‘The Greatest Day of My Life” by the Hon. Leonard L. Finz is a truly inspiring autobiographical look into an incredibly talented human being.
I first met Judge Finz four decades ago as a young attorney when I joined the Queens County Bar Association during my final year of law school. Shortly thereafter, I became an active member of the Brandeis Association of Queens, an organization of Jewish Lawyers and Judges, founded by Judge Finz in 1968 because “there was no organization that dealt solely with lawyers of the Jewish faith.” I was proud to become its president in 1982 and continue to serve as a member of the board. As a result of the judge’s foresight at its inception, the Brandeis Association is a vital partner among the various ethnic and religious bar associations throughout the city and state of New York, and the country. It became the model for other such Jewish associations to follow suit. In 1974, Judge Finz became Honorary Chairman of the Board and remains active to this day.
Over the years, I became aware of the judge’s experiences as an entertainer, politician, judge and trial lawyer extraordinaire. However, until I read his book, I did not realize or appreciate the depth of the talents and abilities he had in every aspect of his multifaceted life. This easy to read memoir, of a fascinating success story, holds your interest on every page.
Proud family man, and truly devoted husband to his recently departed wife, Pearl, the judge focuses on the ups and downs of his nine decades, with an emphasis on his service to this great country that he loves and the personal rewards he derived from that admirable service.
Every section of this book is filled with interesting, factual and humorous episodes that enlighten the reader of a life that most of us can only dream of. The youngest Civil Court judge at the time he was sworn in, he describes his personal “dilemma” several years later of having to choose between the security of remaining on the bench as a Supreme Court Justice “with an uncertain financial future,” or accepting an offer to go into practice with a very prominent trial attorney.
As a retired judge and attorney, I was enthralled by Judge Finz’ legal acumen both as a judge and an attorney. This book is replete with example after example of first impression cases that resulted in huge monetary victories for the judge’s clients, as well as changes in the law and the mindset of injured litigants versus major corporations. They are the modern day stories of David against Goliath with substantial victories favorable to the little guys represented by the judge against the big guy, multimillion dollar corporations.
Although not mentioned in a recent article titled “Settlement Techniques: High-Low Agreements (NYLJ, July 27), it should be noted that the “High-Low Contract,” which has had a major impact in personal injury litigation, was the brainchild of Judge Finz, as he discusses in his book. This simple, yet unique, concept has been beneficial to both plaintiffs and defendants. By entering into such an agreement any time prior to the announcement of a verdict, the plaintiff is guaranteed a monetary award in the event the jury finds in favor of the defendant and, likewise, the defendant’s liability is “capped” if the jury comes in with a plaintiff’s verdict exceeding the amount agreed upon.
On a lighter note, the judge regales about his famous Super Bowl parties that started out with just a few tennis buddies in his home in 1976 and grew to over 100 people including judges, friends and elected officials in the course of 37 years. When I received my first invitation after becoming a judge, I knew I had finally “arrived”! It was always the best party of the year and I attended every one for 21 consecutive years until they ended in 2013.
I found this to be an inspiring and motivational book about a man I thought I “knew” until I read all about the “real” Leonard Finz and his impact in so many areas of life. He is a true leader, innovator, brilliant litigator and someone to be greatly admired. For me personally, Judge Finz has been a friend, mentor and role model. When the judge heard that I was retiring from the bench in the summer of 2011, he was the first person to approach me and asked me to become a part of the Finz firm. My association with the firm for the past six years has been a most rewarding experience.
I won’t share with you what Judge Finz considers to be the “greatest” day of his life. You’ll have to read the book to find out.