In his new book, “From the Other side of the Bench”, author and retired Westchesteer County (NY) Superior Court Judge Peter M. Leavitt tells his story of growing up in Brooklyn as the son of a lawyer, and going on to become a Judge for 18 years before retiring recently. In this memoir, it is clear to the reader that Judges are not untouched by their own experiences. Leavitt chronicles his early life, that as a young Jewish boy and even later in the armed forces, he endured discrimination, and his family had been touched by the horrors of the holocaust. This upbringing instilled in Leavitt a sense of justice and even outrage at the way the modern legal operates to the detriment of the public. He is outspoken in his criticisms of the media, some lawyers, and some of the ways that prosecutors go about handling their cases.
A self-described “Don Quixote of the Judiciary” Judge Leavitt takes us on his journey. As a young lawyer fresh from law school, he spent three years as a District Attorney in Brooklyn.Later he spent three more years as a D.A. in Westchester County. Almost twenty years as a successful defense lawyer, civil attorney and real estate investor led him to consider a run for Judge. When the democratic field was crowded, Leavitt switched parties to be a republican and won election! Eighteen years later he gives us this honest accounting , it is required reading for barristers, would-be barristers and citizens alike.
Judge Leavitt laments the state of lawyer advertising in today’s world, and takes aim at lawyers who take contingency fees and settle too early to the detriment of th eir clients. He believes this is over-charging and has been going on for more than a century! He also has some words for the media, whom he believes do not paint an accurate picture of what really goes on in our courthouses each day.
All in all, a fast and fun read, and I thank Judge Leavitt for sharing his wit and wisdom with us.
For more , give a listen to my interview with Judge Leavitt on my radio show, Justice for All.