Federal Judge Steps Down to Join Law Firm

Federal Judge Steps Down to Join Law Firm

Barbara S. Jones, a federal judge and a former prosecutor, is stepping down from the bench to join the law firm Zuckerman Spaeder.

In an interview, Ms. Jones, of Federal District Court in Manhattan, said that her last day as judge was Friday and that she would start at Zuckerman Spaeder later this month.

“I’ve been in public service for more than 40 years, the last 17 on the bench,” Judge Jones said. “I’m ready to try something new.”

Judge Jones, 65, has never worked in a law firm, not even during a summer internship. A graduate of Temple University’s law school, she spent the first half of her career as a prosecutor in three offices — the Justice Department’s organized crime strike force, the United States attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York and the Manhattan district attorney’s office. President Bill Clinton, acting on the recommendation of Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, nominated her for a judgeship in 1995.

She presided over a wide range of cases, including the 2005 trial of Bernard J. Ebbers, the former chief executive of WorldCom, and the 1997 trial of Autumn Jackson, a woman who tried to extort millions of dollars from the entertainer Bill Cosby. Both resulted in convictions.

Judge Jones also heard the Justice Department’s lawsuit against Visa and MasterCard, finding that the companies had violated antitrust laws.

While some defense lawyers viewed the former prosecutor as pro-government, many more said that she had been evenhanded in her rulings. In November, she meted out relatively lenient sentences to three men from Mali who had pleaded guilty to terrorism charges that involved a conspiracy supporting Al Qaeda. Justifying her sentence, she noted that the men had been driven by financial motives and difficult family circumstances rather than ideology.

“Barbara is smart, dedicated and understands both the letter and objectives of the law,” said Mary Jo White, a former United States attorney in Manhattan and now a partner at Debevoise & Plimpton. “She also understands people and brings real humanity to everything she does.”

In Zuckerman Spaeder, Ms. Jones joins a law firm that has expanded its Manhattan office over the last year. A litigation boutique with headquarters in Washington, the firm recently hired three prominent lawyers for its New York presence: Steven M. Cohen, a former top aide to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo; Andrew E. Tomback, a former partner at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy; and Paul Shechtman, a criminal defense lawyer who, as a young prosecutor, was supervised by Ms. Jones.

The firm has about 90 lawyers and is known for its criminal defense work. William W. Taylor III, a partner in the firm’s Washington office, was part of the team that successfully defended Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund, against charges that he had sexually assaulted a hotel maid.

“Being able to attract a lawyer like Judge Jones validates what we have been doing since we relaunched the New York office,” Mr. Cohen said.

On the bench, Judge Jones was known for her efficiency, low-key manner and wry sense of humor. She is also a very popular figure around the federal courthouse, partly because of the blowout holiday party that she throws almost every year for the entire building. Judge Jones hosted her final party two weeks ago, where she could be seen dancing amid the security guards and court reporters and wearing a Santa hat emblazoned with the logo of her beloved New York Yankees.

“I’ve always been awed by the power and responsibility that comes with being a judge and don’t expect to have that ever again,” Ms. Jones said. “But I’ve never been a private citizen and am excited to go out into the world.”


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