Jacob D. Zeldes

ZELDES, JACOB D. "JACK" Jacob "Jack" D. Zeldes, husband, father, brother, lawyer, colleague, and friend extraordinaire, died peacefully at his home on September 18, 2013. He was 83 years old. The son of Louis Zeldes and Sophie Koren Zeldes, Jack was born and raised in Galesburg, Illinois. He was always immensely proud of his hometown. At the age of 14, he was hired by the local Galesburg newspaper, where he worked as a reporter throughout his high school years. At the age of 18, he hitchhiked from Galesburg to Philadelphia to attend the historic 1948 Democratic convention, where, using his Galesburg press credentials, he managed to get himself seated behind presidential candidate Harry S.Truman as he gave his Democratic nomination acceptance speech. Jack attended and graduated with academic honors from the "Great State" University of Wisconsin, where he was editor of the Daily Cardinal, the school's newspaper. He was forever proud of being a Badger. During his years at Wisconsin, he met the love of his life, Nancy Stein Zeldes, whom he married in 1953. After hitchhiking throughout Europe for 6 months, they lived briefly in New Haven and Bridgeport before settling in Fairfield, where they raised their three children. Upon graduation from Wisconsin, Jack entered the U.S. Navy and fought in the Korean War, serving aboard the USS Missouri. Jack was proud of his military service and had great respect for those who served in the military. Upon the completion of his military service, Jack followed in his big sister Jodie's footsteps and attended The Yale Law School. While he was a student, he became the head of the Public Defenders Program and began representing Harold Rogers, a convicted felon scheduled to be executed. Jack appealed the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, and in a 5-4 decision written by Judge Felix Frankfurter, won the appeal, saving Roger's life and setting new standards for forced confessions. Throughout his life, Jack had many ties with Yale Law School. He served on the school's Executive Committee, maintained close relationships with many of the school's faculty, and until his death was Secretary of his class, writing periodic updates about his classmates for the The Yale Law School Journal. He was a great supporter of, and worked closely with, the Arthur Liman Public Interest Program at Yale, which funds fellowships for students working to address inequality and to improve access to justice. Upon graduation from Yale, Jack received a clerkship from Federal Judge Robert Anderson, and then joined the Bridgeport law firm of Goldstein and Peck. Jack practiced law there until 1971, when he became the founding senior partner of Zeldes, Needle and Cooper, where he practiced for 42 years, until his death. During his 57 years of legal practice, Jack practiced law with the highest degree of professionalism, representing, with great skill, his many clients. Considered the "Dean" of the criminal bar, he was a brilliant, meticulously prepared, and skillful practitioner with an unblemished record of personal integrity. He was a beloved figure, admired by his colleagues in the legal profession, his adversaries in the courtroom, and judges in front of whom he practiced. He was a mentor to a great number of lawyers at his firm, many of whom became judges, U.S. Attorneys, and law school teachers. Jack was awarded the Connecticut Criminal Defense Lawyers Association Award, the Connecticut Law Tribune Honors for Service to the Profession, the Federal Practice Center Millennium Award, the Connecticut Bar Association Professionalism Award, and the Greater Bridgeport Bar Association Career Service Award. Jack was a gregarious man who showered his love, humor and compassion on his family and his wide circle of friends. He was hugely interested in the world, in history, in politics, in ideas. He loved to tell stories and to hear in detail about the lives of his family, especially his grandchildren, and those he was close with. Jack is survived by his beloved wife Nancy of 60 years, his children, Stephen Zeldes and his wife Judy Roth, Amy Zeldes and her partner Michael Kesten, Kiki Zeldes and her wife Susan Galereave, his four grandchildren Miko Zeldes-Roth, Tema Zeldes-Roth, Jesse Zeldes, and Jasmine Galereave, and his sister, Joan Zeldes Bernstein. His funeral will take place at Congregation B'nai Israel, 2700 Park Avenue, Bridgeport, Connecticut at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, September 22, 2013 with interment following at the Congregation B'nai Israel Cemetery, 190 Kings Highway East, Fairfield, Connecticut. Donations in his honor can be made to: The Jacob D. Zeldes Fund at the Yale Law School, P.O. Box 208341, New Haven, CT 06520.

Published in The New Haven Register on Sept. 21, 2013