He was the judge who advocated freedom of the press, women's and minority rights. He was the "Jewish Kennedy." He was the...
King of the Mountain
The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of Chief Judge Sol Wachtler
John M. Caher
At one time, it was legal for a man to rape his wife, even if the couple were estranged. People who were obese could be turned down for employment because of their weight and appearance. The "right to die" was not always the decision of the patient.
One man -- New York Chief Judge Sol Wachtler -- and his court, changed all that.
The life and times of one of New York's greatest jurists is detailed in the heartwarming, and heartbreaking, King of the Mountain: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of Chief Judge Sol Wachtler (Prometheus Books, Amherst, NY, March 1998), a new biography by award-winning journalist John M. Caher.
State editor of the Albany Times Union, Caher expertly chronicles the life of the powerful man who stood for human rights, and examines the decisions that changed the way the law affects real people in intimate ways.
"Wachtler struck down the 'marital exemption' to rape. Prior to his court's decision, there was an exemption in the rape statute that essentially allowed a man to rape his wife, even a wife with whom he was estranged, with absolute impunity," Caher says.
"Wachtler declared the law unconstitutional and initiated a reform. Other Wachtler decisions broadened the human rights law to prohibit discrimination against obese people and provided women with a far stronger sword against gender bias. He wrote a passionate dissent when his court found nothing wrong with a prison guard openly displaying his affinity for the KKK. Long before it was socially acceptable to tolerate homosexuality, Wachtler publicly and gratefully accepted the endorsement of a gay rights group."
The achievements of Wachtler have been greatly overshadowed and forgotten due to his scandalous affair with socialite Joy Silverman, which led to the judge's subsequent arrest and imprisonment for harassment. The fascinating political and judicial career documented in King of the Mountain illuminates the successes and achievements of Wachtler, the ways the judge extended free speech rights; opened legal doors for women, minorities, and the handicapped, and authored landmark decisions on the right-to-die.
With Wachtler's full cooperation, Caher offers an objective look at the mind of the judge, exploring the psychology, closely examining and explaining -- without attempting to excuse -- the dark side that doomed Wachtler and toppled him from the mountain where he once reigned supreme.
King of the Mountain is a forthright picture of Wachtler's boyhood, his early years in law, his rise to the top of the powerful New York political machine, his appointment by Gov. Cuomo as the highest ranking judge on the most renowned state court in the nation, a possible political conspiracy to exploit Wachtler's crime, and the judge's obsessive and dangerous need to be loved and accepted. Caher illustrates Wachtler's impact on the national scene, through his judicial and administrative decisions, his role in shaping the court, and influencing other judges to follow his lead in ground-breaking, and often controversial cases.
More than a simple political biography, King of the Mountain explores the brilliant yet tormented mind of Wachtler; the illicit affair with Silverman; and Wachtler's private struggle with mental illness, misuse of prescription drugs, and morbid fears of brain tumors. Caher details the judge's ongoing crusade to rise from the ashes of disgrace and shame; redeem his reputation; and, once again, make a positive contribution to society.
JOHN M. CAHER (Troy, New York) is the state editor of the Albany Times Union. He has received four John Peter Zenger Awards from the New York State Bar Association, a Gavel Award from the American Bar Association, and the Eagle Award from the Hearst Corporation. The awards were given based on Caher's stories on juvenile justice, the Bill of Rights, DNA fingerprinting, continuing coverage of the Wachtler case and general excellence in reporting.
$26.95 Cloth - 425 pages with photo insert (ISBN 1-57392-197-1)
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Excerpt from the book