Judge Jack Weinstein, a Great Neck resident and the nation’s longest-serving federal judge, died on June 15. He was 99.
Before his retirement in February 2020, the World War II veteran and former chief judge presided over cases in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York (EDNY) in Brooklyn, which includes Long Island in its jurisdiction. He was the last current judge appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson and had served 53 years on the bench.
“As The New York Times reported when he retired last year, Judge Weinstein was a ‘legal lion’ who championed causes like gun control and school desegregation … and carved out a niche as a liberal hero during his career,” Chief Judge Margo K. Brodie said in a statement announcing Weinstein’s death. “More recently, Judge Weinstein publicly called ‘for more female lawyers to have speaking roles in court’ and decried the ‘lack of sentencing alternatives’ for violent young criminals who, he said, are often written off as ‘society’s unredeemables.’”
Weinstein was born in Kansas and moved with his family to Brooklyn at age 5. He attended Brooklyn College, where he received his bachelor’s degree in 1943. Weinstein then served a few years in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He retired as a lieutenant in 1946.
Upon his return home, Weinstein attended Columbia Law School and graduated with a law degree in 1948. He went on to be a professor at Columbia for many years and was a highly regarded legal scholar. He served as a member of the NAACP’s litigation team, helping his friend and mentor Thurgood Marshall argue Brown v. Board of Education, the ruling that found school segregation unconstitutional, before Marshall became the first Black U.S. Supreme Court justice.
Weinstein also served as Nassau County Attorney for two years under then-Nassau County Executive A. Holly Patterson a decade before being appointed as federal judge.
“He was kind, generous, and supportive of everyone in the EDNY family, including regularly sending handwritten notes of congratulations and encouragement to his colleagues,” Brodie said. “We all mourn his loss but will celebrate and always treasure his many contributions to the law, the administration of justice, and to the EDNY bench.”
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.
-With Tim Bolger