Hon. Leonard L. Finz
(8/17/1924 – 2/1/2023)
Honorable Leonard L. Finz founded the firm in 1984. He is a former New York State Supreme Court Justice and a top-ranked trial lawyer with the highest ratings for legal ability and ethics, having earned a reputation as a master trial advocate in the courtroom. He has achieved the highest legal rating of “Preeminence” in addition to being peer-reviewed as “One of America’s Preeminent Lawyers.”
Judge Finz was born in a walk-up tenement in the Lower East Side of Manhattan in 1924 to immigrant parents and attended elementary school in Brooklyn where he trained in music and voice during the Great Depression. Although a distant two hours from his residence, Judge Finz applied and was accepted as a gifted music student into the High School of Music & Art in upper Manhattan (relocated to Lincoln Center and merged with the School for Performing Arts under the umbrella of the “Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts”). After becoming first clarinetist in the prized school symphony orchestra and leader of its jazz band, he was drafted into the U.S. Army at the age of 18 during WWII.
Completing basic training, his talent led to his dispatch to Special Services as a producer, director, and performer of shows he created for thousands of soldiers on the base. A lead article in the military press headlined Judge Finz as “Born of Talent.” Thereafter, he was assigned to the U.S. Army Band as a saxophone and clarinet specialist. Although he could have remained stateside in a cushy band role throughout the war, Judge Finz stated, “I didn’t want to play the sax on parade grounds while combat soldiers were dying in battle for our country.” Thus, he applied to the field artillery Officers Candidate School (OCS), passed test requirements, and was accepted as a candidate. One hundred candidates started in the class, most of whom were Sergeants coming from European and Pacific battlefields. Judge Finz was but a Private First-Class, the second lowest rank in the U.S. Army, who came not from the horrors of war, but from the cozy life of a United States Army band musician.
After four months of a grueling West Point-like course, only 32 graduated, Judge Finz being one of them, the other 68 dropped for various reasons. Being commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the Field Artillery was, as Judge Finz stated (except for his late wife of 68 years, children, and grandchildren), “the greatest day of my life.” Trained in beach landings, he boarded a troop ship heading for Okinawa and assigned to the first wave attack force upon the Japanese mainland where 400,000 Japanese were dug-in with Kamikaze aircraft support. Within days of the planned U.S. attack, atomic bombs were dropped and Japan surrendered. He was then shipped to Leyte, Philippines, and ordered into the office of his commanding officer, a full Colonel, who told him that more than 50 GI’s were prisoners in the stockade waiting for months to be court-martialed for various crimes. Since no Judge Advocate General (JAG) lawyers were on the island, the commanding officer wanted to assign Judge Finz to the elite JAG branch (made up of college and law school graduates licensed to practice law) with the title of “Defense Counsel” to defend the GI prisoners at individual court martial trials. Despite informing his commanding officer that he never went beyond high school, the commanding officer pressed that he observed how Judge Finz interacted with others, that he read his personnel file, stressing he could do the job “since you’re a damn good officer.” There were dangers the commanding officer warned: Japanese snipers who refused to surrender were hiding in jungle caves, and Judge Finz would have to snake through jungle areas to locate witnesses in remote villages while driving in an open jeep armed only with a .45 caliber sidearm. Judge Finz (although only age 20) accepted the mission and within six months defended every accused GI successfully. Further, archive research establishes that he was the only one out of 16 million Americans in uniform during WWII to have ever been assigned to JAG as Defense Counsel with only a high school diploma. For such “Distinguished,” “Meritorious” and “Outstanding” service, Judge Finz was decorated with the coveted Army Commendation Medal at a formal flag and rifle ceremony held at the WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C. by order of the Secretary of the Army. Most recently, Judge Finz was inducted into the prestigious U.S. Army Artillery OCS Hall of Fame. He was also presented with the American flag that was flown in his honor for one full day atop the Capitol of the United States, in addition to being pinned with a half-dozen other military medals. As further recognition of his extraordinary military service during WWII, Judge Finz has been honored by having his military biography filed as a permanent record with the United States Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., which has now been archived and enshrined there for eternity.
Promoted to 1st Lieutenant and discharged in 1946 after almost four years of active duty, he used the GI Bill to earn a Bachelor of Arts and law degree from New York University (NYU), where he was elected president of the entire law student body. On the lighter side, he returned to entertainment as a singer and songwriter under contract with Music Corp. of America (MCA), then the largest theatrical agency in the world, later the forerunner of Universal and Comcast. As vocalist, he recorded many songs under the stage name “Lennie Forrest,” some recordings of which were charted by Billboard and Cash Box critics as “picks,” thus propelling him on a national tour to many TV, radio, and nightclub venues throughout the United States, where he also performed with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. In addition, Judge Finz auditioned for the lead Hollywood role in the remake of “The Jazz Singer,” which came down to two choices, Danny Thomas and Lennie Forrest. Thomas ultimately got the role. Judge Finz was also cast on the NBC soap opera “Another World.”
