Moses M. Weinstein, 95, who got his start in New York electoral politics in his 40s, spent 10 days as acting governor, and then became a judge, died Friday in Florida.
Weinstein was born in New York on July 8, 1912. According to the New York Times, his first name was originally Morris and he had no middle initial, but a program for a theatrical production while he was a student at Brooklyn College gave him an initial. His degree from Brooklyn Law School erred in changing his name from Morris to Moses, which he continued to use in professional life. He was known to friends as Moe.
Weinstein was the son of a tailor and grew up in a Lower East Side of Manhattan tenement with a shared bathroom. He graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in Brooklyn at 15, and he worked his way through college and law school. He was an infantry corporal in World War Two and fought in the Battle of the Bulge.
Weinstein first ran for the New York Assembly in 1958, after a career as a lawyer who spent days in court and nights at Queens, New York, political meetings.
All in all, Weinstein was elected six times, and became an important political leader as chairman of the Queens Democratic Party from 1962 to 1969, Assembly majority leader from 1965 to 1968, and acting speaker in 1968.
Weinstein became acting governor for 10 days in 1968, when Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller, Lt. Gov. Malcolm Wilson and Senate Majority Leader Earl W. Brydges, all Republicans, went to the GOP presidential nominating convention in Miami Beach that selected Richard Nixon as the party’s candidate. The Times headline on the story read: “G.O.P. Giving Up State But Wants It Returned.”
According to the Times, Weinstein enjoyed political rhetoric and roughhousing:
“When a Republican called him a political boss, he retorted: ‘I’ve never been called Boss, not by anybody. I’m not even boss in my own house. My wife makes me take out the garbage.
“And when an upstate Republican called him a ‘city boy; unfamiliar with agriculture, he responded: ‘I’m well aware of agriculture. To prove it, I listened to you very carefully. All I find you doing is making political hay. All you did was to throw the bull. To sum it up, I think you laid an egg. That’s agriculture!'”
Weinstein was a Democratic Party loyalist, but also worked on progressive causes, and sponsored legislation that created New York’s Urban Development Corporation, Crime Victims’ Compensation Board, consumer bill of rights, financial aid for air-pollution controls, and more.
By the end of the 1960s, Weinstein turned from politics to the bench. He was elected to a 14-year term as a State Supreme Court justice in Queens in 1969. He freed a woman convicted of selling drugs in 1973 because she had terminal cancer and less than a year to live.
In retirement, he served as a technical consultant on the 1995 film, “Murder in the First,” starring Kevin Bacon, putting him only one degree away from the actor famous for a game of connection (“Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon“) in his name.
Weinstein’s friends and family established a scholarship program in his name at Brooklyn Law School.
Weinstein’s wife, the former Muriel Marshall, died last year. They had been married since 1941. He is survived by his son Jeremy, a New York State Supreme Court justice and administrative judge of the civil term in Queens, Peter, a Circuit Court judge in Broward County, Florida, Jonathan, of Boca Raton, Fla., and a sister, Norma Brody of New York; five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.