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Theodore Jones, 68; judge on New York’s top court

THEODORE JONES
THEODORE JONESCredit: Paul Martinka/pool/2005

ALBANY, N.Y. — Judge Theodore T. Jones Jr., one of seven jurists on New York’s top court, has died at age 68.

Officials said Tuesday that Judge Jones apparently suffered a heart attack Monday at home in Rockland County. He became a state Supreme Court Justice in Brooklyn in 1990 and joined the Court of Appeals in 2007 after being nominated by Governor Eliot Spitzer.

Judge Jones was cochairman of the court’s task force on wrongful convictions, which recommended videotaping police interrogations, steps to prevent suggestive lineups for witnesses, and expanding defense access to DNA evidence.

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‘‘Judge Jones was a jurist of great talent, intellect, and compassion,’’ Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman said. ‘‘He was also the gentlest of men, with a wonderful sunny disposition, great warmth, and empathy for all.’’

Westchester District Attorney Janet DiFiore, who cochaired the task force, said members, who included defense lawyers, prosecutors, and judges, had divergent opinions. ‘‘The judge was brilliant in bringing people together, trying to find common ground to move forward and advance the work we were doing,’’ she said.

Judge Jones graduated from Hampton University in Virginia and joined the Army in 1967, serving in Vietnam and reaching the rank of captain. He graduated from St. John’s University School of Law in 1972. He worked at the Legal Aid Society, focusing on criminal defense work, and in private practice. He was elected twice to the state Supreme Court.

His best-known case was the New York City transit strike in 2005, where Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union defied his injunction and shut down the city’s subways and buses for 60 hours shortly before Christmas. He fined the union $1 million a day for violating the state’s Taylor Law that prohibits public employees from striking. He sent the union’s president, Roger Toussaint, to jail for four days for contempt of court.

Last November, he authored the Court of Appeals decision rejecting the challenge to state economic development grants brought by a taxpayer group affiliated with the Tea Party movement .

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