Returning to law, he was active in politics. Judge Finz ran for the New York State Senate, United States Congress and was appointed Queens County campaign chairman for John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kenney, Lyndon B. Johnson and others. He was elected the youngest New York City Civil Court Judge at the time, and later elected a New York State Supreme Court Justice. Leaving the bench, he became a partner in the firm of his former law professor. A top-tier trial lawyer, Judge Finz won record settlements and verdicts in Brooklyn, Queens, Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Rockland, Schenectady, Albany, Syracuse, and other areas of New York State, in addition to New Haven, Hartford and other jurisdictions. In all, he won countless millions of dollars for his clients.
As a former Queens College professor, he taught courses in “Business Law” and “Law in Response to Social Change.” As a law school professor at New York Law School, he taught courses in “Trial Advocacy” and “Law and Medicine.” He also served as a faculty member of The National Judicial College in Reno, Nevada, where he taught courses on “Medical Malpractice” and “Tactics in the Courtroom.” Judge Finz has also received many awards as an honoree of charitable, civic, professional, political, fraternal, veterans, religious, and other organizations. A prolific writer, Judge Finz has written many articles that have been published in a host of publications. He has written on such subjects as “Aiming for the Million Dollar Verdict,” “Justice for DES Victims,” “The Expert Witness in Medical Malpractice Litigation,” “Accident Reconstruction – An Art and Challenge,” “Art of the Opening Statement,” “Summation – The Fire Power of Words,” “The High-Low Contract – Where Both Sides Win” (the creation of the high-low contract by Judge Finz is still utilized in many forms throughout the state and national court system), and more.
In addition, Judge Finz has authored four published thriller novels (and is working on his fifth). He continues to make YouTube videos on numerous aspects of the law. Each day at Finz & Finz, P.C., he confers with the firm’s trial lawyers and staff on legal issues and courtroom strategy and offers advice on the prosecution of medical malpractice and personal injury cases. Judge Finz is also a motivational speaker with energy that has no limits and defies his age.
With his extraordinary background and career achievements, Judge Finz is regarded as a living legend who is professionally and affectionately admired as a preeminent legal scholar.
- New York
- United States Supreme Court
- U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York
- U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York
- U.S. District Court, Northern District of New York
- New York University
- Bachelor of Arts (BA), History and English
- New York University School of Law
- Bachelor of Laws (LLB)
- Practicing Law Institute, “Advanced Trial Advocacy”
- National Judicial College, Reno, Nevada
- Officers Candidate School (OCS), Field Artillery, Ft. Sill, Oklahoma
Professional Associations, Memberships and Honors
- Peer-reviewed “One of America’s Preeminent Lawyers,” Martindale-Hubble
- Peer-reviewed “Preeminence,” Martindale-Hubble
- President of Student Body, New York University School of Law
- Moot Court Honor Society, New York University School of Law
- Adjunct Professor of Law, New York Law School
- Adjunct Professor of Law, Queens College, City University of New York
- Appointed as faculty member of the National Judicial College, Reno, Nevada
- Founder, Brandeis Association, Queens County, New York
Military Service, Honors and Awards
- Military Service
- Private, U.S. Army, WWII, drafted at age 18
- 2nd Lieutenant, Field Artillery
- Commissioned upon graduation from Officers Candidate School (OCS), Ft. Sill, Oklahoma
- 1st Lieutenant, Field Artillery
- Promoted in Leyte, Philippines, Pacific War Zone
- Military Honors and Awards
- Army Commendation Medal
- Awarded at Flag & Rifle Ceremony held at the WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C., by order of the Secretary of the Army
- Presented with the American Flag
- Flown atop the U.S. Capitol in Judge Finz’s honor following a formal ceremony at the WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C.
- Appointed to the Judge Advocate General Division (JAG) as “Defense Counsel,” although only a high school graduate
- Inducted into the U.S. Army Artillery OCS “Hall of Fame”
- Enshrined at the United States Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
- Listed in the Honor Roll at the National World War II Museum, New Orleans, Louisiana
- Honoree on Pearl Harbor Day (December 7, 2019) at the American Air Power Museum, Farmingdale, New York
- Army Commendation Medal