Student Work: Luis Valbuena and Robert Morgenthau

Luis Valbuena by David Ramdass

luis valbuena

Luis Valbuena – Image from Wikipedia


David Ramdass

Luis Valbuena was a popular Venezuelan baseball player who recently died in December. Luis was born in Venezuela in 1985 where he started his baseball career as a youth. He was part of a local baseball league where he developed the necessary skills and learned the game of the baseball from his peers and family members. Luis has played with numerous Major League Baseball teams and is widely recognized throughout the baseball community. He started his career in the Major Leagues back in 2005 and has been traded to many other teams in his short career. He has played with major teams such as the Cleveland Indians, Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Angels.

Luis was a first, second and third baseman but positions frequently shifted from team to team. He wasn’t the best player but an average player according to statistics. Throughout his career he struggled with running and was labeled as the slowest base runner at one point in his career. His career with the Major Leagues ended in August 2018 where he was released by the Los Angeles Angels and became a free agent.

Unfortunately, Luis was killed in December while he visiting his country of Venezuela. He was accompanied by his good friend Jose Castillo who was also a Major League Baseball player. Jose has also played with numerous Major League teams and was released as a free agent as well. Both players were killed in an ambush attempted by robbers in Yaracuy, a state in Venezuela. The driver of the vehicle tried getting away but stuck a rock and overturned the vehicle killing both Luis and Jose. Due to the unfortunate event, Luis was only 33 years old at the time of death. Jose was 37. Both players were relatively young and still had a bright future ahead of them.


Robert Morgenthau by Ronald Joseph


Robert Morganthau with author’s sister.


Ronald Joespth

Robert Joseph



Born:                   July 31, 1919

Deceased:           July 21, 2019

Age:                    99 years

Cause of death: Brief unspecified illness / Lenox Hill Hospital, NY, NY



Wife:               Lucida Franks (2nd) (2 children) (Wedded 1977) Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist                                 Martha Pattridge (1st) (5 children) (Deceased 1972)

Daughters:      Jenny Morgenthau, Anne Morgenthau Grand, Elinor Morgenthau, Barbara Morgenthau Lee, Amy Elinor Morgenthau

Sons:               Robert P. Morgenthau, Joshua Franks Morgenthau

Grands:           Six (6)

Great-grands:  Three (3)



Grandfather:   Henry Morgenthau Sr., WWI US Ambassador to Ottoman Empire, (Turkey);                       real estate tycoon

Father:             Henry Morgenthau Jr., US Treasury Secretary 1934 – 1945 (Theodore Roosevelt administration)

Mother:           Elinor Fatman, Niece of NYS Governor / US Senator Herbert H. Lehman,

As the Decedent’s lineage may suggest, he originates from an affluent, politically well-connected family. This is further demonstrated by his close relationship to the Kennedys. Although I was unable to locate the monetary value of Decedent’s estate, there is a presumption that it may be one of inordinate value.

Of consequence is Decedent’s two (2) marriages, both of which resulted in children (5 from the 1st, 2 from the 2nd); which may suggest the possibility of complex probate proceedings; including a contested will.  Decedent’s will is unavailable at present.

Decedent married Martha Pattridge in 1943, who bore 5 Children for Decedent, and herself became deceased in1972.  Decedent subsequently wedded Lucinda Franks in 1977, who bore 2 additional children for Decedent, and currently survives Decedent.


Decedent, while enrolled in the Navy Reserves, earned a Political Science degree from Amherst College in 1941; where he exhibited exceptional academic aptitude.  Subsequent to graduation, Decedent transitioned to active duty as an Ensign in the U.S. Navy, and commenced a decorated Naval career.  During World War II Decedent survived several enemy attacks, and on April 20, 1944, the sinking of the Navy Destroyer U.S.S. Lansdale.  Decedent, now a Lieutenant, suffered injuries; yet exhibited exemplary valor when he assisted several shipmates to safety by swimming for 3 hours in the dead of night until rescued. Decedent’s acts of heroism resulted in the awarding of the Bronze Star for bravery-under-fire; but unknow to most, that incident would play a far more pivotal role in his life.   In a 2009 interview with the New York Times, Decedent stated: “I was swimming around without a life jacket,” …

“I made a number of promises to the Almighty, at a time when I didn’t have much bargaining power.” … “That I would try to do something useful with my life.”

