Judge Weinstein remembered as a visionary and valued friend

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State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli spoke at the memorial service of federal judge Jack Weinstein, who passed away last June. He was 99. (Photo by Samuele Petruccelli)

A forerunner of justice often for the less fortunate, Jack Weinstein was a tireless legal advocate and champion of the court system he helped change. Along the way he rubbed shoulders with heavyweights on Wall Street, boldfaced names in the state and judiciary and the powerful in New York politics.

At a memorial service last Friday, his friends, colleagues and family told stories of their memorable encounters with the federal judge, who died at the age of 99 June 15, 2021.

As they reminisced, guest speakers told the packed pews at Temple Emanuel of Great Neck often amusing anecdotes about Weinstein’s bold and loving personality. Margo Brodie, chief district court judge for the Eastern District of New York, said Weinstein had a profound impact on the federal court covering Long Island, Brooklyn and Staten Island during his more than half a century of sitting on the bench.

“He was a visionary who helped transform the district into what it is today,” Brodie said. Enlisting the law to attain justice, he did so “imaginatively, with persuasive elegance, indifferent and without a thought to what our Second Circuit colleagues might think.”

Long before he accrued the 11th-longest tenure among federal judges in American history, Weinstein first became a judge when Brodie was a year old. Creator of the Criminal Justice Act Committee, SOS Program, pro-bono panel and civil litigation fund, Weinstein was an iconoclast whose designs served as models throughout the federal system, according to Brodie.

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“As remarkable as all of his contributions to our court as an institution are, he will be remembered as much for his quieter unheralded acts towards us – his Eastern District colleagues and friends,” Brodie said. “He was the shepherd tending to the cultural and intellectual growth of his flock.”

Though a shepherd, he sometimes demanded strict levels of recognition from the special master for TARP Executive Compensation, Kenneth Feinberg, who recounted two such incidents with Weinstein.

“Notice that I refer to him as judge,” Feinberg said. “One time I greeted him as Jack and I immediately received the infamous Weinstein glare.”

“I also visited his chambers about 10 years ago without wearing a tie – a big mistake,” Feinberg said. “But the glare was always accompanied by a dose of love so overwhelming it just didn’t matter.”

Unlike Feinberg, State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli always called him Jack and never received a glare though he admitted to not being able to keep pace with the Brooklynite’s 6 a.m. gym schedule.

“I go there the first time and who do I see on the stationary bike reading The New York Times but Jack Weinstein,” DiNapoli said.

“There was always a part of us that always felt Jack Weinstein was going to go on forever in a physical sense,” DiNapoli said. “And we know that’s not possible. But certainly, the example of his life, the impact that his life has had on so many in so many different ways, this truly is an example of someone whose life and whose spirit will indeed go on forever.”

“Jack’s legal decisions made our world a better place,” said Sanford Weill, former chief executive officer and chairman of Citigroup. “God bless you, Jack, and thank you for being my friend.”

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