Henry Frederick Werker
Henry Frederick Werker (April 16, 1920–May 10, 1984) was an American lawyer and a judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Born in Glendale, New York, Werker attended New York University as an undergraduate and obtained a law degree from the New York University School of Law, graduating in 1946. During World War II, Werker served with the United States Naval Reserve, from which he retired as a lieutenant commander in 1958.
Upon graduating from law school, Werker entered private practice in New York City. Several years later, Werker moved his practice upstate to Greenville, New York and then to Catskill, New York. From 1967 to 1969, he served as a social services attorney and assistant county attorney for Greene County.
Werker began his judicial career when he was elected in 1968 to serve concurrently as the County Court Judge, Surrogate, and Family Court Judge of Greene County. He served in these capacities from 1969 to 1974.
In 1974, President Richard M. Nixon nominated Werker to serve as a United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York. Werker's nomination was confirmed by the United States Senate. He was sworn in in July 1974.
Prominent decisions by Judge Werker included a 1981 ruling rejecting a petition by a National Labor Relations Board representative seeking a ruling that Major League Baseball owners had committed an unfair labor practice. If granted, the petition would have prevented the Major League Baseball Players Association from going on strike. Although Judge Werker's opinion ended by urging both sides to "PLAY BALL!", the decision was followed by a two-month work stoppage.
In intellectual property matters, Werker authored an opinion concerning contractual rights to produce films and television programs based on the character Hopalong Cassidy, and presided over a hearing in which heirs to the estate of Edgar Rice Burroughs, the creator of Tarzan, sought to enjoin release of Tarzan, the Ape Man, the 1981 motion picture based on the character, unless certain revealing footage of Bo Derek was cut.
In 1977, Judge Werker presided over the criminal trial of Leroy "Nicky" Barnes and many codefendants, eventually sentencing Barnes to life in prison. In that case, Judge Werker was the first judge to select an anonymous jury, a procedure that has become common in cases where there is a risk that the jury will be threatened or otherwise compromised.
In constitutional litigation, Werker was the trial judge in Fullilove v. Klutznick, a case that challenged the constitutionality of the 10% minority set-aside for federal construction contracts. Werker's ruling upholding the set-asides was affirmed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and the Supreme Court of the United States, although subsequent decisions have undermined the authority of the decision. Werker was one of the judges who adjudicated disputes concerning the validity of the 1980 United States Census. In 1983, Werker enjoined the enforcement of a rule proposed by the Reagan administration that would have required birth control clinics to advise parents when their minor children were prescribed contraceptives.
Werker died of cancer on May 10, 1984, at the age of 64.
- Silverman ex rel. Labor Board v. Major League Baseball Player Relations Committee, 516 F. Supp. 588 (S.D.N.Y. 1981).
- "Judge Bars Birth Control Rule for Minors", New York Times, Feb. 15, 1983
- "Henry F. Werker, Federal Judge, Dead at 64", New York Times, May 11, 1984, p. 19, col. 1.