By Nathan Mayberg
|WOODBOURNE August 17, 2004 Famed Sullivan County District Attorney, World War II veteran, Sullivan County Judge and Surrogate Louis B. Scheinman was immortalized on Sunday when a park in Woodbourne was named in his honor.
The Woodbourne Action Committee dedicated the park to the late county resident, who once successfully tried a case in front of the United States Supreme Court as a private lawyer. (And as District Attorney, his prosecutions included homicides and mobsters.)
Several dignitaries showered Scheinman with praise Sunday, including Judge Anthony Kane, former New York State Assemblyman Richard Coombe, Town of Fallsburg Justice Ivan Kalter and Sullivan County Clerk George Cooke, who presided over the ceremony.
United States Congressman Maurice Hinchey and New York State Senator John Bonacic sent letters of appreciation for his service.
Kalter, who once worked with Scheinman, had some of the fondest memories of him.
Lou loved people, he said.
Scheinmans attitude was that if you were nice to people, they would be nice to you. . . . Lou was an optimist, said Kalter.
Compassionate was how Coombe described his mentor.
Scheinman was also courageous. A longtime firefighter, he served with the United States Army from 1943 to 1946. He volunteered with the Office of Strategic Services and passed the written test. The OSS, which would later morph into the Central Intelligence Agency, did not believe Scheinmans Yiddish accent would be a good fit for their intelligence gathering work on the Nazis. Instead, he was assigned to decrypting the Japanese code.
Scheinman later revealed to his family some of the illustrious stories he encountered as a cipher. His son, Steven, recalled one incident when his father helped break a code detailing the Japanese use of a medical ship as an actual military ship. The U.S. military bombed the boat but apologized to the Japanese, so as not to give away the Americans upper hand. The military went so far as to demote the captain who ordered the strike so that the Japanese did not catch on.
Louis Scheinmans wife Carla was one of the first to learn of the Japanese surrender in August 1945, because Scheinman caught the message between the Japanese and a neutral ambassador, which included their intention to surrender the war unconditionally. According to Steve, when his mother learned of the news, she didnt believe it.
[President Harry] Truman has not announced it yet, she said.
Truman doesnt know it yet, he replied.
Born in Greenfield Park in Ulster County in 1922, Scheinman attended a one-room schoolhouse. He eventually graduated from Ellenville High School in 1939. He then made his way to the University of Kentucky, where he graduated in 1943. He earned his law degree from New York University of Law in 1948.
Upon his graduation, he practiced out of a firm in Ellenville. After about three years, he started his own successful practice in Woodbourne.
It was during that time that Scheinman was called upon to represent a landowner whose home was flooded when New York City began to divert a portion of the Neversink River for its new reservoir.
His clients case was rebuffed in State Court. However, the United States Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice Earl Warren, heard the case and rendered a unanimous decision in favor of the plaintiff in Schroeder versus the City of New York. The ruling has since been cited in over 15 U.S. Supreme Court cases.
His son Steve went with him on that trip to Washington D.C. He described his feelings of awe as he watched his father argue in front of the highest court in the land. Steve particularly recalled the big gray manes of hair of justices Earl Warren and Arthur Goldberg.
As Sullivan County District Attorney from 1968 to 1974, Scheinmans prosecutions included a mob hit recalled by Kalter, who worked alongside him. Scheinman subpoenaed a mob boss for a killing in Sullivan County allegedly hatched in a club in New York City under his approval. The DA called upon the boss to testify. When he refused, Scheinman moved to have him in contempt of court. The boss was jailed.
He served as Family Court Judge from 1974 to 1976. In 1976, he ran unopposed for the seat of County Court Judge and Surrogate, where he remained until his death in 1983.
During his tenure, Scheinman etched his place in the countys history books for presding over the trial of Richard Krom, who was convicted of murdering Trudy Farber, the daughter of industrialist Harry Resnick.
He also was the judge in the case of alleged mobster Harold Kayo Konigsberg for the murder of a New Jersey Teamsters boss.
Kalter called Scheinman the big brother to me that I never had.
Ceil Cohen of the Woodbourne Action Committee helped organize the ceremony. The group was instrumental in building the park, along with a grant from Bonacic. The memorial sign was donated by Anthony and Veronica Perito.
Cohen thanked Alan and Sandra Gerry, who she said her group was indebted to . . . for their efforts to beautify the county.
Town of Fallsburg Supervisor Steven Levine called the dedication beautiful. They gave it to the right person.
Steven Schienman said his family is overwhelmed by the outpouring of the community.