Simon H. Rifkind
Born in Lithuania, Rifkind emigrated to the United States in 1910. He attended DeWitt Clinton High School, and received a B.S. from City College of New York in 1922 and an LL.B. from Columbia Law School in 1925.
From 1927 to 1933, he was legislative secretary to Senator Robert F. Wagner, in which capacity he helped create important aspects of New Deal legislation including Section 7(a) of the National Industrial Recovery Act. He was partner at Wagner, Quillinan & Rifkind from 1930 to 1941. Rifkind was nominated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on April 25, 1941, to become a Federal District Court judge for the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, filling the seat vacated by Robert P. Patterson, Sr.. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on June 3, 1941, and received his commission on June 6, 1941.
In 1945, Rifkind took a leave of absence from the bench to serve as adviser on Jewish affairs to the Theatre Commander of United States forces in Europe, helping the U.S. Army aid Holocaust survivors in the wake of World War II. Rifkind resigned from the bench in 1950, and until his death in 1995 served as a litigation partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP. Over the course of his tenure he came to be seen as the guiding spirit of the firm.
Rifkind's work as a lawyer covered a vast range of matters affecting American political, social and economic life. He was appointed by the United States Supreme Court to sort out the rival claims of various western states to the Colorado River, was tapped by President John F. Kennedy to investigate railroad labor issues, and helped create (and later served as General Counsel of) the Mutual Assistance Corporation for New York City during New York's bankruptcy crisis in the 1970s.
Rifkind represented a number of famous clients in high-profile court cases. He worked for Jacqueline Kennedy, United States Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas in a U.S. House of Representatives impeachment inquiry, and represented Madame Chiang Kai-shek in a defamation suit. In less glamorous, but equally important cases, Rifkind represented a wide variety of corporations, including General Motors Corporation and Pennzoil.
United States Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas called Rifkind "the most outstanding advocate of all" the lawyers who appeared before the Court between 1939 and 1975.
Pace, Eric (November 15, 1995). "Simon Rifkind, Celebrated Lawyer, Dies at 94". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-04-10.
Brooks, John (May 23, 1983). "Advocate". The New Yorker.
- Simon H. Rifkind at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a public domain publication of the Federal Judicial Center.
- Paul, Weiss homepage
- Paul, Weiss firm principles, penned by Simon H. Rifkind
- City College of New York City center named for Rifkind
- A Lawyer's Credo, by Simon H. Rifkind