David W. Peck

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David W. Peck (December 3, 1902 – August 23, 1990) was an American jurist. From 1947 to 1957 he was Chief Justice of the Court of Appeals of the Supreme Court in New York, and in that time took a leading role in the reform of judiciary of that state. In 1950, in Germany, Peck led the Advisory Board on Clemency on recommendations for the pardon of convicted war and Nazi criminals.

David W. Peck
Born(1902-12-03)December 3, 1902
DiedAugust 23, 1990(1990-08-23) (aged 87)

Life and workEdit

David Warner Peck was born in Crawfordsville in Indiana (Crawfordsville is the administrative head of Montgomery County and home to Wabash College, a private college). Peck skipped his senior year of high school and began at age 16 to study in Wabash College where after three years, instead of the usual four, he graduated with honors. He then studied law at Harvard Law School. To finance his studies he worked as a tutor. [1]

After graduating and receiving his license to practice law in the New York State Bar, Peck joined the law firm of Sullivan and Cromwell where he remained connected throughout his life in 1934.[2] He was 31 years as a partner with Sullivan and Cromwell and involved in civil litigation. Peck was a Republican in the early 1930s and was with Thomas E. Dewey and Herbert Brownell of the so-called "Young Turks" of the Republican party in New York County.[1]

In 1943, Peck was appointed Judge of the Supreme Court of New York.[2] In 1947, Peck was appointed Presiding Judge of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of the 1st District and was thus responsible for the districts of Manhattan and the Bronx. Peck at his appointment was 44 years old and thus was the youngest judge to date of this rank in the State of New York. In 1957 Peck returned to Sullivan and Cromwell where he remained until his retirement in 1980.[1]

In 1955, Peck wrote The Greer Case about a 1946 case of deceased Mabel Seymour Greer, in which he himself was involved as a judge. Mrs. Greer admitted before her death to have given a son up for adoption after birth, but the entire substantial fortune of this otherwise childless woman was bequeathed to Harvard University. An alleged son contested the will.[3] The book became a best seller, going through eight editions by Penguin and Reader's Digest Edition, and in 1957 was filmed as an episode of CBS-Series Playhouse 90 .

"Peck Panel"Edit

US High Commissioner for Germany John McCloy convened in March 1950 as the Advisory Board on Clemency (dt: Advisory board for Pardon, named after its chairman the Peck Panel) as an independent expert panel recommendations to prison of persons convicted by US Military tribunals as convicted war criminals. The Panel included in addition to Peck as Chairman, two other persons: Frederick A. Moran, Chairman of the New York Board of Parole and brigadier general Conrad E. Snow, Legal Advisor of the US State Department.[4] The legal status of Peck panel was not fully understood: neither should it be a court of appeal, because the judgments on the legal basis of Control Council Law No. 10 did not see any reviewing body, nor the mere exercise of the grace legislation was provided, which is more personal to the circumstances of the convicted person. In practice, had the Peck Panel Properties of Cassation as of grace Committee. By the Peck panel subjected the mercy petitions of the convicts and the exculpatory briefs their defense lawyers into consideration, however, the prosecution did not hear again, a mitigation of the sentences was applied already structurally.[5]

The Peck Panel was on the mercy petitions of 99 convicts, all were in prison for war criminals in Landsberg. The Peck panel was on August 28, 1950 gave its recommendations. In 77 of 99 cases, the panel recommended a reduction of penalties; this included that seven of the 15 death sentences be converted into imprisonment. The Peck Panel said, inter alia for the following convicted of the Subsequent Nuremberg processes recommends that:[5]

The US High Commissioner John McCloy, who had to make the final decision, disagreed with the recommendations of the Peck Panel in a number of cases. His legal adviser and closest confidant, Robert R. Bowie, advised in particular to grant the convicted generals no preferential treatment. On January 31, 1951 McCloy finally announced his decisions. They deviated in a number of cases from the recommendation of the Panel Peck, and was for some stricter, for others less severe. Only five death sentences from the NMT judgments remained in force.[5] Of the five Death cases reviewed by the Peck Panel, four death sentences were carried out in August 1951:(Blobel, Braune, Naumann, Ohlendorf).[7]


  • The Greer Case, a true court drama. Simon and Schuster, New York 1955.
  • Decision at law. Dodd, Mead & Company, New York 1961.


  • Joan Cook: David W. Peck, 87, Former Justice And Court Reformer in New York. In: "New York Times" vom 24. August 1990. (Nachruf)
  • Hilary Earl: The Nuremberg SS-Einsatzgruppen Trial, 1945–1958: Atrocity, Law, and History. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2009, ISBN 978-0-521-45608-1.
  • Norbert Frei: Vergangenheitspolitik: die Anfänge der Bundesrepublik und die NS-Vergangenheit. Beck, München 1996, ISBN 3-406-41310-2.


  1. ^ a b c Joan Cook: David W. Peck, 87, Former Justice And Court Reformer in New York.
  2. ^ a b New York State Bar Bulletin, Bd. 30.
  3. ^ Mrs. Greens Secret …(Time Magazine)
  4. ^ a b Earl: The Nuremberg SS-Einsatzgruppen Trial.
  5. ^ a b c d Thomas Alan Schwartz: John McCloy and the Landsberg Cases.
  6. ^ a b McCloy: "Keine generelle Amnestie".
  7. ^ A fifth IMT Judgement Death sentence carried out in June 1951 was that of SS General Oswald Pohl

External linksEdit