday after 53 years on the bench.
Weinstein, a World War II veteran and former chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York — which includes Long Island in its jurisdiction — presided in Brooklyn federal court until retiring at age 98.
“I felt that I could not really go on and have the assurance that I could give full attention and full energy to each one of these litigants,” Weinstein told the Daily News. “It seemed to me highly desirable to turn it over to the other judges on the court.”
He ranks 11th for longest-serving federal judge ever. The Kansas native whose family moved to Brooklyn when he was five clerked for Justice Stanley Fuld of the New York State Court of Appeals after he graduated from Columbia Law School. Before being appointed as judge in 1967, Weinstein worked for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, where he helped Thurgood Marshall litigate Brown v. Board of Education, the ruling that found school segregation unconstitutional, before Marshall became the first black U.S. Supreme Court justice.
He served as Nassau County Attorney for two years under then-Nassau County Executive A. Holly Patterson a decade before being appointed as federal judge.
High-profile cases that Weinstein presided over include awarding a $180 million settlement for those poisoned by Agent Orange during the Vietnam War and ruling in favor of New York City in a suit against gun manufacturers that was later overturned. He was known for his leniency in sentencing.
Legal observers say he is sometimes called the father of mass tort litigation, having an impact far beyond his Brooklyn courthouse. Had Robert F. Kennedy won the presidency, he may have been appointed to the Supreme Court.