The Court would like to balance the scales

In November of 2010, upon realising that the forthcoming birth of his grandchild would probably occur midway through the mortgage-fraud trial on which he was working, Manhattan defence attorney Bennett Epstein wrote the following letter to the judge presiding over the case, Kimba Wood. The reason? To apply for a recess mid-trial so that, should said newborn be a boy, Epstein would be able to attend his grandson’s circumcision ceremony (known as the bris.)

Judge Wood agreed to his request, but on one condition. Her handwritten response can be seen at the foot of the letter.

Transcript follows. For those wondering, a boy was born.



NEW YORK, N.Y. 10013
(212) 684-1230

via fax (212) 805-7900

November 17, 2010

Hon. Kimba M. Wood
United States District Judge
Southern District of New York
U.S. Courthouse
500 Pearl Street
New York, NY 10007

Re: United States v. Lacey, et al.
09 Cr. 507 (KMW)

Dear Judge Wood:

I represent Mark Barnett in the above matter, which is scheduled for trial beginning November 29th.

Please consider this letter as an application in limine for a brief recess in the middle of the trial on the grounds known (perhaps not now, but hereafter) as a “writ of possible simcha¹“.

The facts are as follows: My beautiful daughter, Eva, married and with a doctorate no less, and her husband, Ira Greenberg (we like him, too) live in Philadelphia and are expecting their first child on December 3rd, tfu tfu tfu². They do not know whether it will be a boy or a girl, although from the oval shape of Eva’s tummy, many of the friends and family are betting male (which I think is a mere bubbameiseh³ but secretly hope is true).

Should the child be a girl, not much will happen in the way of public celebration. Some may even be disappointed, but will do their best to conceal this by saying, “as long as it’s a healthy baby”. My wife will run to Philly immediately, but I will probably be able wait until the next weekend. There will be happiness, though muted, and this application will be mooted as well.

However, should the baby be a boy, then hoo hah!⁴ Hordes of friends and family will arrive from around the globe and descend on Philadelphia for the joyous celebration mandated by the halacha⁵ to take place during daylight hours on the eighth day, known as the bris⁶. The eighth day after December 3rd could be right in the middle of the trial. My presence at the bris is not strictly commanded, although my absence will never be forgotten by those that matter.

So please consider this an application for maybe, tfu tfu tfu, a day off during the trial, if the foregoing occurs on a weekday. I will let the Court (and the rest of the world) know as soon as I do, and promise to bring pictures.

Very truly yours,


Bennett M. Epstein

cc. All counsel

¹ Yiddish (and Hebrew) for “celebration of a happy event”.
² Another Yiddishism, found in other cultures as well, that requires we spit to ward off the “evil eye” when discussing an upcoming simcha.
³ As you may have already guessed, Yiddish for “old wive’s tale”. A “mere bubbameiseh” is somewhat less reliable.
⁴ Yiddish for “a big fuss”.
⁵ Jewish law (citation omitted).
⁶ Hebrew for “covenant”, for the Covenant of Abraham, i.e. ritual circumcision, joyous to everyone except, apparently, the baby.

Judge Wood’s handwritten response:

Mr. Epstein will be permitted to attend the bris, in the joyous event that a son is born. But the Court would like to balance the scales. If a daughter is born, there will be a public celebration in Court, with readings from poetry celebrating girls and women.