Francis Donovan published The Judge Talks Politics earlier this year.
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Hicksville resident and former Nassau County District Court Judge Francis Donovan published The Judge Talks Politics, An Insider's View on Law and Government, earlier this year through iUniverse, Inc. Through the pages of his first book, Donovan, 92, discusses the struggles and obstacles he endured and the success and ladders he climbed throughout his career, as well as provides a personal look into how "the political game was played on Long Island," specifically during the days of then-Republican Party boss Joseph Margiotta.
Born in Brooklyn, Donovan wanted to be a football player but at just 5'2" and 115 pounds that dream was short-lived. So, instead, he joined the United States Army, serving in World War II, and earned a law degree from St. John's University. Despite this, Donovan said getting hired as a lawyer was impossible as he was constantly told he "didn't graduate from the right school."
With no solid work in the city, a newly married Donovan, a registered Republican, relocated to Nassau County and applied for a position with the county attorney's office. In 1948, after a lot of political red tape and a great deal of party confirmation, Donovan was hired as secretary to the county attorney. He moved up the ranks and became a deputy county attorney, researching and litigating cases. According to Donovan, he was the "best appeal lawyer in the county."
In 1959, he was elected district court judge and served in this capacity until 1973, despite a very controversial run for a third term. It was his 1971 re-election campaign that Donovan writes specifically about in The Judge Talks Politics. During this time, Donovan said he disobeyed GOP leader Margiotta's orders to reject a party endorsement.
At the time, Donovan had received nominations for a third term as district court judge from the Republican, Democratic and Conservative parties but was ordered by Margiotta to reject the Conservative endorsement. Donovan refused on the grounds that doing so, in his opinion, violated the Canons of Judicial Ethics. He also felt that rejecting the party nomination would "force Nassau's Conservative and Liberal parties to give up their power to possibly swing the vote to nominate a rival party in an upcoming election."
His decisions, however, did not sit well with the Republican leader.
To start, Margiotta had the judge removed from the GOP ticket. Next, the Republican leader set out to strike him from Nassau's political scene altogether. Despite the political merry-go-round and controversial Margiotta vs. Donovan lawsuit that followed, the judge was not to be persuaded. The events that followed, Donovan said, impacted not only his own career - in 1971 he remained on the ballot and was re-elected as the Democratic Party's candidate (with Conservative Party endorsement) - but county politics as well.
Through the book's 90-plus pages, Donovan provides the reader with his own accounts of how he used his "judicial know-how and personal wherewithal to not only beat the boss and win battle after battle" but also work within the system to fulfill personal goals. All his experiences, Donovan told the Hicksville Illustrated News, helped him understand how the political game on Long Island was to be played.
"When I entered public office in 1948, I knew nothing of the political organization. My entry was unorthodox, but I learned to be orthodox. ..." Donovan writes in the book's chapter "Climbing the Ladder."
Donovan said he wrote The Judge Talks Politics to share his knowledge and experiences. "Anyone who wants to read and learn about Long Island's political past should find it interesting," said Donovan.
In 1973, when he stepped off the bench, Donovan went on to work for a Garden City law firm and also taught paralegal courses at Adelphi University. Several years later he opened a private law firm in Hicksville and still actively practices law out of the Newbridge Road office today.
The Judge Talks Politics can be purchased online at Amazon.com, iUniverse.com and www.bn.com. It is available in both hardcover and paperback.