U.S. District Judge Arthur Spatt, who presided over some of the most high profile cases in recent memory at Central Islip federal court, died Friday. He was 94.
The World War II veteran spent a lifetime serving New York, often describing himself as “just a lucky kid from Brooklyn,” according to Richard P. Donoghue, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
“He had the best reputation for his capacity to do an enormous amount of work, and to churn out a huge number of cases,” said longtime colleague former U.S. District Court Judge Jack Weinstein, a fellow World War II veteran who retired in February as the then-longest serving federal judge in the nation. “He probably was the hardest working district judge in the country, working seven days a week.”
After surviving a kamikaze attack as a navigation petty officer in the U.S. Navy, Spatt went on to receive a law degree from Brooklyn Law School on the GI Bill. He worked in private practice as well as various New York State courts before his appointment to the federal bench in 1989 by President George H.W. Bush.
Spatt’s devotion to his life’s work as a judge was exemplified by a final, uncompleted wish. According to an email sent by Donoghue to his staff, Spatt had once shared his “hope to be found in my chambers, quietly passed away with the last decision on my desk and signed.”
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, however, Spatt’s last days as a judge were spent telecommuting from his Commack home. Despite a 6-year battle with blood cancer, the senior judge never took less than a full caseload, though he had not been required to do so since 2004.
Of the many cases spanning his 31-year career as federal judge, Spatt was known for a nearly $1 million ruling against a Muttontown couple who mistreated two Indonesian housekeepers as slaves. He also presided over the trial of former Suffolk County Conservative Party Chairman Ed Walsh, who was convicted of corruption.
That Spatt counted among his heroes President Abraham Lincoln, baseball player Lou Gehrig, and trial lawyer Henry Miller of White Plains, who died in April of the coronavirus, indicates the range with which Spatt engaged with his community and his country.
“He was a light to all those involved in federal practice,” Weinstein said.
Spatt is preceded in death by his wife Dorothy, known as Dee, and is survived by five daughters, 10 grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.