Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 43

WORTH READING
the stench of rotten New York politics for all
the world to smell, and to destroy the presidential
aspirations of newly elected Governor
Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Judge Crater was born in Easton, Pennsylvania,
in 1889 and moved to Manhattan in 1910 to
study law at Columbia University. He was an
indifferent student, more interested in the
ladies than the law. He drifted into appellate
work and was good at it. But he quickly realized
the way to advance in the big city was to ingratiate
himself with local pols. Crater joined a
Tammany-controlled political club, where he
aligned himself with an Irish Catholic ward
heeler, Martin J. Healy. The Tammany connection
helped Crater land a job as New York
Justice Robert Wagner's law secretary, a prestigious
post where he handled the judge's legal
research and managed his calendar. It was a
plum spot and one he would keep for six years
until 1926, when Wagner was elected to the
United States Senate.
Afterward, Crater built a lucrative law practice
that grossed up to $100,000 a year ($1.5 million
today). He purchased a luxury co-op apartment
on Fifth Avenue and rode around in a chauffeur-driven
car. When a New York Supreme
Court justice (the equivalent of a Superior
Court judge in other states) retired in 1930 with
six months left in his term, Senator Wagner
convinced Governor Roosevelt, who needed
Tammany's support in his own reelection
campaign, to appoint Crater to the coveted
spot. It was a dream come true for Crater, and
he fully expected to sail to a full 14-year term in
the upcoming election. And then, just four
months later, poof!
Before he vanished, Crater flaunted a lifestyle
no judge could get away with today. Despite
being married, he openly kept a mistress and
cavorted with showgirls at gangster-owned
nightclubs. On the last day he was seen alive,
with his wife stashed in their Maine vacation
cottage, Crater moved large amounts of cash
and legal papers from his chambers to his
apartment. In the evening, he had dinner with
a friend and a chorus girl, and never picked up
a ticket to a Broadway musical that had been
set aside for him. Before heading out that night,
he left behind his monogrammed calling card
case, his pocket watch, and his pen.
The summer that Crater vanished, federal prosecutors
were investigating a suspicious $10,000
payment to Healy from the family of a newly
appointed city magistrate, which suggested
the office had been purchased. Finding no violation
of federal law, the case was referred to
the local district attorney, widely considered
incompetent. FDR, not wanting to antagonize
Tammany yet needing to distance himself from
D.C. Bar Taxation Community's
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NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2022
* WASHINGTON LAWYER 43
the brewing scandal, appointed a special prosecutor.
Prior to his disappearance, Judge Crater
had been subpoenaed to testify.
The facts beg the question, What happened
to Judge Crater? A grand jury investigation,
separate from the one looking into Healy, was
opened to answer it but never did. The author
suggests that Crater knew too much for his
own good about the judge-buying scandal
and may have been killed as a result. Or,
perhaps recognizing that his bid for a 14-year
term was in jeopardy thanks to the Healy investigation,
Crater ditched it all and danced his
way into a new life with a showgirl.
We will never know. But a limerick that appeared
in the New York Daily News just months
after the judge's disappearance provides some
food for thought: " O, the mystery's great but
'twill be far greater, If they make a mistake and
FIND Judge Crater! "
Diane Kiesel is an acting justice of the New York
Supreme Court, adjunct law professor, and author.
Her most recent book is She Can Bring Us Home:
Dr. Dorothy Boulding Ferebee, Civil Rights
Pioneer (Potomac Books/University of Nebraska
Press).
http://www.dcbar.org/tax-conference

Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022

Your Voice
From Our President
Practice Management
Toward Well-Being
Planting the Seeds: Pro Bono Helps Nonprofits Flourish
A Primer on D.C.’s New Debt Collection Law
Eviction Writ Quashing: Last Line of Defense for Tenants
Employment Law Implications of Dobbs
How Immigration Can Help Solve the U.S. Pilot Shortage
Ten Things You Might Have Forgotten Since the Pandemic
SPECIAL SECTION Young Lawyers Bring Passion to Public Interest Work
Attorney Briefs
Taking the Stand
Disciplinary Summaries
On Further Review
Member Spotlight
Worth Reading
Speaking of Ethics
The Learning Curve
The Pro Bono Effect
A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 1
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 2
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 3
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 4
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Your Voice
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 6
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Toward Well-Being
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Planting the Seeds: Pro Bono Helps Nonprofits Flourish
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 11
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 12
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 13
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - A Primer on D.C.’s New Debt Collection Law
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 15
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 16
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 17
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Eviction Writ Quashing: Last Line of Defense for Tenants
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 19
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Employment Law Implications of Dobbs
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 21
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - How Immigration Can Help Solve the U.S. Pilot Shortage
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 23
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 24
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 25
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Ten Things You Might Have Forgotten Since the Pandemic
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 27
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 28
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 29
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - SPECIAL SECTION Young Lawyers Bring Passion to Public Interest Work
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 31
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 32
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Attorney Briefs
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Taking the Stand
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 35
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 37
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - On Further Review
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 39
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Member Spotlight
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 41
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 43
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Speaking of Ethics
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 45
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - The Learning Curve
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - The Pro Bono Effect
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 48
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 49
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 50
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 51
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Cover4
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