Vincent L. Broderick

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Vincent Lyons Broderick (April 26, 1920 – March 3, 1995) was a federal judge for the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.


Judge Vincent L. Broderick, a senior judge of the Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York, served as New York City Police Commissioner during a tumultuous period of transition. In the eight months after he was appointed Police Commissioner by Mayor Robert F. Wagner in May 1965, Broderick led the police force through the blackout that blanketed the Northeast, through the biggest transit strike in the city's history, through the first visit to New York by a Pope, Paul VI, and through a conflict with Mayor John V. Lindsay over the creation of a civilian board to review complaints against the police.

Lean, calm and reflective, the pipe-smoking Judge Broderick was a relative rarity in the ranks of commissioners -- a man who had never walked a beat. But he came from a background in law, law enforcement and public service, having been deputy police commissioner in charge of legal matters and, at the time of his appointment as head of the 27,000-member force at the age of 45, the chief assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York.


"It's a problem job," he said when Mayor Wagner named him to fill the unexpired term of Michael J. Murphy. "It always has been a problem job, and it always will be. But I think I have the capacity to handle it."

Commissioner Broderick wasted no time making clear where he stood. In his first major appointment after assuming office, he named a black captain, Eldridge Waith, to command the 32d Precinct in Harlem. Two weeks later, at a time of racial tensions throughout the country, Judge Broderick issued a warning at a police officers' promotion ceremony:

"If you will tolerate in your men one attitude toward a white citizen who speaks English, and a different attitude toward another citizen who is a Negro or speaks Spanish -- get out right now. You don't belong in a command position.

"If you will tolerate physical abuse by your men of any citizen -- get out right now. You don't belong in a command position.

"If you do not realize the incendiary potential in a racial slur, if you will tolerate from your men the racial slur -- get out right now."

In that same speech, Judge Broderick made clear where he stood on the subject that prompted Mayor Lindsay to deny him reappointment the following February: he opposed a civilian review of the police. Recalling testimony he had just given the City Council, he said, "I opposed it on the ground that we have civilian control of the Police Department; that we have civilian review of citizens' complaints; that outside review would dilute the quantum and quality of discipline within the department, and that outside review would impair the effectiveness of the police officer in coping with crime on the streets."

On leaving the Police Department, Judge Broderick, a Democrat, returned to the private practice of law until 1976, when he was appointed to the Federal bench by President Gerald R. Ford, a Republican.

As a senior judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District, he remained active until shortly before his death in March 1995. He presided over one of the longest criminal trials in the Federal courts, an organized-crime racketeering case that lasted more than 18 months. And, in a ruling sustained by the United States Supreme Court that resulted in new hiring practices by governments, he held for the first time that political considerations had no place in selecting personnel for nonpolitical government jobs.

From 1990 to 1993, he was chairman of the criminal law committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States, the policy-making arm of the Federal judiciary, a position from which he led a fight to permit judicial flexibility in sentencing. In 1993, he told a House subcommittee that an inherent vice of mandatory minimum sentences is that they are designed for the most culpable criminal, but that they capture many who are considerably less culpable and who, on any test of fairness, justice and proportionality, would not be ensnared." The 1994 crime bill incorporated his view by permitting departures from the mandatory guidelines.

Judge Broderick's father, Joseph, was Superintendent of Banks for New York State and a governor of the Federal Reserve Board. His brother Francis was a chancellor of the University of Massachusetts in Boston.

Judge Broderick, who grew up in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan, graduated from Princeton in 1941, began studies at Harvard Law School and then enlisted in the Army. As a member of the amphibious engineers he served in New Guinea, the Philippines and postwar Japan before leaving service with the rank of captain to resume his studies at Harvard. He graduated in 1948.

For the next six years, Judge Broderick practiced with the Wall Street firm of Hatch, Root & Barrett. Then he was chosen for the job of deputy commissioner for legal matters, leaving after two years to become general counsel of the National Association of Investment Companies.

In 1961, Robert M. Morgenthau, then the United States Attorney for the Southern District, named him chief assistant, and he served as acting United States Attorney in 1962, when Mr. Morgenthau ran unsuccessfully for governor against Nelson A. Rockefeller.


Broderick, a native of New York City, received an A.B. from Princeton University in 1941 and an LL.B. from Harvard Law School in 1948. He was in the United States Army Corps of Engineers from 1942 to 1946. He was in private practice of law in New York City for many years, and worked in the New York City Police Department and as an assistant United States attorney. He served briefly as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York in 1962, and was the Police commissioner of the City of New York from 1965 to 1966.

He was nominated to the court by Gerald Ford on August 26, 1976, to a seat vacated by Harold R. Tyler, Jr., confirmed by the Senate on September 23, 1976, and received his commission on October 4, 1976. He assumed senior status on December 1, 1988. He died on March 3, 1995, in Needham, Massachusetts.

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