Edward J. Greenfield, Judge With a Writerly Touch, Dies at 98

It was a minor authorized case within the early 1970s. The New York City Civil Service Commission dominated that a police officer who had missed his Civil Service promotion examination as a result of he was attending his mother-in-law’s funeral couldn’t make up the take a look at as a result of “the deceased was not related.”

That irked Justice Edward J. Greenfield of the New York State Supreme Court, who was listening to the officer’s enchantment. To the choose, the ruling solely additional denigrated mothers-in-law, who, he wrote, “have a standing on the social scale somewhat beneath grave robbers, horse thieves and boiler room operators.”

It was time, he mentioned, to face up for this most maligned of relations. As usually occurred when he put pen to paper, Justice Greenfield’s 1974 authorized opinion expanded into a full-blown disquisition.

“The time has come to speak out forcefully and to give judicial recognition to the fact that mothers-in-law are not as bad as they are painted,” he wrote. “For every mother-in-law who is domineering, there are dozens who are sustaining. For every one who is prying, there are a score who are understanding.”

Back to the matter at hand, he concluded that the Civil Service ruling had been arbitrary and capricious, and that the police officer needs to be allowed to make up the examination.

Such flights of rhetoric have been a hallmark of the hundreds of opinions Justice Greenfield crafted throughout his three many years on the trial bench. He died on Aug. 26 at his dwelling in Manhattan, his son Mark mentioned. He was 98.

Over the years, Justice Greenfield was concerned in lots of notable instances. He presided over the 1975 trial by which three Black Panthers have been convicted of murdering two New York City law enforcement officials. He dominated that psychiatric sufferers couldn’t be subjected to drug experiments. He allowed a photographer to proceed promoting nude photographs of the actress Brooke Shields, though he additionally scolded her mom for exploiting her.

At the identical time, he gained discover for the artistry of his opinions, by which he usually luxuriated within the English language, prancing off on whimsical digressions and enlivening the regulation with colourful asides. Given to musing on the human situation, he was as apt to quote T.S. Eliot, Mark Twain or Shakespeare as he was to quote authorized precedent.

In a 1976 case involving a stallion that had failed to hold out its reproductive duties — “the stud who was a dud,” as he put it — he took observe of 1 that was incomes $100,000 a 12 months, then added, “How shattering a revelation, and how humbling to the inflated ego of the human male, to realize that no one would evaluate his efforts on so lofty a pecuniary scale!”

In a 1984 ruling in favor of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who had sued the Christian Dior trend home for utilizing a Jackie-look-alike mannequin in an promoting marketing campaign, Justice Greenfield mentioned her privateness had been trampled. Then he dipped into “Othello”: “Who steals my purse steals trash,” he quoted, “but he who filches from me my good name robs me of that which not enriches him, and makes me poor indeed.”

Upholding New York City’s so-called pooper-scooper regulation in 1979, Justice Greenfield mirrored on the three classes of individuals on this planet: those that love canine, those that despise canine and “that tiny fragment of the population which apparently does not care one way or another about dogs and devotes its attention to problems of lesser impact like nuclear destruction, economic disaster, overpopulation and the pernicious influence of pornography.”

He took such care in writing his opinions, and took on so many advanced instances, that he was generally gradual in issuing selections. Prompted by sad litigants, the state Commission on Judicial Conduct filed a criticism towards him in 1988 for taking too lengthy to resolve sure instances, one among which was delayed by 9 years. In a uncommon rebuke, the fee reprimanded him, however the Court of Appeals overturned that reprimand in 1990.

“He often worked evenings, weekends and holidays and volunteered for difficult cases,” the court docket mentioned. “There is no suggestion that he was not devoting his full time and energies to his judicial activities.” The court docket concluded that Justice Greenfield had been “overly optimistic with respect to his management abilities.” The drawback was alleviated by administrative adjustments and a discount in his caseload.

“One of the things that defined him was that he valued the written word, and he labored over his decisions,” Mark Greenfield mentioned in a cellphone interview. Any slowness, he added, “was not unrelated to the fact that he took his time and wanted to get it just right.”

Justice Greenfield in about 1990. After leaving the bench, he returned to non-public observe and continued working as a lawyer till he was 91.Credit…through Greenfield household

Edward Jay Greenfield was born on Dec. eight, 1922, in Manhattan and grew up within the Bronx. His father, Nathan, owned a textile retailer on the Lower East Side. His mom, Henrietta (Hoffman) Greenfield, was a homemaker.

A graduate of DeWitt Clinton High School within the Bronx, Edward attended New York University, the place he majored in political science. After graduating in 1943, he instantly enlisted within the Navy and was despatched to the Navy’s Japanese Language School in Boulder, Colo. He went on to function a naval intelligence officer within the Pacific.

After the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, Lieutenant Greenfield was one of many first folks to enter the town.

“No one had prepared him for the horrors of the bomb, and he was just shocked by the utter devastation,” Mark Greenfield mentioned. “There were still many people who had not been killed instantly, and they were looking for help. It was like nothing he had ever seen.”

When the Japanese surrendered to the Allied forces, ending the battle, he served as a translator at the give up ceremony, held on Sept. 2, 1945, aboard the united statesS. Missouri.

He stayed in Japan for almost a 12 months as a part of the U.S. occupation. He then studied at Harvard Law School, from which he graduated in 1948 beneath an accelerated program designed to accommodate the crush of veterans coming back from the battle. He went into non-public observe in Manhattan, ultimately becoming a member of Proskauer, Rose & Paskus, now Proskauer Rose, one of many few companies at the time that might rent Jewish attorneys.

He was elected a civil court docket choose in 1963, then elected to the State Supreme Court in Manhattan in 1968 and re-elected in 1982.

Justice Greenfield reached the necessary retirement age of 70 in 1992, earlier than his second 14-year time period expired. At that time he was licensed to proceed for six extra years, after which he returned to non-public observe till he was 91.

Earlier in his profession he was chairman of the Lexington Democratic Club, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. One day one of many membership’s volunteers, Nancy Kasten, had an assault of appendicitis and was taken to the hospital. He visited her there as soon as, then twice, and shortly they have been courting. They married in 1960.

She survives him. In addition to his son Mark, he’s additionally survived by one other son, Robert, and two grandchildren.