This promise, I suspect, was a driving factor in molding Decedent’s career path for years to come.  After the War, Decedent enrolled in Yale Law School, where he graduated in 1948, and commenced his promise to “do something useful” with his life.


Subsequent to graduating Yale, Decedent obtained a position as the Assistant to the Senior Partner of Patterson, Belknap & Webb, who was killed in a plane crash in 1952.  As fate would have it, Decedent who almost always traveled with Paterson, elected to remain at home in order to prepare a brief.  Decedent left the firm in 1961, when he became the chairman of Bronx Citizens for Kennedy (John F.), Decedent’s close ties to the Kennedy family led to an appointment as a U.S. Attorney in 1961.  During Decedent’s tenure, spotted with two (2) failed attempts at a run for Governor of New York in 1962 and 1970, he developed a record of convicting mob bosses and high-level white-collar offenders.  Decedent’s belief that: “If government is to be perceived as fair, it has to prosecute both drug dealers and white-collar criminals.” would be a hallmark of his career.  In 1975 Decedent won a special election for New York District Attorney.  There he would be elected to nine (9) consecutive terms, and served from Jan 1975 to Dec 2009; 3 years longer than the incumbent whom he replaced.




Decedent was the longest serving New York District Attorney, 35 years, garnering him the name, “America’s D.A.” by the ABA Journal in 2010.  Law and Order, the television series, was alleged to have based DA Adam Schiff’s character upon New York’s illustrious DA.

Decedent understood the importance of the administrative aspect of the D.A.’s office and pioneered several innovative changes that brought efficiency and increased conviction rates to an organization in disarray. The innovations included the office’s first Sex Crimes Units.  Decedent supervised and was heavily criticized for the controversial Tricia Meili, Central Park Five (5) convictions; and equally so for his 2002 acquittal based on DNA evidence and confession of the actual perpetrator. Notable persons under his tutelage included Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonya Sotomayor, and NYS Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. Some less notable influences include Alison Alexander, PhD, featured in the photo on the cover page, who was employed as an Executive Assistant in Decedent’s office during the 90’s.  Although working behind the scenes, Mrs. Alexander interacted with Decedent on almost a daily basis. Having done so, Alexander capitalized on the opportunity to learn from the “legal genius;” which catapulted her to the title of Principal, NYC Board of Education, and her doctorate.


Decedent retired in 2009; yet continued to “do something useful” with his life.  Up to his death, Decedent engaged in pro bono work, advocated for war veterans, and immigration and gun reform. With such polarizing positions, people either loved or hated Decedent.  During my adolescent years I recall not being very fond of Decedent, who for young men of color represented a staunch ally of the NYC Police Department; both embattled with a number of high profile racially charged cases including the 1983 death of graffiti artist Michael Stewart while in police custody, in addition to the 1984 subway shooting of four (4) Black males by Bernard Goetz.    On the opposite end of the spectrum, were people who considered themselves to be under siege by young males of color, and therefore loved Decedent for his alleged unrelenting quest for convictions.  Years later, I have come to understand Decedent as a man who was tough on crime, when necessary, while still being guided by a strong moral compass. Decedent may not have been motivated by an overzealous quest for convictions as I previously suspected, but rather by concern for the safety of all inhabitants of New York City, including myself.  They say time heals all wounds; for me, time has brought a greater understanding of a man I may have been proud to have referred to as my FRIEND.  In an August 29, 2019 interview,  Dr. Alexander stated it quite poignantly: “He was a fair man, he would often go out of his way to help you, but if you messed up … lookout.”  As a pro se litigant with very little resources in S.D.N.Y. during the 1990’s, I recall seeking permission to conduct research at the D.A. office’s law library; to which, I was never denied access.  In a far-removed manner, even I benefitted intellectually as a result of Mr. Morgenthaus’s quest for justice; for that I am forever grateful.


Telephone interview with, Dr. Alison Alexander, Principal, N.Y.C. Bd. of Educ., (Aug. 29, 2019)

Laurence I. Barrett, Robert Morgenthau, bane of rogue banks and scofflaws, dies at 99, Wash. Post, Jul. 22, 2019, available at,

Robert D McFadden,  Robert Morgenthau, Longtime Manhattan District Attorney, Dies at 99, N.Y. Times, Jul. 21, 2019, available at.


















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