The Honorable John M. Leventhal is retired from his most recent judicial position as Associate Justice of the State Court of New York, Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department, a position to which he was appointed in 2008.
Judge Leventhal will be focusing on appellate law, civil and criminal litigation and guardianships.
Known as one of the “most deeply caring judges,” Hon. John M. Leventhal, (Ret.) has served New York’s legal community for over 40 years.
Raised in Riverdale, Bronx, Judge Leventhal received a B.A. in psychology from Case Western Reserve University in 1970. Following college, he taught middle school math in South Bronx and was a consultant at New York Rand Institute, before earning an M.S. in Urban Affairs from Hunter College in 1974. Realizing he was destined for a career in the law, Judge Leventhal returned to academia and received a J.D. from Brooklyn Law School in 1979. During law school, Judge Leventhal worked at the Council of Supervisors and Administrators, Local 1, a union dedicated to representing administrators working in NYC public schools. When he wasn’t at work or in the library, Judge Leventhal was an active player for the East Side Rugby Club and later the New York Rugby Club. He was a member of the gold medal winning NYC All Star rugby team at the 1981 Empire State Games.
Judge Leventhal began his legendary legal career as a law assistant to Civil Court Judge Louis Rosenthal. In September of 1982, he started his own law practice, working as a sole practitioner until 1989 when he co-founded and became partner of the law firm Rosenthal, Vallario, Leventhal and Coffinas. In addition to being a litigator at a private firm, Judge Leventhal served as part-time counsel to the New York State Assembly (1991-1994), Editor in Chief of the Barrister, the legal quarterly publication of the Brooklyn Bar Association (1982-1994), Editor in Chief of Veritas, the legal publication of the Brooklyn Law School Alumni Association (1982-1984), and Trustee of the Brooklyn Bar Association (1987-1994).
After 15 years of private practice in Brooklyn, Judge Leventhal was elected to serve as a Justice of the Supreme Court of the State of New York in Kings County in November 1994. During his time in Kings County, Judge Leventhal was designated to preside over the nation’s first felony Domestic Violence Court, which he did for 12 years. The “DV Court” was cited for its best practices at the Northeast States Domestic Violence Registry Conference in November 1997 and has been observed by jurists and court administrators from New York and other states as well as other countries. He also presided over a guardianship part for alleged incapacitated persons. This assignment required the supervision of the management of assets, medical malpractice, and personal injury awards as well as other economic issues concerning incapacitated individuals.
In 2008, Judge Leventhal was appointed by Governor Eliot Spitzer as Associate Justice in the State Court of New York, Appellate Division, Second Department. There, he presided over appeals from trial courts in Brooklyn, Queens, Richmond, Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Rockland, Orange, Putnam, and Duchess Counties. In between hearing civil and criminal appeals, Judge Leventhal wrote about his previous role in Kings County and, in 2016, published his book chronicling his experiences entitled, “My Partner, My Enemy: An Unflinching View of Domestic Violence and New Ways to Protect Victims.” The book came highly praised by the New York Law Journal, which described Judge Leventhal’s leadership in presiding over the nation’s first Domestic Violence Court as the “embodiment of intelligence, compassion and common sense in a twilight zone.”
Judge Leventhal’s commitment and devotion to the New York legal community is evident by his participation in numerous groups, committees, boards, and other organizations. Judge Leventhal was an active member of the Oversight Committee for Criminal Defense Organizations, for the Appellate Division, Second Department (1997-2008), the Assigned Counsel Committee for the Appellate Division, Second Department, Second and Eleventh Judicial Districts (1999-2008), the Judicial Advisory Group (Appellate), New York State Judicial Task Force on Wrongful Convictions (2009-2020), the Chief Judge’s Committee on New York Evidence (2016-2020), and the National Advisory Board for the University of North Carolina Bryson Center for Judicial Science and Education (2018-2020). He also served as Chair for the Gender Fairness Committee, Second Judicial District (1999-2002), and the Second Judicial Department 18B Oversight Committee (2018-2020) as well as Delegate for the American Bar Association’s National Conference of Specialty Court Judges (1999-2003), and Ex Officio Director, Resource Judge, and Co-Chair in Genetic Engineering Concentration of the National Courts and Science Institute for Judges (2014-2020).
