Judge Fred Block

Judge Frederic Block (E.D.N.Y.)

It’s hard out here for authors of judicial memoirs who are not named Sonia Sotomayor. Just ask Judge Frederic Block (E.D.N.Y.), a federal trial judge in Brooklyn since 1994 and the author of an appealing new book, Disrobed: An Inside Look at the Life and Work of a Federal Trial Judge (affiliate link). In Disrobed, Judge Block describes his surprising rise from small-town Long Island lawyer to Article III aristocracy, where he has presided over cases involving the Crown Heights riots, Kitty Genovese, mob boss Peter Gotti, and other headline-making subjects.

The book has received several favorable notices. Writing in the New York Times, Sam Roberts described Disrobed as an “engaging” book that provides “a rare look behind decision-making on the federal bench.” Over at Simple Justice, Scott Greenfield called the memoir a “well-written,” “easy and quick read,” by a “quite well-regarded” judge. I’ve read the book myself, and I concur with Roberts and Greenfield.

But even though the book has sold well, exceeding the expectations of its publisher, Thomson Reuters, Disrobed hasn’t attained the bestselling status of Justice Sotomayor’s My Beloved World (affiliate link). And this makes Judge Block a little sad, as he confessed to me when I recently visited him in chambers.

Especially because Judge Block came painfully close to what would have been a big, big break….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “An Afternoon With Judge Frederic Block, Author of ‘Disrobed’”

Eric Holder

* Covington & Burling’s Eric Holder is now definite as Obama’s choice for Attorney General. Look out for the official announcement after Thanksgiving. [Politico]

* Former Hunton & Williams partner Emerson Briggs gets 70 months in federal prison for doing very bad things with his firm laptop. [Legal Times]

* California AG Jerry Brown is doing what he can for the pocketbooks of Walmart shoppers. Look out for a $3 discount near you. [Business Week]

* What year is this? “Judge rules that suspects cannot be detained because of ethnicity.” Thanks to Judge Frederic Block, now it’s okay to be Egyptian on a plane. [New York Times]

* Considering a lateral move? Ask the tough financial questions first. [The Recorder]

* Exxon Shipping, Footnote 17. It’s so hot right now. [New York Times]

* New Yorkers, join the ATL editors for drinks and merriment on Dec. 2, courtesy of Major, Lindsey & Africa. [Above The Law]

This must be the most profanity-laced piece of transcript since Aaron Wider’s deposition. It’s the transcript of the sentencing hearing before Judge Frederic Block (E.D.N.Y.) at which Assistant U.S. Attorney Carolyn Pokorny was attacked by the defendant, before the court reporter and defense counsel tackled the assailant.

The transcript was prepared by Ron Tolkin, the court reporter involved in the incident, from an audio recording. Even the heroic Mr. Tolkin can’t simultaneously (1) kick the a** of a kid decades his junior and (2) transcribe the proceedings for posterity.

Excerpts appear below. For the full transcript, see the link at the end of this post.

Victor Wright transcript Above the Law blog.jpg

UPDATE: Another choice excerpt, pointed out by several of you in the comments:

Victor Wright Ron Tolkin Carolyn Pokorny Eastern District New York ATL.jpg

To read the full transcript, click here (PDF). If you do, the “press it in” discussion might be confusing (and sound completely filthy). An E.D.N.Y. source clarifies:

["Pressing it in" refers] to the CSO, Marshalls and Deputy discussing how to activate the panic button. In the old E.D.N.Y. courthouse, you push in, but in the new one, you pull out.

Sentencing Hearing Transcript: United States v. Victor Wright (PDF)

Earlier: Lawyer of the Day: Harry Batchelder (And Court Reporter of the Day: Ron Tolkin)

The Empire State is sending all sorts of craziness our way lately. From the New York — no, not the Washington — Post:

A female federal prosecutor was viciously attacked by a hulking, razor-wielding drug dealer in a Brooklyn courtroom yesterday – and was saved when the thug’s 72-year-old lawyer and others tackled him.

“He was going to slash her throat,” said defense lawyer Harry Batchelder, who, along with a court reporter and two marshals, slammed Victor Wright, 27 [or 37?], to the ground and grabbed an inch-long razor blade from him.

Criminal defense lawyers are badass — even the septuagenarians. And don’t forget the court reporter:

“Why don’t you try me instead of her?” stenographer Ron Tolkin shouted at the cowardly criminal as he leaped on Wright, before the group fell to the ground in a heap.

Both the elderly lawyer and Tolkin, 60, are former military men who served in Vietnam.

And what about Judge Frederic Block (E.D.N.Y.) — what did he do? From Newsday:

Block immediately left the bench after the melee started, and more marshals rushed into the courtroom and helped subdue Wright, court officials said.

That’s too bad. This story would have been perfect with the addition of a black-robed avenger, whacking the criminal into submission with a gavel.

P.S. Despite our admiration for federal judges qua judges, if we needed to be defended against a knife-wielding lunatic, we’d go with a state court judge any day of the week. E.g., Judge Ira Robinson.

RAZOR MANIAC JUMPS FED PROSECUTOR IN COURT [New York Post]
Drug dealer attacks 2 in Brooklyn courtroom [New York Newsday]