Friends Of Jack Zeldes Remember Him As Mentor To Many
Friends and colleagues of Jacob "Jack" D. Zeldes, founding senior partner of Zeldes, Needle and Cooper, remember him as a lover of the law and a respected mentor to many.
Zeldes, 83, who practiced at the Bridgeport firm for 42 years, died Sept. 18 at his home.
Michael Koskoff, of Bridgeport's Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, said Zeldes had a unique view of the law. "He not only respected it but he enjoyed it, not only for the vital role it played in protecting people's rights but for its craziness and quirkiness as well."
His clients included top political figures, the state legislature, judges, non-profit groups, business people and organized crime defendants like Francis "Fat Franny" Curcio, Koskoff said.
Koskoff said that for Zeldes, the law was an endless source of pleasure and mystery. "He was a packrat, storing away thousands of cases and relishing both the decisions and the stories behind the decisions. His endless curiosity caused him to delve both deeply and widely into the context of the cases, politically, historically and personally," Koskoff said. "We will miss this outstanding member of our community."
"By the time I came to the bar in 1966, Jack Zeldes already had established himself as a legal authority and hero of the criminal defense bar in Connecticut. Through his combination of supreme scholarship, dogged persistence, patient civility, and gentle sense of humor, the respect he earned extended both far and wide - from fellow defense lawyers - to prosecutors, and members of the judiciary alike. No one was immune from Jack's brilliance and charm."
Koskoff said that Zeldes was a good friend to his father, and then when Koskoff became a member of the bar, he became his friend and mentee. "At the time, Jack practiced at the firm of Goldstein and Peck, the powerhouse Bridgeport law firm," Koskoff said. "When we learned that Jack left the Goldstein firm to form Zeldes, Needle and Cooper, we gave them some of our old desks, chairs, and a "thermofax machine" - a next to useless early generation copier - to help them get going. They built their new firm from there into one of the most respected firms in the state."
In an upcoming editorial in the Law Tribune, Zeldes is described as being "the best among us."
"When Jack Zeldes walked into the room, things seemed to brighten up. Even if you were his opponent, Jack's mere presence was in and of itself enough to raise the occasion. Judges respected him and his colleagues loved him. His passing has brought sadness to Connecticut's legal profession. He was, purely and simply, the best among us," the editorial states. "In 1971, Jack became one of the original founders of the distinguished firm of Zeldes, Needle and Cooper in Bridgeport. He was the firm's guiding force, establishing the highest standards of professional skills and ethics. Under his leadership, ZNC quickly became one of Connecticut's leading litigation firms. In 1983, he was chosen by the Connecticut House of Representatives to represent the Select Committee in the first impeachment proceeding ever to have been initiated against a Connecticut judge. Jack's reputation for integrity caused him to be chosen as the lead plaintiff in Jacob D. Zeldes, et al v. M. Jodi Rell, et al, a 2009 class action lawsuit that led to Governor Rell's abandonment of an attempt to seize $2 million from the Client Security Fund and transfer it to the General Fund."