Great Neck resident Jack Weinstein retires after 53 years on federal bench

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Longtime federal judge and Great Neck resident Jack Weinstein retired on Monday after 53 years of service. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

Jack Weinstein, a longtime Great Neck resident and the nation’s longest-serving federal judge, officially retired on Monday after 53 years on the bench.

Weinstein, 98, a former chief judge of the U.S. Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn and World War II veteran, was appointed as a federal judge in 1967.

Weinstein worked on the NAACP Legal Defense Fund with Thurgood Marshall, who would later become the first black U.S. Supreme Court justice, in litigating Brown v. Board of Education. The case ruled segregation in public schools unconstitutional in 1954.

“Unfortunately, it did not result in a vindication of African-American rights, particularly in New York City,” Weinstein said to The Daily News. “The schools here are among the most segregated … It’s a great disappointment.” 

As a federal judge, Weinstein presided over a case that resulted in a $180 million settlement for veterans poisoned by Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. He also worked on high-profile cases involving tobacco, asbestos and handguns.

Weinstein maintained a full docket of cases since switching to senior status on March 1, 1993, until his retirement on Monday.

He ends his professional career having the 11th-longest total service tenure among federal judges in American history.  He was the last remaining judge appointed by former President Lyndon Johnson.

“I just about used up my reserves of energy and 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. “That being so, it seemed to me highly desirable to turn it over to the other judges on the court.”

Born in Wichita, Kansas, in 1921, Weinstein moved to Brooklyn with his family when he was 5 years old. He received his B.A. at Brooklyn College in 1943 and graduated from Columbia Law School in 1948. After law school, Weinstein spent time as a clerk at the New York State Court of Appeals for Justice Stanley Fuld.

Weinstein also served as county attorney of Nassau County in the 1960s, writing briefs and arguing against gerrymandering.

“Much of my judicial work has been enforcing anti-discrimination statutes designed to integrate as many people as possible into the country’s economy and life on as equal a basis as is practicable,” Weinstein said during a Temple Emanuel event in September 2017.

Weinstein is also a longtime honorary trustee of the Great Neck temple.

Efforts to reach Weinstein were unavailing.

When asked what retired life has in store for him, Weinstein told The Daily News he intends to spend time with his wife, Susan Berk, and to help one of his three sons with a book about Jim Crow laws.

He also expressed his gratitude about his tenure at the Brooklyn Federal Court and the people he spent more than half a century working with.

“This is an excellent court,” Weinstein told The Daily News. “I love my colleagues. And the ability to work with them on a daily basis was one that I treasured.”

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