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David Leventritt, Former Supreme Court Justice, Dies

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David Leventritt, former Supreme Court Justice, died Friday night in New York, at the age of 81.

Mr. Leventritt took great interest in Jewish religious life and was a member of the New York Executive Committee of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. He was Chairman of the Character Committee of the Bar Association.

In March, 1906, the Bar Association, on motion of Elihu Root, passed resolutions commending the judicial conduct of Justice Leventritt. The preamble to the resolutions included this statement:

“During the seven years of his judicial service his administration of office has given general satisfaction to the people and the bar, and has been marked by ability, learning, diligence and a strong sense of justice.”

In view of the previous attitude of the Bar Association, this commendation is one of the most emphatic and convincing laudatory tributes ever paid to an American jurist. Eight years previously the association, on that occasion also led by Elihu Root, opposed the candidacy of Mr. Leventritt for the Supreme Court bench, declaring him unfit for the position, and endorsing his opponent Justice Joseph F. Daly. But the manner in which Justice Leventritt performed his duties on the bench so completely disproved the charges made against him that those who had opposed him felt compelled to acknowledge publicly their mistake.

Another striking evidence of the esteem in which Justice Leventritt was held by his professional associates was furnished at the time of his resignation from the Supreme Court to resume private practice. On June 4, 1908, five hundred members of the bench and bar gave a dinner in his honor at the Hotel Astor, and such distinguished lawyers as Governor Hughes, Justices Morgan, J. O’Brien, John Proctor Clarke and Almet F. Jenks employed terms of the highest praise in describing his character and ability.

David Leventritt was born Jan. 31, 1845, at Winnsboro, S. C., the son of George M. and Betty Goldberg Leventritt. The family moved to New York City in 1854 and the boy’s early education was received in public and private schools here. He was graduated with honors in 1864 from the Free Academy of New York, now the College of the City of New York, being salutatorian of his class. He later determined on the law as his profession, and was graduated, again with honors, from the New York Law School in 1871.

Elected to the Supreme Court in November, 1898, Justice Leventritt began his term on Jan. 1, 1899. With five years remaining to serve, in April, 1908, he sent his resignation to the Secretary of State, to take effect the following May 1.

He resumed his general practice of the law, becoming senior partner in the new legal firm of Leventritt, Cook Nathan.

Hon. Abram I. Elkus, Supreme Court Justice, and former Ambassador to Turkey, in a statement issued to the “Jewish Daily Bulletin” declared:

“Judge Leventritt was essentially a lawyer and a good citizen. He was a great jurist. His learning and scholarly attainments and great dignity on the bench distinguished him above his fellow judges. He left the bench beloved by all for his fairness, his great ability, his open-mindedness and his courtesy.

“Since leaving the bench, for the last eleven years, he has devoted himself besides his private practice, to serving as chairman of the Committee which passed upon all applicants entering the bar. He rendered a great service in that capacity. With great care he investigated every case and not until he was satisfied with the character of the applicant did he pass favorably upon it.

“It will be difficult to find his successor. With all that, he was patient, he was courteous, he was kindly.”

Mr. Ludwig Vogelstein, chairman of the Executive of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, declared to a representative of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, “I have worked with Judge David Leventritt for the past thirty years. He was a devoted Jew, an able and brilliant leader with an unlimited will for furthering the cause of Judaism. By his death the Union of American Hebrew Congregations suffers a great loss.”

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