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Judge Jay C. Waldman, a 14-year veteran of the federal bench in Philadelphia who was expected to be elevated soon to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, died last week after a battle with cancer. He was 58. News of Judge Waldman’s death shocked many of his colleagues, who, despite an extended medical leave that began in January, were unaware of the seriousness of his condition. Many of the judges learned the news soon after returning from a funeral on Friday for Dr. Henry A. Sloviter, the husband of 3rd Circuit Judge Dolores K. Sloviter. Widely considered one of the smartest and savviest judges on the Eastern District bench, Waldman was remembered by friends and colleagues on Friday as a seasoned political strategist, a great legal mind, a quick wit, and, in his final years, a sharp-tongued, but fair-minded judge who often knew his cases better than the lawyers before him. “He had the best political judgment of anyone I have ever met — he could see around corners,” said former Pennsylvania Gov. Dick Thornburgh, now a partner with Kirkpatrick & Lockhart in Washington, D.C. “He was a fabulous lawyer and a first-class judge, and I know he would have made a great 3rd Circuit judge. I just kept hoping against hope that he was going to lick this [cancer],” he said. A 1966 graduate of the University of Wisconsin at Madison and a 1969 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, Judge Waldman worked under Thornburgh for more than 15 years, beginning in 1971 in Pittsburgh when Thornburgh was U.S. Attorney in the Western District of Pennsylvania and hired Waldman as a front-line prosecutor. In 1975, when Thornburgh was tapped to become U.S. Attorney General, Waldman joined him in Washington and served as the deputy AG in charge of the Justice Department’s criminal division. And when Thornburgh was elected governor of Pennsylvania, Waldman followed him back to Harrisburg, Pa., where he served as Thornburgh’s general counsel. Thornburgh said Waldman’s death was a “great, great loss for the bench.” “I was looking at Jay’s entry in the Almanac of the Federal Judiciary, and it was remarkable to me how many lawyers used the word ‘brilliant’ to describe him,” Thornburgh said. In fact, the lawyers’ evaluation section in Judge Waldman’s entry in the Almanac shows that lawyers universally praised Waldman’s intellect, calling him “nothing less than brilliant” and “extraordinarily smart,” with one lawyer saying “the guy has lots of brains.” Attorney Shanin Specter of Kline & Specter, a longtime friend, said Waldman had “absolutely the best political mind of anyone I’ve ever known.” In political circles, Specter said, Waldman’s wisdom was considered a precious commodity. “Grown men would reach for a pen and paper to write down what he would say. His words were so valuable, so well-stated, that capturing those words was worth the humiliation of being seen writing them down,” Specter said. Specter said many lawyers incorrectly assumed that Waldman was “conservative” due to his political credentials. “But the fact is that, as a jurist, he defied ideological description,” Specter said. Although nearly all of Judge Waldman’s r�sum� consists of government service jobs, he did two stints in private practice — right out of law school in the Pittsburgh firm of Rose Schmidt Dixon & Hasley from 1970 to 1971, and just before his appointment to the federal bench, as a partner in Dilworth Paxson Kalish & Kauffman from 1986 to 1988. Dilworth Paxson managing partner Stephen J. Harmelin recalled that Judge Waldman “had the sort of knowledge that perhaps you only get from spending a fair amount of time in the political vineyards.” Harmelin said Waldman was “pugnacious when he had to be, but he developed into a thoughtful and capable jurist.” On the bench, Waldman earned a reputation as a judge who was often more than a few minutes late to take the bench, but, once there, was among the quickest thinkers. In oral arguments or during a trial, Judge Waldman would often pose pointed questions to lawyers and would quickly interrupt if he didn’t like the answer or felt the lawyer was dodging. But even when his temper flared, Waldman often saw the humor in a courtroom exchange and rarely hesitated to make a joke. Off the bench, Waldman was often seen in his signature pin-striped suit walking the streets of Center City or smoking a cigar with friends at the Palm restaurant on Philadelphia’s Broad Street. Judge Waldman is survived by his wife, Roberta Landy Waldman. Funeral services are scheduled for today at the Brighthurst Funeral Chapel in the West Laurel Hill Cemetery, 225 Belmont Ave., Bala Cynwyd, Pa.

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