Friday, May 25, 2007

Heimishe Mentch on the Bench, Supreme Court Justice David I. Schmidt, honored in Brooklyn

When discussing the legal profession, virtues like compassion, charity and selflessness may not immediately spring to mind — but for the past 33 years, the Catholic Lawyers Guild of Brooklyn has honored judges and attorneys who demonstrate these qualities.

This year, about 225 people attended the guild’s annual dinner at Gargiulo’s Restaurant, according to immediate past president Annalise Cottone.

Brooklyn Civil Administrative Judge Ariel Belen swore in Joseph Bellard as the new president of the guild, which honored Judge Belen, Brooklyn Law School Professor Richard T. Farrell, Civil Court Judge Bernard Graham, state Justice David Schmidt and attorney Andrea Bonina.

Justice David Schmidt accepted the Guild’s Ecumenical Award on behalf of his parents, who were both Holocaust survivors. Schmidt said his father never spoke about his experiences until right before he died.

Schmidt had a case against a synagogue in Williamsburg where a worker fell from a scaffold. He mentioned the case to his father, who then told him how he was taken to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

“There were hundreds of people in the car. The train traveled for seven days and seven nights; they were given no food or water. When the train arrived … everyone had died except my father,” Schmidt said. “My father thought all the Jews in the world were killed.” The first people he saw at Bergen-Belsen were the rabbi of this synagogue and his father.

“One of the reasons that the Holocaust succeeded in killing so many people is that when the Nazis started passing all these racist laws in which Jews could not marry non-Jews, own property or businesses and could not belong to any of the professions, no one protested,” Schmidt said.

The lawyers supported the laws and the judges did not protest the removal of their colleagues, nor did they find these laws invalid or unconstitutional, Schmidt said.

“We as judges and lawyers in the greatest country in the world have a duty to fight racism and bigotry wherever we find it,” Schmidt said. “It is our duty to make certain that no one is persecuted based on their religious beliefs or [ethnicity].”

He quoted Martin Niemuller, the German pastor who outspokenly opposed the Nazis and suffered in concentration camps. In a 1959 seminary address in Atlanta, Ga., Niemuller said, “First they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the Communists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

Webster’s defines “ecumenical” as “fostering religious unity,” Justice Schmidt noted. He said he was especially honored to receive this award from the Catholic Lawyers, who “strive for higher ethical morals and standards than the law requires.

“I, as a Jew with a yarmulke, who wears religion on my sleeve, similarly strive for higher ethical morals,” Schmidt said.

The judge graduated from Brooklyn College and Brooklyn Law School, and served for 11 years as law secretary to Justice Gerard Rosenberg before being elected to Brooklyn Civil Court in 1995. He was appointed as an acting state Supreme Court Justice in 2000, and was elected to that bench in 2006.


I do not understand how a Torah Jew can serve on a secular bench.

If a case comes before him involving a Jew, or even two Jewish parties, will he rule al pi halacha or based upon secular law? Will he reject the case and order them to report to Beis Din (assuming they had no permission to take their case out of Beis Din)?


To "I do not understand how a Torah Jew can serve on a secular bench.":
All the Mosdos in B'klyn sent notices out to vote for him, when he first ran. One school even gave out little chatchkes with his name imprinted. (Were you sleeping?



Ask a Rav your shailah

But remember how could he judge a Jew if he is not at least a dayan?


Is he the one who told the two bovorers that their father told him to send jews to beis din and that they should go?


Judge Schmidt is a living, breathing Kiddush Hashem.

He is unique in a sense one can only understand if he/she knows him.

What a great person.


To 8:09- No he's not.


I don't know which mosdos you are referring to; nor do I know which Rabbonim give a haskomo to whichever mosdos it is.

I just asked a simple question. I did not say their is no answer. But it is an obvious question. What will he do if a Jew (or 2 Jewish parties) comes to his bench? Will he uphold the secular law, as he is sworn to do? Or will he judge al pi din (is he even allowed to judge the case, as one commentator above asked?) Or will he throw out the case?


Why don't you get off your fat ass and open up a Choshen Mishpat and figure out the answer to your question instead of making that his problem. In fact, Judge Schmidt is a big Talmid Chacham and certainly knows the answer to it. It's you, who is a lazy bum, never cracked a book in your life, GO CRACK A BOOK AND FIGURE OUT THE ANSWER!!!


8:35, You just made obvious what an am haaretz you are.

I'll let you try to figure out why. But as a hint, asking a halachik question is not only encouraged in Yiddishkeit, but it is the proper method of learning.

Come back with some kind of lame "don't sit on your fat ass" type of non-response. I'll let you talk to the wall next time. I wouldn't want to embarrass you more than absolutely necessary.


Hey Joseph, if this blog is the ideal place you ask you shailos, a rachmunus oif deer in dayn mishpuchu.


What is wrong with him, or anyone, discussing halachik shailos on a blog? You are a close-minded idiot.


A rachmunus on your family too. Hope ur wife's a bit wiser than that.


10:27 - Yeah, whats wrong with a halachik discussion. Sounds like you don't feel competent to particiapte in such a discussion.


As an attorney who has appeared many times before Judge Schmidt I can tell you:

1. Any times both parties are Orthodox Jews he encourages them very strongly to go to Bais Din.

2. If they refuse to go to Bais Din he tries to settle the case with a "peshora" and is sucsessful about 98% of the time.

3. If he is not sucsessful, he sends the case out for trial to another Judge.

I would like you to know that he was endorsed by many Rebbes, Dayanim, and Rosh Yeshivos (including R' Tauber of the Bobov and R' Kaminettzky of the Philadelphia Yeshiva among others).

Judge Schmidt is a well known Talmudic scholar and has done wonders to the reputation of Orthodox Jews in the Court system.


Can anyone tell me how many Jewish Judges we have in Brooklyn Civil Court?


Judge Schmidt is extremely smart guy!!


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