Saturday, July 30, 2011

Are New York Judges' Salaries Too Low? Are We Asking Too Much of Our Courts? - Recalling Simon H. Rifkind

New York Judges Deserve a Raise is the July 29, 2011 headline of an editorial at the New York Times.

The currently low salaries of New York judges reminded us of the life of the late former New York Judge Simon H. Rifkind (June 5, 1901 - November 14, 1995), past patriarch of the international law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, headquartered in New York City, which Rifkind led to become one of the leading law firms in the USA and the world [the LawPundit may be biased in that statement, being an associate alumnus of the firm -- but that level of competence is one reason why I joined a Paul, Weiss law firm full of brilliant and personable people].

Prior to private practice, Rifkind had previously been a Federal District Court judge for the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.

As noted in Rifkind's New York Times obituary:
"William O. Douglas wrote after his retirement from the United States Supreme Court that Mr. Rifkind became "the most outstanding advocate of all" the lawyers who appeared before the Court between 1939 and 1975."
His name lives on at the Rifkind Center for the Humanities and the Arts at The City College of New York and in the Simon H. Rifkind Prize Fund established in his honor in 1996 as a gift by Paul, Weiss et al. and awarded for the best overall performance in the first year moot court program at Columbia Law School.

The connection is that Rifkind received his undergraduate college degree from the City College of New York and his law degree from Columbia Law School.

There is also The Judge Simon H. Rifkind Award awarded annually since 1996 by the Jewish Theological Seminary, of whose board Rifkind was the chairman from 1963 to 1972.

Rifkind wrote a seminal article on judges and courts in Are We Asking Too Much of Our Courts?, a paper prepared for the National Conference on the Causes of Popular Dissatisfaction with the Administration of Justice, St. Paul, Minnesota, April 8, 1976, p.5, published in the spring-summer, 1976 Judges' Journal by the American Bar Association Judicial Administration Division (see the review in the American Bar Association Journal, Current Legal Literature, "Court Reform According to Rifkind"). The article is well worth reading for all those who seek to reform the American court system.

If memory serves correctly, at one of the Paul|Weiss law firm luncheons that I had the pleasure to attend as an associate, Judge Rifkind commented on the low salaries of judges in his day as being among the factors that led him to give up judging and take up private law practice. His criticism of judges' salaries is significant, as Rifkind was renowned for his deep commitment to public service -- see also his principles for the Paul, Weiss law firm. The salaries then, must have been simply TOO low, as they may be today as well.

ABA Journal Presents 30 Must Read Books for Lawyers

Stephanie Francis Ward at the ABA Journal headlines that 30 Lawyers Pick 30 Books Every Lawyer Should Read.

We certainly agree with some, but not all of the selections. Surely any of the books listed have potential value to particular readers, although book selection is largely a matter of personal taste. Each of us would clearly come up with a different list of 30 books.

I definitely do miss from the ABA Journal list:

Herbert Packer, The Limits of the Criminal Sanction

Packer's brilliant discussion of the underlying values that guide models of criminal process could in principle be applied equally to law and politics in general, where there is a constant battle between (simplistic) legal and political fundamentalism and (the more complex) reality, something we currently see similarly in the alleged "fundamentalist" national budget crisis, which, according to the blog of Robert Reich at the Christian Science Monitor, is "in reality" a jobs and growth crisis.

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