Judge Leventhal has received many awards and honors throughout his career. In 2000, he received Fordham University School of Law’s “In the Trenches” award for his work in the Domestic Violence Court. In 2001, he was recognized by the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association for his continuous support of and commitment to women in law and society. In 2003, he was a recipient of the Ruth Moscowitz Gender Fairness Award presented by the Second Judicial District. Moreover, in 2005, Judge Leventhal received a Special Commendation from the U.S. Department of Justice “in recognition of his extraordinary contribution to the prevention of violence against women…and for his groundbreaking work and leadership on the role of judicial reviews in the supervision and accountability of domestic violence offenders.” In 2008, he received the Distinguished Achievement Medal from the New York State Free and Accepted Masons, the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association Beatrice M. Judge Recognition Award “for outstanding service to the women of the Bar, to the community and the law,” the New York Board of Rabbis and Dayenu Voices of Valor “Elijah Award” for male leadership in ending Domestic Violence, and the National College of District Attorney’s Stephen L. Von Riesen Lecturer of Merit Award “in recognition of exceptional service in the continuing professional education of all individuals who work on behalf of domestic violence survivors, their families and our communities.” Further, in 2009, he was given the Brooklyn Law School Alumni of the Year Award and in 2015, he received the Brooklyn Bar Association’s Annual Award “For Outstanding Achievement in the Science of Jurisprudence and Public Service.” Most recently, in 2017, he received the Vincent E. Doyle Award for Outstanding Judicial Contribution in the Criminal System by the New York State Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section. This award honors “outstanding judicial effort to improve the administration of the criminal justice system.”
Judge Leventhal’s work dealing with domestic violence cases has been featured in a number of newspaper and magazine articles and television and radio programs including a profile in “Public Lives” of the New York Times, The Villages Voice as well as on MSNBC’s Brian Williams and Rehema, Fox and Friends, National Public Radio’s Brian Lehrer Show, and Public Television’s MetroFocus program with Jack Ford. He is a frequent lecturer on evidence, domestic violence, elder abuse, actual innocence and wrongful convictions, guardianship, foreclosures, appellate practice, and other topics before Bar Associations, law schools, civic groups, court administrators, and government agencies.
As an appellate judge, Justice Leventhal authored numerous opinions on civil law in areas of discrimination, estates, the CPLR, the admissibility of scientific evidence, contract issues and foreclosures. Many of his opinions received national attention and were the subject of articles by legal commentators. He has also authored many opinions in all aspects of the criminal law.
Judge Leventhal announced his retirement from the bench in 2020. Known for his compassion, his willingness to “roll up his sleeves,” and his ability to think outside the box, Judge Leventhal has a reputation as a tireless advocate who never fails to go above and beyond. As he told the NY Times in 2001: “I’m not relaxed. I’m never relaxed. Someone, somewhere, is always plotting to do something. I just don’t know who or what.”
Associate Justice of the Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department, Brooklyn, New York (January 25, 2008 – December 31, 2020)
Justice of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Second Judicial District, Brooklyn, New York (elected November 1994) June 1996-January 2008: Presided over the nation’s first dedicated felony Domestic Violence “Court”; 2001 – January 2008: Presided over Article 81 Guardianship proceedings.
Other Professional Experience
Rosenthal, Vallario, Leventhal & Coffinas, Esqs., Brooklyn, New York, Partner (August 1989 – December 1994)
Law Office of John M. Leventhal, Private Practitioner (September 1982 – August 1989)
Criminal Court of the City of New York, Kings County, Brooklyn, New York, Law Assistant to Civil Court Judge sitting in Criminal Court (January 1980 – September 1982)
Admission to the Bar
New York State Bar, February, 1980 (Second Judicial Department)
United States District Court: E.D.N.Y., May 1980; S.D.N.Y., June 1980
United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, May 1988
Brooklyn Law School, Brooklyn, NY, J.D., June 1979
Hunter College of C.U.N.Y., New York, NY, M.S. in Urban Affairs, August 1974
Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH, B.A. in Psychology, June 1970
Publications & Leading Cases, as author or co-author:
Judges Forecast and Preferences for Managing Scientific Evidence in Complex Cases, National Courts and Science Institute (2020)
My Partner, My Enemy, a book about presiding over the Nation’s First Felony Domestic Violence Court, domestic violence cases and suggesting ways to protect the victims, Rowman & Littlefield (2016).
“Is Bruton On Life Support in the Aftermath of Crawford v. Washington?” 43 Am. J. Crim. L. 1 (Fall 2015) (University of Texas at Austin School of Law).
‘The Trials, Tribulations, and Rewards of Being the First Felony Domestic Violence Court,” American Bar Association Judges’ Journal, Vol 53 No. 2 (Spring 2014)
“A Survey of Federal and State Courts’ Approaches to a Constitutional Right of Actual Innocence: Is There A Need for a State Constitutional Right In New York in the Aftermath of CPL §440.10(g-1)?” 76Albany L. Rev.1453 (2013)
“Punitive Damages: Public Wrong or Egregious Conduct?: A Survey of New York Law,” 76 albany L. Rev. 961 (2013)
“New York State Consumer Law and Class Actions:2011-2012,” 84 New York State Bar Association Journal 41 (2012)
“Perspective: John Adams: His Relevance Then and Now,” New York Law Journal, May 11, 2011, p. 6
“New York State Consumer Protection Law and Class Actions in 2010,” 83 New York State Bar Association Journal 4 (2011)
“Spousal Rights Or Spousal Crimes: When And Where Are the Lines To Be Drawn?” 2006 Utah L. Rev. 351 (2006) (Cited by the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women as a resource at the United Nations 2013 Women & Justice Conference)
“The Admission of Evidence in Domestic Violence Cases after Crawford v. Washington: A National Survey,” 11 Berkeley J. of Crim. Law 77(2006).
