Judge Jack Weinstein on Life and Law

Vol. 39 No. 1

Jeffrey Cole, a former editor-in-chief of Litigation, is a magistrate judge in the Northern District of Illinois, Chicago, and a senior editor of Litigation. Robert Gettleman is a district judge in the Northern District of Illinois, Chicago, and an associate editor of Litigation.

Befitting a life that is the embodiment of the American dream, Jack Weinstein went from working on the docks in Brooklyn to pay for college to becoming one of the most renowned judges in the history of the federal judiciary. For 45 years, he has served as a U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of New York. He first achieved recognition as a professor at Columbia University where he authored nationally recognized textbooks and articles on evidence and civil procedure. He served as an advisor to Senator Robert Kennedy and to leaders of the Democratic and Republican Parties in New York on matters involving judicial improvements in the state court system; he was counsel to a number of New York state legislative committees and served as commissioner of the Temporary New York State Commission on Reform and Simplification of the New York State Constitution. He advised the New York State Constitutional Convention, and he revised New York Civil Procedure and wrote the definitive treatise on the subject. And while the judge would deny it, through his now classic treatise, Weinstein’s Federal Evidence, for a whole generation of lawyers he has replaced Wigmore as the definitive authority on evidence. He revolutionized the way in which mass tort actions like the Agent Orange and asbestos cases are handled. A child of the Depression, he has worked since he was nine years old. Little wonder that at the age of 91 he maintains a full calendar and continues to express himself uninhibitedly, thoughtfully, and provocatively on those questions for which there are perhaps no right answers but which each generation seeks anew to resolve.

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