Benched: Abortion, Terrorists, Drones, Crooks, Supreme Court, Kennedy, Nixon, Demi Moore, and Other Tales from the Life of a Federal Judge

JurisdictionUnited States,Federal
Publication year2021
CitationVol. 91 Pg. 109
Benched: Abortion, Terrorists, Drones, Crooks, Supreme Court, Kennedy, Nixon, Demi Moore, and Other Tales from the Life of a Federal Judge
Claim No. 91 CBJ 109
Connecticut Bar Journal
June 18, 2018

Henry S. Cohn, Judge. [*]

Jon O. Newman, William S. Hein & Co., Inc., Getzville, N.Y, 2017. 302 pages.

On February 25, 1955, second-year Yale law student Jon 0. Newman wrote the firm of Ritter and Satter about an opening for a summer job. He had obtained information about this opportunity from John Subak, who was a staff member of the Yale Law Journal and had the year before held summer employment with Ritter and Satter. Robert Satter wrote back to Newman on March 3, 1955, that "we. . .would be desireous [sic] of meeting you."[1] He continued: "[W]e have somebody from Harvard who also has approached us so I would suggest that you come up as soon as you can. The best time I'd say would be on a Saturday when both of us are here and the telephone is not jangling."[2] Satter later became a well-respected legislator and then a judge of the Connecticut Superior Court.

The Harvard applicant was not chosen, and Newman secured a summer job. After Yale graduation and federal clerkships, Newman returned as a partner, with the firm entitled "Ritter, Satter, and Newman." From this beginning, Jon O. Newman rose to become a stellar figure in Connecticut legal history, holding the positions of Connecticut U.S. Attorney, U.S. District Judge, and, for most of his career, a judge of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. He was a finalist to become a U. S. Supreme Court Justice, but President Clinton selected Ruth Bader Ginsburg instead. One possible reason given by some knowledgeable figures for Judge Newman's failure to be selected was an Op-Ed that he wrote for the New York Times during the Clarence Thomas debate a few years before, urging Congress to reject Justice Thomas' nomination in favor of Newman's fellow judge on the Second Circuit, Amalya Kearse.[3] During President Clinton's selection process, the Wall Street Journal published an editorial critical of Judge Newman's New York Times Op-Ed.

Judge Newman has now written a thoughtful memoir of his life. Much of the book details his personal biography, including his lawyer-father's preparation of a genealogy of Greek mythological figures that the judge completed and published at the University of North Carolina Press. He describes his education at the Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Connecticut, Princeton, and Yale Law School. One lesson he takes credit for learning, which also serves members of the legal profession well, was the ability to write not only accurately, but speedily.

He married Martha Silberman at age twenty-one, just as he entered Yale Law School. They were married for fifty-one years, and had three children and a number of grandchildren. I served on a board with Martha, who was one of the friendliest and most competent persons whom I have ever met. She died in 2005. In 2007, Judge Newman married Ann Leventhal, a writer, and the widow of a distinguished Connecticut attorney, David Leventhal.

The book's remaining chapters describe the Judge's District and Appellate court experiences. The judge's initial confirmation process in the District Court makes for fascinating reading. He ran into difficulties when the Nixon administration, after giving assurance that his name had been forwarded to the Senate Judiciary Committee, worked behind the scenes to defeat his nomination. He was helped throughout by Senator Abraham Ribicoff, whom Judge Newman served either as an informal aide or as a formal administrative assistant from the late 1950s to 1964, both in Connecticut and in Washington.

Judge Newman names his most significant District Court decisions as two from 1972, finding first an 1860 anti-abortion statute unconstitutional, and then also finding unconstitutional a 1972 anti-abortion statute passed in response to his first ruling.[4] The Judge's rulings were based on the failure of the State to justify protecting the rights of the fetus over a woman's right to end her pregnancy, a rationale that was adopted later by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade.[5]

Judge Newman's Second Circuit decisions are numerous. He wrote several decisions...

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