“Observations of a New Country In An Old World and A New Way of Dealing With An Old World Problem,” The Jurist, Summer 2004, p.1
“Perspective: State’s Bail Statute Must be Amended,” New York Law Journal, March 17, 2004, p.2, col. .2
“Judicial Selection System Under Attack: An Overview of France v. Pataki”, The Jurist, Spring 1996, p. 11.
“Do Not Open Unless . . . Review of Civil Rights Law §50-1,” New York Law Journal, September 6, 1995, p. 1, col. 1; The Jurist, Fall/Winter 1995, p.5 (Outside Counsel).
“Renunciation of Property Interests Under EPTL §2-1.11 ,” New York Law Journal, March 23, 1995, p. 1, col. 1(Outside Counsel).
“Courtroom Show-Ups: Identification of the Worst Kind,” New York Law Journal, April 27, 1994, p. 1, col. 1 (Outside Counsel).
“Public Trial: Keeping the Undercover ‘Undercover,’” New York Law Journal, November 3, 1992, p. 1, col. 1 (Outside Counsel).
“Verdict Sheets – Objection and Appeal,” Kings County Criminal Bar Journal, June 1990, vol. 6, no. 1.
“A Recipe for Understanding a Defendant’s Speedy Trial Rights: Worley,Anderson, and a Touch of Gaggi,” 37 Barrister 101 (1986).
“Burden of Proof and Defenses in Drug Related Forfeiture Proceedings,” Kings County Criminal Bar Journal, January 1986, vol. 2, no. 1
“Standing of a Passenger to Suppress Evidence and the New York Presumption,” 35 Barrister 145 (1984).
“Alibi Witness’ Failure to Come Forward: The New York Rule,” 34 Barrister 104 (1983); Veritas, Spring 1983, vol. 13, no. 1.
“Photographs, Fingerprints and Suppression: Failure to Comply with 160.50 of the Criminal Procedure Law,” Veritas, Spring 1981, vol. 10, no. 3
“Crime Prevention in New York City,” Rand Institute Working Paper (1974).
Professional & Civic Activities
Member, National Advisory Board for the University of North Carolina Bryson center for Judicial Science Education (2018 – present)
National Courts and Science Institute for Judges – Ex Officio Director, Resource Judge and Co-Chair in Genetic Engineering Concentration (2014 -present)
Second Judicial Department 18b Oversight Committee: Chair (2018 – 2020)
Chief Judge’s Committee on New York Evidence: Member (2016 – present)
National Courts and Science Institute for Judges; Director and Member: (2014 – present)
ASTAR Fellow- Completed 120 hours of science and technology education for Judges (April 2013)
Judicial Advisory Group (Appellate), New York State Judicial Task Force on Wrongful Convictions: Member (2009 – 2020)
Gender Fairness Committee, Second Judicial District: Chair (1999 – 2002)
The National Conference of Specialty Court Judges, American Bar Association: Delegate (1999 – 2003)
Assigned Counsel Committee for Appellate Division, Second Department, 2nd and 11th Judicial Districts: Member (1999 – 2008)
Oversight Committee for Criminal Defense Organizations, for the Appellate Division, Second Department: Member (1997 – 1999)
Second Judicial District Task Force on Reducing Litigation Cost and Delay: Member (1996 – 1997)
Evidence Curriculum Committee, Judicial Seminars: Member (1996 – 2005)
Barrister, the legal quarterly publication of the Brooklyn Bar Association: Editor-in-Chief (1982 – 1994)
Veritas, the legal publication of Brooklyn Law School Alumni Association: Editor-in-Chief (1982 – 1984)
Brooklyn Law School Alumni Association: Director (1983 – 2004); Member (1980-present)
Brooklyn Bar Association: Trustee (1987 – 1994); Member(1980-present)
Brooklyn Bar Association Grievance Committee: Member (1991 – 1994)
Association of the Bar of the City of New York: Member (2006-2007)
Association of the Justices of the Supreme Court of the City of New York: President (2012); Member (1995-present)
Association of the Justices of the Supreme Court of the State of New York: Member (1995-present)
Commissioner of Appeals of the Grand Lodge of the State of New York (1997 – 2016)
Grand Representative of the Grand Lodge of South Carolina, A.F.M. near the Grand Lodge of New York (1997 – Present)
2nd Manhattan Masonic District Blood Drive: Co-Chair (1996 – 2005)