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Botein, Bernard


BOTEIN, BERNARD (1900–1974), U.S. jurist and leader in court reform. Botein was born to poor parents on the Lower East Side of New York City. After qualifying as a lawyer, he rapidly earned a reputation as an investigator of fraudulent schemes in the automobile accident field; his findings of fraud in the New York State Insurance Fund led to the conviction of eighteen auditors and nearly 150 businessmen and to the dismissal of forty civil servants. In 1941 Governor Herbert H. *Lehman appointed him to the State Supreme Court, on which he served for 27 years; subsequently Governor Averell Harriman named him Presiding Justice of the Appellate Division, First Department, a position he held for eleven years. In this office he won a national reputation for his judicial reforms and as a creative court administrator. Many of his innovations liberalized procedures and thereby benefited indigent defendants who suffered from inequality in the administration of criminal justice. He fought for lower bail, reorganized the Family Court, and in other ways vitalized the courts' administration and improved procedures.

The editorial obituary in the New York Times referred to him as "one of the lions of the law who never forgot that the cardinal principle of justice was compassion for all." Justice Botein was president of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York 1970–1972.

He was the author of a number of legal works, including: The Slum and Crime (1935), Trial Judge (1952), and The Prosecutor (1956). Botein was active in Jewish communal life.

[Milton Ridvas Konvitz (2nd ed.)]

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