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Guide to the Papers of Bernard Botein
1929-1975 (bulk 1968-1973)
 MS 68

New-York Historical Society
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New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400

© 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Emma Curtis. Machine-readable finding aid was created by Emma Curtis.

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on February 14, 2012
Description is written in English.

Biographical Note

Bernard Botein (1900-1974) was a principal leader in New York City’s legal establishment. A Supreme Court Judge for the State of New York and a dedicated court reformist, Judge Botein was known for his work that liberalized and improved procedures in court administration.

Born on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Bernard Botein attended Morris High School, The City College of New York and Brooklyn Law School before beginning his legal career in 1929 as an Assistant District Attorney in Manhattan in the Accident Fraud Bureau and as General Attorney for the State Insurance Fund in 1938. During this time he distinguished himself producing many successful convictions for the Bureau, as well as for several State investigations pertaining to state insurance and printing contracts. Serving the State Supreme Court, Botein was elected and served as Associate Justice (1953-1958), and later Presiding Justice of the Appellate Division, First Department for Manhattan and the Bronx (1958-1968). It was during this time that he developed his reputation as an innovative administrator and passionate advocate of reform. Accomplishments include the 24-Hour Arraignment System, a system that lessened the time defendants would spend in police custody, and the centralization of the court system of the State. A strong advocate for equality under the law and the underprivileged, Botein’s work frequently benefited defendants most affected by inequality experienced in the administration of criminal justice.

In 1968, Botein retired after 27 years on the bench. He became leading partner in the law firm of Botein, Hays, Sklar and Herzberg and President of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York (1970-1972). He continued to serve the cause of court reform and was an active participant in numerous legal, civic, political, and philanthropic organizations and on a variety of committees and task forces. He was active in organizations such as the Vera Institute of Justice, the Legal Aid Society and the New York City Rand Institute, as well as the Jewish Association for Services for the Aged and participated in several groups such as the Temporary Committee on Black-Jewish Relations. In politics, Botein was Co-Chairman of Frank S. Hogan 1973 District Attorney Campaign, active in the campaigns of George McGovern and Mayor John V. Lindsay and was one of the sponsors of a lawyer’s protest in 1970 against the Vietnam war.

An accomplished writer and orator, Botein contributed a significantly to the legal field, addressing many in the legal community and publishing numerous legal papers including several novels such as the Trial Judge (1952) and  The Prosecutor (1956). In his writings, Botein covered issues such as judicial administration, court reorganization, court modernization, legal aid and pretrial release practices.

Bernard Botein was married to Marian Berman Botein in 1940 and had two sons. He died in 1974 at the age of 74.