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Brooklyn-born Federal Judge Arthur Spatt remembered as ‘a judicial legend’

July 2, 2020 Rob Abruzzese
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Justice Arthur Spatt, a Brooklyn-born and raised Federal Court judge and World War II veteran, died earlier this month at the age of 94.

Justice Spatt grew up in Sheepshead Bay and attended James Madison High School before he went off to college at Ohio State University. Prior to graduation, Spatt was called into active duty to serve the U.S. Navy during the war. He was a petty navigation officer aboard the U.S.S. Sherburne, where he helped to fend off air attacks from Japanese kamikaze planes.

After being deployed in the Philippines and being involved in attacks on southern Japan, Justice Spatt returned to Ohio State University to finish his degree and then went on to Brooklyn Law School.

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Justice Spatt graduated Brooklyn Law School cum laude and went into private practice for 25 years before he was elected as a state Supreme Court justice in New York in 1978. In 1982, he became the administrative judge of Nassau County.

Gov. Mario Cuomo appointed him to the Appellate Division, Second Department, in 1986, where he sat until then-President George H.W. Bush appointed him to the federal Eastern District of New York bench.

Justice Spatt was perhaps best known for his work ethic. He worked six days a week and expected his staff to do the same. Lawyers also liked appearing before him because, they said, his 25 years of experience as a solo practitioner left him with a profound respect for members of the bar.

“Judge Spatt is a judicial legend,” said Hon. Judge Joseph Bianco, judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit. “No one worked harder, was more passionate about the law and more committed to justice than Judge Spatt. His impact on the law will continue to be felt for decades to come. He absolutely loved serving the public as a fair and impartial jurist. It was an honor and delight to be his colleague and friend.”

Justice Spatt was so beloved that the Eastern District dedicated the atrium of the Alfonse D’Amato Courthouse in Central Islip to him during a renaming ceremony in 2019.

“In celebration of his indefatigable spirit and passionate commitment to the fair and equal administration of justice to all and in recognition of his integrity, compassion, honor, service and dedication to the people of the Eastern District of New York,” reads the dedication in the courthouse.

Justice Spatt was predeceased by his wife Dorothy and survived by five daughters — Marcy, Debra, Jane, Celia and Sara — and 10 grandchildren, as well as one great-grandchild.

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