Martin T. Manton was a corrupt federal appeals court judge in New York who was convicted in 1939 and sent to prison. At the time, this was a hugely important story: Manton was considered the highest-ranking judge in the United States after the nine Justices of the Supreme Court, and was nearly appointed to that august body in 1922. Yet his story has never been told in book-length form before, and never with the benefit of such exhaustive research. More than just a biography, Justice for Sale examines Manton’s misconduct in the context of the culture of corruption and organized crime that permeated New York City in the first part of the twentieth century. Dozens of others—prominent business executives, leading Wall Street lawyers, accountants, bankers, fixers, con men, another federal judge—participated in Manton’s crimes. The book profiles these unscrupulous and often colorful characters as well. It wasn’t until Manhattan D.A. and future presidential candidate Thomas Dewey’s successful pursuit of Manton, a federal grand jury investigation, and a sensational prosecution and trial in federal court that shocked the nation that Manton and his corrupt schemes were finally brought down.
Gary Stein has been a practicing lawyer in New York for 35 years since graduating from NYU School of Law. For nearly nine years, he was a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan and served as Chief of Appeals of that Office, appearing regularly before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals that Manton once headed. He is now a lawyer in private practice in New York City. Gary has published numerous articles and book reviews on law and legal history in, among other publications, the Washington Post, Just Security, Morning Consult, the Jewish Review of Books, Constitutional Commentary, the NYU Law Review, the NYU Journal of Legislation & Public Policy, the New York Law Journal, and the Business Crimes Bulletin. He has twice received the Burton Award for Distinguished Legal Writing.
“Justice for Sale is a compellingly written, thoroughly researched, and deeply disturbing biography of the most corrupt federal judge in the history of the United States… This is a must-read for those interested in New York during the first half of the twentieth century, a time of giants and giant villains.”
—Bruce Allen Murphy, author of Fortas: The Rise and Ruin of a Supreme Court Justice
“With the nose of a bloodhound and soul of a detective, Gary Stein presents the eye-popping tale of a high-ranking judge as common crook. Judges are not all saints. A small number, alas, are sinners and scoundrels. Martin Manton is a pristine example of the latter. Read this book. It will keep you spellbound even though you know the outcome.”
—Roger K. Newman, author of Hugo Black: A Biography
"Justice for Sale is a meticulously researched account of the rise and fall of America’s greatest judicial villain… Deserves a place right next to Robert Caro’s similarly sweeping biography of Robert Moses, The Power Broker, during the same era in New York. And best of all, it reads like a legal thriller.”
—Herbert J. Stern, former federal judge and author of Judgement in Berlin: The True Story of a Plane Hijacking, a Cold War Trial, and the American Judge Who Fought for Justice
"Gripping . . . riveting . . . worthy of a Hollywood movie . . . We owe Gary Stein our gratitude for telling this squalid and degrading tale so well. . . It is a story that desperately needs retelling, especially today, if only as a cautionary tale and object lesson about how much (perhaps too much) we rely on judges to police their own ethics. Recent revelations about expensive trips and gifts from wealthy United States Supreme Court litigants to certain justices underscore the timeliness of Stein’s book."
“...a definitively researched, expertly written, impressively informative account of how a major American judicial figure became corrupt... [similar] to what we see happening in various elements of the justice system today... unreservedly recommended...”
"A fantastic read… There's so much for people who are historians or historically minded to connect with in this book… [Manton's schemes were] so sprawling and so brazen and so bold… A lot of us after reading this book will be wondering, 'Could it happen again today?'"
—Adrian Untermyer, host of “Wrecking Ball,” a podcast of the Historical Society of the New York Courts
“The opening of Gary Stein’s new nonfiction book reads like that of a delicious, Le Carré-esque political thriller… Indeed, part of what makes Stein’s book so appealing is how detailed and expansive he is about illustrating the nature of the world depicted within the pages of Justice for Sale: Graft, Greed, and a Crooked Federal Judge in 1930s Gotham. It’s a scary one, the kind that provokes a real, adult fear… You’re pulled in, seduced even, slowly — assuredly. So when the chilling parts of the read creep up on you in the text, you feel the knife twisting in your gut full-force. You can feel the sense of desolation and hopelessness characters existent in this time period faced. There’s a kind of tight embrace the book wraps you up in, one you sometimes find yourself struggling to get out of. It’s a trait not often seen in nonfiction books of this nature, and one that puts Stein in a certain class of writers exceeding the typical caliber and milieu.”
“Gary Stein’s nonfiction book has all of the signs of a crime-thriller. Maybe even verging on neo-noir, regardless of its source material being one hundred percent true… Part of what Stein brilliantly, and chillingly demonstrates, is how certain things pertinent to Manton’s era are still semi-existent today. He shows this, rather than tells it – making the reader draw unsettling parallels between the wholly black-and-white corruption of a time period thirty years after the turn of the century, and its more shadowed form existing today. The book never becomes an out and out political statement, and its strong convictions remain firmly planted in looking through the lens at the time period it so aptly depicts.”