PRO BONO BARRISTER: Justice Jones boosted morale in Kings courts when he was named to top bench

November 13, 2012 By Charles F. Otey For Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn judge named to Court of Appeals
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The Brooklyn legal community stirred with pride in 2007 when Kings Administrative Chief Judge Theodore “Ted” Jones was named an associate judge of the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court.

Highly admired throughout the civil system, Justice Jones` elevation came at a time when the judiciary in Brooklyn was enduring one of those regular onslaughts the press often wages on our jurists. A morale boost was very much needed. That’s one reason why news of his appointment resounded dramatically within the Kings court system.

He came back to 360 Adams St. whenever he could, and one day I saw him and his wife, sitting outside the lawyers’ room, chatting with John Lonuzzi.

A man without airs – who exemplified fairness casually chatting with a friend — Justice Jones promptly stood and introduced me to his wife Joan, who had accompanied him to many law-related affairs over the year.

Along with so many others, when word came of his death, my response was one of shock followed by grief. A week later it’s still hard to believe he’s no longer with us.

A Vietnam veteran who rose to the rank of captain, Justice Jones always had a aura of quiet command about him, a quality which he needed when he presided over a trial growing out of the controversial transit workers’ strike.

The Transit Workers Union had defied his injunction by striking for 60 hours before the Christmas holiday. In a hushed but packed courtroom, Justice Jones pointed out the damage their work stoppage had wrought.

To ensure his decision would be followed to the letter, he sent TWU President Roger Toussaint to a night in jail and convinced the union to send its people back to work or they would be fined $1 million a day if they stayed out. They promptly went back to work.

His even-handedness at that emotionally charged proceeding underscored his reputation in Kings of being an impartial and highly capable jurist. He won praise from both sides.

Associate Justice Ted Jones earlier served on the Committee on Character and Fitness, Second Department, was an Honorary Master of the Kings County Inn of Court, taught at St. John’s and C.U.N.Y, and was in his 23rd year of extraordinary service on the bench.

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Hon. Levine: Justice Jones shared his success with all

His colleagues admired his style of leadership, which earned him their cooperation and input on the many decisions he made each day as Kings Administrative judge.

Retired Justice Joseph Levine said this of his friend with whom he shared decades on the Kings bench: “Justice Jones served his country with honor in Vietnam, and he inspired us all with his dedication to the rule of law.

“He greeted the many challenges of the court system with the quiet confidence befitting an army officer who knows how to command by leading, always gentle and smiling, but firmly in command.

“The day Justice Jones was appointed to the Court of Appeals, there was pure joy in the courthouse,” said Hon. Levine, who later served as interim administrative judge.  “Justice Jones had the gift to let all of us believe we had played a role in his success.    

“By word and deed, he left no doubt that we had all helped him prepare for his ascension to the state’s highest court.” said the Hon. Levine.

“It’s very understandable that all of the jurists who served with him and all court personnel feel a deep sense of sadness and loss at his passing,” he added.

In addition to his wife Joan, Jones is survived by sons Wesley Jones and Theodore T. Jones III, an attorney. Viewing will be at the Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church, 212 Tompkins Avenue, on Thursday, Nov. 15, from noon to 8 p.m.

Funeral services will be held Nov. 16 from Mt. Pisgah, starting at 10 a.m. All of his friends and colleagues are welcome to both.

We received many notes from colleagues with similar sentiments. “We lost a friend this week – a beautiful human being”, one lawyer friend told us. We agree.

Justice Jones held the promise of many more years of quality service to his profession and the bench. He was 68.

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Trial lawyer Arthur Hill welcomes Obama victory

Alongside the sadness attendant to the loss of Justice Jones, there was a sense of relief and hope among most attorneys with the re-election of President Barack Obama.. Even Republican trial lawyers knew that if Gov. Mitt Romney were elected, he would push “tort reform,” which meant making it harder and harder for low and middle income plaintiffs to have their day in court.

“If the Obama people would run the country as well as they ran this campaign, we would all be better off,” a Court Street regular who supported Romney told us last week.

Most trial lawyers we talked with were pleased with the election outcome and full of unqualified admiration of the way the Obama team won. Barristers, particularly Democrats like Arthur Hill, were very pleased with the outcome. Hill said, “An Obama victory means many things–an affirmation of hope and a defeat of intolerance. On a practical level it means the preservation of the affordable care act, economic equality via tax cuts for the wealthy and maintaining the legality of abortion rights.”

(Attorney Hill had much more to say to us of the Obama victory, and next week we will present the full text of his very apt comment.)

Commentators of all political stripes were in awe of the way President Barack Obama whipped Gov. Romney by small but decisive margins in most of the ” swing states” such as Florida, Wisconsin and Ohio.

As early as 11 p.m. election Tuesday, it was clear that the planning, strategy and tactics of campaign manager David Axelrod had paid off, earning the Obama team the grudging admiration of depressed Republican commentators as well as re-election to a second term.  

Interestingly, they did it by targeting and reaching out to identifiable pro-Obama votes– much in the traditional clubhouse style of relentlessly going after those on your “favorable voter” list and not wasting time and money on those who were never going to cast a ballot for your candidate.  

On a broader nationwide scale, this is the same formula employed by old-style Brooklyn political strategists like Bill Garry, a deceased Kings County justice; Arthur Brasco, a top aide to County Leader Meade Esposito and Congressman Leo Zereretti; and Bob Muir, who played a key role in the 1969 re-election campaign of Mayor John V. Lindsay.

A major difference, 33 years later, is that the internet and its numerous iterations have made the care and breeding of highly valued “favorable voters” much easier than it was then.

And that ingenious yet basic style of campaigning won re-election for President Obama.

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PRO BONO BARRISTER is a weekly column dedicated to telling about the good that lawyers do. Send your comments or suggestions to this writer care of this newspaper or to [email protected]. Notice: Readers seeking legal representation on a Pro Bono Publico basis should not contact this columnist. Rather, they should seek out the Brooklyn Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project at 718 -624-3894.

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