In 1951, Judge Irving R. Kaufman wrangled to get the trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, charged with stealing the “secret” of the atomic bomb and handing it to the monstrous Joseph Stalin. Judge Kaufman was 40, one of the youngest federal judges in America and only sixteen months in office. During the trial, he often intervened in ways that helped the government. Upstairs in his chambers, he conducted secret, ex parte meetings with prosecutors, including the infamous Roy Cohn. No one knows what they discussed. Once jurors convicted, he deftly advertised his anguish over the sentence and alluded to solitary soul-searching in his empty, dimly lit synagogue. Now the hour for judgment had come.
The Texas Lawbook is pleased to publish an excerpt of Houston lawyer Martin Siegel’s new book about the judge he clerked for decades ago.